Thursday, 15 October 2015

When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night?

Updated 6 April 2016

Many parents ask this question and there are a lot of factors that come into play. The good news is that by the time your child is in kindergarten they will sleep through the night. (I'm not even kidding.) Babies aren't meant to sleep through the night, and research backs this up, for a variety of reasons.
  1. Babies enter sleep through REM sleep meaning that it's easier for them to wake up. They also have more REM cycles than adults which means they are more likely to wake up. The fact that they wake up so often is due to a survival mechanism. 
  2. No one knows what causes SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but one theory says that babies simply forget to breath. While this sounds ridiculous to us as adults, look at babies and you can see how helpless they are. They can't even burp by themselves. This theory says that if a baby wakes up more often they are less likely to forget to breath, which is another reason why babies aren't meant to sleep through the night.
  3. Another reason babies wake up a lot is because they have small stomachs. Food is digested quickly and they want more. Breastmilk is more easily digested than formula and breastfed babies may wake up more often.
  4. Babies know that their moms are essential to their survival for food, safety, comfort, and warmth. They wake up because they want to make sure their mom is close to them. 
Officially "sleeping through the night" is when your baby sleeps for 5 hours straight. Remember that infants should be waking up every 3-4 hours to feed, so this isn't likely to happen until your baby is around 5-6 months old. With our parenting skills being put under the microscope due to social media, parents often feel pressured to lie about their baby sleeping through the night. Stop comparing yourself and your baby to others. It's simply not fair. Some people find that when they co-sleep with their baby their baby wakes up more, while for others the opposite is true. You'll have to find what works for you.

There are lots of different ways to put a baby to sleep. Babies seem to like rocking, bouncing, white noise (there are apps and some people try hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, or tennis balls in the washer), singing, car rides, etc. Here's a cute video showing how one parent uses a tissue to get a baby to sleep. The key is to creating a routine and sticking to it if at all possible. Here are some recommended books to help get you started.

Some parents are more strict than others and put their baby on a schedule as soon as they get home, while others are more laid-back. For me personally, my 4 year old has slept through the night (8+ hours) twice. Once when she was jet-lagged at 9 months old and once when she was sick at 3.5 years old. I know eventually she will sleep through the night and that this is just a phase. A long phase at that, but still a phase. I also know I'll miss it when she no longer needs me to comfort her. Enjoy every moment, both the easy and the hard, because they really do grow up fast.
Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.

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