The facts about babies sleeping through the night
- First and foremost it’s important to understand that it’s simply biologically impossible for a baby under 12 months of age to consistently sleep through the night.
- Babies wake in the night, and breastfeeding in particular is part of the process of allowing a baby to feed regularly through both day and night.
- Fashions in child-rearing change regularly, and one of the current fads seems to be to insist that babies sleep through the night at an impossibly early stage in their development.
Understanding your new baby’s sleep patterns
Parenting is a constantly changing process. When I raised my children – and that wasn’t so long ago – it was accepted the babies wake in the night. As far as my own children were concerned, some slept through for a short period and some didn’t, but today there’s a massive burden placed on new parents to ‘get their baby to sleep through’. This means that for many parents, who may also be feeling work pressures, there can be unnecessary stress at night, and a sense of failure if their child doesn’t ‘succeed’ in this area.
The truth is that most new parents don’t actually mean their little one is sleeping through the night. They simply mean that their baby is not dependent on support to resettle to sleep – which is quite a different matter.
However, even sleeping and resettling without support are huge milestones for any child. They are also very idiosyncratic – each child is unique and the amount of sleep they require at night is completely individual. The time it takes for each baby to achieve each of these developmental markers also has no bearing on how well a child will succeed in social or academic areas later in life.
How to handle the ‘sleeping through the night’ issue
The first thing to understand is that competition about this issue is unhelpful – in fact it’s not even a useful topic of discussion, unless it’s being explored in a loving and compassionate way, rather than as a way to score ‘parenting points’.
The truth is that raising any child is a levelling process and it doesn’t matter whether our child wakes once or a dozen times, every parent is walking a new path, with a new child and it will be hard work.
It’s important that we all work together to help and support each other – there’s no reason not to celebrate milestones, as long as we recognise that each child’s path is unique and every parent needs support and confidence, and the ability to talk about how their baby is doing, without feeling that they are being judged.