“Is he/she sleeping through the night yet?” That is one of the top frustrating questions most moms will hear after the first few months of your baby’s life. American society seems to be obsessed with babies sleeping through the night. Everyone from Grandma, to the neighbors, to the stranger in the grocery store will ask it. Even when you are fine with your night routine of on demand nursing, all the questions about your child’s sleep habits may make you doubt yourself. And then the question, Do Babies Sleep Through the Night start haunting you.
What Do You Mean By Sleeping Through the Night?
First, is that from 9pm to 6am, 7pm-9am (haha sweet chance), 4 hours of uninterrupted slumber? Don’t compare apples to oranges, if you want to answer, be specific! If you inadvertently answer, “Well no, not really” (by the way, never do that) doctors and parenting “experts” (including your nosey neighbors) will often sell you on the idea of “cry it out methods” (heartbreaking) or advocate night weaning (somehow being hungry and alone is supposed to make them sleep longer? If you had a stomach the size of a ping-pong ball and digested your food within 2 hours tops could you go 8 hours without eating and not be fussy? I know I couldn’t! Would you grow well and be healthy? (Probably not.) That old advice to top up with an extra bottle of milk (breast or otherwise) or even worse add cereal to their bottle has been debunked, it won’t work, and may be harmful so don’t do it no matter what the “expert” says. Introducing complementary food and over feeding is risky, especially for the very young babies and may be counterproductive, making them fussy and keeping them up longer.
Human Babies are Suppose to Wake Frequently
Breastfeeding and frequent contact is not only about nutrition it is also about nurturing, comfort, and providing security. As a species, humans were made to carry their young. Human babies are vulnerable for much longer than most other species requiring in-arms care. Babies are programmed to seek out their caregiver for their own safety, imagine you were a cave baby and your mother left you sleeping on the forest floor, crying and keeping your caregiver close is the only protection you have against dangers.
What is Normal?
What’s normal? Do you go to sleep at the same time, stay asleep the same length, and in the same way as your doctor? Neighbor? Even your partner? Sleep patterns are individual and each baby will have their own normal, which will evolve with time. Trust that your baby will get the sleep they need and their sleep habits will develop with time under your loving guidance and support. You don’t want her to sleep on her own because she feels hopeless that no one will attend to her cries.
Night nursing and frequent comforting can be a major part of you and your baby bonding time, especially if you’re separated during the day. Even if you are together all the time you may enjoy unhurried, night feeding without the distractions of the house work, other children, and other people’s needs, where both of you doze off together cuddled up warm in those early morning hours (there is probably nothing cuter).
If you and your baby are content, with your nighttime rhythm, then there is no reason to change to appease other people’s opinions or questions. If you’re not happy, evaluate your expectations and seek out support from understanding friends and experts. You are not being lenient or teaching bad habits, you are attending to her needs both nutritionally and emotionally. They will grow out of the night waking as they mature. Unless the nigh-sayers are sleeping in your room, it’s none of their business!
What has been your experience of baby sleep patterns?