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The Unhealthy Obsession with Babies Sleeping through the Night

baby sleeping

I would be willing to place a bet on every single one of us parents having been asking the following two questions:

  1. Is he/she good?
  2. Does he/she sleep through the night?

If you didn’t get asked these questions, you certainly are in the minority. Both of these questions can make parents feel inadequate. In fact, I firmly believe that there is an unhealthy obsession with babies sleeping through the night. And what do people mean by a ‘good’ baby? Labelling a baby as good or bad can never be a positive thing.

The first thing that is important to take into account when thinking about your little one is that all babies are different. Attending new parent groups can be a wonderful thing to do, getting you out of the house and helping you to make new friends. However, it can also be detrimental to your wellbeing if you compare yourself to other parents. If a friend’s baby is sleeping for four-hour stints during the night and yours is only going for two hours between feeds, you may question what you are doing wrong. Quite simply, it is more luck than anything else.

How much sleep does a baby need?

The amount of sleep a baby needs differs according to age. According to BabyCentreUK, newborns usually need around 8 hours during the day and the same at night. As your baby ages, they begin to need more sleep at night and fewer daytime naps. By the age of 12 months, it would usually be two and a half hours during the day and around 11 hours at night. Do bear in mind that, as I said earlier, all tots are different. There is no instruction manual available for babies!

Why does my baby wake so frequently?

It is absolutely normal for a baby to wake between every hour and every three hours as a newborn. This is because the baby’s tummy is very small at this age. Therefore, regular feeds are necessary. If you are breastfeeding, you will find that, although you’ll be incredibly tired, your baby waking regularly will help you. It can be painful to wake up with your breasts full of milk and looking somewhat like a page 3 model! Leakage is normal too.

Why will my baby only sleep on me?

Your baby has been used to the warmth and safety of your body for nine months before making an entrance into this world. It is natural that he/she will continue to need your comfort for many weeks, months, even years to come. The world is massive and can be a scary thing for your newborn. If you are breastfeeding, the milk will make baby drowsy and you may find that he/she falls asleep whilst drinking or suckling. This is absolutely normal. 

How can I encourage my baby to sleep for longer at a time?

There are no sure-fire ways to get your baby to have longer sleep stints. If you’re anything like me though, you will spend your night-time feeds, desperately trying to stay awake, but frantically searching for tried and tested methods of increasing babies’ sleep. At around three months of age, you may be able to get your baby to settle into somewhat of a routine. Repeating the same thing each evening may help to establish this, for example, bath time, story time, lullabies and white noise.

Why do I believe there is an unhealthy obsession with babies’ sleep?

As I’ve explained in this post, babies need to wake frequently in order to be suitably nourished. I wrote this because I saw a post on Facebook asking if any mums in the local area would be interested in a sleep expert coming to their house to support them in getting their offspring to sleep through the night. In fact, this poster claimed that her own baby had got to grips with this by the age of just three-weeks. I totally understand the desperation that comes with sleep deprivation. However, it simply cannot be deemed natural or become the expectation for babies to sleep through the night at such a young age. Therefore, when someone asks you next time “Is he a good sleeper?”, a sensible reply would be, “He sleeps like a baby!” 

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