How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night

Is your baby sleeping through the night?

This is a common question heard amongst first time moms when they congregate in parks, doctors’ offices, mommy and me classes, or play school admission offices.

 

Not only that but we lot ask other mommies who have babies older than ours on Facebook, ‘tell me, when did so and so start sleeping through the night?’ Many times a mom will say, oh my baby slept well from the beginning. And then some will say that their baby slept well from the textbook 4 or 5 months. Yet some will say when we stopped feeding in the night, and she will promptly advise you to stop feeding in the night too.

Then there are the rare moms who say – my one and a half-year old still gets up to nurse in the night. This is rare because this directly reflects on your parenting skills. Because by this age, parents should have taught their children to sleep at night, parents should have weaned their babies from night feeds or they are spoiling their babies.

I remember when my now 10 month old was 3 months, and a mom of a 14 month old told me she still feeds her son at least twice a night, I was shocked. I really thought I was nearing the end of my spectrum of night waking. Boy was I ever so wrong?

When at 4 months my decent sleeper began waking more than ever, I started Googling sleep sites and pouring over sleep books. I learnt about infant sleep, sleep regression, sleep training, etc. I started to think that something was wrong with what I was doing or with my baby. Every week I resolved that I would stop feeding him on demand in the night. Every time I failed.

Somehow over the course of months he started sleeping for longer stretches. When he turned 8 months though he started waking hourly. Again I freaked out. Then one day while lying in bed tossing and turning, not able to fall asleep, annoyed with myself for not resolving this ‘issue’ I hit upon this thought:

It’s funny that I write a blog about how to eat and move and sleep like we humans have evolved to, that I write about everything from an evolutionary perspective, and here I am expecting my infant to follow books and rules written by adult men today! It doesn’t add up.

Here I am obsessing about his sleep, when all he is doing is following his own instincts, waking up when he needs his mom, not only because he is hungry but because he may need me to settle him back to sleep.

He has not read these books. He does not know that by so many months he is not supposed to feel hungry, he is supposed to have learnt how to sleep on his own, he should not be so demanding.

Why do we expect the most vulnerable and dependent amongst us to get independent so quickly?

All through human history, traditionally babies have been attached to their moms, fed on demand, and slept with their caregivers for years. In fact most mammals keep their babies close until they are able to fend for themselves (kangaroos and monkeys for example).

Today with moms leaving home to work, having to leave their babies in the care of others, we expect the behaviour of babies to change to accommodate this. Babies are expected to sleep through the night, babies are expected to sleep on their own, and babies are expected to be independent.

But babies are oblivious to all this and they just want to be carried around by their caregivers, loved and cared for, night or day. They do not understand why they are not picked up when they ask, why they aren’t fed in the night when they want it.

I do understand that moms want things to go back to like how it was before (uninterrupted sleep for starters). But I for one started sleeping better when I accepted that my baby is not going to sleep through the night anytime soon.

I moved him into my bed (from his cot), I now nurse on demand at night, I smell and cuddle him at wee hours, and we all sleep well as there is no crying at night.

And as for sleeping through the night? He will one day surprise me that I know. I know that because today I don’t need someone to rock me to sleep, do you? It’s a milestone he will reach at his own pace (just like walking and talking).

I also understood that the reason I was getting affected by my baby’s night waking was because of the expectations. He was ‘expected’ to sleep through, I was not ‘expected’ to feed him and so on. When another mom raised her eyebrow and said ‘he is still waking up?’ I felt guilty.

As soon as I decided to do things that felt right for him and for me, I immediately felt relief and his night waking stopped affecting me at all.

So for anyone asking:

No my 10 month old son does not sleep through the night.

Yes I still nurse him twice a night.

Yes I know he may not be hungry. It does not matter.

No he will not nurse forever.

Yes when he stops/ I want the nursing relationship to end we will deal with it together.

No I do not believe I am spoiling him, just teaching him that he can always depend on his mamma and attending to his physiological needs.

Yes I’m in for the long haul of interrupted sleep. But since I am a mom now it comes with the territory.

Yes one day, he will sleep through the night, and when that night comes, I will miss it and miss the cuddles, as that phase will be gone too soon forever.

Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments, when did your baby start sleeping through the night?

Aloka Gambhir is a new mom (since October 2012). She is a fitness and nutrition enthusiast and a health and fitness blogger since 2011. She is a Mumbai mom following an alternative lifestyle called the paleo / primal or evolutionary lifestyle. She is passionate about helping fellow moms follow their instincts to a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their family by questioning the rules and conventional wisdom on her blog: www.wholesomemamma.in

  • Swati Nitin Gupta

    My son usually slept through the night Aloka, for he was an early sleeper and early riser. and he was sleeping for 12 hours straight was something I was thankful for. But then my mom who was with me said that I also used to sleep like this. However, we didn’t sleep at all during the day. Normally babies sleep after their bath, and feed but neither I slept during the day nor my son slept during the day maybe that’s the reason he was sleeping for straight 12 hours and then waking up refreshed at 5 in the morning and from then my day started. 🙂

    Every stage of parenting is fun and each stage has its own challenges. Like one of the fellow bloggers on Parentous said that the feeling of being a new mom never ends, as each stage is a first time in the life of parenting.

  • Hi swati. Luckily my son sleeps well in the day. Two naps by the clock the first one for one hour 15 mins and after noon nap for 2 hours! Phew what a breather that is 😉

    • Swati Nitin Gupta

      Then he is getting his proper sleep and rest. Mine didn’t sleep in the day hence didn’t wake up in the night. Each to their own routine and pattern. All I learnt is that you should just enjoy! Happy Parenting to you and all the parents out there

  • wow saranya! i am very happy to hear your sorry! truth be told i will be happy to let me baby breastfeed for as long as he and I want. I am not going to let anyone at all tell me otherwise and I really believe that when conditions are right babies of their own accord will wean when they are ready. they maybe one, two or three as in your case! and i am ok with that !

  • Shivangi Tiwari

    New to parentous so catching up on old posts, and I loved this one, Aloka. My son just turned one, 3 days back and he is nowhere near to sleeping through the night. The only thing that has gotten better is when he wakes up (twice for his bottle and 1-2 times for a cuddle) he goes back to sleep quickly. He is a good day napper though. After obsessing about his sleep and reading all literature on internet for months, I finally gave up and I let him follow his instincts. We both are happier that way 🙂

  • Amanda Burton

    When I needed help with sleeping problems I was searching the internet and I’ve found somebody talking about Susan Urban’s guide and her the Hold With Love method. I gave it a try and today we are much happier parents. My sweet girl is the best but when it came to sleep she was pretty hard case. After 4 days of the HWL she was able to fall asleep on her own and she finally stopped waking up every hour to eat (she is 5 months old). This method is for children over 3 months.
    I think the most important thing is to follow exactly what the author of this method says because the method is easy but there is also a lot of details. I’ve found the instructions on how to di it right in “How to teach a baby to fall asleep alone” guide by Susan Urban on I guess her website: http://www.parental-love.com
    Thanks everybody who shares their experience because I know that it’s really not easy to deal with sleeping problems. Thank you Susan Urban whoever you are. You made our life easier

    • Kim Marshall

      Amanda you were right! this method works. I got the guide and I only wanted to be able to put my son in his own crib and have him fall asleep on his own. I just thought it was impossible. After a few days (exactly 4 days) fortunately I can say that I was wrong! my son doesn’t need to be rock to sleep anymore! Thank you