Does your best friend/neighbour/mother-in-law tell you that their child “slept through” at six weeks? If so, you may feel like you and your baby are failing dismally, because you’re getting up five times a night. It may be worthwhile to stop and check out how exactly they define “sleeping through.” I have come across many different definitions:

Baby “sleeps through” a feed (so if he normally feeds every three hours, sleeping for four hours would be “sleeping through”)
Baby sleeps from midnight to 5 a.m.
Baby sleeps from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Baby sleeps from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Baby wakes up several times but never feeds during the night
Baby feeds several times but never wakes during the night

So you can see here how we can start believing that our own child is the only one that is not “sleeping through.”

When someone asks parents if their baby is sleeping through yet, and the answer is “No” (duh!), they often get all sorts of (unwanted / unrealistic / crazy / “just let him cry, it’s good for his lungs”-type) advice. As a mother, I find it horrible when that happens, and I have to nod politely and bite my tongue and pretend to agree (it’s not worth arguing about, I always feel). So, in order to avoid this sort of scene, parents often just say, “Yes, of course he’s sleeping through, every night!” and change the topic. And this is how we all start thinking everyone else’s babies are sleeping through.

Dr. William Sears says,“An important fact for you to remember is that your baby’s sleep habits are more a reflection of your baby’s temperament rather than your style of nighttime parenting. And keep in mind that other parents usually exaggerate how long their baby sleeps, as if this were a badge of good parenting, which it isn’t. It’s not your fault baby wakes up.”

“Sleeping through” is not an event that will happen on a certain night and that’s it forever. Babies usually start sleeping slightly longer on occasion, then perhaps more regularly, then possibly most nights, with a bad night on occasion. And then, just when you’ve told all your friends and family that your baby is now sleeping through, something will change again.

Expect periods of interrupted nights well into toddlerhood, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised now and then. Not every bad night can be understood and explained. Accept that sometimes you will NOT know what’s going on.

Most people who think their baby has a sleep problem, has a perfectly normal child, sleeping perfectly as he should at this age.

Waking up at night is normal & necessary!

Tips of the week:
Accept that babies wake up at night – several times. To feed, to burp, because they are too cold or hot, to cuddle and feel safe. NOT because they are naughty or spoilt.
Do not buy into the myth that babies should be “trained” to sleep, and that they will never sleep properly if you don’t sleep train. “Sleep trainers” make money out of this myth.
Sometimes it helps NOT to know what time it is when your baby wakes (again) or to count how many times he’s been up.
Avoid adding up how many hours of sleep you’ve had on a bad night. “Placebo sleep” is a thing! If we think we slept more than we actually did, we feel less tired.

Extract from: How Babies and Toddlers Really Sleep by Erica Neser (c) 2015
For more information, please visit www.babysleep.co.za.