No one can ever really know when exactly a baby will start to sleep through. Just like any other skill a baby learns, I could give you an approximation of roughly when a baby is perhaps capable of sleeping a good stretch overnight. But that won’t make the day come any sooner and it may not be an accurate answer at all. It’s a straight guess!
Throughout my many years of night nannying, I’ve often had to remind the odd parent that it was unfair to expect a baby to be able to sleep through the night until they were on solid foods. For many years the age to begin weaning was 4 months old, in recent years the age has been pushed back to 6 months. But why are we assuming that babies only wake up over night because they are hungry? And whilst it is true that some babies are capable of sleeping through the night from as early as 8 weeks. This isn’t the norm. Why isn’t it the norm?
Are we as parents doing something wrong? Is there something wrong with my baby? The answer is No and no again!
Your baby’s sleep “problems” aren’t always because you have done something wrong; sometimes they’re not “problems” at all, but normal behaviour for a baby of that age and stage of development
Sometimes I come across the odd parent who through no fault of their own, have unrealistic expectations of their baby. I had one particular Mum that I met with a while back, who cried throughout our first meeting. She’d read a book about baby sleep that promised to have her baby sleeping through the night every night at 8 weeks old. That’s quite a promise. By the time I’d met her, her baby was 16 weeks old ,was waking at least 3 to 4 times a night , and would only nap for 30 mines at a time during the twice a day her mother just thought she was a ‘high needs’ baby. Her baby had been taught through controlled crying to self-settle, and would fall asleep easily at bedtime but would often wake after a four hour stretch and wouldn’t resettle.
This poor mum wasn’t to blame she was just given bad advice and what she thought this baby guru had promised was possible , for some babies sleeping through the night at 8 weeks old is possible but only when they are ready to will a baby sleep through the night every night.
You cannot force a baby to sleep through the night.
What we can do as parents, is learn about what is normal for your babies level of development, when it comes to sleep. A baby that can sleep through the night may not actually be asleep the whole night through either. Heck I know grown men and women who don’t sleep through the night... I know I don’t. I’ll often wake up to go to the bathroom or I wake briefly, look at my iPhone to check the time and then fall back to sleep. Brief night time awakenings are a normal part of sleep for EVERYBODY!! The only difference with adults is that we know how to get back to sleep by ourselves. With a young baby, in my experience, it’s the falling back to sleep that proves problematic for parents. As with everything else with babies, we, as parents need to do everything for them including helping them to fall asleep. Feeding to sleep, rocking and cuddling and swaying to sleep. All things that come naturally to parents to do when comforting their tired child. It’s normal, natural and its not wrong to do, contrary to what many baby sleep books suggest
Sleep is a basic human need, everybody needs it and knows how to sleep, right?
Well….. Yes. But for some of us falling asleep isn’t easy. And for babies…….? Although sleep is a necessity, being able to fall asleep is not a reflex like suckling, blinking; gripping something in the palm is for a baby. It’s a skill they have to learn. For the first few weeks and months of their lives us mums assist them in falling asleep. We’ll do the things that nature intended for us to do as mothers. Nursing (or bottle feeding) them to sleep, rocking them in our arms, swaying them, singing to them. Then these books written by experts come along and tell you, that what has come naturally to you as a parent is WRONG. And that if you continue you’ll be getting your baby into bad habits, ultimately resulting in your baby never being able to go to sleep without you.
Take this from an expert……..That is COMPLETE & UTTER BULLSHIT!!
How can rocking your baby to sleep be wrong when it felt so right to do it at the time? I didn’t even think to do it I just instinctively did what I did to get her asleep. It is NOT creating bad habits at all it allowing your baby to feel safe, secure and relaxed. To feel loved. To bond and be attached and to trust their parent. All of which is important when you eventually start to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own and self-settle.
You wouldn’t give birth, put your baby on the floor and expect them to just start walking…… they learn to hold up their head’s first, then eventually to sit up onto crawling and then to start walking. Some babies happily start walking of their own accord, some babies need a little encouragement first, other babies need for their parents to stand them up and hold them standing, some babies need their parents to step back a little and give them the opportunity to step forwards by themselves. Some parents hold them up and beckon their babies to them encouraging them to take steps on their own and those babies attempt those steps because they TRUST their parent will catch them if they fall and know their parent will be there to comfort them. Every baby eventually starts to walk but never before they are ready to. It’s the same with sleeping and learning to fall asleep. It’s something all babies will do. Some babies will surprise their mums and dads by just sleeping through one night completely of their own accord. Others will need to be taught how to sleep better and longer and then others will be completely dependent on their parents to help them fall asleep.
Just like with walking, we as parents will need to teach them how to fall asleep so that eventually they will no longer need our help. When that time will be? Who’s to know! BUT being gentle, supportive and keeping up the levels of trust between parent and baby will help that day to come all that much quicker.