Can I let you in on a little parenting secret I've been harboring for about the last nine years of my life? Here it is: None of my babies slept through the night.
I know, I know. You hear stories all the times about mothers who are able to get their babies to sleep through the night.
I was not one of them.
Maybe this is a horrible thing to admit. But surely I can’t be the only parent who had a baby who absolutely refused to sleep through the night.
It's a weird and lonely place to be. But it doesn't mean you are failing as a parent.
Is this normal?
To be honest, I thought it was completely normal for babies not to sleep at night. I never once even dreamed that it could be possible that a baby would sleep through the night. I mean, don't they need to eat?
But believe it or not, these magical, mythical creatures really do exist. Some babies really do sleep through the night, some as early as 1 to 3 months. I can't believe any parent could be so lucky!
Why doesn’t my baby sleep through the night?
So why do some babies sleep fine and others have difficulty? All babies are different. There are so many factors that influence a baby's sleep, including:
- their own development
- special needs
- parent’s health
- feeding challenges
- daytime schedules
It's impossible to judge what is "normal" for one baby's sleep schedule compared to another baby.
In a small study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), researchers found that on average, most infants were sleeping up to eight hours through the night by 2 or 3 months old, though not always when other family members were sleeping.
Half of babies in the study were sleeping from around 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. by 5 months old. The study, however, didn’t specify what kind of families or babies were represented, so it's hard to say how "average" those babies were. For example, were they breast-feeding?
It's hard to say what’s “normal” unless you're looking at every type of situation.
Should you sleep train your baby?
There is evidence that sleep training works, even for breast-fed infants. While I wholeheartedly admire parents who are able to pull that off, I feel like I was never able to make sleep training work for my kids.
Sleep training always sounded too hard for me. But if I had looked into it, it probably would have saved me a lot of heartache and sleep deprivation.
Whatever method you use, let this be a warning to you, parents of the world, to start good sleeping habits early on.
When to seek help
Some babies and toddlers have natural tendencies to sleep through the night. But others might have undiagnosed sleep problems that could be helped by a professional.
According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, up to 10 percent of observed babies and children through the age of 3 had a sleep disorder or problem reported by a parent. Those sleep disorders can persist throughout childhood and later, so it's best to seek the help of a doctor or specialist early on.
If you're dealing with a baby who refuses to sleep through the night, know that you’re not alone. Keep yourself informed of your options, such as sleep training.
Keep in mind that all babies are different. Having a baby who doesn't sleep through the night doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Sometimes babies need extra help learning to sleep at night.