Sleeping through the night

Is there such thing as sleeping through the night once you become a parent? I mean… really?

In my experience, the nights where my children sleep from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am without wetting the bed, waking due to illness or teething, crying out in their sleep, having nightmares… (list goes on) are the nights that I either wind up wide awake at 3:00 am in the morning (Damn Murphy’s Law), or outside their bedroom at 6:00 am with my ear pressed against their door just making sure they are still breathing!

By definition, sleeping through the night refers to a baby being able to sleep through for five consecutive hours without waking. Five hours!!

In that case, then I am sure we have all been getting more sleep throughs than what we realise.

It is not necessarily the ‘sleeping through’ we need to encourage, but more so to eventually equip our children with the skills to transition from one sleep cycle to the next without our constant intervention (mum, dad, dummy, rock, pat, feed, etc) i.e. self-settling.

The truth is, no baby or child (or adult for that matter) ever sleeps through the night. Like adults, children cycle through sleep stages overnight (every 45-50 minutes). They transition through stages of light sleep (REM), to heavy/quiet sleep (non-REM) – and then a light sleep again before repeating this process several times. When a child transitions into the lighter sleep toward the end of the sleep cycle, they usually semi wake to check their surroundings. If nothing alerts them to wake completely (such as a change in their environment), then they will fall back to sleep.

However, when the environment in which the child went to sleep in is different to when they wake,  then the child may wake fully and can find it difficult to self settle back into the next sleep cycle without intervention. This is especially the case where the child falls asleep with bottle, breast, rocking, patting, singing, shushing, dummy, or if temperature drops, lighting changes, or a noise startles them.

So what can we do?

Connecting with our children, optimising the sleep environment, implementing an age appropriate and consistent day and bedtime routine, and ensuring good nutrition is paramount.

Most babies are not physiologically ready to sleep through the night (i.e. 8-12 hours) realistically until somewhere between six and nine months. Certainly establishing solids and ensuring adequate nutrition during the day has its part to play in this, but also from birth to 12 months they are rapidly reaching developmental milestones at individual paces and intensity – which can significantly impact on sleep quantity and quality. Such physical changes include rolling, pulling themselves up onto things, sitting up, crawling, babbling and teething.

Average night feedings by age:

  •  Newborns to 3 months old: Feedings every 2-3 hours, on demand
  • 3-4 Months: 2-3 feedings per night or every 3-6 hours, on demand
  • 5-6 Months: 1-2 night feedings
  • 7-9 Months: 1, maybe 2, night feedings
  • 10-12 Months: Sometimes 1 night feeding
  • 12+ Months: Generally no feedings

* This is only an average. Some babies may require additional feeds during times of illness, teething, or developmental milestones

What are some signs that my baby may be ready to sleep through?

  • He or she is six months or older.
  • He or she is receiving adequate nutrition during the day (solids and milk).
  • He or she has been sleeping through with just a dream feed  – for a week or more.
  • He or she has previously been able to sleep through without a feed (not due to illness).
  • He or she is only waking once for a feed, and when they do, they aren’t overly hungry (breastfeeding for five minutes or less, or drinking 60ml or less of formula)- this must be consistent over a week or more, and not as a result of illness, teething, or developmental milestones.
  • When your baby wakes in the morning, he or she refuses milk (not hungry) –  due to the timing of their most recent overnight feed.

* Always consult your pediatrician before night weaning, as each baby will have individual needs

With a little love and patience,  you can have faith that your child can, and will sleep independently (and through the night) in their own time. If you need help with this transition, please get in touch with us!

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  1. Pingback: Confessions of a Sleep Consultant: The Jett Diaries; EIGHT MONTHS - Sleep Play Love Consulting Australia

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