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  • Writer's pictureSamantha

Will my baby ever sleep through?

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

Most parents have wondered "will my baby ever sleep through the night?"

The short answer, no.

I can be so disheartening when mums at mother's group share how their baby has "slept through" since 8 weeks old, or your neighbour/friend/aunty/grandma say that their baby slept through from "12 weeks".

If your child isn't sleeping through, they are not broken. There is nothing wrong with them. You aren't doing anything wrong. IT IS NORMAL!

Now for the long answer...

No one actually sleeps through the night! Not babies, children, teens, adults nor the elderly.

Every single human being moves through different levels of sleep and wake often during the night, these are called sleep cycles. However, mostly for adults, we move through these sleep cycles so briefly that we have no memory of it the next morning. Other times our transition between cycles is obvious and we have trouble returning to sleep, usually due to external factors (temperature, light, discomfort etc.)

The biggest difference between infant and adult sleep is that they have different sleep cycles. Adults have 90-minute sleep cycles and spend roughly 75 per cent of their sleep time in quiet (non-REM) sleep and about 25 percent in active (REM) sleep, whereas babies have much short sleep cycles of about 45 minutes and spend twice as much time in active sleep than adults. This is why newborns usually need help to fall asleep and wake easily, it's not easy to reach deep sleep when your tiny brain is active and your body has trouble being still.

Constant wakings are characteristic of infant sleep and are actually part of their inbuilt survival mechanism and may play a protective role against SIDS. Babies may arouse is there is a breathing obstruction, if they are too hot or too cold (both SIDS risk factors) and to satiate their hunger, and for breastfeeding mum's, establish and maintain milk supply.

At 4 months of age your baby's sleep cycles transition to match those of adults (hello 4 month regression!) As your baby transitions through sleep cycles one of three things can happen:

  1. A new sleep cycles starts immediately, without waking in between

  2. Waking occurs, but everything is optimal for further sleep and nothing alerts your baby, therefore they go back to sleep

  3. Waking occurs and something alerts your baby, therefore it is difficult to start a new sleep cycle.

For babies and infants, quite often number 3 happens, they are hungry, cold, hot or how they fell asleep is different to how they are right now. For example, if your little one is fed, rocked, held to sleep etc. and they wake they immediately notice that something is different, you are no longer there.

When babies and infants can fall asleep independently, their wakings begin to reduce. As they transition through sleep cycles, they are able to fall back asleep, just as they did at the beginning of the night.

📸 Emma Barton

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