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Why I Would Worry if My Baby Slept Through the Night

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When my older daughter was about three months old, my grandmother told me over the phone that all of her babies, at that age, were sleeping 12 hours through the night… TWELVE HOURS?! OMG! Margo was barely sleeping longer than three hour blocks, how the hell was she supposed to sleep for twelve hours straight?! And, if she did sleep through the night at that age, I think my boobs would have exploded!

Warmth, Security and Co-Sleeping
We co-sleep in our house. My 4 year old has a toddler bed right next to ours and our nearly 2 year old sleeps right in the middle of us. They never have to wake up and climb into our beds, because they’re already IN our bed. When my girls were babies, they had this sort of warmth/body radar. If they stirred and there wasn’t a warm body that they could roll around and smoosh up to, they would almost always wake up in distress. And, it’s for good reason! Babies have only been sleeping away from their parents, in separate rooms for the past hundred or so years. Before that, babies would only have slept right in their mother’s armpit, lest the wolves got to them or something. Night time is dark and scary. Having a trusted carer there, (at least in the same room), gives a strong sense of security and trust. Like, “Yes, I’m here. If you need anything, I’ll help you.” Trust that inevitably carries on for the rest of a child’s life!

Easy Access to Nutrition
Young babies need to feed several times throughout the night. Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, having your baby right next to you allows you to respond to their needs very quickly, before they become distraught. I mean, even if they don’t have a huge feed, they might be thirsty and need a little sip. Um, hello, I get up in the middle of the night for sip of water! I wouldn’t expect a baby, whose digestive tract is way shorter than an adults, to make it through the night without a little something to eat or drink!

Babies need to pee and poo!
Before I had my first, I remember watching a video that distinctly told you NOT to change a baby’s nappy if they were asleep! Even if they had done a poo, that you should leave it for the morning, unless they had a really bad rash.

Call me crazy, and I know it’s not for everyone, but I’ve been taking my babies to the toilet at night since they were born. They’ve never sat in their own waste at night. Taking a baby to the loo is called ‘elimination communication’. I also used cloth nappies, so if I did miss something… wet meant wet! Even disposables never worked to mask the dampness because my girls were so used to being dry. So… when I hear that a baby has been sleeping 10 or 12 hours through the night, my first though is, “OMG! Yeah, they were sleeping through the night in their own pee and poo!

Babies Breath and Heart Rate
It’s been proven that babies who co-sleep have less overall apnea (periods when they stop breathing) and also their heart rate does not drop as low [1]. Since a baby’s lungs and circulatory system are still developing, it’s actually not good if they go into such a deep sleep for a long time!

My Own Peace of Mind
Despite everything I’ve just said, it all comes down to how I would feel if I didn’t see or hear from my baby for 10 or 12 hours. It just wouldn’t seem right. It’s so unfortunate that these tiny little people, who are still adjusting to their world and are very dependent for every need, are expected to be out of sight and out of mind for so many hours in a row. Babies are not ‘some thing‘ that should be put off in another part of the house. They are members of the family and their needs should be responded to promptly. Sure, some babies sleep ‘well‘ at night. Mine certainly did for the most part. But, they really didn’t ‘sleep through‘ the night until they were about 20-22 months. And, for some kids sleeping through the night comes earlier or later or really never at all! It’s actually a myth that people should sleep 8 hours through the night in the first place! The eight hour ‘sleep‘ only came around during the industrial revolution with the 8 hour work day.ย 

So, when people tell me that their young babies sleep through the night. I raise my eyebrows and say, “Really?! That’s strange!

If your baby is waking up excessively, like more than 3 or 4 times a night, you might want to read this one I wrote ๐Ÿ™‚

*Note- In the title, I’mย mostly referring to babies sleeping through the night alone in another room*

Find Katesurfs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or sign up for an email subscription to receive a message whenever I post a new blog piece ๐Ÿ™‚

[1] McKenna, Thomas. ‘Why Babies Should Never Sleep Alone: A Review of the Co-Sleeping Controversy in Relation to SIDS, Bedsharing and Breastfeeding’. Pediatric Respiratory Reviews (2005) 6 134-152

15 Responses »

  1. As usual Kate, your perspective is thought provoking and fresh.

  2. You hv given words to my thoughts too. Great post. And this sums it up all ” Babies are not โ€˜some thingโ€˜ “. And to be honest, how I see it, my 1 yr old baby is still part of my body. Sleep means rest for brain (body rests in many other ways in day). My brain CAN REST ONLY if my child is within protective reach of my arms.

  3. Babies are considered to sleep through the night once they go six hours in a row. We just moved our 6 month old to his own room but mostly because our new place the rooms are too small to have his bed in with ours and for the last few months he will not sleep with me and daddy at the same time. He’ll nap fine with me during the day or with daddy but not with both. I miss co sleeping and I have horrible nightmares and wake up at least every other hour with this gut wrenching fear that he’s not alive in the other room. He wakes once for a bottle and does wake if he wants to potty (we do cloth and EC as well). I wake EVERY time he stirs on the baby monitor. Usually around 4:30 I’ll find myself sleeping in the recliner in his room. I hate being so far and it’s not even far. Still it’s too far.

    • Oh, that would be a tricky one! Can you put a little mattress in his room, that way when he wakes you can just cuddle with him in his room and fall asleep comfortably?

  4. Willow co-slept until she was four months. We have four dogs who wake us up all night long to go outside so we decided to move Willow into her own room so she can rest peacefully and thank goodness we did! She sleeps, yes SLEEPS soooooo much better in her own room, aprox 9- 10 hours she sleeps for of a night. Now this wasn’t a selfish move, meaning this wasn’t a decision based on our needs, to be honest I’d love to have her still in our room, this was a decision based on her needs, she needs peace and quiet to sleep. She has never done a night time poo whilst sleeping and her nappy is barely wet of a morning when she wakes, it’s changed straight away, and she’s never suffered nappy rash. We have a video monitor on that alerts us when she moves and when she makes a sound, I’m always on high alert being a mother who isn’t? I’ve never given Willow a reason to be scared of the dark, so she isn’t. Darkness isn’t scary for her, she was in darkness in my womb, for her it’s a feeling of relaxation and calmness when it’s dark. Perhaps when she is older she might start finding night time scary, but I’ll guide her through those moments if and when they arise.
    As for her sense of security, we have a great attachment to each other, if for any reason she feels unsafe she alerts me, she has never alerted me of feeling unsafe in her room. As for her nutritional needs, she is a very content baby who is healthy and on track nutritionally and no longer needs nor wants night time feeds, she is growing super well and her doctor says she thriving, so no concerns there.
    Every family, every child is different, with different needs and some prefer to co sleep, others prefer there own space, Willow is defiantly one who prefers to sleep in her cot, in her own room rather than ours, not because we are selfish parents wanting our own space but because we love her enough to fulfil her own needs.

    • I understand what you’re saying… It’s just me, I could not sleep soundly if my baby was in the other room. I would be missing out on too many cuddles! It’s funny that your dogs wake you up more than your baby does, how unfortunate! Older babies don’t usually poo in their nappy anyway… my girls stopped doing it around 2 or 3 months. yup, not attacking how others do it, just knowing what I know about the breathing and heart rate thing, I don’t think I could let my baby sleep in the other room, that’s all. But, we all do need sleep…

  5. My son has slept through (aside from a hand full of times..) since about 8-10 weeks either next to me or in my arms. I agree, there’s no way I could possibly rest if I couldn’t hear/feel him breathing. Pretty sure he feeds during the night, I wouldn’t know how often since I’m usually still mostly asleep myself. I can’t imagine how annoying it would be to have to fully wake up and get out of bed to respond to him, by which stage he probably would be fully awake himself!

  6. I co-sleep with my one year old – we put our queen mattress on the floor – which unfortunately means that my hubby has to sleep on his own on a single mattress at the foot of our bed! I like being able to feel that she’s warm and breathing. Though, the night waking is still ridiculously frequent (3-4+ times!) for poor tired me *yawn*. She has been high-needs since very young, and looks for breastfeeds, cuddles and comfort. I keep a couple of dry nappies by the bed for quick night time changes. Since we have one bedroom for our small family – this is how it will stay for a while I think! Thanks for sharing your story, Kate.

  7. Thank you for your fresh perspective. I love reading your blog!

  8. Pingback: My Baby Sleeps Through The Night |

  9. Love your blog!!! Do you know the spanish pediatrician Carlos Gonzalez? Have you read Meredith Small’s book “Our children ourselves”?


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