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