Thursday, February 18, 2010

Some Thoughts on Sleep and Babies

Sleep. Anyone with young children will tell you that one of their biggest priorities is getting enough sleep. And one of the biggest hot button issues in the mommy wars is the question of sleep training. Should you train your baby to sleep longer? If so, at what age? Using what method? I am not a sleep trainer, and that is not really what this post is about anyway.

Both of my boys slept in short chunks. My oldest never slept more than 2 hrs straight until he was about 6 months, and still sleeps very little for his age. My second son maxxed out at 4 hrs of straight sleep all through his first year. I co-slept with my boys and at around 18 months, when I felt constant sleep deprivation turning me into an ogre, I night weaned them. Despite this fact, they still woke up at night at least once. My three year old still wakes every night to go pee and have a drink, right around the same time I used to wake up to nurse him.

That being said, I had always thought that people who said their young babies slept for 6 or 7 hrs straight were just lying to me. And then, I had Emma. She has slept 6 hours straight at night since she was about 2 weeks old. And she sleeps around 18 hrs a day most days. She is amazing. Now if only she slept at the same time as her brothers did, I would be set for life.

This brings me to a simple, often overlooked conclusion: Babies sleep when they sleep. Babies sleep as much as they need to. Some sleep more, and in longer chunks. Some sleep in shorter chunks, and need less sleep.

I've always wondered why this surprises us so much. After all, I need 7 or 8 hrs of sleep a night to be healthy and in optimal condition for the day. My husband needs more like 10 hours of sleep. My father only slept for 5 or 6 hours a night and had plenty of energy. Some adults are light sleepers, while some sleep heavily. In adults, we expect variations in sleep patterns and habits. And yet we expect our children to all sleep in an ordered, controlled, predictable fashion.

Yes, it is inconvenient for us when our children don't need as much sleep as we do. Yes, it is frustrating when we must stay up late with one child, and wake up early with another. It is disruptive to our schedules and lives when our baby sleeps all day and is awake all night, or only sleeps in two hour chunks. But just like adults, babies are people. People with their own unique rhythms and needs.


  1. Finally someone like me. Lochlan sleeps in our bed, and I can't tell you how often he wakes up because I don't notice. When he sleeps in his crib he wake up ad the end of every sleep cycle (about every 25 minutes to an hour). I keep thinking I need to get him out of our bed before he gets to big or too mobile, but I don't believe in crying it out and other methods seem too time consuming. I just like reading about other people who parent like me :)


  2. Ahh, Dave & sleep - you just reminded me of his napping habit at other people's homes




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