Thursday, 19 May 2016

What is sleeping through the night?

Following on from last week's blog post we have been talking about babies "sleeping through the night," sometimes seen as the holy grail of early parenting! The question is, what does sleeping through the night actually mean?

Some doctors and experts consider sleeping through to be an unbroken stretch of sleep from midnight to 5am, only five hours. Most new parents are glad of that much sleep but wouldn't call it sleeping through!

Some sleep experts and books call sleeping through, either generally or in babies under a certain age, unbroken sleep from a late evening "dream feed" until morning. Usually eight or nine hours, which gives a tired mama the chance of a reasonable night's sleep.

Other people don't think a baby (or toddler) is really sleeping through until they can go from their bedtime all the way to morning without waking - eleven or twelve hours. That's long enough for mum and dad to have a child free evening and a good night's sleep.

So, do all these different definitions matter? Ultimately, no. Whatever you call it your baby will develop the ability to sleep for longer stretches gradually and in their own time so it doesn't really matter what label you use!

The problem is, parents do like to compare their babies. If someone tells you their baby slept through at just a few days old, they might be talking about a five hour stretch. Meanwhile you're still waiting for your baby to go twelve hours and feeling like you're falling behind! What if your baby sleeps for eight hours every night but instead of 11pm to 7am (through the night) she likes to sleep from 7pm to 3am. It's still eight hours, just less convenient for the adults.

All babies are different, they all grow at their own rate and they develop the ability to sleep for longer stretches when they are ready (if you need help with that, do ask me!) Being able to tick off a milestone is always fun, but when you chat to other mums remember that you might well be comparing apples and oranges. And if you're talking to a doctor, health visitor or other medical professional, always question exactly what they mean by "sleeping through."