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Sleeping Through the Night

by Jeri Carr

When do babies sleep through the night? All babies are different, and all babies have different needs. Some will naturally sleep through in the early weeks, and some won’t sleep through until well into the toddler years.

My baby boy is apparently one of those who takes awhile before learning to sleep through the night. I honestly haven’t a clue as to when he will reach this developmental milestone; he’s almost 15 months old now and I guess that he wakes an average of 4 times a night, and he usually quickly nurses back to sleep each time. I believe that my baby will sleep through the night when he is good and ready, and I’m not holding my breath that it will happen any time soon. But I am certain that it will happen.

With my first baby, I wasn’t so sure, and after blissfully sleeping with her for the first couple months after her birth, I regretfully let her “cry-it-out” at 2 ½ months. I didn’t want to do it, but the “experts” in books I was reading told me that I needed to do it–that it was best for my baby. The reasons they gave me were many (and many look pretty silly to me now): my baby would be better disciplined; it was so important that she learn to self-soothe; if I didn’t do it, I would be spoiling her; it was wrong for me to sleep with my baby; I might not ever get her out of my bed if I didn’t let her cry; I was making her too dependent on me. . . and the list goes on.

When I let her cry, I was in the next room reading one those of those books to reassure myself that what I was doing was best. I will never say that it was harder on me than it was on my baby. There I was, lying on the bed reading my book. I could’ve gotten up to get a drink of water any time I wanted to. I could’ve used the bathroom whenever I felt the need. I could’ve cuddled with my husband if I had so felt the desire. I was pretty self-sufficient if I do say so myself.

Now, let’s take a look at my baby. She was alone in the next room expressing her needs in the only way she knew how– by crying. A baby that age has no concept of object permanence, and when I left the room, she didn't understand that I would come back; besides, she wanted and needed me now. She felt alone, abandoned, scared. And she was truly helpless.

One of my books assured me that my baby wouldn’t cry for over 45 minutes. I don’t remember exactly how long she cried, but I remember looking at the time and noticing that she had cried for over 45 minutes. She finally fell to sleep and did quickly learn to sleep though the night.

But did I sleep through the night? Nope. I became a very light sleeper. I checked on her during the night to make sure she was still breathing. When I heard her cries my body tensed and I wanted to quickly leap up and check on her, but I had been told by the “experts” that babies sometimes cry in their sleep or wake and cry for a minute but will often go right back to sleep if you don’t bother them. Plus, I didn’t want to ruin my success at sleep-training. So there I laid until I was certain that she “really” needed me.

Eventually she began consistently waking up early in the morning. I didn’t have the heart to let her cry-it-out again, plus I had heard that sleeping with your baby wasn’t a bad thing after all, so I brought her to bed with me, and we cuddled and nursed and slept together until we both felt like getting up in the morning. She began sleeping through the night again when she was two years old, and now she sleeps through the night with no problems whatsoever.

I won’t lie and say it’s always easy to stop my work on the computer and get up and nurse my baby back to sleep when I hear his cries coming from the bedroom, but once I go to bed for the night and lay down next to him, it’s not too hard at all since I am basically able to nurse him in my sleep.

This is what works for us and our family; you will have to decide what works best for yours. I know that sometimes things aren’t always so easy if you have to work outside the home or if your husband is pressuring you to let your baby “cry-it-out.” But when deciding what choices to make regarding your baby’s sleep, be assured that if your baby doesn’t sleep through the night it’s not the sign of a bad parent, and you don’t have to be embarrassed about it– you are certainly not alone. Many mothers all over the world are going through the same thing! If you need more sleep, try going to sleep earlier at night (and *ahem* spending less time on the computer) and consider bringing your baby to bed with you. Be assured that he will sleep through the night one day. When all is said and done, this portion of your child’s life is such a short period of time, and meeting his nighttime needs will help your child be more secure and independent in the long run.

This article was first published on Suite101.com on March 10, 2000. Disclaimer

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