Sleeping like a baby – what does it mean? Part 1

Ever heard the saying “to sleep like a baby”?

We imagine someone sleeping peacefully and soundly, but ask most parents and they’ll tell you that sleeping like a baby means struggling to get to sleep, sleeping lightly, and waking up a lot!  As a society, we really buy in to the myth that babies and sleep go together – most of us expect our babies to be sleeping through the night by the time they are a couple of months old.

Well I’m here to tell you that it’s time to get real.  The truth is that babies are ‘terrible’ sleepers.  When we finally get this we will stop feeling like bad parents if our child isn’t sleeping, and we will cope better with sleep deprivation because we will have realistic expectations.

So then what is the real deal on babies and sleeping?

Sleeping….or not as the case may be! 

There will be some sleeping during those early days.  (Sadly, most of it probably won’t be you!)  But the amounts of sleep will vary widely from baby to baby.  Your baby may sleep lots, or not so much.  She may struggle to get to sleep, or drift off easily.  None of these things is a necessarily a reflection on the quality of your parenting.  In everything, it is important to remember that your baby is an individual just like you.  Don’t expect her to conform to anyone else’s sleep pattern.  After about three weeks your baby will hopefully be sleeping one big chunk of about 5 hours (if you are very lucky), plus a bunch of 2-3 hours naps and/or shorter catnaps.  Babies are all different so don’t expect yours to confirm to anyone else’s experience!

Frequent feeding.

For at least the first few months you can expect your baby to wake frequently to feed during both day and night.  (How can something so small eat so much?! Well…) Your baby is born with a very little tummy (about the size of small marble – tiny!) so it’s not surprising she’s a milk monster for much of the time!  For the first few months expect her to need at least 1, and often 2 or more super important feeds during the night.  If your baby is one of the rare ones that does sleep through from early on then as long as she is gaining weight and seeming healthy you don’t need to wake her to feed.  Some people will advocate giving baby a bottle of formula before bed because often they will sleep for longer.  Does this mean that formula is more filling and better for baby’s sleep (and yours)?  What it really means is that formula is harder for baby’s immature digestive system to cope with so it sits in the stomach longer while baby’s tummy tries to break it down.

A note about feeding: Feeding and sleeping are almost inextricably linked and feeding will have a big impact on sleeping.  For example, if you have a very drowsy baby who only feeds for short times, she will need to wake and feed more often than a baby who effectively feeds for a long period of time.  If you’re struggling with feeding just be aware that this will be impacting on your baby’s ability to sleep and don’t stress too much about sleep until the feeding issues are worked out.

More on what to expect from your ‘sleeping’ baby in our next post…

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Posted on June 21, 2011, in Sleep and Crying. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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