Short answer – no! No, babies are not ‘bad sleepers’ at all, not even breastfed babies. So why does everyone seem to think this?
We all acknowledge that when you have a baby you will have interrupted sleep. But at some arbitrary age, based on various opinions, this turns into a ‘bad sleeper’.
So what is the truth? Are they really bad sleepers?
What is a bad sleeper?
How would you define a ‘bad sleeper’?
To some people it would be someone who struggles to fall to sleep or stay asleep for long periods of time, or maybe someone who wakes a lot of times in the night, or just someone who is not getting as much sleep as they need. When it comes to babies and infants people we talk to seem to have strong opinions on what a baby ‘should’ be able to do in terms of sleep. This conversation will be entirely different depending on who you are talking to and what they believe. Have you had conversations with people who have wildly different views on baby sleep? What were they? And how did that affect you?
So, does your baby have trouble falling asleep? If you are breastfeeding your baby to sleep the chances are he does not find it difficult to fall to sleep. It is normal for babies to fall asleep on the breast but, as with everything, there are always some babies that don’t do this. That is ok too. How long does it take your child to fall asleep with whatever method you use to settle them? Somewhere between 20-30 minutes to properly fall asleep is what we would aim for.
If you are past the newborn age, where their sleep and awake patterns are all over the place, does your child generally sleep in the night and wake in the day? Around naps of course! Most will get into this pattern themselves in the first few months of life. They may be waking regularly but hopefully getting back to sleep rather than getting up for a few hours in the middle of the night. Having said that, those 2am parties are common at times and not to worry about if they appear to be phases.
Those regular wake ups seem to be the thing that lots of people hang onto. Whether they are normal or you should train your baby to ‘sleep through the night’.
Sleep training does not make your baby sleep through the night, it just trains them not to signal for your help in getting back to sleep when they rouse.
Waking up between sleep cycles is normal for babies, children and adults too! We just often don’t remember it.
So finally, is your baby getting enough sleep? If you are allowing your baby or child to wake when they are ready and getting them to bed and asleep when they are showing tired signs they are probably getting enough sleep. If they are getting enough sleep – can they really be a ‘bad sleeper’?
What is 'normal' sleep for breastfed babies?
This is a whole blog post in itself! And will be soon. But for now I’ll give you a quick answer by looking at what is typical for babies to sleep.
It is normal for
Newborns to sleep lots and all at different times
Babies and children to fall asleep whilst breastfeeding
Babies and children to fall asleep with the help of parents, rocking, swinging, singing, patting them
Babies and children (and adults!) to wake in the night
This is backed up by numerous studies including Prof. Amy Brown who found that 80% of babies between 6 and 12 months old wake at least once a night with the average number of times they woke being between 2 and 4 times. And 60% of these babies have milk in the night, whether that is breastmilk or formula.
So knowing all of this, how can babies be ‘bad sleepers’?
Does this make it easier?
To some of you reading this it might help you realise your baby’s sleep is normal and nothing to worry about. The relief of knowing that can really help you feel confident to keep doing what you are doing.
Or you may still feel you need more sleep even if your baby has ‘normal’ sleep. That’s ok to feel this. There are lots of things you can do to improve sleep without sleep training. Give me a call on 07552 788287 or email me to have a chat about your options.