I don’t believe in sleep training, but before you DM me with angry messages hear me out.
Our Sleep Journey
We are rapidly approaching 11 months old with Baby G and I can count on one hand the number of times she has slept through the night (it’s two times). Never in a million years did I think this is where we’d be. I was someone who wholeheartedly believed in sleep training and doing it ASAP to get some semblance of normalcy back into my routine.
I DO think sleep training works sometimes, in fact we tried it (multiple times). Sleep training simply didn’t work for our baby. We didn’t just try sleep training. I bought Instagram sleep consultant sleep courses, we tried different sleep sacks, no sleep sack, shorter naps, longer naps, different bedtime routines, lotions, teething gels, humidifiers, sound machines, blackout curtains, bigger bottles before bed, nighttime weaning and more. You name it, we’ve tried it. Nothing has worked. Baby G still wakes up once or twice a night.
After talking with my one girlfriend whose baby also seems immune to sleep training, I decided there must be more to baby sleep than Instagram consultants are telling us. I decided to do some digging into real research to see what I could find. Today’s culture supports a lot of unrealistic expectations and it’s time to normalize real baby sleep. Keep reading for evidence- based information on what normal baby sleep actually looks like.
What Research Says
Just like adults, babies are all different. Some need more sleep than others, some need less. Some babies nap more or less than others. Babies have different bedtimes and what they need to fall asleep can vary. Research shows that baby sleep in influenced by environment, but also by genetics. One study even says that about half of the difference in sleep patterns can be explained by genetics (Dionne et al 2015; Touchette et al 2013)!
Research also found that between 6 and 12 months old, it’s normal for babies to wake up 2-2.5 times a night on average. In the same study, almost 21% of 6-month-old babies never slept through the night, and only 23% of 8-month-olds slept through the night. Naps on the other hand are much more influenced by environment (Brown & Harries, 2015, Paavonen et al., 2020).
What all of this means is that having a baby who sleeps well early on can truly be the luck of the draw. If your baby isn’t sleeping yet, don’t throw in the towel, there are some things you can do to help promote positive sleep habits (keeping in mind they aren’t a magic pill to a 12 hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep).
What You CAN Control
While your baby’s sleep may be out of your control to a point, there are some things you can do to help build a foundation of healthy habits.
- Expose your baby to lots of light during the day to help establish a strong internal clock.
- Avoid nighttime exposure to blue light.
- Develop a bedtime routine.
- Keep nighttime feedings boring. Resist the urge to make eye contact or talk to baby in the middle of the night.
It’s Okay They Don’t Sleep
For the longest time, Baby G’s inability to sleep all night had me feeling like an utter failure. So many of my friend’s babies have been sleeping through the night since they were several months old. On Instagram my stories are filled with sleep consultants talking about babies sleeping through the night after a week “if parents are dedicated”, implying the reason G wasn’t sleeping still was inherently my fault, like I didn’t want it bad enough.
What I know now is that getting your baby to sleep isn’t as simple as an following an online course or having strong will-power. Sometimes your baby’s sleep has nothing to do with what you do or don’t try.
So the next time you are up in the middle of the night rocking that sweet babe back to sleep know that there are so many moms also awake right alongside you. Trust that this is just a phase, and while in the trenches it seems like the longest phase ever, it will eventually pass.
You are doing such a great job, mama. Keep it up!
- Brown, A., & Harries, V. (2015). Infant Sleep and Night Feeding Patterns During Later Infancy: Association with Breastfeeding Frequency, Daytime, Complementary Food Intake, and Infant Weight. Breastfeeding Medicine, 246-252.
- Dionne G, Touchette E, Forget-Dubois N, Petit D, Tremblay RE, Montplaisir JY, Boivin M. 2011. Associations between sleep-wake consolidation and language development in early childhood: a longitudinal twin study. Sleep 34(8):987-95.
- Fisher A, van Jaarsveld CH, Llewellyn CH, Wardle J. Genetic and environmental influences on infant sleep. Pediatrics. 2012 Jun;129(6):1091-6. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1571. Epub 2012 May 14. PMID: 22585775.
- Paavonen, E. J., Saarenpaa-Heikkila, O., Morales-Munoz, I., Virta, M., Hakala, N., Polkki, P., . . . Karlsson, L. (2020). Normal sleep development in infants: findings from two large birth cohorts. Sleep Medicine, 145-154.
- Touchette E, Dionne G, Forget-Dubois N, Petit D, Pérusse D, Falissard B, Tremblay RE, Boivin M, Montplaisir JY. 2013. Genetic and environmental influences on daytime and nighttime sleep duration in early childhood. Pediatrics. 131(6):e1874-80.