This is an off topic post, well not completely cause it still involves babies, but mainly not one of our adventures in particular. It’s just that lately I’ve been reading soooo many posts about mothers asking what to do to get their babies to sleep all night and not wake up, and I’m constantly asked whether or not my baby sleeps through the night.
The “good baby” theory it seems, in our culture and many others, is talked about very early on. Even way before my baby turned 40 days, which is the standard in Lebanon for babies to start sleeping through the night, people who came to congratulate us on having Kyra would ask: Is she a good baby? Does she sleep all night? At first, I would say: no, why, should she? I was genuinely concerned about the fact that so many people asked me this question, and that maybe I was actually doing something wrong and depriving my baby of good sleep and healthy sleeping habits that I decided to do some research.
When Kyra turned 1 month though, it actually happened. She slept all night, well mainly she fell asleep at 7:30 until 3am, woke up and nursed and slept again till the next morning around 8am. I was shocked, and wasted my time watching her instead of sleeping cause I was sure she would wake up, and the next day when it happened again, I thought I had the best baby on earth! But then things changed, the 4 months sleep regression hit us full on, just when I thought we had become invincible, and so she started waking every half hour to nurse or fuss. She went back to sleeping longer stretches only for teething to start.
In the midst of all that sleeping and not sleeping frenzy, I read a lot. Here are some of the things I have experienced myself and/or read:
1- The risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is at its peak up until 6 months, after which it is reduced by 50%, but lasts until the age of 1 & until then babies should sleep with a caregiver as their bodies (heart rate, breathing & body temperature) regulate to the caregiver’s which helps prevent SIDS.
2- The “4 months sleep regression” truly exists, it really isn’t a myth and my baby wasn’t super baby not to be affected by it.
3- When they are going through mental leaps (different from growth spurts), discovering new things (hands, feet,etc.), learning new skills (crawling, walking,etc.), babies wake up more, A LOT more.
4- When they are going through growth spurts, their sleeping patterns change & they become fussy. It is said that they sleep more, but in my experience Kyra woke up to nurse more often and actually slept way LESS.
5- When they are teething, pain is at its strongest at night and they again, wake up more.
6- After vaccinations, their systems are shaken from having a virus injected in them and they wake up more or cry more or nurse more. Sometimes all at the same time.
7- When they start solids, their digestive system is working more than it used to and they might get gassier or have tummy aches and also wake up/cry/nurse more.
8- Formula DOES NOT get babies to sleep all night. It is a myth that so many moms I know have proven to be wrong. At the beginning, babies seem to fall asleep right away after having a bottle, but it is only because their bodies are trying to digest the heavier milk they got. In some cases however, they might get colicky, have allergic reactions, get gassy or constipated, and this will influence their sleep as well, if you are not nursing, rocking or walking or doing anything but giving your baby the boob is far more exhausting.
9- Babies go through different sleep cycles and stages. There are 2 cycles, which are, non-REM sleep and REM sleep cycles. During the non-REM cycle we go through 3 stages of sleep:
• Our eyes are closed but its easy to wake up (lasts 5-10 minutes)
• Light sleep: heart rate slows and body temperature drops
• Deep sleep stage: harder to wake you up, and if awakened you would feel disoriented for a few minutes
During the REM cycle, your heart rate and breath quickens. The first period of REM lasts about 10 minutes, and the final one is the longest, up to an hour. Babies can spend up to 50% of their sleep in the REM stage, whereas adults only spend about 20%.
10- Up until 1 year of age at least, babies should not go all night without feeding, since they take in more milk (20% of their daily intake takes place during night feedings), which helps them grow better. There are several other reasons and I will post links for whoever is interested.
11- In case you are breastfeeding, your breast milk has natural painkillers and anti-inflammatory properties. This will help your baby during periods of teething, illnesses, and anything that may cause your baby to wake up.
12- Co sleeping (bed sharing/room sharing), if done safely, will reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS, help ensure that baby’s needs are met, and increases the chances of successful breastfeeding since mom and baby are at such close proximity and mothers don’t need to get up to make a bottle or feed their baby. Instead, baby cries, mom nurses (if bed sharing, with minimal effort) and the whole process is quick and effective.
13- Studies show that breastfeeding moms, actually get 40-45 minutes more sleep than mothers who supplement at night or formula feed.
14- Rice cereal does not help babies sleep and it is terrible for them (especially before 6 months when babies should be given nothing but milk) and will not help your baby sleep longer or better, and poses many risks, from allergies to it being a big choking hazard and containing traces of arsenic.
So, mainly what I am trying to say here is RELAX for God’s sakes! Your baby is just being a baby and human being and waking up is a normal thing to do. I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen my dad at 3am with his head inside the fridge, half asleep and looking for a snack, while I’d be up to go to the bathroom or just up watching TV, and the dude was at least 40 then!!! I never thought of it being abnormal, I just laughed at him and thought he was funny. If babies were meant to be left alone to sleep, they would be born with the ability to walk and talk and function on their own, like animals do, and even animals need help from their mamas.
Which brings me to my next point, leaving babies to cry it out (CIO). God NO! First, when babies so young are left to cry, the stress hormone cortisol is released in their bodies, and it affects their brain development and can have lasting effects on their fragile nervous system. As to the psychological damage, this can create feelings of detachment from their caregivers, a sense of abandonment, and trust and insecurity issues in the future for them as adults. From an emotional aspect and my soft and mushy mommy heart, how can anyone do it??? How can you listen to your baby cry at the top of his lungs and not run to hold him? I have read on some posts and articles that sometimes babies have been reported to cry to the point of throwing up and even fainting!!! How on earth is that easier than to actually tend to your babies needs??? The thought of it just stresses me out, poor little things.
So my last thought on this my dear mommies, daddies, grandmas, aunties and every well-intentioned, meddling relative, friend and neighbor is: ALL BABIES ARE GOOD! There is no such thing as a bad manipulative “Chucky or Chucky’s bride” baby that wants to ruin your life and slowly torture you with sleep deprivation. If your baby wakes up a lot, you better believe there’s a reason for it! I promise you they’re not intentionally trying to make your life a living hell, well not until they’re teenagers anyways. They just need to be loved, fed, comforted, and cared for like you vowed you would do countless times before they were born. They need to know that when you whispered to your big round belly “I will love you more than anything” or said to them“I will be the best mommy/daddy I can be”, you were telling the truth! It will all pass, they will grow so fast and before you know it, there will come a time when they will be ashamed to be seen with you and you will long for these precious moments when your arms where the only home they needed. Enjoy being parents, love your babies, and stop worrying about spoiling them with love or giving them bad habits. You are simply helping make their world a better place and giving them the security they need to grow into well adjusted, independent, loving, caring children.
These are just a few of the links I based this on, for those of you interested in reading some more.