This seems to be on every mothers mind. If it's not our own worry it's that of friends, family and complete strangers! Many mothers of even the smallest infants have been asked if their baby is sleeping through the night. The real question is, "Should they be?"
The answer is not necessarily. Especially if you have a newborn. Breast milk is highly digestible and in the early weeks, your baby may not get enough nourishment if he sleeps through the night. Breastfed babies need to breastfeed at least eight to twelve times every 24 hours, usually every two to three hours. Most babies will gradually sleep for longer stretches at night, but they will continue to need night feedings for months.
You may have heard that giving your baby cereal will encourage sleeping longer at night. This simply isn't true. A baby's immature digestive system isn't ready for solid food until some time around the middle of the first year, and solids given too early may actually upset a baby's tummy. You will find information about this topic here.
Many mothers find that keeping baby close all night makes nighttime parenting less tiring. Throughout history, babies and mothers have traditionally slept close to each other. The idea that a baby belongs all alone in a crib is a fairly recent notion. Many have found "shared sleeping" or "the family bed" a good way to meet babies' nighttime needs with few interruptions to the parents' sleep. Rolling over to nurse your baby and drifting peacefully back to sleep is so much easier (and warmer in the winter!) than getting out of bed, going to the crib, sitting up to breastfeed the baby, and then struggling to get both of you back to sleep. This article discusses nighttime parenting.
Some authorities believe that parents need to teach babies to comfort themselves when they awaken at night, and some go as far as suggesting how long parents can allow a child to "cry it out" before responding. While such methods may work for some families, many other mothers and fathers have found peace in trusting their instincts and responding to their babies' cries. It helps to remember that babies' sleep cycles are very different from those of adults, and a young infant needs to awaken during the night in order to get enough nourishment.
Just like every adult has different sleep patterns, babies do too. Parenting is a 24 hour per day job. Remember to get rest when you can and know that your baby will sleep through the night when he is ready.
*this post was in-part taken from FAQ on the LLLI website. Please visit LLL's Frequently Asked Questions page for the answers to this and many other questions.
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