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The Truth about Babies who sleep Through the Night

In your mind’s eye, picture a serene, still, dark night.  Let’s say 2:00 am.  Everyone is in bed.

The only sounds that can be heard are the gentle hum of the refrigerator, the irregular chirp of a lone cricket; maybe a pickup truck rumbling quietly down the highway off in the distance.

Now that we’ve set the stage for your peaceful night’s rest, I want to talk about what it’s like at my house at 2 am.  SPOILER ALERT:  It’s nothing like what I just described above.

The Truth about Babies Who Sleep Throught the Night


You see, at my house, when there’s a baby around, there’s no such thing as a “silent night”.  I have YET to experience this peaceful slumber for the last year, because my babies don’t sleep.  In fact, not ONE of my four children slept through the night as babies (or even through half the night) until they were — wait for it — ONE YEAR old.

I am not kidding.  I am not looking for pity.  This is, simply, my sleep-deprived reality.

My babies were well-fed, happy, healthy, sweet and the embodiment of all that’s good and right about life — but they never slept at night.

And yet, at least once a week, a friend, a co-worker, an acquaintance or random stranger at Wal-Mart will somehow mention, offhand, that their three-month-old is “finally” sleeping through the night.  Finally?  I’ve developed a pretty good poker face over the years, but when I hear about these mystical, go-down-without-a-fuss, sleep-for-12-hours babies, I about lose it.

Where do they come from?  And why do all the tips, tricks, and sleep-help books in the world not seem to have any measurable effect on my offspring during that exhausting first year?  Well, I’ve figured it out, and I’m about to share the truth with you.

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Here’s my theories:

1.  Genetic engineering.  You heard me:  Sleep By Design.  There’s all kinds of crazy things happening these days in the world of medical science.  They’ve cloned sheep, for goodness sake.  Someone discovered that classical music in utero makes kids smarter. (It’ll be proven in about 18 years when there’s a sudden explosion of geniuses being accepted to Yale, I guess.)

With all these rapid advancements, I’m pretty sure that some parents are paying big bucks for the magical Sleep Gene Enhancement.  In a few years, it will just be another checkbox option on the OB intake form (right next to: breastfeeding?  bottle feeding?).

2.  Selective Parental Deafness.  We all know that little kids pick up the slightest whisper across the room when we’re saying something we shouldn’t — then go completely deaf when we ask them to pick up their shoes (all 48 times).  I think some parents are unknowingly adapting this trait for their own survival.

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So the baby starts to fuss at night, and the Selective Parental Deafness (SPD) just kicks in.  They don’t even hear the baby.  The baby then also has to adapt by fixing his own bottle and finding his own favorite Netflix shows to put himself back to sleep.  Mom is never the wiser.

3.   PTSD.  Post-Traumatic Sleep Disorder.  This is usually brought on by intense, prolonged periods of not sleeping for more than three consecutive hours for months (or years) on end.  Can be related to having a nursing baby that thinks you’re an open-24-hours diner.  Days turn into nights and nights become a blur of wishful thinking.

When asked how the baby’s sleeping, you get a sort of blank stare from these poor moms.  They really aren’t even sure what day it is.  But, they want to look like they’ve got their game on, so they invest in LOTS of under eye concealer and nod and say, “Great!”

4.  The Overachiever.  You know, the parents that say their baby was rolling over on day 2 and walking at 6 months?  Uh-huh.  I think this type of my-baby-is-better-than-yours competition happens everywhere you go.  And really, who wants to admit their 9-month-old can say six words, yet can’t seem to figure out something as simple as learning to stick to a night time routine?

Those kind of babies will never make the waiting list for that prestigious preschool across town.  I can totally see why the competitive moms are claiming their baby sleeps through the night from the get-go.  Kudos for trying.

I’m sure there are other theories out there, and someday, when I’m a little more alert and well-rested, I’ll research them.  But for the love of Pete, if your baby sleeps all night — be thankful and enjoy your Z’s — just DON’T go around bragging to every mom you see.  It might send her right over the edge.

On the flip side, now that I understand the science and psychology behind this “phenomenon” of all-night-sleeping babies, it really does make me feel a little bit better.

Well, that, and the fact that my baby just turned one, so I know that sleep — sweet, consistent, drool-inducing sleep — is just around the corner.


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22 comments on “The Truth About Babies Who Sleep Through the Night”

  1. This is awesome! I have four kids, too. The older three didn’t sleep through the night until they were at least 9 months. My fourth still doesn’t! I can’t stand seeing instagrams saying, “my baby finally slept through the night last night!”…at 3 months old.

    • Thanks for reading June! 4 kids is an awesome number. 🙂 I do have to say on the upside (and you can probably relate), I have learned how to survive on very little sleep! I sort of feel like my superpower is staying awake all day.

  2. Ahaha this is great! I hate hate hate when people boast about their sleeping babies.. or make a parent feel like they maybe aren’t doing something right if their child isn’t sleeping through the night. My son is four and he STILL wakes up. He’s just a restless sleeper. 🙂

  3. Oh my goodness, this is so relevant in my life right now. I have a really bad sleeper, too. He’s almost 9 months and we had a week of him sleeping through the night. A single week. Back in April. And when I say through the night, I mean from like 11 until 4.

    I get so frustrated, too, when I read some social media post with a baby that sleeps “12 hours a night!” I think you’re right – those babies are genetically engineered differently.

    I also find that I get upset when someone complains that their baby had a bad night: “My little one only slept 9 hours last night. It was the WORST.” Nah, bro, that definitely wasn’t the worst.

    One thing I have to say, though, is that I run so much better on only 5 broken hours of sleep than I ever thought I could. Upside to everything, I guess…

    Great post!

    • Maybe that one week in April can carry you through the next few months! 😉 Sleepless moms, unite! It really is amazing how we muddle through somehow. Best of luck for some gooood sleep soon, Eryn.

  4. I can see where you are coming from. My little girl slept 10 hours a night from 6 weeks (please don’t delete me let me finish lol). She did this and even increased it to 12 hours a night until she hit 6 months and then she was up every night at least once. Was tough going especially when number 2 was on the way. She started sleeping all night again at 16 months when number 2 arrived. He slept all night from 8 weeks but now is waking some nights around 5am for 30 mins! I swear that 30 mins ruins me so I can sympathise with you 🙂

    • I’m only envious and impressed with the 10-12 hours Laura! 🙂 I am definitely thankful I was not pregnant again (yet) when my babies were going through that non-sleeping first year. I agree that would be the pits! I hope your son decides sleep is awesome really soon! Thank goodness babies are sooo worth it, right? 😉

  5. I have a theory about why some babies sleep through the night but it only applies to breastfed babies. It all has to do with the mother’s breast storage capacity! Here’s an article that talks more about it.
    My babies have all slept for long stretches from an early age (I have a fairly large storage capacity) but if things were different this knowledge would give me comfort that I wasn’t doing anything wrong but doing everything right to successfully feed my baby.

    • Hey Sarah, this is great information! I suspected something like this with my babies, as they were all breastfed and wanted to nurse frequently at night time. We made it through somehow! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Hi there.
    Although your article may be good to read when someone has a baby that doesn’t sleep, it’s kind of insulting for parents whose kids sleep.
    Yes, my baby started sleeping all night since she was 6 weeks. However we stopped it because we wanted to stimulate milk supply. But by 4 and a half, maybe 5 months she’s been sleeping all night long. From 8pm to 7 am.
    I didn’t like to read that you would think I’m a lying. She sleeps 2 to 3 naps during the day and then she sleeps at night. There’s no lying, no genetic engineering, no deafness. Just a baby that sleeps.
    No, I don’t brag about it. But I answer truthfully when someone asks “how are the nights”. They’re great.

    • I hope you understand this is purely satire 🙂 This was written when my daughter wasn’t sleeping at all this summer and certainly wasn’t meant as an insult to anyone (except maybe my own deficient sleep-training efforts) – just some mom humor commemorating those sleepless nights! LOL

  7. I am pregnant with my 5th and final baby. My first slept through the night at 8 weeks on his own, but was mostly formula fed. My second slept through the night at 7 months, however, was partial breast fed, partial formula. My third did not sleep through the night until she was well over a year and was only breastfed for 8 weeks exactly. My fourth was breastfed for about 3 months and was also well over a year old when he slept though the night. Long story short? I think it depends on a number of things… breast fed over formula, environment, and the child themselves. For instance, if I sent my child to daycare, when under a year, they let them sleep as long as they want and dim the lights to darkness for hours. I feel at times it makes them think it is bedtime… etc. On a side note, I am curious about my newest baby due in just over 5 weeks. She tends to be quiet and not move for hours overnight… never had a baby do that… maybe she will continue after born! I can only hope! ❤

    • You hit the nail on the head: babies are unique! I don’t think there is a guaranteed, one-size-fits-all solution. There are too many factors at play and temperament does play a pretty big role in my opinion. I wish you the best with #5, that’s so exciting!!

  8. My son is 3 years old and STILL DOESN’T sleep through the night!!!! Yes, 3 years old… how do you think I feel lol and my 2 month old sleeps a bit better atleast, he sleeps every 3 hours before feeding him again. But with my oldest, I would wake up every hour… this went on until he was almost 2… now he sleeps at least 5 hours straight then wakes up and comes into our room then sleeps for the rest of the night.. well tries to… yup my kids are horrible sleepers… so when mom’s say there kids sleep through the night.. you can imagine my face…????

    • I feel for you Vanessa! It seems like there are so many kids out there with sleep issues. The only thing I might say is – you must be a really awesome mom if your kids can’t get enough of you during the day! Lol. It is really a hard season of life. But this too shall pass! 🙂

  9. This seriously just made me feel so much better about my own situation. My 10 month old has yet to sleep through the night. She wakes 2-4 times and sometimes doesn’t fall right back to sleep. I’ve tried everyone’s advice and I often felt as if I’m just doing it all wrong. Now I know that I’m not alone and it will get better (someday)

    • I can assure you that you’re NOT doing it wrong and it WILL absolutely get better. This lack of sleep thing will be a distant memory someday! You will actually miss those midnight snuggles even. 🙂 If there was a perfect formula for getting babies to sleep (or for parenting in general), we would all be doing it with 100% results every time, right? 😉 Hang in there mama!

  10. I feel like it’s genetic. My mom said all four of her kids slept 3-4 hours at night and it slowly increased to 10-12 at six months. My son has been the same way as well as my niece and nephew. Of course I say this with only one child….I guess we’ll see how my next couple of children sleep.

  11. My baby is 6 months old and doesn’t sleep thru the night either but I don’t blame him really, he’s had bronchiolitis for at least a month now and wakes up often coughing so bad he sometimes throws up ???? Luckily though my husband and I alternate nights so at least one of us gets a full night sleep every other night! Hopefully he will get better soon and we will all get some rest! ????

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