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Babies Sleep Through the Night Eventually. Right?

By Heather Turgeon |

Baby sleeping through the night

Little night owls

Yesterday, in The New York Times Consults, two doctors answer a new mom’s question about the long-term effects of her sleep derivation. She’s lucky to get four hours of sleep at a time and wants to know if it continues, is she at risk for all the health issues that come with insomnia, like high blood pressure and lack of concentration.

The docs tell her she’s in the clear as far as medical concerns — the ability to wake up frequently and tend to an infant is probably an evolutionary adaptation and most parents get to the other side of this healthy and in one piece.

They say that somewhere between four and nine months, babies start sleeping through the night (this is my side note: “through the night” means around 7 hours at a stretch), but even 25 percent of one-year-olds wake up at least once a night.

But my ears perked up when they mentioned that it’s a misconception that babies naturally “grow out” of night-wakings.

Not so: studies show that 80 percent of children who had sleep issues as infants (no indication of what age or how bad the “issues”) continue to have difficulty three years later.

I find that really interesting. A lot of moms with older babies (the ones getting close to their first birthday) who are still waking up at night, or can’t fall asleep on their own ask me if it will eventually get better on its own. According to the Times doctors, not necessarily.

But I feel the need to point out that all babies (and all adults) wake up during the night. I’ve read studies before that monitor babies described by their parents as “good” versus “bad” sleepers and they find that both sets of babies wake up equally as often at night — it’s just that the “good” sleepers don’t call out, they put themselves back to sleep.

Having trouble with infant sleep? Read tips here. And tips for toddler sleep programs here.

Image: Flickr/Peasap

More from Heather Turgeon:

ADHD is Genetic? Not so Fast.

How Much Do You Pay the Babysitter? Ouch.

Genetically Modified Salmon: Why I’m Not Afraid of the “Frankenfish”

Stop Telling Me to Co Sleep

Do it Now: The Perfect 10 Minute Mediation

50 Amazing Naptime Ideas

Concussions and Cars: Why Parents Worry About the Wrong Things.

Why Kids with Language Delays are More Aggressive

Top 10 Pediatric Myths

Non Stick Chemicals Linked to Higher Cholesterol in Kids

Too Many Moms Still Die in Childbirth: Report

Your Baby is About to Get Chubbier: Pediatricians Are Switching Growth Charts.

Doctors Misdiagnosed in all Cases of Infant Death From Whooping Cough

Too Much Pregnancy Weight Sets Up Babies for Obesity

Antipsychotic Medications for Toddlers?

C-Section Twice as Likely When Doctors Induce Labor.

Why I Abandoned the “Readiness” Approach to Potty Training.

More on Babble

About Heather Turgeon


Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Babies Sleep Through the Night Eventually. Right?

  1. Leanne says:

    It’s worth noting that NOBODY sleeps through the night! Everyone wakes every few hours. EVERYONE! Generally, I go to the bathroom once in the middle of the night and another time I roll over and readjust my pillow and blankets. Some people grab a sip of water. Others look around the room and fall straight back to sleep without realising they woke.

    It’s also worth noting that most adults prefer to sleep with another person in the same bed.

    I think it’s crazy we expect tiny babies to sleep uninterrupted for an entire 8 or 12 hrs all by themselves when we don’t impose the same on ourselves.

  2. [...] I thought my bed was shaking all the time," Garlin said, speaking in the sha more… Babies Sleep Through the Night Eventually. Right? – Babble (blog) – 10/01/2010 New York Times (blog)Babies Sleep Through the Night Eventually. [...]

  3. Kelly says:

    Thanks for another rmindr that sleeping through the night is not the goal — rather its figuring out how to get baby back to sleep in a away that promotes the most sleep for mom (and partner/Dad). For some families, that might mean sharing slep. For ours, it involved helping our baby develop sleep associations that do not require a parent’s constant attention. A baby who can fall asleep on her own without the need for an hour of rocking or constant nursing is a “good sleper’ even though that baby may be waking up several times a night.

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