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The True Secret to Getting Babies to Sleep Through the Night

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

A night of uninterrupted sleep.

It is the ultimate fantasy of tired parents everywhere. If you have a baby under the age of one (and unfortunately, often well beyond that for some) you know that sleep is a hot commodity and one that you are probably getting very little of.

Everywhere you look, some expert or author is peddling their “best practices” for getting a baby to sleep through the night. Every playground is filled with moms who “absolutely swear by” BabyWise/bed sharing/whatever the newest sleep trend is and each one knowingly preaches their favored method as baby sleep gospel.

As a new parent, I’ll admit that I read and listened to it all. I was drowning in exhaustion and in a constant search for that one magical thing that was finally going to get my babies to sleep.

With my first baby it was all trial and error. She didn’t sleep well in the same room with us and within the first month was moved to her own room. Once she was there, she slept better, but not great. She usually woke up anywhere between 1-3 times a night (sometimes a lot more) until nearly 18 months.

When it came to naps, she was terrible at them. She didn’t nap for longer than 45 minutes until she was about 10 months old and even then she wouldn’t nap unless I was laying right there next to her. We tried various approaches, but she had to do it in her own time (which is very much her personality still). We finally had to just let her fuss and she finally figured out the whole sleep thing around 18 months. Even then it was hard to get her to fall asleep right away, because she was always super alert. Once she was asleep though, she would sleep like a dream.

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Child #2 was different.

My son was a great sleeper from the beginning …  if I was holding him or sleeping next to him or wearing him. He wanted to be held ALL. THE. TIME. Anytime I set him down he was unhappy. I was much more eager to get him in his own room and start sleep training him, but he was having none of that. He slept in our bed until he was 6 months old and then one day I decided I just couldn’t handle a giant wiggly baby in my bed any longer and stuck him in his room (for the umpteenth time, because believe me, it’s not like I hadn’t tried before).

He fussed for maybe five minutes and then he was out like a light. He slept great from that point forward. Unlike my daughter, he fell asleep with ease and right away, but didn’t always sleep as long. Where she would take regularly take 3-4 hour naps, his would be half … if that. He never slept in like she did, either. He would fall asleep right away, but would also wake bright and early, ready to greet the day.

By the time I became pregnant with Baby #3, I had come to the conclusion that I just wasn’t very good at the whole baby sleep thing. My kids weren’t necessarily terrible sleepers, but despite my best efforts, they also weren’t great. I never seemed to figure out that one magic thing I had been looking for. It honestly seemed like a crap shoot. What one child had liked (swaddling, white noise, etc.), the other was ambivalent toward. I just couldn’t seem to nail it down, so I resigned myself to the fact that this next baby was going to follow suit.

Maybe there really wasn’t a secret to this baby sleep thing after all.

Then, our third child was born and we got her to sleep like a dream from the get-go. She was sleeping through the night almost immediately and I finally realized the undisclosed truth about baby sleep.

The true secret to getting a baby to sleep through the night is …

Getting a baby who is just naturally a good sleeper.

I know this is probably annoying to read as you were likely hoping to discover some amazing untold trick, but the difficult truth that I’ve learned after having three children is that every child is different … especially when it comes to sleep.

I tried all the tips and tricks with my kids and nothing worked and it left me feeling incredibly frustrated, but now that I lucked out with Baby #3 (i.e. my rockstar sleeper), I’ve realized that what it really comes down to is luck of the draw. Some babies are just better sleepers than others and it isn’t a direct reflection of a person’s parenting skills. I used to beat myself up about how bad my kids were at sleeping — I felt like a failure — when really it was just them and their particular sleep tendencies.

Certainly, there are things you can do and products you can use that can encourage sleep and make things a bit easier, but mostly it comes down to each baby and their leanings.

The good news is that it’s OK to keep trying the tips and tricks, because sometimes they can help you figure out what works for your individual baby. But in the end, each child is different and sometimes it’s just a matter of trial and error and waiting it out.

I promise though, every baby learns to sleep eventually. So keep your heads up new parents, because when that time comes it will be glorious.

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