Your baby isn’t supposed to sleep the same way every night

A new study confirms that baby sleep patterns vary wildly, even night to night.

Your baby isn’t supposed to sleep the same way every night
@michelleluo /Twenty20

When will my baby sleep through the night?

That's the million-dollar question many (most? all?) parents ask themselves throughout their baby's first year.

When will my baby sleep through the night? When will I ever sleep again?

When you have a baby who wakes frequently, it can be hard getting enough sleep yourself. It can also cause you to wonder if there's something developmentally wrong with your child.

If all the books and pamphlets and blogs say that your baby should be sleeping through the night by 6 months and your baby isn't, you might start to worry.

Fear not, mama.

A new study from McGill University suggests that infant sleep varies wildly, not just from baby to baby, but from night to night. The lead researcher says parents should view sleeping through the night as a process, not a milestone to be hit at a certain age.


Professor Marie-Hélène Pennestri led the study, published in Sleep Medicine.

Researchers asked mothers to keep a sleep diary about their six-month old children for two weeks.

On average, moms reported that their baby slept 6 consecutive hours for about 5 out of the 14 nights and 8 consecutive hours for about 3 nights.

Half of the babies, though, never slept 8 hours consecutively.

If your baby is currently on #teamnosleep, you're definitely not alone.

"Parents are often exposed to a lot of contradictory information about infant sleep. They shouldn't worry if their baby doesn't sleep through the night at a specific age because sleep patterns differ a lot in infancy," explained Pennestri.

Researchers also found that breastfeeding and co-sleeping were associated with a higher variability in sleep patterns. If you nurse at night or co-sleep with your baby, it doesn't mean that you're responsible for their frequent awakenings.

Researchers say that moms who engage in those practices are simply more likely to observe their baby waking up at night.

"One important piece of the puzzle is understanding parents' perceptions and expectations of infant sleep. In future research, we hope to explore what 'sleeping through the night' really means to them," says Pennestri.

Here's the bottom-line: while most babies are developmentally capable of sleeping for extended stretches by 6 months, it doesn't always happen. And just because a child does it once or twice, it doesn't mean that parents should expect their baby to sleep through the night consistently.

Learning how to sleep through the night is a process. Try not to think about it like a milestone, mama. Every baby is different and yours will get there. It'll just take time.

Discover the products that make sleep a little easier in the Motherly Shop!

Dream weighted sack + swaddle

Dreamland Baby dream weighted sack and swaddle

Help your little one fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer with the same principle as a weighted blanket. Designed to naturally reduce stress and increase relaxation through deep-pressure stimulation, it also comes with a detachable swaddle wing for little ones who prefer snug sleep.

$79

Yogasleep dohm natural sound machine

Yogasleep dohm natural sound machine

The whirring sound of this classic machine is possibly the most sleep-inducing sound we could imagine. Since the 1960's the Dohm has been lulling people of all ages into slumber with a patented fan-based natural white noise that mimics the soothing ambient sounds of rushing air, without the disturbance of actual moving air or other irritations.

$50

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