Normalising Infant Sleep (or Non-Sleep)
Updated: Mar 9
What is normal sleep? Is my baby normal?
Are you wondering what ‘normal’ baby sleep looks like? Being told that your little one ‘should’ be sleeping through by now? Feeling like everyone else’s babies sleep so much better than yours? Perhaps your baby was sleeping well, and had established that so called ‘perfect’ routine, but all of a sudden, you’re left baffled (and exhausted) because something has changed and your little one is waking more often, with what feels like broken sleep? Society and modern (unrealistic!) expectations of baby sleep can really make you feel like you must be doing something wrong.... As if parenting isn’t difficult enough! Although, I can pretty much guarantee you’re doing a great job, and everything you are experiencing with your little one is completely normal!
Of course, don’t get me wrong, there are a small percentage of teeny tiny mythical beings that do sleep through (and if you are parenting one of those, count yourself very lucky!) BUT, if not, you’re in the majority. Please be reassured that most babies are NOT sleeping through by 6 months. And that is totally normal. A study of 640 babies (Sadler, 1994) showed only 16% were sleeping through at this age. If you have a baby younger than 6 months, and were hoping to get a solid nights sleep soon, that could be unrealistic (sorry!)….although it’s not to say it isn’t possible. It’s also worth remembering everyone’s definition of ‘sleeping through’ is completely different. Your perception may be different to someone else’s. ‘Sleeping through’ for some is 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, for others it is 7am - 7pm. There is so much variance, it is nigh on impossible to compare, and so we shouldn’t, as every baby and family is different. From around 6 months, your baby is likely to be capable of sleeping for longer periods at night, but it’s perfectly normal to still need some reassurance or feeds during this time, and for sleep to be affected by developmental leaps which are frequent at this age onwards, hence the increased waking and unsettled nights! Broken sleep can follow your little ones through to the toddler stage. Take some reassurance that a study of over 55,000 children between the ages of 6 to 18 months (Hysing et al, 2014) showed that up to 80% of little ones still wake between 1 to 3 times a night. It is still extremely normal for your baby to wake - though this may not be what you want to hear! However it’s very easy to become overwhelmed (especially when you’re shattered) when your little one keeps waking, but deep breathing, calm consistency and focusing on making sure that your baby naps and feeds well in the day will allow progress. And remember, this doesn’t last forever! Your baby will be sleeping longer and better before you know it. What works for you, and what you choose to do is okay. It’s okay to rock your baby, feed your baby, lie with them until they go to sleep - unless you start to find it is no longer working for you and your little one, in which case it is also fine to make gentle changes.
There are also ways of managing broken sleep to help to prevent exhausting yourself. Try to rest when you can, accept any offers of help and perhaps consider safe co-sleeping (if breastfeeding) so you can rest in between feeds and resettles, if you feel comfortable doing so. Lots of safety advice can be found on co-sleeping via The Lullaby Trust organisation.
There are some sleep challenges that may require some expert support. If your baby is waking more than you can manage or struggling to settle back down after night wakes, please get in touch to have a chat about how I can help you or refer you to the right specialist who can assist. I only use gentle strategies that don’t interfere with feeding or bonding, but work on attachment, optimising sleep in both the day and at night, and ensuring the chosen approach is suited to both you and your family, with a bespoke approach to match your goals and values.
If you would like further support, please contact me! Or please visit www.sweetdreamssleepcoaching.co.uk/book-online to book a consultation and bespoke sleep coaching package tailored specifically to your family's needs and parenting style.