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Why Won't My Baby Sleep?

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Why Won't My Baby Sleep?

By: Jill Campbell, Psy.D. (jill@pumpstation.com), Cheryl Petran, CEO (cheryl@pumpstation.com)

There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t get questions from new moms and dads about how their babies sleep. It’s such an important subject and often talk of it can leave all of us without it.  Why is that?  Well, because we know that good sleep is not only essential to your baby’s growth and development, but the whole family’s well being.

Sleep is so important because it can:

  1. Improve memory, learning, and concentration – helps with “Mommy Brain”.
  2. Restores energy – name a new parent who doesn’t need this.
  3. Strengthens our immune system – this has never been as important as it is now.
  4. Helps our metabolism – which can help get rid of that baby weight.
  5. Helps stabilize our mood- who doesn’t want that? Serotonin, a brain chemical that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness is restored during deep sleep.  Whereas lack of sleep can contribute to depression, moodiness and higher stress levels. Who needs that?

But, back to the question of why Daniela’s baby sleeps better than yours….  Well, infant sleep can be tricky to grasp for many different reasons:

  1. Each baby is unique. We tell people every day – no two babies are alike. Babies are born with individual traits, personalities and temperaments that will affect the way they sleep and pretty much everything else they do.  Some babies (children, moms, dads, cats, dogs - replace word however you like) just naturally sleep better than others.  Frustrating huh? Some babies no matter how you put them down or what you do, they will be good sleepers.  While no baby comes with an instruction manual - some babies are much more predictable and easier to read than other babies. 
  2. Sleep patterns change as your baby grows. It’s important to note that how much and how long a baby sleeps over a 24 hour period of time can vary greatly.  For example, between one week and four months, the total daily amount of time a baby sleeps can range from as much 16 ½ hours to 15 hours, or less.  With regards to the “length” or “stretch” of time a baby sleeps in one sleep period can range from as little as four hours to as much as nine hours.  But, please remember these are averages!
  3. Feeding: Before six months your baby will wake to be fed and, sometimes, you will need to wake them to feed during the night. By six months, the “rule of thumb” is that babies are physically capable of sleeping through the night without a feeding. However, this rule may not apply to mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding and have low milk supply Always check with your pediatrician and/or lactation consultant. Your pediatrician will guide you best on your baby’s growth and development. Your lactation consultant will be able to best guide you on factors that might help or hurt your milk supply. So – your breastfeeding goals need to be taken into consideration in parallel with your baby’s development and sleep schedule (and your desire for you and them to sleep).  Also, 15 lbs seems to be a key weight in your baby being able to sleep through the night without a feeding.  This certainly does not mean that you “shouldn’t” feed your baby during the night after this age, only that the average baby does not need the feeding. And please note, even if your baby does sleep through the night you may need to get up and pump so as to maintain your milk supply.  Ask a professional.
  4. Sleep times change: As hard as we may try to build a perfect sleep schedule for us and baby, as they grow the time they go to bed and the time they wake can change slightly. For example, it is not unusual for babies under three-four months to go down for the night around 9pm or 10pm. Usually, as they get closer to the four-month mark, they will go down for the night somewhere between 7-8:30pm. In addition, the number and duration of baby’s naps can change. 
  5. Babies hours of sleep can go up and down like a pendulum. They can sleep beautifully for weeks or even months, and then they start waking again during the night.  This is completely normal.  This is usually related to developmental and cognitive bursts (remember their little brains are growing all the time!), changes in routine which could involve family lifestyles, travel or often discomfort due to teething or illness.

Bottom line, you, your family and your baby are unique and special.  Don’t compare yourself to other moms, families or babies.  Everyone has different lifestyles that can impact so many things. Sleep is tough, no doubt about that.  Do your best to practice self-care when baby is sleeping, accept the help of friends, family and your partner.  Don’t beat yourself up, you got this!

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