What does sleeping through the night mean for babies and toddlers?


Probably the most frequently asked question to new parents is, “Is it already sleeping through?”. Around 70 percent of parents answer this question with no in the first year of their child’s life. Very personal tips for special sleep training sessions come quickly – and parents are putting more and more pressure on themselves. Society suggests that a baby can and must sleep through the night quickly, otherwise it is a failure of the parents. In addition to the stress of the omnipresent lack of sleep, parents also suffer from unnecessary fear of failure. With children in the first two years of life, sleeping through the night in the sense of 8 or 9 hours of sleep is more the exception than the rule.

The pressures of society

If you talk to your own parents, or even grandparents, about a baby’s sleep, you almost always get the answer that all babies used to sleep through the night. Just a few weeks after the birth, all newborns supposedly slept 7 or more hours a night. All new parents are exposed to this pressure. From a purely evolutionary point of view, however, this statement is extremely questionable. Because newborns are genetically designed to wake up every few hours to make sure they are safe. They control whether they are alone or if someone is there when they cry. Newborns have instinctively ensured their survival for thousands of years. Much more likely than the fact that babies slept much earlier than that, that our parents and grandparents simply forgot how stressful the first year with a baby was. Here, too, evolution plays an important role. This also ensured that parents did not have just one child – at best, several. The survival of society (of the tribe – or even of the human population) was thus assured.

The definition of staying asleep is different

If you ask pediatricians and midwives, 5-6 hours of sleep (at a time) is an enormous milestone. If infants manage to sleep at this time of the night, one actually speaks of sleeping through the night. Because they oversleep several meals at the same time. Typically, newborns drink every 2 to 3 hours. It is only when they are several months old that a recognizable rhythm sets in and meals are spaced at greater intervals. These nocturnal hours are a real treat for parents. However, this does not fully cover the 7-9 hours of restful sleep required. So many mothers and fathers continue to walk around with thick circles under the eyes and yawning. From the 12th to the 24th month, you can expect nightly sleep of 10 hours or more.

The so-called growth spurts in the first year of life should not be underestimated. If a baby is in the middle of a growth spurt, of which there are at least 8 in the first 14 months, it generally becomes restless, nagging and also anxious. Unfortunately, this is also evident in sleep behavior. During these phases, a baby needs a lot of closeness and approval from parents.

With targeted sleep training for more sleep?

Loved advice on staying asleep comes from everywhere. It is not uncommon for special and targeted sleep training to be mentioned. However, sleeping through the night is a process, a step in development. Babies don’t have to learn to sleep through the night. At some point they just do this all by themselves. The older the children get, the longer they can sleep in one piece. This usually happens between the first and second year of life.

Special training does not help to achieve this development step faster. On the contrary, children who cry for minutes and realize that no one is coming to them give up and cry no longer just for this reason. This is fatal for your basic trust and your bond with your parents.

At this point it is important to distinguish between sleeping through the night and falling asleep. When it comes to falling asleep, you can actually score points with loving rituals. Gentle sleep aids work quite well even with the very little ones. Here too, however, there are very different approaches and supposedly revolutionary advisors. Much of it is simply too radical and can be very damaging to a little soul.

Video recommendation

READING TIP: Babies and children primarily learn while they are sleeping. You can find out why this is so, and why a good night’s sleep is so important, in this post.


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