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10th Jul 2012

Sweet Dreams: Are Babies Who Sleep Through The Night Pure Fiction?

In her latest column for, Evanne Ní Chuilinn wonders whether or not getting your baby to sleep soundly through the night is the stuff of myth and if so, why are Mums under so much pressure to get their little ones doing the elusive 7 till 7? 

I’d love to meet one of those, what I can only describe as, fictional babies.  You know the ones?  They sleep through the night at 6 weeks.  They are, of course, exclusively breastfed, and, don’t you know, and they sleep from 7 ‘til 7.  Is it an urban myth?  Is it a lie?  Or is it, as I suspect, a case of Calpol at dusk?  I sound very cynical I know, but I’d like to think my doubt is well founded.

I breastfed my little man for 8 weeks before I introduced a nighttime bottle of formula.  Now, I maintain that babies are clever little buggers.  He knew his breakfast lunch and tea, (and 35 snacks in between), were available on demand with little or no delay.  And so he did what any self-respecting adult would do, and took advantage!  “I’ll eat what I want when I want”.  Of course, I had no way of knowing how much he was actually eating.  Suffice to say he had his fill; he put on a pound a week for the first month and is still filling out rapidly.  Now I can’t pretend to be an expert on the issue of breastfeeding, but I do know that a breastfed baby will eat on demand, and stop when they’re full.  There is no way a breastfed baby will last 12 hours without sustenance, let alone sleep uninterrupted for that length of time at 6 weeks.  Is there?  

I felt like I had won gold at the Olympics when I got my little man to feed at midnight 3 and 6, but it was at least 8 weeks before that happened.  Now that he has been weaned, he’s in more of a routine.  Not too long ago, I woke up before him in the morning.  It was 5.20am and he was down since 9pm.  I never hopped out of bed so fast, clambering from my room to his, to find him snoring away happily.  (Until I knocked over a lamp on my way out and woke him).  He was 11 weeks old when that happened, and I should add that it was a one-off!  It was another couple of weeks before he realised that a big long sleep at nighttime was one way to rock my world.

I’m much more relaxed now, but I did feel like a bit of a failure every time I heard about someone’s sister’s friend’s wife, or someone else’s husband’s nephew’s girlfriend, whose 6 week old was going 7 ‘til 7.   I have since forgiven myself, and my little man, for our nocturnal shortcomings, but I am very keen to meet these magic mums who achieve what I can only describe as the impossible!  

Of course some babies don’t ever master the practice of sleeping through the night.  If you’re like me, and your little angel is nearly there, give yourself a break.  Eventually, you won’t be having your breakfast at 5.30am.  He’ll sleep from 7 ‘til 7 when he’s good and ready, and in the meantime, I’ll feed him when the poor mite is hungry.  Do the whole household a favour too, and save the Calpol for when it’s really called for!