Posted by: Mother Ruckus | September 2, 2009

Sleeping Through the Night

Is he sleeping through the night yet?

If I had a ten dollars for every time someone asked me this question, I wouldn’t go on unemployment.  Why does everyone ask this question when discussing Li’l Man?  Do I receive some sort of mommy reward when he does?  Will I be asked to join a secret society called Mommies with Babies Sleeping through the Night?  Why is it interesting conversation to discuss the sleeping habits of the very young? 

I’ve been pondering these questions the last several days.  Big Man is well aware of my brooding; we exchange humorous glances every time we’re asked this question in public.  Unfortunately the inside joke lost its novelty for Big Man, he suggests I blog about it.  A nice way to say, “Honey, let’s move on to a new baby topic like when is the babysitter coming over to give us date night?”  A topic inexhaustible by most husbands, I’m sure.    

Perhaps you’re reading this thinking, “Shoot!  I’ve asked her that question!”  Don’t worry, so has everyone else.  I’m certainly not offended; I merely want to understand the fixation and figure out a creative answer.  I’m sick of my standard reply; just as I was sick of answering when pregnant, “No, I’m not having twins, I’m just especially big.” 

I’m hoping to construct a reply that wards off the glut of advice that typically follows a question like this.  Often I hear, “Oh, my baby slept through the night when she was two weeks old.”  “Have you tried this?  Or that?”  All of which implies that I’m doing something wrong as a parent or something is wrong with my baby.  How dare they! 

In my defense, Meredith Small, author of Our Babies, Ourselves,demonstrates through her research, it’s not biologically natural for infants to sleep through the night just as it’s not natural for babies to start walking minutes after birth (as many mammal babies do).  She explains the American concern with infants sleeping through the night comes from the western cultural obsession for making children independent. 

Don’t get me wrong – I want Li’l Man to grow up independent, and I would love a full night’s rest; I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.  I’m not willing to feed him cereal in his bottle, supplement with formula, or try any of the other gazillion suggestions given to me by well-meaning folk.  As long as he’s healthy, I’m not concerned.   

What do you think?  Next time I’m asked this question, should I reply,

“He sleeps like a natural baby – tosses and turns and wakes every few hours.”  Or

“Let’s talk about something a little more interesting like the habits of his bowels.”  Or

Should I alter Joey Tribbiani’s standard pick-up line and in a New York accent ask, “How YOU sleeping?”



  1. I just returned from Little Man’s four-month check-up. The pediatrician informed me he should be sleeping through the night by now, “Breastfed babies should be sleeping eight to ten hours by the age of four months.” AH!!! Help me out, fellow moms and dads; let me know if your baby did NOT sleep through the night at four months.

  2. Well Abby isn’t to the four month mark yet. But she does not sleep through the night, and I swear she’s getting worse, so we probably will still be getting up at four months. Now Blake did sleep through the night by four months. Also most places define “sleeping through the night” as a stretch of 6 hours. I define it as I don’t have to get up until the sun coming up.

    • Thanks, Sara. It’s good to know I’m not alone in the sleepless mom category.

  3. Tatum was breastfed and did not sleep through the night until 10 months old. I think it is different for every baby, and whatever your son is his “normal”. And that makes him perfect, enjoy!

    • Katie, you’re right! A pediatrician shouldn’t be defining normal. Good to know Tatum took awhile to make it through the night. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Personally, I only ask if a baby sleeps thru the night from the ‘Mom’s Sanity’ point-of-view. Torin was 7 months before sleeping more than 3 hours (and on table food) and I was INSANE!!!! I didn’t care how much sleep HE was getting . . . I cared about how much ‘I’ was getting at that point. I was very crabby and my husband didn’t like me much either!!! Totally not in my nature.

    PS – love your articles!

  5. Thanks, Kathleen, for your comments! Now that we’ve covered the sleep question, we can move onto the question asked of stay at home moms, “What do you do all day?” 🙂

  6. Jude is hit or miss. Esther was getting frustrated with him waking up 4-5 times a night while she was traveling with him. She got even more frustrated when they got home, and I took over the late night shift only to have him practically sleeping through the night the last couple of days! =D

  7. Sleeping through the night?? What’s that?! I think Dane will be 13 years old before he makes it through a night!! He got up 3 times last night alone!

    I agree with Kathleen that us moms like to chat about “sleepless nights” or “what we do during the day” to know that we are not alone in the craziness of motherhood! There is a lot of warm fuzzy stuff, but sometimes that warm stuff is actually just the poop oozing from the diaper!!

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