Why some babies are able to sleep through the night early on and others are not has long been the subject of debate and study.

The theories range from simple to complex and from logical to bizarre. Well-meaning friends may have told the inexperienced first-time mom that every child is different. They go on to say that some babies are born sleepers and others are not and may even critique your newborn swaddle

Rest assured, you can and should expect your baby to acquire the skill of sleeping through the night, but rarely does it happen without parental training. Therefore, let’s take a look at the four core baby sleep facts.

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Baby Sleep Fact One

Babies do not have the ability to organize their own days and nights into predictable rhythms, but they have the biological need to do so. That is why parents must take the lead and create structure and routine for their babies and for themselves.

To increase the likelihood of continuous nighttime sleep, a parent-guided “feed-wake-sleep” routine is essential. The keep to nighttime sleep lies in the order of those three daytime activities: first comes feeding time, followed by wake time and then nap time. The sequence of these three activities repeats itself throughout the day. 

The more consistent the routine, the more quickly a baby learns to adapt and organize his feed-wake-sleep rhythms. Established rhythms lead to continuous nighttime sleep.

Baby Sleep Fact Two

The quality of each activity is as important as the order of each activity. To re-emphasize the principle of the ripple effect, the stone that creates the initial ripple is the quality of each feeding.

That means Mom must work to make each feeding a full feeding. Babies (especially newborns) are prone to doze off while feeding, thereby taking only a partial meal. When that happens, especially with breastfed babies, the child is not taking enough to satisfy his nutritional needs.

When Mom consistently works with her baby to take a full feeding, it eventually leads to productive wake times. A good wake time impacts nap time and a good napper is a better feeder. As the quality of each activity deepens, it facilitates healthy nighttime sleep.

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Baby Sleep Fact Three

From birth onward, infant huger patterns will either organize into stable and regular periods or become erratic and unpredictable. When infants are fed as described above, their hunger patterns stabilize.

There are two reasons for this. First, babies have an innate ability to organize their feeding times into a predictable rhythm and will do so if encouraged by Mom’s feeding philosophy. Second, the hunger mechanism (digestion and absorption) responds to routine feedings with a metabolic memory.

Routine feedings encourage baby’s hunger metabolism to organize into predictable cycles; erratic feedings or “clusters of feeding” discourage this. The principle to remember is consistency leads to predictability.

Baby Sleep Fact Four

It is not what goes in the mouth as much as when it goes in. Failure to establish nighttime sleep is not associated with the source of food (i.e. breastfed or formula).

Studies have shown that breastfed babies will sleep through the night on average at the same rates and in many cases slightly sooner than formula-fed babies. This means one cannot rightly attribute nighttime sleep to a dummy full of formula.

The statistics also demonstrate that neither the composition of breastmilk or formula, nor the speed at which the two are digested, have any bearing on a child’s ability to establish healthy nighttime sleep patterns.

The more consistent the routine, the more quickly a baby learns to adapt and organize his feed-wake-sleep rhythms. Established rhythms lead to continuous nighttime sleep.

When your baby begins to sleep through the night, people will invariably say, “You’re so lucky” or “You’ve got such an easy baby.” Neither statement is true. Your baby will be sleeping through the night because you worked hard to help him achieve the gift of lifetime sleep.

You deserve credit for your efforts, but do keep this fact in perspective: training your baby to sleep through the night is not the final goal of parenting, but it does provide a god foundation for everything else that follows.


For more help getting your Baby on a Babywise sleep schedule, you can read more articles on Baby Sleep here on Babywise.life, including these:

* The Waking-Early Nap Challenge
* The 45 Minute Sleep Intruder
* Isolating the Source of Your Baby's Sleep Problem
Baby Sleep Problems: Causes and Explanations (Part 1)


Excerpted with permission from On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Bucknam, M.D., copyright Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc. You can learn more and purchase the book here.

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