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Baby Sleep Problems. Ask Your Pediatrician?

It doesn’t take long after a baby is born for her parents to start thinking “when will she sleep through the night?” OK, it’s more like desperately, feverishly praying and having delusions of exchanging all your worldly possessions for more than 45 minutes of unbroken sleep.

So how long will it take? It depends on your baby. Newborn babies wake up every couple of hours – there is something wrong if they don’t. It’s physically impossible for a baby to have enough milk in her tummy to last all night before 2 or 3 months at the very earliest. Most 6-month-olds don’t sleep through the night. By 9 months, about half of all babies are sleeping through. By one, most babies sleep through the night on most nights. But it’s normal for babies to take until 18 months, or 2 years, to sleep consistently through the night.

Just about every pediatrician I’ve seen for my two-year-old son (moved a lot, changed insurance companies several times, he’s never seen the same doctor more than twice) has asked how he was sleeping.

I wonder if they are just making conversation. Of course a pediatrician should be your first call if there is something medically wrong or troubling with your baby. But sleeping is not a medical problem. And they always say the same thing. Let the baby cry-it-out. (which personally, in my opinion – and not criticizing you if you did it, I understand the desperation – I think is cruel and just could not do.) But what is not a matter of opinion, this is true – cry-it-out is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Some babies do actually start sleeping better after following a cry-it-out program for a couple of nights, a couple of nights of a few minutes crying and suddenly they’ll sleep for 6 hours instead of 2. Most babies have to do a lot of crying before they start sleeping for longer. And some babies scream and scream and scream. They don’t understand what’s happening, and why mom is not coming to get them.

So it baffles me why pediatricians consistently recommend cry-it-out. Do you know that doctors, including pediatricians, don’t study babies’ sleep in medical school – or at most, one or two classes. So if your doctor is telling you to cry-it-out, then try it if you feel like it may work – and I really hope it does. But if you are trying cry-it-out, and it’s just not working, don’t persever because the pediatrician said to do it. Stop, and try something else.

There’s plenty of books on the market that offer to help, and can give you much better information than your pediatrician. Buy or borrow a couple that approach baby sleep from different viewpoints, and following the advice of the one that best fits your parenting style.

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