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Sleep issues and “spoiling” are closely related for many people. It is important to think about this matter when evaluating your baby’s sleep patterns.

A lot of people seem to have double standards when it comes to babies. Consider the following for a moment:

Do you regard yourself as “spoilt” if you …

  • Sleep in the same bed as your partner?
  • Have a few sips of water during the night?
  • Wake up if the covers fall off the bed and you become cold?
  • Need three meals, two snacks, a cup of tea, three glasses of water and one glass of juice per day? (that’s 10 “feeds!”)
  • Need lots of love, affection, hugs and closeness from your loved ones?

You probably said “NO” to most of these questions. Why do so many people see babies as being “spoilt” for wanting the same basic things that we do? Are our expectations realistic at all?



Let’s be honest – we want and need our sleep. It is important to find a way to balance our babies’ night-time needs with our need to sleep. A well-rested mother is usually a happy mother. But before we jump in and try to “fix a poor sleeper”, it is wise to dwell on the following points and work out what would be an age appropriate, realistic approach. Accept the realities of having a baby, but do what you can to improve matters.

  • Ask yourself exactly what you mean by “sleeping through” and what other people mean by the same words. You may be surprised at the different interpretations!
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you are happy with the situation and things are working well for you, don’t change it. If you don’t think your baby has a sleep problem, he doesn’t have a sleep problem. (If your mother-in-law thinks he has a sleep problem, you may have a mother-in-law problem – with all due respect to mothers-in-law).
  • It’s not a good idea to try to change baby’s sleep pattern only because someone else says you should. (Criticism from someone who doesn’t have first hand experience with a sleepless baby, doesn’t count!)
  • If you have any changes coming up (e.g. moving house, going on holiday) wait until these things are settled before making big changes like moving your little one from his cot to a big bed.
  • If you really do need to make any changes, start with the gentlest, least drastic strategy. If that doesn’t help, try the next one up.
  • Before you decide on a particular strategy, consider how you will feel about it when you think back in a few years’ time. Will you be proud of how you handled the situation? Or will you regret your actions?
  • Whatever strategy you choose, try to approach it so that baby experiences going to bed and falling asleep as something pleasant and peaceful, not frightening and frustrating.
  • If you are feeling exhausted, angry and resentful most days due to lack of sleep, it may be time to sit down with your partner (if applicable) and negotiate some sleep-ins or weekend naps, or taking turns at night.

Remember to have realistic expectations, and also: this too shall pass (even if you don’t “fix the problem” now, it will most likely resolve in time anyway!)

Erica Neser (c) 2016




Not at all how babies really sleep!

Not at all how babies really sleep!

Time allowed: 10 minutes. No conferring with others allowed.

Indicate which statement is true:

What is the definition of sleeping through?

  1. When a baby sleeps from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  2. When a baby sleeps for 8 hours
  3. When a parent sleeps from midnight to 4 a.m.
  4. The ability parents have to sleep while babies and/or toddlers jump up and down on them at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning
  5. When a teenager sleeps from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What percentage of babies sleep through at 6 months?

  1. 99.9%, mine being the 0.1% that doesn’t
  2. 50%, mine being in the group that doesn’t
  3. The number of friends who have babies divided by the number of times my baby wakes, multiplied by the number of times my MIL has asked if he’s sleeping through yet
  4. If 3[%4$] is 18 and it’s 3 a.m., then x @ 1% for W but only when \= w%
  5. Depends who’s asking

Which factors influence sleep?

  1. Style of parenting
  2. MIL’s two week visit
  3. Type of family
  4. Socio-economic factors
  5. Cultural norms
  6. All of the above

Complete the sentence: Mama = ……….

  1. milk + warmth + protection + love
  2. packed lunch + pocket money + taxi service
  3. doctor + nurse + psychologist + legal advisor
  4. someone who is always yawning
  5. all of the above

Identify three factors which can cause night waking

  1. Hunger
  2. The neighbour’s dog
  3. Dad’s snoring
  4. Separation anxiety
  5. Too much sleep in the daytime
  6. Monsters under the bed
  7. Just because

Complete the sentence: Waking up at night is…

  1. The story of my life
  2. A method of torturing people
  3. The driving force behind the coffee industry
  4. Normal & necessary (for babies)
  5. What no-one else seems to be doing
  6. All of the above

Hang in there mamas & papas. It gets easier eventually. You can do this! 🙂


Time allowed: 10 minutes. No conferring with others allowed.

Indicate which statement is true:

How many hours of sleep does a newborn baby need in 24 hours?

  1. 20 hours
  2. 10 hours
  3. 16 hours
  4. Less than his mother
  5. Less than what your MIL says

How many naps does a six month old baby need?

  1. Six
  2. Two or three
  3. None, he can stay awake all day
  4. Same number as his grandpa
  5. Who’s counting?!

How long can a nine month old baby stay awake between naps?

  1. 24 hours
  2. Two days
  3. Two hours
  4. As long as I entertain him
  5. Longer than his parents

Does your baby’s nap pattern resemble the ones given in this chapter?

  1. Perfectly!
  2. Sometimes / vaguely
  3. Not even close
  4. What “nap pattern”?!

Have you been over-estimating the amount of sleep that babies need?

  1. Definitely, I thought babies slept 20 out of 24 hours
  2. Are you mad? My baby sleeps nowhere near these figures!
  3. I have no idea how much my baby sleeps and I’m too scared to add it up
  4. Only my own sleep – I wish I was a newborn…

Who or what is Gina Ford?

  1. Henry Ford’s second ex-wife
  2. Controversial author of childcare books in the UK and a former maternity nurse
  3. Your mother-in-law
  4. My mother-in-law
  5. A shallow place allowing one to walk across the river Gina
  6. I have no idea and frankly, I don’t care

When will your baby have a predictable routine?

  1. By six weeks
  2. By roughly six months
  3. Never
  4. Before my baby
  5. When he goes to university
  6. Two weeks after he gets married

What is storage capacity?

  1. The amount of baby stuff you can cram into your car’s boot
  2. The amount of milk that can be stored in the breast between feedings
  3. The number of nappies that you can fit into your nappy bag
  4. The amount of milk/food that can safely fit into your baby’s tummy
  5. The number of frozen meals you can jam into your freezer

Extract from: How Babies and Toddlers Really Sleep (c) Erica Neser 2014

HBTRS front


Time allowed: 10 minutes. No conferring with others allowed.

Indicate which statement is true:

A baby’s sleep cycle is

  1. The same as an adult’s
  2. Wash, rinse, spin
  3. Never as long as I want it to be
  4. 30-60 minutes
  5. As long as I hold him

Babies usually spend the first half of the night

  1. In deep sleep
  2. In light sleep
  3. Breastfeeding non-stop
  4. On dad’s chest in front of the TV
  5. Awake
  6. Happily bouncing off the walls

What are the three different phases of sleep?

  1. Light sleep, deep sleep and comatose
  2. REM, ELO and CCR sleep
  3. REM, light non-REM and deep non-REM
  4. Awake, half-awake and just pretending to be asleep
  5. None of the above

How long (on average) does it take a 3-6 month old to get into deep sleep?

  1. Longer than it takes to reheat my coffee for the fourth time
  2. Three days
  3. 10 minutes
  4. If I put him down, never
  5. Three times as long as his dad

Which of the following factors can influence a baby’s day/night rhythm?

  1. Bedtime, nap times and meal times
  2. Visiting family members
  3. Exposure to light
  4. Television
  5. Whether it is full moon or not
  6. 1 & 3

What is the best way to stay awake while reading about sleep cycles?

  1. Repeatedly slapping yourself on the head with the book
  2. Drinking copious amounts of coffee
  3. Listening to “Bat out of Hell” at full volume
  4. I can’t, so let’s talk about something interesting
  5. No problem, I’m awesome that way

Why is it important to understand baby sleep cycles?

  1. To impress your friends
  2. To have realistic expectations
  3. To be able to have an uninterrupted bath
  4. So that you can control your child more effectively
  5. So that your child can control you more effectively

Extract from How Babies And Toddlers Really Sleep by Erica Neser (C) 2014


So your friends/neighbours/MIL tell you that their child “slept through” at six weeks, making you feel like you and your baby are failing dismally, because you’re getting up five times a night. It may be worthwhile to stop and check out how they define “sleeping through.” I have come across many different definitions:

  • Baby “sleeps through” a feed (so if he normally feeds every three hours, sleeping for four hours would be “sleeping through”)
  • Baby sleeps from midnight to 5 a.m.
  • Baby sleeps from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.
  • Baby sleeps from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • Baby wakes up several times but never feeds during the night
  • Baby feeds several times but never wakes during the night

You can see here how we can start believing that our own child is the only one that is not “sleeping through.”

Additionally, when someone asks parents if their baby is sleeping through yet, and the answer is “No” (duh!), they often get all sorts of (unwanted /  unrealistic / crazy / “just let him cry, it’s good for his lungs”-type) advice. As a mother, I find it horrible when that happens, and I have to nod politely and bite my tongue and pretend to agree (it’s not worth arguing about, I always feel). So, in order to avoid this sort of scene, parents often just say, “Yes, of course he’s sleeping through, every night!” and change the topic. And this is how we all start thinking everyone else’s babies are sleeping through.

“An important fact for you to remember is that your baby’s sleep habits are more a reflection of your baby’s temperament rather than your style of nighttime parenting. And keep in mind that other parents usually exaggerate how long their baby sleeps, as if this were a badge of good parenting, which it isn’t. It’s not your fault baby wakes up.” ~ Dr. William Sears

“Sleeping through” is not an event that will happen on a certain night and that’s it. Babies usually start sleeping slightly better/longer on occasion, then perhaps more regularly, then possibly most nights, with a bad night on occasion. And then, just when you’ve told all your friends and family that your baby is now sleeping through, something will change again.

Expect periods of interrupted nights well into toddlerhood, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised now and then. Not every bad night can be understood and explained. Accept that sometimes you will NOT know what’s going on.

Most people who think their baby has a sleep problem, has a perfectly normal child, sleeping perfectly as he should at this age.

Waking up at night is normal & necessary!

Extract from: How Babies and Toddlers Really Sleep by Erica Neser (c) 2015

For more information, please visit http://www.babysleep.co.za.


My first baby was barely a week old, and already some misguided fool asked me, “So, is he in a routine yet?”

“Are you mad?! Of course not!” (OK, I never actually said this, I’m much more timid in real life than on paper. But that’s what I was thinking.)

Why are people so obsessed with routine? I suspect it’s because our lives are governed by the clock, rather than by the sun, the seasons and our bodies. We have become obsessed with numbers and measuring and quantifying things, and now we want babies to be ruled by the clock too. The thing is, babies are ruled by their biology, by their basic needs, and they don’t give a damn about your clock.

Here’s a newsflash for you: Forget about “getting your baby into a routine”!

SPECIAL FORD WARNING: So someone gave you a copy of the infamous “Contented Little Baby Book” (or another one in the series) by Gina Ford. Perhaps you read it while you were still pregnant, and thought it all made so much sense. Perhaps your best friend swears by her own perfectly behaved “Gina Ford Baby.” Perhaps you’ve even tried getting your baby into the GF routine. You probably found that your baby was not that receptive to this plan, and you ended up thinking you have failed, yet again, at sorting out this whole routine and sleep thing.

Statistically speaking, the chances are pretty slim, that this book will work for you in its entirety. It seems to me, just anecdotally (i.e. I didn’t do any formal research on this, just going by what mums have been telling me at my clinic over the years) that around 10% of babies will adjust quite happily to the GF routine. These, once again, are the non-protesters, the “good” babies who will adjust to just about any old routine you can dream up. Don’t despair. The parents of the other 90% will just dump the book in the recycling bin or use it as a door stop. (I was once invited to a ritual burning of a GF book.) I am not saying all her advice is bad or wrong. What I do know is that these books (and some others) don’t take into account any newer research especially about breastfeeding, they encourage parents to obsess over the clock and their baby’s routine, and they tell parents that it’s OK to let their babies cry. (Keep in mind that GF is not a mother herself, so perhaps we can forgive her for thinking it’s easy, sensible and logical to let a baby cry. I thought so too, before I had babies.)

BABYWISE AKA “FEED, PLAY, SLEEP”: Have you been told your baby should always do these three activities in that particular order (and failed miserably when you tried to do so)? Well, fear not. This is just another of those unproven and unnatural programmes which claim to train babies to sleep as those authors think they should sleep. Again, this advice does not take into account the newer research on how babies feed or sleep (or play, for that matter, I suspect).

Both the Babywise and Ford regimes are all about CONTROLLING your baby. And guess what: you can’t really control another human being.


Any advice to strictly schedule a baby’s feeding is outdated, incorrect and potentially harmful – it is not based on the true needs of human infants. Ignore those who tell you otherwise – they are ill-informed.

Extract from: How Babies and Toddlers Really Sleep by Erica Neser (c) 2015

For more information, please visit http://www.babysleep.co.za.

HBTRS front



Time allowed: 10 minutes. No conferring with others allowed.

Indicate which statement is true:

Deciding where your baby will sleep

a) is best left to the experts

b) should be done according to what your friends and relatives advise

c) should be done before your baby is born, preferably before you get pregnant

d) is a very personal matter

The following people must reach consensus on where baby will sleep

a) Mum

b) Dad

c) Baby

d) The neighbours

e) a & b

f) a, b & c

g) none of the above

The best sleep environment for baby is

a) in your bed

b) in her own bed

c) in a cot next to your bed

d) where everyone in the family gets the most sleep

3) in the Bahamas

Your baby may sleep in your bed

a) as long as she wants to

b) until she moves out of the house

c) until you have another baby

d) until she has her own baby

e) as long as you’re comfortable with it

If your relatives criticise your sleeping arrangements, you should

a) nod politely and do whatever works for you and your family

b) disagree and argue your point of view loudly until they back down

c) leave your children with them for a weekend

d) distract them and dish up more chocolate cake for yourself while they look away

A co-sleeping mother

a) sleeps less than a non-co-sleeping mother

b) sleeps more than a non-co-sleeping mother

c) breastfeeds more often but gets the same amount of sleep as a non-co-sleeping mother

d) will have synchronised sleep cycles with her baby

e) What? I don’t know and I’m too tired to care!

When in the family bed, babies sleep

a) parallel to their parents

b) across both their parents

c) at 90o with their parents

d) upside down

e) all of the above

Extract from: How Babies and Toddlers Really Sleep, by Erica Neser (c) 2014.