How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?

James McKenna, PhD, shares advice for parents on why babies don't sleep through the night and what parents can do to help their baby sleep all night
How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night
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How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?


Ah, sleeping through the night. The first question asked after what sex is your baby and seemingly the most important that all parents are concerned with. In terms of my own research and in terms of what's good for babies, this is probably one of the worst ideas that ever emerged in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries: babies sleeping through the night. We're the only culture that ever asks this question; most cultures are never concerned with this. It's a culturally constructed emphasis. Sleeping through the night is something for which babies simply are not designed to do. They are never going to get the cultural memo. I guarantee that their biology is not designed to sleep through the night. What are they designed to do? What they're designed to do is to wake, to breastfeed, and to sleep. To wake, to breastfeed and to sleep. The whole notion of what's called "sleep consolidation" is once again, always constructed in the context of what's in the best interest of the parents rather than what's in the best interest of babies. No one ever asked: Is it good for babies to sleep through the night? And what I mean by that is, actually explored what the consequences are of doing so. Keep in mind that occurred in a bottle-feeding culture. The only babies that could ever sleep through the night were the ones that were satiated and how do you get a satiated baby? A human baby that satiated throughout the entire night. You do so by giving them milk from a different species that's fatty and viscous and has big molecules that makes the baby sleep. It's not natural, it's not in their best interest.

James McKenna, PhD, shares advice for parents on why babies don't sleep through the night and what parents can do to help their baby sleep all night


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James McKenna, PhD

Anthropologist & Author

Professor James J. McKenna is recognized as the world’s leading authority on mother-infant co-sleeping, in relationship to breastfeeding and SIDS. In recognition of his work in 2009 he was admitted as a Fellow into the select body of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's most prestigious scientific society. That same year and in recognition of his extensive work with television, radio, and print media he received from the American Anthropological Association the “2008 Anthropology In The Media Award” one of the top three awards presented to anthropologists by the association in recognition of his distinguished work in educating the public to the importance of anthropological concepts. He received his undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1970, his Master's Degree from San Diego State University in 1972, and his PhD in biological anthropology from the University of Oregon, Eugene, in 1975. Professor McKenna has published over 139 refereed scientific articles in diverse medical and anthropological journals on co-sleeping, breastfeeding, evolutionary medicine and SIDS, and both here and abroad he gives over 20 lectures especially to pediatric groups and parents. Here in the United States he remains one of the primary spokesperson to the media on issues pertaining to sleeping arrangements, nighttime breast-feeding and SIDS prevention. He has also published two monographs on SIDS and infant sleep, and co-edited two books:  Evolutionary Medicine and Evolutionary Medicine And Health: New Perspectives. His first trade book for parents was published in 2008 entitled: Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parents Guide To Co-Sleeping, and was recently translated and available in Spanish and Dutch.

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