Andrea Goeppner, 45, was found to have murdered the four newborns, whose remains were discovered wrapped in towels and plastic bags last year, in a case that has horrified the country.
Her estranged husband, Johann Goeppner, 55, was acquitted on charges of complicity for failing to stop the killings, which took place between 2003 and 2013. Prosecutors at the regional court in the southern city of Coburg had demanded a life sentence for Andrea Goeppner, who was originally arrested on suspicion of killing up to eight of her babies.
Their bodies were uncovered at her home in the small Bavarian town of Wallenfels following a tip-off from a neighbour.
However, prosecutors were unable to pursue murder charges for the other four infants, as one was found to have been stillborn and three were so badly decomposed that it was unclear whether they were viable at birth. Defence lawyers had called for the charges to be reduced to involuntary manslaughter.
Presiding judge Christoph Gillot defended the decision to stop short of a life sentence.
“When a case like this is tried, you suddenly have a lot of people who know what the right thing to do is – that a supposed 'horror mother' should be locked away forever,” he said, DPA news agency reported. “But we first must try to understand this behaviour. That doesn't mean justifying it but rather trying to comprehend it.”
Andrea Goeppner confessed during the trial, in a statement read out by her lawyer, to killing several of her babies but added that she could not remember how many. She said she had given birth to each of the eight babies at home alone and had wrapped every infant in a hand towel.
She would promptly suffocate any baby that moved or cried, then place the body in a plastic bag or container and hide it in the apartment. The couple had each brought two children into the marriage and conceived three more surviving children together.
Even though they did not want any more children, they used no contraceptives, and Andrea Goeppner was almost constantly pregnant over a decade.
Germany has been shocked by several infanticide cases in recent years. In May 2015, a woman was sentenced to 44 months in prison for killing two of her children and hiding their remains in a freezer. In October 2013 construction workers found the remains of two babies in Bavaria. They had been dead since the 1980s.
And in 2008, a 42-year-old woman was convicted of killing eight of her newborns, then hiding their bodies in buckets, flower pots and an old fish tank.