Baby Night Waking – Is It Normal For Babies To Wake At Night?

Baby Night Waking - Is It Normal For Babies To Wake At Night?

Is baby night waking something that happens quite frequently in your home?

One of the most common concerns new parents have is about their baby waking at night.

After all, they are usually told not to expect much sleep when their baby arrives.

Baby Night Waking – Is It Normal For Babies To Wake At Night?

But surely, after a few months, don’t babies sort out this sleeping business and start getting longer stretches?

And definitely by the time she is a year old, can you expect your baby to sleep through the night?

If you’re the mama of a baby who is not sleeping through the night, a new study tells you you’re in good company.

To the surprise of researchers, about half of babies over the age of one did not sleep for an uninterrupted eight hours a night.

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Do One Year Old Babies Sleep Through The Night?

Canadian researchers at McGill University found the majority of babies aged 6-12 months weren’t sleeping for eight hour stretches.

Lead researcher Marie-Hélène Pennestri and her colleagues wrote:

“At 6 months of age, according to mothers’ reports, 38% of typically developing infants were not yet sleeping at least 6 consecutive hours at night; almost 60% weren’t sleeping 8 hours.

“At 12 months old, 28% of infants weren’t yet sleeping six hours straight at night, and 43% weren’t staying asleep 8 hours”.

Weary mothers everywhere, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You’re not alone.

Learning what is ‘normal’ won’t provide you with more hours of sleep. It will, however, lift that mental weight of worrying you might be alone.

There’s stress associated with thinking your baby isn’t sleeping as well as she should, and wondering whether you’re teaching her ‘bad’ habits.

The researchers wrote:

“I saw so many parents worrying because their infants were not sleeping through the night.

“Moreover, some mothers have reported feeling tense and depressed when they tried to get their infant to sleep through the night”.

How much of our maternal exhaustion is related to pushing for long stretches, withholding feeds, patting, rocking, etc. because baby shouldn’t be awake quite yet?

A lack of uninterrupted sleep already leads to further exhaustion.

We needn’t add to it by worrying about unrealistic expectations.

Does Baby Night Waking Cause Problems For Parental Health?

Every parent is a unique individual. Some of us need many hours of sleep; others can function quite well with a five or six hour stretch.

There’s no denying it: the early months of having a child can be draining.

However, the researchers didn’t find any evidence baby night waking increased rates of depression in mothers.

They followed the babies for three years. There was no clear link between parents’ moods and when their baby slept through the night.

As someone who has had six infants, I will say baby night waking can hit hard.

I’m a bit less patient. Little things bother me. I’m less productive at work or around the house.

On the days I’m able to nap, however, I find I do quite well.

When I get to bed at a reasonable hour, even if I’m woken up throughout the night, I do okay.

It isn’t that parents don’t need sleep: we absolutely do.

It’s simply that parents don’t need completely uninterrupted sleep to be okay.

The researchers also found no links between the healthy development of infants and when they slept through the night.

Is Baby Night Waking Related To How You Parent?

“If there was only one thing I could tell parents, it would be do not worry if your infant does not sleep through the night at six months of age”, Pennestri told NBC News.

“Sleeping through the night at age 6 to 12 months is generally considered the gold standard in Western industrialized nations, and behavioral sleep training (such as controlled crying) is popular among parents and professionals”, the researchers wrote in their report.

Their research, however, did not show baby night waking was indicative of a problem, nor that it carried risks.

There was an association between breastfeeding and waking up.

However, Pennestri said it might be partly related to a breastfeeding mother’s willingness to be woken up or a difference in expectations.

Given the many well-known benefits of breastfeeding, this study certainly doesn’t recommend weaning in an attempt to get more sleep.

In fact, other research has found formula use doesn’t increase sleep.

The researchers recommend parents don’t stress or make sleep a battleground.

It’s also recommended babies sleep in their parents’ room for the first 12 months, to reduce the risk of SIDS.

These researchers and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend babies sleep in the same room, but in their own sleep space (bassinet, crib, etc.).

Other professionals offer parents safe sleep recommendations, which include guidelines for bed sharing.

To learn more, you can read Sleeping With Baby – Is Co-Sleeping Safe? by Dr. James Mckenna, a mother baby sleep expert and researcher at the University of Notre Dame.

There has been an ongoing debate, especially in western cultures, about the best way to manage baby sleep.

Although many supporters of sleep training suggest it provides a sound start for establishing sleep habits, a lot of research shows baby night waking is completely biologically normal.

Pennestri’s study backs up previous research, which says healthy babies might wake, even beyond the first year of life.

Baby night waking is normal. Rest assured you’re not parenting wrongly. And it doesn’t mean there’s a problem with your baby.

You can read 8 Facts Parents Need To Know About Babies And Sleep to learn more about what to expect with your baby.

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Maria Silver Pyanov is a mama of four energetic boys and one unique little girl. She is also a doula and childbirth educator. She's an advocate for birth options, and adequate prenatal care and support. She believes in the importance of rebuilding the village so no parent feels unsupported.

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