I hear this almost every day in my office. Many infants sleep well for the first 5 months of life, and then teething sets in, and the night waking begins. This is so common, I have concluded that this is actually the norm, and 8-month-olds who DO sleep through the night are the minority.
Decades ago, every parent just took it for granted that babies wake up at night. It was expected, and therefore, accepted. Sometime in the 70’s someone got it in their head that babies SHOULD sleep through the night. Since then, new parents are bombarded from all sides with the notion that their baby is supposed to sleep through the night. They hear if from friends, relatives, churches, and books. “Oh! Your baby isn’t sleeping through the night?” “10 fool-proof ways to get your baby to sleep through the night.” “My baby sleeps 12 hours straight without waking.” Today, parents are led to believe that if their baby doesn’t sleep through the night, something must be done about it.
The bottom line is that babies are not supposed to sleep through the night. Most will require some degree of parenting at night. This is simply the way it is, and as a parent, you signed up for this.
Now, having said that, there are many ways to encourage your baby to wake up less at night. Your goal, however, should be to decrease night waking, not to eliminate it altogether.
After making fun of lists and books that promise ways to get your baby to sleep, I must include my own tips on how to make nighttime easier for you and your baby. Here are 31 Ways To Help Your Baby Sleep Better.
Some parents who have chosen to sleep with their babies and breastfeed at night, and who are now dealing with this night waking issue, may begin to question their decision about this parenting style. To learn more about the benefits read 8 Infant Sleep Facts Every Parent Should Know.
A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT – all babies eventually grow up, wean, and sleep through the night in their own bed. Ask any parent whose children are older and they will tell you “they grow up so fast”. “I wish I could snuggle with them in my arms again”. “It was so nice to snuggle in bed and nurse them and hold them close”. First time parents won’t believe this, but there actually will come a day when you will miss this time in your baby’s life. If you consider that you will be spending the next 50 or more years with your child in your life, then this next 6 to 12 months of night waking and nursing is really a short time. Hang in there. You will get through it.
TEETHING – be sure to keep in mind that this is almost always a contributing factor, if not the only factor, to night waking. Be sure you are adequately addressing this issue to minimize teething pain at night. Click here for a complete discussion on teething. Remember, although teeth don’t usually come in until 6 months or later, teething PAIN can start as early as 3 or 4 months of age.
Always be sure to consider that your child may be waking up more at night because of a medical problem. To learn more read Hidden Medical Causes of Night Waking.