-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Most babies who wake up
during the night should be allowed to self-soothe and fall back to
sleep on their own, researchers say.
"By 6 months of age, most babies sleep through the night, awakening their mothers only about once per week. However, not all children follow this pattern of development," Marsha Weinraub, a Temple University psychology professor, said in a university news release.
"If you measure them while they are sleeping, all babies -- like all adults -- move through a sleep cycle every one-and-a-half to two hours where they wake up and then return to sleep. Some of them do cry and call out when they awaken, and that is called 'not sleeping through the night,' " she added.
In conducting the study, researchers led by Weinraub examined
patterns of awakenings during the night among more than 1,200
infants ranging in age from 6 months to 36 months. The researchers
asked the babies' parents about their child's awakenings during the
night at 6, 15, 24 and 36 months of life. Based on their findings,
the researchers divided the babies into two groups: sleepers and
By 6 months of age, 66 percent of babies considered "sleepers"
did not wake up at night or woke up only once per week, the study
Meanwhile, at the same age, 33 percent of the children woke up
seven nights per week. By the time these babies were 15 months old,
they were only waking up two nights per week. At 24 months old,
nighttime awakenings dropped to just one night per week, the
Most of the babies that woke during the night were boys. These
babies -- considered transitional sleepers -- were also assessed as
being more irritable or difficult. They were also more likely to be
breast-fed. The mothers of these transitional sleepers were more
likely to be depressed and have greater maternal sensitivity, the
study authors found.
The authors concluded that genetic factors could play a role in
difficult temperaments. "Families who are seeing sleep problems
persist past 18 months should seek advice," Weinraub advised.
Babies should learn how to fall asleep without help, the
researchers added. "When mothers tune in to these nighttime
awakenings and/or if a baby is in the habit of falling asleep
during breast-feeding, then he or she may not be learning how to
self-soothe, something that is critical for regular sleep,"
More research is needed to explore the link between mothers'
depression and infant awakenings, the researchers suggested in the
"Because the mothers in our study described infants with many awakenings per week as creating problems for themselves and other family members, parents might be encouraged to establish more nuanced and carefully targeted routines to help babies with self-soothing and to seek occasional respite," Weinraub noted. "The best advice is to put infants to bed at a regular time every night, allow them to fall asleep on their own and resist the urge to respond right away to awakenings."
The study was recently published in
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides tips on how to
get your baby to sleep.
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