It is very common for babies to wake up in the night and cry but their awakenings always leaves parents in a dilemma - should the baby be left to cry itself back to sleep or should they rush to comfort the child? A new study agrees with the former method!
Dr. Marsha Weinraub, a professor of psychology at the Temple University says that it is better to let babies "self-soothe" and fall back asleep on their own! Weinraub, along with her colleagues, studied nighttime awakenings in babies between the ages of 6-36 months and revealed that the babies could be classified into two groups -sleepers and transitional sleepers.
AdvertisementOn an average, most babies sleep through the night by about 6 months of age and wake their mothers only about once a week. But the study reveals that all babies do not follow this pattern of development. Like adults, most babies go through a sleep cycle where they wake up once every one and a half to two hours and then fall back asleep. Some children cry when they wake up but this should not be considered as an indication that they are "not sleeping through the night!"
Weinraub's team of researchers took information from the parents of more than 1,200 infants regarding their baby's awakenings at 6, 15, 24 and 36 months.
It was discovered that 66 percent of the babies - classified as sleepers - either did not wake up, or awoke just once a week by the time they were six months. The remaining 33 percent woke up every night during six months. This frequency was reduced to waking up only two nights a week by the time they were 15 months old which again, gradually tapered to one night a week by the time the baby was 24 months old!
It was also found that most of the transitional sleepers who tended to wake up and cry were males. These babies were also found to have a difficult temperament and were found to be easily distracted or irritable. Majority of these babies were breast-fed and their mothers were more likely to be sensitive and depressed.
The sleep problem acts as an indicator to genetic or constitutional factors having gone awry. If the sleep problems persist for more than eighteen months, the parents must consult a doctor.
The best advice for mothers with babies who have sleep issues is to put them to sleep at a regular time each night, allow them to fall asleep on their own and refrain from rushing to respond to their night time awakenings.