Newborns regularly wake at night – this is normal and healthy. Most babies will need their parents during the night for feeding and help with settling in the first six months of life. However, even during this period, parents can help young babies develop healthy sleep patterns and reduce the chances of settling and waking problems arising in the future.
This series of articles describes an approach to dealing with settling and waking problems that is suitable for babies over six months of age.
Who is this guide for?
This guide was written for parents who are seeking solutions to sleeping problems. If you don’t mind your older baby waking you up during the night, then it’s not really a problem. Settling or night waking is a problem if it is causing distress in your family and is affecting how you relate to your baby during the day.
Are your expectations too high? Researchers and child health professionals have noted there is a huge variation in sleep habits and behaviours in children.
Why try to change a baby’s sleep pattern?
Sleep disturbances in infants can affect both child and parents. Tired babies are grumpy and more difficult to manage. Parents can experience sleep deprivation, exhaustion, stress and relationship difficulties. Sleep deprivation makes it harder for parents to cope with the day-to-day demands of caring for an infant, and this can begin to negatively affect the way parents interact with their baby.
There are many good reasons why parents might want to take action to deal with sleep problems. However, learning new sleep habits will not be easy for your baby or you. He will prefer things the way they are and might be upset by the change. The strategies recommended in this guide are designed to support your baby and minimise distress, but some level of discomfort may be unavoidable. Prepare for some trying times while your baby is getting used to a different routine.
The good news is that most parents who implement these strategies have success. Many will say it was not easy but they wished they’d tried something sooner.
How do we know this approach works?
The approach described in this section is based on many years of Australian and international research conducted into what works with young children’s sleeping problems.
But that’s not all. The advice contained here was part of a program of research conducted by the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. This research found that the recommended strategies benefited both children and parents.
This series of articles
The articles in this series are written to be read in sequence.
Concerned about your baby’s sleep?: describes how much sleep babies need and how you can assess your own baby’s sleep compared to others her age.
What causes waking and settling problems?: find out what causes difficulties in settling and persistent waking at night.
Changing your baby’s sleep patterns: practical strategies for helping your baby settle and ‘sleep through the night’.