Sleep problems, and in particular, frequent night time awakenings are an extremely common frustration for parents of young children. Part of the answer lies in knowing what to expect from your child at certain ages. newborn will average two awakenings a night, usually for a feeding and a diaper change. By 2 months of age, they are down to one arising or none at all, and by 4 months of age, a majority of infants sleep through the night. Acute illnesses, such as a bad cold or ear infection can temporarily upset your child’s sleeping pattern. A 5-6 month baby who is not consistently sleeping a full night, or an older infant who develops night-time awakenings, is considered to be a self-trained poor sleeper, and therefore is also capable of being trained to sleep all night independently.

Treatment

Unfortunately, the only method of any proven value in correcting poor sleepers involves allowing them to “cry it out” to some degree. Most young children who awaken in the night are simply hooked on a habit or association they require to get back to sleep (a bottle, rocking in your arms, etc.) and they are not too happy when those associations are broken. How do you do it? Put them in their crib awake; don’t rock them to sleep in your arms. If they cry at that time, or as they awaken and fuss later in the night, allow 10-15 minutes waiting periods before you step in. When you do go in, stay only for a moment and don’t get your baby out of the crib. The interval between each brief visit can be extended a little until your child drifts off to sleep. It will take an iron will and two to three nights for your infant’s bad habit to budge, but the method usually works and most parents feel it was well worth the effort.

If you’ve tried this technique without progress, or if there are other unusual features about your infant’s sleep patterns, be sure to bring up this issue at your child’s next preventative care visit. A helpful book on children’s sleep disorders is listed in the reference section.

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