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New Research: babies waking throughout the night is normal!

Getting your baby to sleep through the night is considered by many to be the holy grail of parenting, thanks to numerous books, websites and ‘expert’ advice offering tips to achieve just that – and making plenty of money from doing so.

Unfortunately, placing these sorts of expectations on yourself and your baby can set new parents up for disappointment, with many considering themselves to have failed when their baby does in fact continue to wake throughout the night.

Well, there is some good news for the blurry-eyed mums of wakeful babies – new research suggests that it’s actually normal for babies to wake throughout the night.

The Swansea University study showed that 78% of babies between the ages of 6 and 12 months regularly woke at least once during the night, with 61% having at least one milk feed during night.

It also showed there was no difference in the number of times babies woke up dependent on whether they were breast or formula fed, how many feeds they had in the day or how many solid meals they ate.

The findings challenge the both the idea that babies should be sleeping through the night after three months as well as the idea that what you feed your baby will have an impact on how well they sleep.

Although formula fed babies and babies who ate more during day were less likely to be fed at night, these babies still woke up just as frequently.

Paediatrician Dr Howard Chilton agrees it’s perfectly normal for babies to wake during the night, but says parents’ expectations were often misplaced.

“A national survey in the United States found that 74 per cent of parents of four to nine-month-old infants reported discussing night waking and fussing with paediatricians,” Dr Chilton said.

“Things are not much different in Australia. A recent large internet survey of parents done by Arthur Teng and others showed that about 30 per cent of them thought their child had a sleep problem.”

According to Dr Chilton, at around 6-7 months babies develop ‘object permanence’, which means they know their parents are around even when they can’t see them and also start to understand cause and effect.

“Consequently they then appreciate and need routines especially regarding sleep rhythms.

“Their dependence on feeds at night diminishes, but doesn’t disappear.

“But they are still not sleeping like an adult or an older child.”

With all of the pressure that new mums feel to get their babies to sleep through the night, these findings should provide some comfort to those who do tend to their babies multiple times overnight.

While all babies are unique little individuals and some will wake more or less frequently than others, the study serves as a reminder to trust your own instincts, and those of your baby.

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