Night Waking is Developmentally Normal for a Baby

Does it seem like everyone else’s baby sleeps through the night, while yours is still waking several times? Are you wondering what other parents are doing differently to you? Does it feel like you’re never going to sleep again, or that there surely must be something wrong with your baby?

Well, you can take comfort in knowing that babies aren’t supposed to sleep for long periods, and it’s unrealistic of us to expect them to. Your baby isn’t manipulating you, and nor are they ‘bad’ sleepers.

Night waking is developmentally normal for a baby

The idea that babies should sleep through the night is a 20th century belief, and there is no evidence that it’s better for a baby to sleep longer stretches. Adults wake at night, and a baby is no different, except that they may need help to get back to sleep.

Babies are designed from a survival perspective to wake frequently for cuddles, feeds, and simply to know you’re there. Their tummies are small and they’re at a stage of rapid development, which means they need regular feeds. All babies have different appetites, and your baby could be waking from hunger (among many other reasons!).

Your baby may also be sleeping more in the day so that they can spend time with you at night, and have your undivided attention with fewer distractions. This is particularly true if you and your baby are apart during the day. If you’ve recently returned to work, you may have noticed increased night waking. It’s your little one’s opportunity to reconnect with you.

Babies also often wake at night when they’re mastering a new developmental skill. Have you heard of mental leaps? This is when your baby is learning new tricks, like rolling over, crawling, and even as they’re trying to make sense of their world in ways that we may not notice. Often, they like to practice their new skills during the night, or it’s because they have trouble shutting off their busy little minds and bodies that are overwhelmed with new information and sensations.

Night waking is beneficial for your baby

Bristol doctor Peter Fleming, who was at the centre of the SIDS revolution, has found an interesting benefit to night waking. Babies who wake during the night are associated with higher levels of intelligence and better mental health.

Research by Darcia F. Narvaez, professor of psychology, claims that children who are kept closer to their parents and have their needs readily met have ‘greater empathy and more self-regulation’.

This means that your waking baby could be very clever, happy, empathetic, and calm. Surely, that’s great news for all sleep-deprived parents.

Sleeping through for longer stretches is a developmental milestone that your baby will reach when they’re ready. Just like walking and talking, your baby will do it at their own pace. For now, relax, trust your instincts, and don’t compare your baby to others. As exhausted as you may be, it’s natural for your baby to wake for many reasons.

You’re the ultimate source of comfort, nutrition, warmth, familiarity, and security. In other words, you are your baby’s world.