“Does your baby sleep through the night?” That’s a question you probably dread answering if your baby is still waking up. Many people believe that a baby should be sleeping through the night by the time he’s three months old, so if your baby isn’t, you may naturally feel frustrated and worried. Losing sleep is one of the hardest adjustments new parents have to make.
Actually, it’s rare for an infant to consistently sleep through the night. Some babies do, but many are still waking up at ten months and others are two or three years old before they sleep all night. The frequency of waking varies from child to child and depends on many circumstances.
An infant may wake up at night to be fed, changed, or held. A slightly older baby may turn himself over during the night, waking up in the process. If a baby has new teeth coming in, he may be uncomfortable and wake up to be comforted. And if he’s developmentally at the stage when he believes people exist only if he can see them, he may wake up to see his parents and be reassured. Parents sometimes consider this last type of wakefulness to be manipulative because their baby stops crying as soon as they come into his room. But he doesn’t intend to manipulate, he just wants to see his parents and be close to them.
Basically, your baby wakes up because he needs to be comforted, fed, or helped. He doesn’t understand that you prefer to meet his needs during the day and sleep during the night.
A wakeful baby can be difficult and frustrating. If you get up at night to respond to your baby, you lose sleep and suffer the physical and emotional consequences of being tired. You may also face the criticism of others: “The only way your baby is going to learn to sleep is if you let him cry it out.” Such comments are unfortunate, because parents who do get up at night with their child need support and encouragement. Many parents eventually become secretive about getting up because they don’t want to be ridiculed by friends and relatives.