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  • This article provides advice specifically for babies 3 to 12 months of age. 

    Night waking and night crying pull on our heartstrings. And of course, we often jump right up because we don’t want the entire household to wake (and we hope to lull our little one back to sleep before he fully wakes). Night waking is the biggest sleep complaint of a baby’s first year. About 25% of 5-month-olds can’t sleep 6 hours in a row. And frequent night-wakers end up receiving 1.5 hours less sleep overall!

    New Zealand researcher Jacqueline Henderson and her colleagues had moms track their babies’ sleep patterns. They found that:

    • 50% of 3-month-olds slept 5 hours straight. (Not bad!)
    • 50% of 5-month-olds slept 8 hours, from 10 p.m.to 6 a.m. (Jackpot!)
    • 15 percent of infants couldn’t even sleep 5 hours straight by their first birthday. (Uh-oh!)

    A different Canadian study found that:

    • A third of 5 month-olds who woke at night still couldn’t manage 6 hours of unbroken sleep at two and a half years of age. (Yiiiiikes!)

    What to Do to Reduce Night Waking

    So don’t just wait for your 5-month-old’s sleep to fall into place. Luckily, there are effective ways to get your baby on the right path earlier. First, establish a calming bedtime (and pre-bedtime) routine. Use a strong, rumbly white noise all night long—this helps your sweetie learn to self-soothe by providing cues that don’t involve your presence. Or, use Happiest Baby’s SNOO, a “smart” sleeper that soothes fussing with just the right amount of sound and motion—and teaches long-term healthy sleep habits. It’s best to start using SNOO within the first month of life, but babies around 3 months will still benefit greatly (but unlike new babies, they need a little time to adjust.)

    If your infant is past 5 months and is still waking between midnight and 6 a.m., you should consider the following:

    Night Waking Causes

    • She’s overexcited.
    • Something’s bugging her (including hunger).
    • She’s learned too many wrong habits and not enough good sleep cues.
    • Your bedtime timing is off (it’s too early, too late, or too irregular).

    Does that list sound familiar? Not surprisingly, these are exactly the same reasons infants fight falling asleep. Addressing these issues will end or diminish night wakings for most babies 3- 12 months of age.

    But if there’s anything I know after decades of baby watching it’s that setting a great routine and sleep cues like white noise and a lovey (a hand-sized stuffed animal or a hanky-sized blanky, safe after 9 months)—can do the trick to improve your little one’s sleep.

    Adapted from The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids From Birth to 5 Years. Find extensive sleep troubleshooting advice in the book!

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