Babies Wake Up Often
What we learned: Nearly half of you -- 43 percent -- say that your baby doesn't sleep through the night. Those of you with newborns have it the roughest: 45 percent of babies between birth and three months awake frequently.
What surprised us: One-quarter of restless sleepers are actually older babies between the ages of 4 and 12 months.
As desperate as you may be to get them to sleep, only 5 percent of you use what experts tout as one of the most effective ways to help a baby learn to soothe herself, known as the delayed response or the Ferber method.
For those of you with newborns, there's not much you can do in the early days -- in general, infants will wake up when they're hungry. Kids 4 to 6 months old often sleep through the night. If yours doesn't, he may have a sleep issue. All babies wake up during the night, says Mindell. Fussy ones just can't soothe themselves back to sleep. Settling back to sleep is a learned skill -- one that frequent fussers really need to learn.
That's where the Ferber method -- a strategy very unpopular among survey respondents -- comes in. This system, developed by Richard Ferber, MD, a pediatrician and director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital in Boston, is designed for babies 4 to 6 months and up who can't fall asleep on their own or soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake up during the night. It involves placing your baby in her crib awake, giving her a reassuring pat, and leaving. If she cries, you return in five minutes, reassure her that you're there for her, and leave again. The next time she cries, you return in 10 minutes, and so on. This method can take anywhere from a few days to a week to work. So why are moms so resistant?
Parents may think that the baby feels abandoned or is afraid of the dark if he cries, says Mindell. There's no research that suggests such methods cause anxiety in babies. In fact, studies suggest the opposite; sleep-trained babies were found to be more securely attached to their parents and happier overall than babies who weren't.
Another strategy to help teach a baby to soothe herself to sleep is introducing a sleep routine as early as possible -- even at 3 months. It needn't be complicated. For a younger baby, simply feeding her, changing her diaper, and singing a song is all that's required. Toddlers may demand a bit more -- a story, a glass of water. Regardless of the routine you choose, make sure it takes a reasonable amount of time -- under half an hour -- and that you impose limits, says Mindell. A sleep routine that involves multiple books and bathroom trips isn't a sleep routine at all -- it's a ploy to avoid going to bed.