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  • It's Not Too Late to Teach Your 6-Month-Old to Sleep Through The Night

    You can establish these proper sleep practices to help your baby achieve this milestone.
    by Rachel Perez .
It's Not Too Late to Teach Your 6-Month-Old to Sleep Through The Night
PHOTO BY iStock
  • One of the most talked about issues of having a newborn in the house is sleep or lack thereof. It's common across any country or culture that many encourage — nay, urge (or, warn?) — preggos or parents-to-be to "sleep as much as you can before the baby arrives." A baby sleeping through the night is such a huge milestone that parents naturally worry when it doesn't happen especially around the 6 months of age. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics may calm parents' nerves.

    Researchers from McGill University looked at data gathered from nearly 400 moms in Canada for over 12 months. Moms reported on how many consecutive hours do their little one sleep without waking up. The researchers then defined "sleeping through the night" as having six to eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye.

    Below are the main points from the results of the study:

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    • At 6 months, only about 60% of babies can sleep at least six hours straight at night, while only about 40% of moms said their babies slept up to eight hours without waking.
    • At 12 months, the numbers rose to just 70 % for babies who get at least six straight hours of sleep at night and 55% for babies who sleep for eight consecutive hours at night.
    • It is possible that moms who reported that their babies had an uninterrupted sleep in the evening presumably awoke and went back to sleep by themselves without their moms knowing it.
    • Babies who woke up in the middle of the night before completing six or eight hours of unbroken sleep did not show any notable links between sleep and cognitive or psychomotor development.
    • There were consistent associations between sleep duration and breastfeeding. Babies who slept longer uninterrupted were less likely to breastfeed, but one does not cause the other or vice versa.
    • The study didn't find any correlation between moms' moods and baby's sleeping habits as well.

    Apart from dispelling the myth that not sleeping through the night means developmental delays in babies, the study also aimed to eliminate the guilt moms may feel about their baby's sleeping habits. It does not, however, undermine sleep as an important factor in child development or moms' mental health. Instead, it redirects the talk on infant sleep practices and helps parents cope and set realistic expectations.

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    SmartParenting.com.ph reached out to U.K.-trained and Manila-based sleep coach Gabrielle Weil of Babes of Bliss, who is also a mom to a 3-year-old boy, to shed light on the study. She gives a clearer picture about the sleep practices moms can consider in helping baby learn to sleep through the night.

    Babies can start to learn to sleep longer at around 3 months

    Babies are born without a circadian rhythm. They eventually develop their own, as babies begin producing the night sleep hormone, melatonin, at about six to eight weeks after birth. This hormone helps babies get used to the idea that nighttime is for sleeping. Biologically, at this time, they can sleep more extended hours at night. "This, however, does not mean they can do it at the exact moment," Weil stressed.

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    "It's also doesn't mean that a baby sleeps the entire night without waking up," the sleep coach added. "This is a myth. Babies wake during the night. The only difference is when your baby is able to put themselves to sleep and stay asleep, and you don’t hear them and don’t know about it," she clarified. The study authors also noted that moms may not be aware of their baby's night wakings.

    While babies can sleep for six hours or more from as early as six weeks old, they typically show signs that they have developed this skill at around 4 months of age on average, assuming no underlying medical issues are present, said Weil.

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    Breastfeeding is not to blame for night wakings

    Though the study presented a link between breastfeeding and sleep, night nursing does not cause night waking — you don't need to give up nursing for sleep. And Weil agreed based on her experience.

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    "Scheduling imbalances and poor daytime feeds due to babies being fed when they are either too tired or not hungry are the key reasons for night wakings," she pointed out.

    Weil has previously made the case against having your baby sleep in the same room or co-sleeping. While the practice may help with the night feedings, it doesn't help babies learn how to sleep and wake up on their own. She recommends letting infants find and discover their own circadian rhythm. Co-sleeping may adversely affect your and your baby's natural sleep pattern. Babies need 11 to 12 hours of sleep daily, while grown-ups need only six to eight hours of sleep daily.

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    Work with your baby's natural sleep cues

    The reason most babies are unable to sleep through the night, according to Weil, is parents are clueless about how to support and work with his or her's natural sleep cues. Much of Weil's sleep training practice is teaching the parents to spot these cues. "Working to teach your baby how to fall asleep and stay asleep happily will allow a baby as young as 4 months to be able to sleep long solid nights up to 12 hours, wherein the first 6 to 8 hours are uninterrupted," Weil said assuringly.

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    On the Ferber or cry-it-out method, Weil said researchers are very clear on this one: Dr. Richard Ferber’s "crying baby" theory is NOT for babies under 6 months.

     "Nearly 40 years later, most parents believe that ignoring a baby's crying is the only way to teach healthy sleep habits. In my own experience, [it is the] main reason parents tend to avoid doing anything in regards to sleep lessons," Weil said.

    In a previous article for Smart Parenting, Weil wrote, "I would like to say that no matter what the age of the baby, cry-it-out does not get to the root of the sleep difficulties that you may be experiencing."

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    It's not too late to teach your 6-month-old baby to sleep

    The Babes of Bliss sleep coach assured that any sleep difficulties parents may experience past those four to six months are the results of the lessons already taught. "If by 6 months your little one is still not able to do at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep, this would be a good time to seek help to get things on the right track for both parental and baby sleep."

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    There are other ways than to teach your baby to sleep longer and soothe himself back to sleep on his own other than the cry-it-out, "but crying will still be a part of the process," the Babes of Bliss sleep coach said, adding that she does not recommend the old sleep-training method. "It can be done with love and support," she assures parents.

     

    You may contacnt sleep coach Gabrielle Weil via Facebook (@BabySleepPH), Instagram (@babysleep.ph), or email at BabesofBliss@gmail.com

     

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