Frequent waking is par for the course with a new baby. They're biologically programmed to wake every few hours to eat, and in some cases, rise and shine just to feel close to their caregivers. Although it can be frustrating (not to mention exhausting), frequent wakings are simply part of raising a baby. But what about when your baby has passed the one year mark and still isn't sleeping through the night? If your little one often wakes up, you're probably asking out of concern "Is it OK that my baby is 12 months old and not sleeping through the night?" Wondering if something is wrong with your baby's sleep habits is normal, but what do the experts have to say about it?
I'm no stranger to toddlers who wake frequently. By the time my daughter turned 1, she had only truly slept through the night a handful of times. After trying sleep training, co-sleeping, bed sharing, and everything in the book, I was desperate to know if her behavior and sleeplessness was normal.
The short answer is... yes. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham, writing at Aha Parenting, a baby's sleep habits are as diverse as the babies themselves. Some babies sleep through the night early on without help from their parents, while others take much longer to learn the "skill." It turns out, Dr. Markham noted, that humans are biologically tuned to desire closeness while sleeping, and some babies have a greater need to be comforted at night than others.
According to BabyCentre UK, up to half of all kids under 5 have times when they don't sleep through the night. So, no, you're not alone (even if it feels like it, in the middle of the night!).
And there are a variety of reasons why your little one might be waking up. The Baby Sleep Site noted that it's totally normal for toddlers to change their sleeping habits due to growth, changing schedules, sleep regressions, and poor sleep associations, among other totally normal reasons.
In an interview with Romper, Christine Stevens, founder of Sleep Solutions and a certified Sleep Consultant, concurs that there are a number of reasons for a 1-year-old to wake throughout the night. First, she says, it's important to rule out medical causes, so have your little one checked for things like an earache, cold, or other more serious causes. From there, Stevens points out that it is vital to think about your baby's sleep environment. Is the room too cold or too warm? Is it too dark or too light? Babies have their preferences, just like grown-ups!
Steven adds that if your child is used to falling asleep a certain way, you can expect them to need to use that same method when they wake in the night — so it's good to try not to be too dependent on "props" to ease the way into dreamland.
Dr. Markham also pointed out that parents whose toddlers aren't sleeping through the night shouldn't despair: all children eventually sleep through the night and once your child is at a certain point, they can be taught to sleep well, on their own, over time without harsh sleep training methods. That doesn't change the fact that it can be incredibly frustrating (and exhausting) to wake up throughout the night with your child well into their first year.
And although it's not usually anything to worry about, Baby Center noted that if you're ready to get a bit more sleep, you can try sticking to a consistent bedtime routine, gentle sleep training methods, and remembering that all children are different and some just need more time to adjust to sleeping on their own. Here's wishing you and your little one a night full of sweet dreams...