Night wakings: What's normal, what's not, and what you can do for better sleep

Parents have been looking for a magic pill to get their little on to sleep through the night for decades. But, all babies are different and there may not be one solution that works for everyone. If you are worried about whether your little one is getting enough sleep (or concerned because you know you aren't) this article should help you get a basic understanding of how much sleep your little one needs and a few ideas you can use to help them sleep longer. 
What is sleeping through the night?
While most newborns sleep about 16 hours a day, it's usually only for two to four hours at a time, according to Baby Center. This means your baby is probably getting plenty of shut-eye, but mom and dad, aren't!  Your little one has shorter (but more) REM cycles than grownups, which is why they wake up often. This process is actually necessary for their brain development, Baby Center reports. 
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Expect to wake up every two to four hours for the first 6 to 8 weeks to change diapers and feed your baby. Your little one will start sleeping a little less during the day and longer at night by around 8 weeks. Most infants can sleep 8 to 12 hours per night by the time they are 6 months old.
Should you worry?
Babies wake up for a few reasons: hunger (even at five months), teething, development milestones and because they miss mommy/daddy. 
Parenting Science reports that sleeping through the night is actually a misnomer.
 " ... Older babies are also likely to experience night wakings. In one study that recorded the sleep patterns of healthy 2-and 9-month old infants, babies averaged 3 major awakenings each night."
Always discuss any concerns you have regarding your baby's behavior or health with your pediatrician. Some medical issues like sleep-disordered breathing and reflux can manifest in disrupted sleep, according to an article on Parenting Science.
Remember that each baby is different. If their health is not suffering, they are probably getting enough sleep. It's understandable that you want more sleep, so if by 6 months they are still waking up every few hours and you are feeling stressed or exhausted, you can take a few steps to encourage your little one to sleep longer. 
Get more sleep
There are a few popular methods for helping ease the nighttime routine into a survivable schedule:
Crying it out: The cry-it-out method works on the premise that your little one needs to learn how to comfort themselves. Many parents have reported success, but this method can be very stressful for both parents and babies. The idea is to take longer and longer to respond to their cries so they learn to fall asleep on their own. Some research has shown, however, that prolonged crying can be detrimental to the long-term health of babies and that babies learn to stop crying, but remain distressed. Learn more about this method at Baby Center and the cautions against it at Belly Belly.
Room sharing and co-sleeping: This is another method that frequently stars in mommy-war debates. Room sharing is less controversial. You simply allow your newborn/infant to sleep in the same room as you (within easy reach) so you spend less time getting up and down at night. 
C0-sleeping means your baby sleeps in the same bed as you. While this seems like the easiest solution, it can be dangerous, so follow these safety tips by the University of Notre Dame. 
Weaning meal times: Another simple solution is to begin slowly weaning your little one off of night feedings. This can be particularly helpful for breastfed babies who just want mommy's touch in the middle of the night. 
Other tips
While night wakings are normal, there are some other methods to help your baby stay asleep longer. Try these tips from Parents.com
Nix the bedtime paci - a strong suck-to-sleep association could be keeping your baby from being able to sleep when the pacifier falls out. Babies don't have the motor skills to replace their pacifiers until about 8 months. 
Get a white-noise machine: If you have a light sleeper, noises you have grown accustomed to sleeping through can be enough to wake baby. A gentle white noise machine can help to drown out those little bumps in the night as well as become a soothing sleep association. 
Don't rush: Rushing in to soothe baby at the first sign of discomfort could be a mistake. Some babies might whine or whimper, just to fall back asleep if left to resettle. Make sure your attempt to soothe baby isn't what is actually waking baby.
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Getting enough sleep when you have an infant may seem like a pipe dream, but with a little patience and understanding that your baby is developing at their own pace, you may just be able to get through the first few months with your sanity intact. 
How did you get your little one to sleep more? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 
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