Month 9 Worry: Why Is Baby Suddenly Waking Up Nightly?
The most common medical concern for parents of babies this age
You’ve gotten very attached to your little one, of course. She has a personality, a hairdo, a contagious laugh. So why is it that you suddenly dread the sound of her cry at night?
Many parents of nine-month-olds ask me, “Why is my baby waking up nightly all of a sudden? She’s been sleeping through the night so nicely for so long!”
What’s the Issue?
By nine months of age, the large majority of infants are sleeping through the night. But if your perfect sleeper is suddenly demanding curtain calls, you are not alone. A mix of issues play a part in night waking around this time of infancy.
Consider the Numbers
The average nine-month-old sleeps 14 hours per 24 hours. This is usually divided into a through-the-night sleep of 10 to 11 hours and two naps of at least one hour each during the day. But research shows that 20 to 30 percent of infants at this age are waking at least once per night. (All three of my kids fell into this minority. It prompted me to read lots of sleep books!) It may be a transient phenomenon or you may have a baby that, with rare exceptions, has never made it through the night without needing your intervention. In either case, rest assured you and your baby will have rest again.
What Parents Can Do
An understanding of your infant’s stage of development and an organized game plan usually help this messy situation. Because while she can babble, sit up, and certainly cry to express some of her wants and needs, your nine-month-old is far from efficient at expressing complicated thought. And sleep disturbance seems complicated. Understanding your baby’s stage of development is step one in understanding the problem.
An infant at nine months of age has achieved two developmental milestones which may interfere with independent sleep:
- First, babies have developed object permanence by now. If you take a pen and hide it under a piece of paper, a four-month-old thinks you have made it disappear! A nine-month-old knows to lift up the paper and find the pen underneath. Similarly, a nine-month-old who sees you leave the room during your bedtime routine knows that you are somewhere behind that door. And she knows that there are things that she can do to get you back in the room. Crying is an infant tried-and-true mode of attack.
- Second, infants at nine months of age are often going through a major stage of separation anxiety. Infants can be quite clingy and need lots of reassurance at this age. Many a parent has complained that going to the bathroom without his or her baby glued to the hip is impossible. The intense separation fear that can bubble up at bedtime, then, is understandable.
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