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Guide to solving baby sleep problems

6-18 months

Persistent settling difficulties or frequent night waking can be distressing for you and your baby. Fortunately, there are practical solutions to baby sleep problems that are backed up by plenty of research. This guide takes you through baby sleep problems and solutions.

About this guide to baby sleep problems and solutions

Newborns regularly wake at night – this is normal and healthy. Most babies will need you during the night for feeding and help with settling in the first six months of life. But even during this period, you can help young babies develop healthy sleep patterns and reduce the chances of settling and waking problems coming up in the future.

This guide takes you through an approach to dealing with settling and waking problems that suits babies over six months of age.

Who is this guide for?

If you’re looking for solutions to baby sleep problems, this guide is for you.

If you don’t mind your older baby waking you up during the night, baby sleep isn’t really a problem. Settling or night waking is a problem only if it’s causing distress in your family and is affecting how you relate to your baby during the day.

Are your expectations too high? Researchers and child health professionals have noted there is a huge variation in sleep habits and behaviour in children.

Why try to change a baby’s sleep pattern?

Sleep disturbances in babies can affect both you and your baby.

Tired babies are grumpy and more difficult to manage.

You might not be getting enough sleep, and you might be feeling exhausted and stressed. This can cause relationship difficulties. Lack of sleep makes it harder for you to cope with the day-to-day demands of caring for your baby, and this can begin to negatively affect the way you interact with your baby.

What to expect when changing baby sleep patterns

There are many good reasons why you might want to take action to deal with baby sleep problems.

But learning new sleep habits won’t be easy for your baby or you. He’ll prefer things the way they are and might be upset by the change. The strategies in this guide are designed to support your baby and minimise distress, but you might not be able to avoid some level of discomfort. Be ready for some trying times while your baby is getting used to a different routine.

The good news is that most parents who try these strategies have success. Many say it wasn’t easy but they wished they’d tried something sooner.

How do we know this approach works?

The strategies in this guide are based on many years of Australian and international research into what works with young children’s sleeping problems.

But that’s not all. The advice here was part of a program of research conducted by the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. This research found that the recommended strategies were good for both children and parents.

How to use this guide to baby sleep problems

The articles in this series are written to be read in sequence.

  1. Sleep needs for babies describes how much sleep babies need and how you can assess your own baby’s sleep compared to others her age.
  2. What causes waking and settling problems? explains what causes settling difficulties and persistent waking at night.
  3. Changing your baby’s sleep patterns has practical strategies for helping your baby settle and ‘sleep through the night’.


Sleep needs for babies

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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