Babies and young toddlers frequently experience nighttime awakenings. Although these sleep disturbances can be troublesome to parents, they are extremely common and are only rarely a sign of a medical condition. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, roughly three out of ten children under five years of age experience frequent nighttime awakenings. If your 9-month-old baby wakes frequently during the night, consult her pediatrician. Your baby's doctor may recommend that you use a specialized method to encourage healthy sleep habits.
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Advocates of attachment parenting, including renowned pediatrician William Sears, firmly recommend against "sleep training" children. Dr. Sears recommends that adults rock, nurse or sing a baby to sleep rather than expecting him to fall asleep alone. Attachment parenting proponents also contend that young children should sleep in the same bed as their parents, and that their needs should be promptly addressed during the night. Dr. Sears recommends that parents facilitate a 9-month-old baby's sleep by soothing him as soon as he awakens. Sears notes that babies achieve sleep maturity, or the ability to sleep through the night, at varying rates. Some children may still require nighttime comforting after entering the toddler stage of development.
Perhaps the most controversial sleep method for a baby, the Ferber technique is also known as graduated extinction or "cry it out." This technique emphasizes self-soothing instead of direct parental involvement. According to Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., this technique can be remarkably effective, but it has serious drawbacks for a child's mental health and her relationship with her parents. Babies who are trained using the Ferber method may still have underlying issues such as chronic infections, night terrors, separation anxiety and sleep schedule problems. Although Ferberized babies tend to cry for their parents less during the night, Dr. Dewar does not consider it to be an appropriate treatment for most childhood sleep problems.
In a comprehensive scientific review, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine concludes that "graduated extinction with parental presence" remains the most effective technique for facilitating sleep in infants, toddlers and preschoolers. This technique involves lying down with a child, rocking him or nursing him to sleep, then leaving him alone in his bedroom. Parents following this method will respond to a baby during the night, but will not allow the baby to co-sleep. The parents gradually separate themselves from the baby, spending progressively less time nursing or cuddling him each night. After several weeks with this method, most 8- to 12-month-old babies show significant improvements in their sleep patterns.
Almost all infant sleep methods involve the use of positive routines and a soothing bedtime atmosphere. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine considers parental education to be one of the most evidence-based treatments for sleep problems in children. Regardless of your specific parenting techniques, establish a predictable nighttime routine for your 9-month-old baby. Prepare for bed with dinner, a bath and a story each night. Remain consistent about your expectations regarding her sleep space. Over time, she will develop the confidence to sleep deeply and consistently every night.