A lot of books do proclaim that babies must be sleeping through the night at three months, but most babies haven't read these books. In actual fact, the only babies who sleep through the night at three months are "somebody else's baby." The age at which babies settle down—meaning going to sleep readily and staying asleep—varies staggeringly and is typically a reflection of your baby's temperament and not of your night time parenting skills. Remember that throughout the first six months, or even a year for some babies, a baby wakes up easily. They don't wake up to bother you or to deliberately keep you awake. Doctors realize that babies do what they do because they're designed that way. An exhaustive explanation of why babies sleep differently than adults will help you understand and therefore sympathize with your baby's frequent night waking.
Babies and adults have two dissimilar sleep patterns. For simplicity we will call these two patterns light sleep and deep sleep. During light sleep, the higher brain centers are not entirely shut down and the sleeper could awaken easily. During deep sleep, the higher brain centers shut down, leaving the sleeper to drift into a very deep, almost motionless state of sleep. The main difference between adult and baby sleep is that grownups spend around eighty percent of their night sleep in the state of deep sleep, whereas with babies the opposite is true. They spend most of the night in light sleep. This hardly looks fair to you till you realize that babies are deliberately designed that way for both survival and developmental reasons. A baby has the highest percentage of light sleep throughout those early months when his nighttime necessities are highest, but his ability to convey them is lowest. Say he had a stuffy nose and could not breathe, yet could not easily awaken to communicate this need? Suppose he were hungry and required food, yet didn't easily awaken to cry? Suppose he was cold and didn't easily awaken to signal this need for warmth? If a baby had the equal predominance of deep sleep states as we do, his survival will be in peril. As the baby grows older, the percentage of light sleep slowly decreases as the percentage of deep sleep increases.
Some other interesting reason why babies have a huge percentage of light sleep is linked to their need for developmental stimulation. Prominent sleep researchers feel that during the state of light sleep, the higher brain centers keep on functioning, and this operation is essential for the brain to mature. When this theory was explained to a very tired mother of a frequent night waker, she exclaimed, "In that case my baby is going to be very, very smart!"
© 2011 Athena Goodlight