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Baby Waking

A reader responds to the Family Forum article “Need for a feed”, published in The Advertiser on 9 August 2014.

The following letter was received from a breastfeeding counsellor at the Australian Breastfeeding Association (www.breastfeeding.asn.au).

LETTER:

I am writing to take issue with the advice given to the mother of a seven-month-old who is still waking at night (“Need for a feed”, The Advertiser, 9/8/14).

Your recommendation, that “a seven-month-old baby who is gaining weight well can be expected to last overnight without a feed”, gives the impression that the baby’s waking is just a bad habit that can be easily remedied.

Research shows that waking at night for feeds is common at this age. Only 50 per cent of six-month-olds “sleep through” for five hours or more a night. About 40 per cent of two- to three-year-olds still don’t sleep through the night. (Refer: www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=114&np=122&id=1900#top) The reasons that babies wake vary.

For breastfed babies in particular, feeding at night helps to maintain the mother’s milk supply and thus aids the ongoing feeding of breast milk, the preferred milk for children for at least the first 12 months of life. This is recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the World Health Organisation, as well as other world-recognised health authorities.

Parents who expect their babies and toddlers to sleep through the night at a young age often feel it is their fault that the child wakes and are more likely to try various sleep-training techniques, such as leaving the baby to cry.

Research has shown this is stressful for the child, can make them feel abandoned and can negatively affect the relationship between parent and child. (See www.aaimhi. org/inewsfiles/controlled_crying.pdf for the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health position paper on controlled crying.) The advice to move the baby into their own room to aid self-settling also fails to consider recommendations that babies should sleep in the same room as their parents for the first 12 months of life, to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

FAMILY FORUM COMMENT:

The panel acknowledges that there are differing views on this topic. Every child, too, is different. Ultimately parents must decide what is best for their family.

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Relationships Australia (SA) appoints panels of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it.

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