All people, babies included, wake throughout the night. There are lots of possible reasons for baby to come fully awake and request some assistance. Here are some strategies for dealing with nighttime sleep issues.
BABY WAKING CONSISTENTLY
If your baby is old enough he "should" be sleeping through the night, but he is still waking, what should you do? First, we want to identify the reason for waking. You can't apply the proper "how" until you have identified the "why."
- Habitual: First, watch for his time he wakes in the night to be consistent. If it is all over the map from night to night (one night it is 5:45, the next, 4:15, the next, 5:15...) I don't think he is waking out of habit. But not out of habit doesn't necessarily mean the child needs a feeding in the night. What do you do it if is habit, you need to try to break that habit. You can do that by trying the wake to sleep idea from the Baby Whisperer. Something I did with McKenna was purely by accident. One night, we had friends over so I didn't do her dreamfeed until midnight instead of 10ish. That night, she passed over her habitual waking time and never went back!
- Hunger: Be sure you are getting enough feedings in the day. If your baby is waking at night, you shouldn't be moving past a 3 hour schedule. Conquer the night first. If you don't get enough food in the day, baby must take it at night. Some babies, however, will sleep better in the day after moving to a four hour schedule, so if your mommy gut is telling you to try it, go ahead! You can always go back to three hours if it doesn't work out.
- Pain: Does baby have reflux or gas? These things will prevent baby from sleeping through.
- Wet: Please do not gloss over this bullet! Is your baby wearing a big enough diaper? If my kids are close to the weight limit of a diaper, I put them in the next size up at night. You have to buy two sizes, but you will eventually buy the bigger size anyway. Many people find that moving to a bigger diaper size or something like Huggies Overnites solves the waking problem. I know it did for both Brayden and McKenna. See diapers for more.
- Sleep Needs: Is your baby getting too much sleep in the day? Review your Babywise book and review the number of naps usually needed for your baby's age. Is your baby not getting enough in the day? Sleep begets sleep, so if your baby is not getting enough sleep during the day, it can affect night time sleep.
- Bedtime: Keep bedtime early enough. A too-late bedtime will cause an early riser. This might seem counter-intuitive to you, but when you think about sleep needs, it makes sense. If you consistently don't get enough sleep, it is hard to sleep. At some point, you crash and get lots of sleep. Most babies have bedtime around 7-8 PM.
- Quirk: Is your baby just waking and talking? A review of page 132 in Babywise tells you that around 2-3 months old, many PDF babies will wake and talk to themselves for up to an hour, and that phase can last over a month. This isn't something specific to Babywise babies, either. This happens with many babies.
- Expectations: Watch your definition of "night." Kaitlyn often woke in the 5 AM hour, which to me was still night, but she had been asleep for 9 hours. BW says to be careful about letting your baby sleep more than 9 hours if you are BF. If your baby is young, I wouldn't really worry about a 5:30 wake time.
- Temperature: Be sure your baby is dressed warm enough or cool enough. Keep your house at a good temperature as much as you can. Don't underestimate the importance of dressing appropriately. Kaitlyn didn't sleep well with socks on her feet. McKenna doesn't sleep well without socks on her feet.
- Noise: Is there some constant noise waking your baby up? If baby is waking at a certain time, evaluate what is going on at that time. When Kaitlyn was a newborn, she would wake at a certain time no matter how long it had been since she last ate. I realized it was around the time my husband got up for work. That is when we moved her to her own room.
- Social Visits: I have read that some children will wake at night even if they don't need to because that is when they get attention from their parents. This is rarely true in oldest children, but more likely to happen with additional children. If this could be the case, you would want to give as little attention as possible in the middle of the night. I read this before Brayden was born, so I was always careful to not make nighttime fun for any of my children. I didn't make it miserable, I just kept it business :). When I fed Kaitlyn in the middle of the night, I didn't talk to her, smile at her, and I avoided all eye contact. It could be really hard when she sometimes tried to strike up a conversation :). I found this policy to be easy with Brayden. He and I got plenty of one-on-one in the day. But with my girls, the day could be hectic, so I treasured those night visits. It was quite time for us to be together; it wasn't, however, something I wanted to keep up forever :). If you suspect social visits, don't socialize in the night and you would also want to make sure she gets the one-on-one attention she needs from you in the day.
- Sun: The sun was such a problem for all three of my babies. They would wake with the sun. Room darkening shades or dark blinds can help. With Kaitlyn, she just needed her blinds shut. See Early Morning Wakings and the Sun.
Now let's identify some possible reasons for sporadic waking.
- Part of Progress: If your baby sleeps sometimes, then wakes sometimes, your chances are you are experiencing something normal. It seems a lot of babies do this off and on until they eventually stop and just sleep. I would guess the younger the baby is when they start STTN, the more often this would happen. Kaitlyn and McKenna were both this way, especially McKenna. Not fun, but just the way it is. Progress is a Spiral.
- Hunger: If your baby suddenly starts waking in the night again, try adding more feedings, adding solids, or adding more food at each feeding. One night I woke up at about 2:30 AM STARVING. I was so hungry my stomach ached. I had eaten as I always do the day before. I managed to fall asleep without eating, but it made me realize that sometimes babies could wake up in the night who normally sleep through and be legitimately hungry for no apparent reason. They might be able to go back to sleep, or they might not. Night Hunger.
- Growth Spurt: You also have to be mindful of growth spurts that disrupt nighttime sleep for some, though not all. If you resist a growth spurt in the day, your baby will likely seek the food she needs at night. For some babies, even adding feedings in the day isn't enough, they need more at night, too.
- Drop Nap: Too many naps in the day? Maybe it is time to drop a nap, or shorten one.
- Teething or Sickness: Your baby might be teething or sick. These are things that can be disruptive for some babies at night.
- Disruptions: Did you have a wacky day? By that, I mean did you have a disruptive day to your normal routine? If so, that is fine, we all have days like that, but it could explain the night waking. See disruptions for more.
- Sun: Is the sun rising around the time your baby is waking? See Early Morning Wakings and the Sun.
- Wonder Week: For some babies, they wake during the wonder week developmental leaps.
- Sleep Prop: You might be experiencing a sleep prop gone wrong. Babies can start off sleeping just great with props, but then come to depend on them and can't make it through transitions without help.
SOLVING THE PROBLEM
Now that you have an idea as to why, you can work on how to fix it.
Let me note, it is a good idea to take things one at a time. You might suspect more than one thing. I suggest you change one thing at a time. Address hunger and pain first. Then move on to comfort. It is possible more than one thing is contributing to the problem. This is a time when keeping a log is quite handy.
- Address Problem: Pick the appropriate how for your why. If baby is cold, dress her warmer. If baby is hungry, try adding feedings to the day. See linked blog labels in the "why" section for more on a topic. I have lots of posts on all of these issues.
- Increase Food in Day: Try adding a feeding. If you are on a four hour schedule, go back to three. If you are on a three, add a dreamfeed or cluster feed.
- Decrease Food at Night: You can try decreasing the amount eaten in the night. If you bottle feed, offer less in the bottle. If you breastfeed, decrease the amount of time spent nursing, or offer only one side, or both. That is what I did with Kaitlyn, and this fixed the problem so we didn't have to do CIO. Do this only if your child is not in need of food at night. You have to decide if your child is ready or not. How do you know? One obvious way is if your baby isn't really eating in the night. Another is if baby is eating in the night but then not eating for the first feed of the day.
- Cry It Out: I think once you are sure your child doesn't need to wake up and eat in the night, it doesn't hurt anything to give it shot at Cry it Out (CIO). Many people do it with success, so if you want to, give it a try. BW says that to CIO in the night can take as little as one time, but some kids might take at least two weeks. Something you might consider is if you would be as willing to stick with a CIO for several nights if necessary, when you know that you could be up only 20 minutes at the most instead if you fed him, and then you would be back on your way to dreamland.
- Help Soothe: You might not be able to do CIO in the night. If so, I don't blame you. I haven't ever done it at night. You can try helping baby fall back asleep by shh-ing, patting, rocking, etc. Some moms use pacifiers. Some do Pick Up/Put Down by the Baby Whisperer. Sometimes just getting baby used to sleeping through helps her get over the hump so she can do it on her own.
- Other Ideas: Check the Naps: Troubleshooting post on this blog and run through possibilities there. Too hot/cold, noise, etc.
RELATED POSTS/BLOG LABELS