Wake ups in the night can be one of the hardest things to deal with when you are already running low on sleep. Preventing night time wake ups are high on the list of priorities for many parents.
I want to talk about the really popular question that I get asked: “My baby is falling asleep fine at bedtime, but still waking up multiple times in the night”.
Let’s look at a couple of reasons why this might be happening and what you can do to fix it.
First of all, and I always ask, “What’s going at at bedtime?” I first need to know, “Is your baby falling asleep independently at bedtime?”
Bedtime is the first place to look. It’s the place where a child learns great sleep skills. Skills we can then expect them to start transferring to the rest of the night. If a baby is not falling asleep independently at bedtime, that is one big reason why night time wake ups are occurring. Plain and simple, right? Even if it only takes you two minutes to rock her to sleep and put her down, she’s going to expect you to rock her at least once, maybe more, through the night. Getting a baby sleeping independently at bedtime absolutely has to be the first thing you do. Let’s say you’ve done that. You tell me “Yeah, she’s got it. She’s going down really well. Independently. No props. However, she is still having one or two night wakings.”
In that case, first of all, that’s awesome! You’ve really conquered the biggest hurdle. Now we just have to apply this to the rest of the night. What can happen sometimes with babies, if they’re still getting a night feed, they’ll become habitual night time eaters. Meaning, she’s past 6 months old, she doesn’t really require a feed for calorie needs, she’s just doing it out of habit. I use the story of if my husband was there with my favourite meal at 3am. I would, most likely, sit up and eat every bite of it. If he did it again the next night, I’d do the same thing. If he did it for a week-long, I’d be waking up on cue to get my meal, and it would become a habit, right?
I don’t need to eat at 3:00 am. I certainly shouldn’t be eating at 3:00 am. If it was being offered however, I most likely would. The bad news is that the only way to break this habit is to stop offering the feed. Always check with your doctor if you are not sure about dropping a feed. There needs to be good weight gain and no related issues.
Good news is, if a child has great sleep skills at bedtime, those skills will transfer to the night. However, to aid in preventing night time wake ups, the feeds would need to stop. Again, always check with a doctor if there is any reason that may prevent you from stopping a night time feed. On average, it should take roughly 3-4 nights to get a baby sleeping all the way through without the feed. I like to hold bub to their personal best. So if they wake up for their first feed at 2.15am on Night 1, then from Night 2, any wake up prior to that time is a resettle only (if they happen to wake). The feed becomes later and later and eventually works it’s way out past 6am and into morning time.
There are, however, other types of prop dependencies. Maybe she’s falling asleep well at bedtime, but now in the middle of the night she requires a visit from you to help her find her dummy because she has grown more aware of its existence as she gets older. She no doubt feels she needs it to get back to sleep. She’s fallen into a bit of a habit around this and the only way to change it is to break the habit. Start by removing it for day naps and work towards removing it at night time. You will be surprised how quickly they can forget about it!
Alright, so I hope that helps you with preventing night time wake ups at your place.