Another VERY common question, but sometimes its worded in different ways -
How can I get my baby to stay asleep
How can I get my baby to sleep through the night without waking up
How can I stop night wakings
and so on....
For those of you that know me, I would never actually title a blog post 'Cutting down on night wakings' as it doesn't actually make sense, BUT according to google, this is a very popular search term.
The reason I would never use this term is because, you can't actually cut down on the night wakings - some of them are supposed to be there. I always get clients to keep a sleep journal and the reason for this is the pattern tells you a story - it tells you what is going on.
Waking up at night, is a normal part of sleep, some wakings are harder to get through than others, and usually it's the wakings closer to the morning time, as the drive to sleep is weaker, which is why lots of infants struggle with early rising.
Another tricky waking can be the first brief partial arousal that happens around 50 minutes into the nighttime sleep - around the 6 month mark, when a baby is transitioning from 3 naps to 2, they can often treat 'bedtime' as the last nap of the day (the one you are trying to drop!).
So when it comes to reading sleep logs, here is an example of a client log and what it means:
9:00pm: nursed to sleep (5 min) in rocking chair in bedroom. Fell asleep easily and transferred to crib.
9:45pm: awake and fussy. Rocked to sleep in my arms (approx. 10 min). Transferred to crib - this waking is supposed to be here - so you can NOT change that your baby wakes up here, you can only change what you do, when you baby wakes up here.
11:15pm: awake and crying. Nursed both sides for approx. 10 min each side. Rocked to sleep and transferred to crib approx. Waking up around the 11.30pm mark is very common, this is when infants go from a deeper sleep into a lighter sleep, the 11.30pm-12 midnight waking is a BIG one. This too, does not go away, you can't 'get rid of it', you can only change what you do so that you can change what your baby expects. Once in this lighter sleep, it will be light (active) until 5am. So you will see many after this time and sometimes you may feel like there is no pattern, but there is.
2:00am: awake and crying. Nursed approx. 10 min each side and fell asleep in my arms. Transferred to crib approx. 2:45am. Normal waking point, still in active sleep, again this waking WON'T go away.
6:15am: awake and crying. Nurse both sides approx. 7 min. Woke up for the day but looks tired/sleepy (big circles under her eyes). Anything after 6am is technically considered daytime. in this case, its probably not just the baby who had bags around their eyes.
So although you came here to see 5 tips for cutting down on night wakings (thank you google), you are actually getting going to be getting:
5 TIPS FOR HELPING YOUR BABY WORK THROUGH THEIR NORMAL NIGHT WAKINGS!
1. Assess how your baby first falls to sleep at the beginning of the night.
You can not expect your baby to go back to sleep over night without your help if you help them first fall to sleep at the beginning of the night. So if you really want to work on your baby sleeping longer stretches, how they fall to sleep at bedtime is key to this goal.
2. Be consistent with your choice of response.
Once you decide on a strategy or decide to work on your babies over night sleep, be consistent, babies don't have the same abilities that you do, you may be able to decide that on one night you can be consistent and then not the next because you are tired or you have to be up early, for a baby, they can't make this connection, your behaviour or reactions have to be consistent, if you want your baby to be consistent back.
3. Make sure you know what your baby is capable of.
Make sure you have realistic expectations in terms of what your baby is capable of, your baby is not going to sleep from 7pm to 9am, its not realistic. most babies will sleep between 10-12 hrs over night with the majority sleeping 10.5-11, most babies once sleeping better, will start their day earlier than their parents may desire, but you can't have your cake and eat it. its a trade off. Better quality sleep overall for everyone.
4. Have realistic expectations in terms of the learning curve.
Make sure you give yourself time to see the changes, it takes around 14 night of consistency for the over night wakings to link themselves together, making the transitions between the cycles more fluid, make sure you have time to commit.
5. Don't exchange one association for another.
If you are breaking a sucking association, such as removing a soother, don't replace it with rocking to sleep, you are then only trading one type of association for another, and if you do this, rocking is a weaker association so you will be doing it for longer; ie. 5 minutes sucking on a soother to sleep or rocking for 30 minutes!
If you would like a consultant to look at your babies over night pattern, contact us and we can provide you with an example of how to collect your data for analysis.