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Tips For Getting Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night

January 4, 2011

I just got an email from a friend of mine who has a baby and wanted some tips for getting her baby to sleep through the night.  I thought I would post her email and then my response.  Hopefully it will be of benefit to hear another perspective about babies and sleeping.

I get most of my thoughts and routine ideas from the book, “My First 300 Babies“.  She has such great and practical advice on eating, sleeping, napping, routines, bathing, etc.

“Hi,

So, I need some advice.  My 4 month old baby has been doing this peculiar thing for the last 3 nights. He has been the happiest and sweetest of babies, goes down for naps easily, etc, but once night time hits and he realizes we are putting him down to sleep for the night he starts screaming and doesn’t stop for about 2 hours. He won’t eat or anything. All the typical things have not worked: swaddling, bouncing, shushing, feeding, etc.

Any tips? He used to be so easy to put down. Most of the time it would just take one checkin-on and then he was out for 2-6 hours depending…

Also, He blessed me with a few 5-6 hour sleeps, but now is back to 2 and 3 hours. Any tips there?

My response:

Good morning!

Couple questions…

How far apart are his day time feedings?  -Maybe shorten the time in between, add a day time feeding?

What time do you put him to bed for the night?  – Maybe put him to bed sooner or before he shows obvious signs of being tired. Sometimes or alot of times babies/children go to bed more willingly when they haven’t hit bottom. 🙂

He is old enough now, he does not have to eat in the middle of the night. Either he isn’t getting enough during the day or he is waking up out of habit and needs a new habit. He should be able to go from 10pm to around 6am without eating. This can take a couple days to a week to change this habit, but once he figures out to eat more during the day and his body learns to ‘shut down’ and sleep at night, he should be good to go. Then after he is successful with the 10pm to 6am (or any variation of 8 hrs), you can move on to 12 hours. 6-6 or 7-7 It doesn’t have to be a strict 12 hours, but setting a bedtime sometime between 6 and 8 at night is good. So, say he goes to bed at 6pm for the night, he then can have one last feeding sometime between 9 and 10 (it’s fine to wake him, if he hasn’t awaken on his own) and then that’s it till 6ish in the morning. Once he establishes a good routine of 10 -6, then remove that 10pm feeding and he will sleep 6-6. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s TOTALLY possible. It’s all training and habits. If he is eating 4-6 times each day, he should be getting enough calories.

Of course this is just what I do and what has worked well for me and my sanity 🙂 This also has worked well for many other babies I know. (and their momma’s LOVE it 🙂 Everyone gets so much more sleep.

Her Response:

Hi. This is excellent info. I breastfeed when I am home. I frequently work at night so Tim bottle feeds him breast milk at night. He’s on board with putting him down about 6pm.

When he does wake up at night fussin what should I do to start a new habit? Should I just sooth him until he sleeps again?

My Response:

Um… how angry does he sound when he wakes up at night? He probably wakes himself up to pee and/or burp. You can go in to him ONCE and assess the situation. But then, tell him calmly and firmly that it is night time and he is to sleep and lay him back down and walk out. If he wakes again a couple hours later, do the same (but only if he is persistently crying –  not if he just wakes up for a bit). He may be hungry the first night or two (one night of being hungry never hurt anyone 🙂 BUT he will make up for it in the morning, eat well/heartily and thus you have your new habit.

I also find that if you think through the scenario while you are awake and coherent during the day. Make a decision as to how you are going to handle the next night of sleeping. Then your actions are more thought out and not so reactionary at 1am in the morning. When I find myself frustrated or not knowing what to do, I take 5 minutes the next day and brainstorm – shew, what a difference it makes!

Remember – 3 days is the usually the magical number. It takes 3 days to get over the hump of fasting or eliminating something from your diet (ie sugar), 3 days for swelling to subside, 3 days to do or not do lots of things. My mother in law works in a rehab hospital and day 3 is usually the worst for DT’s (detoxing from alcohol). When you are sick, you are usually better by day 3. If you have a temp or are throwing up for more than 3 days, it then is considered significant. Something about 3 days… who knew?

When you are not able to breastfeed and he has a bottle instead, roughly how much does he eat? If he is eating 5 times a day, then his bottles will be around 5 or 6 ounces? www.kellymom.com is a website I use as a second or third opinion. I agree with more things than not (which is amazing 🙂 and she has a great chart as to how much a baby needs. No baby ever needs more than 30 ounces a day. Some only need 20 ounces to gain weight. Just depends on metabolism and how calorie dense the milk is. I often hear of the baby that spits up is also drinking 35 – 45 ounces of milk a day … they are are probably spitting up that other 10 ounces they really don’t need… and are using eating as a soothing technique and spitting us as a annoying technique 🙂

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