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Archive for the ‘sleeping though the night’ Category

If you have a newborn, I bet you are looking forward to getting a longer stretch at night, at least longer than 3 hours. I really wanted to get my twin girls to sleep through the night as soon as possible so I could get some sleep. I have a toddler, who was only 18 months old when my twins were born. Therefore, it was very important that I get some good sleep so I could be my best to take care of not only the twins during the day, but my toddler too.

Dreamfeed
A dreamfeed is a feeding that you give typically around 10/11pm. Your baby has already gone to sleep for the night and you wake your baby to give him a feeding and then put him right back to bed. Typically, this feeding you don’t turn on the lights. You don’t talk to you baby. You don’t make eye contact. You don’t change a diaper unless it is really wet or poopy. You try to keep your baby almost asleep through the feeding and then place your baby back down in his crib or bassinet for the night. The goal of dreamfeeding is hopefully fill your baby up so that he or she will sleep longer through the night. This means, you the parent gets to sleep longer.

Cluster Feeding
Cluster feeding is feeding in short intervals in the late afternoon or early evening. Many mothers who breastfeed do this because their milk supply is not as high in the late afternoons or evenings. This also keeps your baby from getting as fussy in the evenings, during the dreaded “Witching” hours. Clusterfeeding also acts like dreamfeeding, in that you are trying to “tank-up” your baby with lots of feedings/ milk in order that he would sleep longer at night.

My personal experience:
My kids have not done that great with dreamfeeds. I am not really sure why because I know so many moms who swear by the dreamfeed. The dreamfeed really helped their baby sleep longer through the night. I found that dreamfeeding actually made my kids wake up more frequently. I think they thought that if I put them to be at 7pm and woke them at 10pm that they should wake up and eat every 3 hours through the night. Yikes!!! I did not want that to happen. But I have use dreamfeeds when there have been points in my twins lives when they go to bed super early- 6pm and I want them to sleep until 7am. When they go to bed at 6pm, I know they will not make it to 7am without needing a feeding. I would much rather feed them before I go to bed than at 4/5am. You know what I mean.

Now with my son, I never cluster fed him. He never really seem to need it, but in hindsight, I wish I had done it with him when he was a small infant because I think it would have helped him to sleep though the night quicker. I did cluster feed my girls, and I did it for a long time. Once I started to clusterfeed them, it was like magic and they started to sleep longer stretches for me. I also breastfeed so my supply is lower in the late afternoon/ evening and I think the girls needed to cluster feed in order to get enough milk to hold them over through the night. Check out the schedules I kept with my twins to see examples of the clusterfeeding in the late afternoons/ evenings. https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/infant-schedules-by-month-updated/

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If you are reading this post, then you most likely are tired and thinking to yourself, “will I ever sleep again?” The answer is yes, but it will take some time. I know that I had some very unrealistic expectations of how my son would sleep through the night. I wanted him to achieve nice long stretches at night long before he was physically ready to do this. It was not until I picked up Kim West’s book Good Night, Sleep Tight, that I realized that I might need to change my expectations for how long I should expect my son to sleep at night.

What is sleeping through the night?

That answer is different depending on how old your baby is. Here is a run down of how long your baby can sleep at night without a feeding:

0-4 weeks old (1 month) will probably wake 2-3 times during the night. Most infants can sleep 3-4 hour stretches at this age. Consult your pediatrician before allowing your baby to sleep longer than 4 hours at a time at this age. Most infants need more frequent feedings at night to help with proper weight grain.

4-8 weeks old ( second month) will wake once, some still wake 2 times during the night. At 6 weeks old, my son was still waking twice a night for a feeding (1am/ 4-5am). I did sleep training starting at 6 weeks to eliminate the first middle of the night feeding. By the time my son was 8 weeks old, he was only waking for one feeding (4-5am).

8-12 weeks old (third month) most can sleep 6-8 hours stretches at night. By the end of the 12th week, most are sleep 8 hour without a feeding. This was true of my son, he would sleep from 10pm-to-4/6am and then require a short feeding.

4 months old can sleep 8 hours uninterrupted. This was also true of my son. He was typically sleeping form 9/9:30pm until 5:30/6:30am without a feeding. I would feed him when he woke up, but not a full feeding or he would not eat well at his 7am feeding (that was the start of our day)

5 months old can sleep 10-11 hours uninterrupted. At that age my son would sleep from 9pm- 7am without waking.

6-12 months old can sleep 11 hours uninterrupted. My son started to sleep from 7pm-7am (12 hours) without a feeding at 6 months.At 7 months, he started to requires less sleep at night an only sleep 11-11.5 hours a night. So we adjusted his bedtime by shifting it 30 minute to a hour later so he sleeps from 7:30/8pm-7am.

How can you encourage your child to sleep through the night?

See my post about eliminating nighttime waking/feedings: https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/how-to-eliminate-nighttime-waking/ You might also benefit from reading my post about dreamfeeding and cluster feeding. https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/dreamfeed-cluster-feeding/ Both of these methods have been helped to achieve longer stretches of sleep at night. Also remember that not all babies are the same. Some babies need less sleep than other babies, while other babies require more sleep. If your child is waking up cranky even after being feed, it could be possible that he/ she is not getting sufficient sleep.

Note: Information was taken from Kim West’s book Good Night, Sleep Tight

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According to the Book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems a “child who wakes habitually doesn’t need more food unless she’s going through a growth spurt (p.191).” I know that when my son was between 6-8 weeks old he was waking at up around 1am every night. I knew that between 6-8 weeks old he could sleep for at least 6-8 hours a stretch at this age (see my post on sleep requirements). My husband I decided to do the Cry-It-Out method with my son. It took about a week, but at the end of a week, my son was no longer waking around 1am. I was practical and decided to only eliminate the first middle of the night feeding because I knew he was physically ready to go a longer stretch at night between feedings.

NEVER eliminate a feeding before your child is ready. If you child is 8 weeks old, he should be able to go 6-8 hours at night without a feeding. It would be unrealistic to expect an 8 week old to sleep longer than 9 hours without a feeding and for some babies at that age 8 hours is unrealistic too. Go with your maternal instincts and only eliminate the nighttime feeding if they are physically ready!

Please note: If you child is waking up at different times every night, that is most likely due to hunger and not habit. It is best when they are under two months old or in a growth spurt, to feed them when this occurs.

Here is what my son’s nighttime sleep looked like prior to sleep training (CIO) to eliminate the 1pm feeding (6-8 weeks old):

  • 10pm Nurse & Right Back to Bed for the Night
  • 1am Wakes & Nurses & Right Back to Bed
  • 4-5 am Wakes & Nurse & Right Back to Bed
  • 7am Wakes & Nurse- this is the official start to our day and I make sure to keep him up after this feeding

Here is what my son’s nighttime sleep looked like after sleep training (CIO) to eliminate the 1pm feeding (6-8 weeks old):

  • 10pm Nurse & Right Back to Bed for the Night
  • 4-5 am Wakes & Nurse & Right Back to Bed
  • 7am Wakes &  Nurse- this is the official start to our day and I make sure to keep him up after this feeding

Other Methods to Eliminate a nighttime feeding

  • Lengthen the time between night feedings: So if your baby has been waking at 1am, you could try to hold her out until 1:15am. You can do this by rocking her, giving her a pacifier, patting her on the back or tummy while in her crib, holding her in a the rocking chair. Sometimes the baby will fall asleep on her own and not even need the feeding, but if she is still awake and it is 1:15am feed her. Do this for several days until she starts to wake at 1:15am instead of 1:00am. Then try to increase the time by 15 minute again so that you try to hold her out until 1:30am and so on. This process takes a lot longer, but I have heard from other moms that this method has worked from them.
  • Gradually reduce food at the night feeding: if you are breastfeeding, you will reduce the length of your nursing session. So if you are nursing for 20 minutes, only nurse for 18 minutes the next night. Then try reducing the length the third night down to 16 or 15 minutes. I would decrease the length of nursing by 2-5 minutes each night until you are down to nothing. If you bottle feed, try reducing the amount in the bottle by 1/2 ounce each night until you are done to nothing. At this point, I would try to let your child cry. You can be in the room while your child cries if you don’t want to leave them alone, but don’t pick them up. Remember, your child is just waking out of habit at this point. It may take several days after you have eliminated the feeding, but they should eventually sleep through that feeding time. This worked for me when I was trying to stop the 4/5am feeding with my son when he was between 17-20 weeks old. I first reduced the length of the nursing session and then I let him cry-it-out. He finally stopped waking for that feeding at 20 weeks old. (This idea comes from The Baby Sleep Solution)
  • Wake-To-Sleep Technique: "Instead of lying there waiting for her to wake up, set your clock an hour earlier than her habitual waking time and wake her. She probably won’t wake up completely, but her little eyes may dart back and forth under her lids, she’ll murmur and move a bit, just as an adult would if you interrupted his deep sleep. Do this for three nights in a row….but I recommend that you keep it up for three nights nonetheless. If it doesn’t work, you have to reevaluated whether her habitual waking is due to another cause. If you’ve ruled everything else out, do this wake-to-sleep technique another three days. "(The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems p. 191-192).
  • Shush-Pat: go to your child and "you simultaneously whisper, ‘shh, shh, shh….’ into your baby’s ear and pat his back." If that does not work to settle him, hold him over your shoulder: Pat him on his back in a steady rhythmic motion- like the tick-tock, tick-tock, of a clock. The patting need to quite firm, and you want to be in the center of the back, not on one side or the other, and certainly not as far down as their little bottom…While you are patting him, put your mouth to his ear, and whisper a slow, fairly loud, "shh…shh…shh." Elongate the shh sound so that it slows to a chug-chug of a train…When you sense his breathing is getting a little deap and his body is starting to relax, gently lay him down, slightly on his side, so that you can have access to his back [ to continue patting if needed].” This works for babies under the age of 3 months. (The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems p.184-185).
  • Offer Pacifier: This seems to work if your baby is truly waking up out of habit. If you child is hungry, then the pacifier will not work. Try not to offer the pacifier after you baby is 3 months old. The pacifier can become habit forming at that point.
  • Cry-It-Out: Allow your child to cry when they wake. If you want to go in and check on them when they first wake to make sure they don’t need a diaper change or are ill, then go to them. But if you can, stay out of the room. With my son, the moment he saw me, it was all down hill. He would refuse to go to sleep unless I nursed him or held him. His crying would become ten times worse if he saw me. I had to learn to let him cry-it-out on his own. It was really hard to hear him cry, but in a few nights there was no more crying.
  • Cry-It-Out Variations: Some parents just cannot stand to hear their child cry alone in their room, and that is okay. You can try sitting near the crib as they cry or setting a timer and only going in the room every few minutes while they are crying to check on them and let them know you love them until they fall asleep.
  • P.U./P.D. (Pick Up/ Put Down): This method is intended for a baby 4 month or older. Prior to this try the shush-pat method. You pick your child up while he is crying and the minute he stops crying you put him back in his crib. If he starts crying, pick him up again. Then if he stops crying, place him in the crib again. You will repeat the pick up/ put down until he stops crying and will fall asleep in his crib on his own. "On average, P.U./ P.D. takes 20 minutes, but it can go on for an hour or more. If while you are hold your baby and he is crying and arching his back or trying to wiggle free, don’t fight your baby just place him back into his crib. He is just trying to settle himself and may not want to be held. You may still need to pick him up again after he has arched his back, but that’s okay. Just keep repeating the PU/ PD until he quietly lays in his crib without crying. (The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems p.221-224) I have a friend who used this method with her son with great success. I have never personally used it, but it worked for her and her son!  For more on this method read this: https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/pupd-pick-up-put-down-baby-whisperers-sleep-training-method/

Ultimately, we have to do what is best for our family. There is no right or wrong way to do sleep training. Just remember to be consistent with what ever method you choose to do and don’t set unrealistic expectations. Remember, your baby is young and will still need some nighttime feedings for a while. Please read the posts below before starting sleep training!

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My son who is now 7 months old started waking up an hour early for about the past 3 weeks. He does not do this consistently. I was looking over my notes and it seems that he has been waking between 5:45-6:30 but occasionally sleeping in until 7am (which seems to happen mostly on weekends). I should add that I have dark out blinds in his room and a white noise machine running all night long.

Here’s my theory for why he is waking an hour early:

First, it is getting lighter sooner. I think this is setting off a natural alarm clock in Cooper that says, “rise and shine”. Unfortunate for Chris and I because our alarm clock says, “no thanks we need another hour”. I have tired to darken the room even more than it was, but there is still a faint bit of daylight creeping through, enough to make it appear to not be night but morning. The hormone that signals sleep, melatonin starts to decrease in the early morning hours, causing us to have lighter sleep. Sunlight also decreases the amount of melatonin that we produce.

Second, our neighbors above us (we live in a condo) have been waking up early in the morning it seems. I hear them somewhere between 5am and 6am. I can hear their footsteps and water running. Occasionally, I might even hear their dog tramping across the floor or let out a bark. They are not being overly loud, but the noises are enough to stir me awake. (I am a light sleeper to begin with.)

Conclusion: I think I am just going to have to accept the fact that Cooper is waking at 6am. I cannot not tell God to make the day light come up an hour later and I cannot tell my neighbors above us to wake up later. This just means that Chris and I need to go to bed an hour earlier at night and wake up at 6am instead of 7am. Oh well!

Future Action: Since we are moving to Texas in a month, the time zone will change and we will be an hour behind Maryland time. This might be the chance for me to get Cooper back to waking at 7am. I will be in a quieter house with no condo neighbors and the time change will make it easier for me to just shift his schedule.

There are many reasons your little one could be waking early in the mornings

  • might need less sleep– check my post about the average amount of sleep your infant should be getting daily. It could be that your child is older and now requires less sleep at night or during the day. If your baby is getting too much daytime sleep, it could be causing him to wake early. Or if you little one is sleeping too long at night, they could be waking up.  https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/sleep-requirements-for-infants/
  • morning nap is to close to nighttime sleep- if you don’t keep your baby up long enough in the morning, your little one could be confusing the first nap of the day as part of his nighttime sleep. Try extending his wake time between the time he wakes from nighttime sleep to the first nap.
  • afternoon nap is to close to nighttime sleep- the last nap of the day or the afternoon nap if you are down to two naps is to close to nighttime sleep, this could also cause your child to possibly wake up early.
  • hunger- your child could be going through a growth spurt or just need more food. Try feeding him more solids or offering bottles/ nursing more frequently during the day to prevent him from waking early in the morning. You can also try to offer a later dinner that has more carbohydrates to keep him fuller longer. You can also do a late night feeding (some people call this a dream feed). A late night feeding is when you feed your baby after already being asleep for the night between 10-11pm. This might help to hold his hunger out longer in the morning.
  • needs a longer awake time- you might try keeping your child up longer in between naps and nighttime sleep. Your child may not be tired enough to sleep for a longer stretch. If you adjust their awake time, they may sleep longer. See my post on infant schedules, it includes average awake times for infants. https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/infant-schedules/
  • overtired/ overstimulated- if you child has been not sleeping well and may have had a lot of disruptions to his sleep, then that too could cause him to wake early. Try to get your baby to bed during their “sleep window” before they become overtired/ overstimulated. Stay as consistent with your schedule as possible too- this helps to get your little on back on track. See my post on sleep windows https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/sleep-windows-get-them-to-bed-before-its-too-late/
  • too bright in bedroom- the room may be to bright in the morning. Invest in some darkening blinds or put cardboard up to block the light.
  • too noisy- invest in a good quality sound machine/ white noise machine, run a fan, or play soft music in the background to block out external noises from loud neighbors, your own home, or outside.
  • room temperature is too hot or too cold– make sure to dress your baby appropriately for bed. If they are either too hot or too cold they will wake more easily, especially in the morning when melatonin, the hormone that helps us to sleep, is wearing off.

Some kids are just early birds

If your child wakes up happy, you have tried all the suggestions above, and you have seen no improvement, then you might just have to accept the fact that your child is waking early. Some children just wake early. Just adjust their schedule as needed to accommodate the earlier wake time.

Other Resources About Early Risers

Note: many of the ideas were pulled from Good Night, Sleep Tight p. 98-100 and the internet resources provided

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There are two books that I highly recommend you read if you have a small infant: Babywise and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. These two books have been a huge resource to me, especially when Cooper was under 4 months old. I have turned through the pages of these two books plenty of times. Both books talk about a daily schedule that follows a very simple pattern it looks something like this:

  1. Eat
  2. Awake/ Play
  3. Sleep
  4. Repeat (eat, play, sleep)

This pattern is important to follow because your baby does not learn to depend on eating (nursing/bottle) to fall asleep.

Be careful not to hyper schedule- be flexible

Depending on how old your baby is will determine how long each cycle (eat, play, sleep) will be. Your baby is not a robot and each cycle may vary by a few minutes each day. It is important not to hyper schedule and only feed the baby by the clock. Also keep in mind that at different parts of the day, your baby will be able to go longer between feeds than other times of the day. My son was only able to go 2.5 hours in the morning between feeds when he was under 3 months old. The rest of the schedule he was able to go 3 hours between each feed. Be flexible. Find out what works for your child and build your schedule around that.

Schedules Change

Schedules are constantly changing based on the developing needs of your child. Keep that in mind too! What worked last week might not work this week. Consider changing the amount of time your child stays awake if you child is having trouble napping by either decreasing or increasing his awake time.

What happens to the schedule when your baby has a growth spurt?

When a baby is in the middle of a growth spurt, if you are nursing, you must increase the number of times you feed your baby. This will only last a few days and you can go back to your normal schedule. If you are bottle feeding during a growth spurt, you can just increase the amount of formula in each bottle.

What determines the length of each cycle?

  1. Eating: this depends on how long your baby takes to eat (nurse/bottle). Newborns can take 20-45 minutes to nurse. As babies get older they get more efficient at eating. My son is now 6.5 months old and he nurses for 5 minutes on each side for a total of 10 minutes. When he was a newborn he was a fast eater, only nursing for a total of 15-20 minutes. Each baby is different and some take longer than others.
  2. Awake/ Play: this will depend on two factors- how old your baby is and how long it takes them to nurse. If your baby takes a long time to nurse then he will not have a lot of time left over to play. Below are some recommended awake times for each baby. Not all babies are the same. Some babies need shorter awake time while other may need longer. Remember to include how long your baby east when calculating awake time. As your baby gets older, wake times could vary. They tend to stay awake for a shorter time in the morning, longer in the afternoon, and even longer in the evening. See my post entitled 2-3-4 Nap Schedule for more on this: https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/2-3-4-nap-schedule-for-older-babies/
    Newborn 50-60 mins
    1 month 60 mins-hour and 15
    2 months 1 hour and 15 – 20 mins
    3 months 1 hour and 20 – 30 mins
    4 months 1 hour and 45 – 2 hours
    5 months 2 hours – 2.25 hours
    Late 5 months/early 6 months 2.25-2.5 hours
    6.5 – 7 months 2.75-3 hours. Some are getting more.
    8 – 10 months 3 – 4 hours. Some are getting more.
    11 – 12 months 3.5 -4.5 hours. Some are getting more if moved early to 1 nap
  3. Sleep (naps): this depends on how long your baby can stay awake and how long they can go in between feedings. Below is a the number of naps that each baby should take each day (this could vary). See my post Infant Sleep Requirements which gives more information about how long each nap should be.
    Newborn- 1 month 3-4 naps
    2- 3 months 3-4 naps
    3 months 3 naps
    4-5 months 2-3 naps
    6- 8 months 2-3  naps
    9- 18 months 2 naps
    18+ months 1 naps

I typed the schedules that I kept with my son every month. They have changed quite a bit as he has grown. https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/infant-schedules-by-month/

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I have found that Kim West’s book Good Night, Sleep Tight to be a great resource for infant sleep questions. I really like how she has laid out the amount of sleep an infant needs from birth to age 5. I have made a quick reference list below for each age.

You may also want to check out these post:

0-4 Weeks
• total 16-18 hours, half at night and half during the day
• by the end of the first month they sleep an average of 15-17.5 hours total, about 8.5-10 at night, 6-7 during the day spread over 3-4 naps.
• They still wake up 2-3 time during the night

4-8 weeks (second month)
• sleep an average of 15-17 hours total
• 8.5-10 hours at night, 6-7 during the day spread over 3-4 naps
• some will wake only once to fed, although others will still need 2 night feeding for a few more weeks

8-12 weeks (third month)
• average 15 hours sleep
• 10 hours at night, 5 hours during the day spread out over 3 naps
• sleep 6-8 hours stretches before a nighttime feeding, by end of month most babies should sleep 8 hour uninterrupted

4-5 Months
• 4 months can sleep 8 hours at night without a feeding
• 5 months can go 10-11 hours a nigh without a feeding
• 4 hours during the day spread out over 3 naps

6-8 Months
• need an average of 11 hours of sleep at night (uninterrupted)
• 3.5 hours of day time sleep over 2-3 naps

9-12 Months
• 11 hours at night (uninterrupted)
• 3 hours of day time sleep (over two naps, with the occasional cat nap, but that is usually given up)
• Morning nap is usually 1.5 hours, afternoon nap is usually 1.5-2 hours (by 12 months the afternoon nap is usually 1.5 hours)

13-18 Months
• 11.25 uninterrupted nighttime sleep, 2.25-2.5 hours sleep during the day
• They start with 2 naps, by 18 months usually down to one midday or afternoon nap

1.5 years- 2.5 Years
• 1.5-2 years: 11.25 hours at night, 2.25 hours for one midday nap
• 2 years: 11 hours at night, 2 hours during the day
• 2-3 years: sleep will drop to 10.5 hours of sleep at night, 1.5 hours of sleep during the day

2-3 Years
• 10.5 hours at night, plus a 1.5 hour afternoon nap

4 years
• 11.5 hours at night, most don’t need a nap and if they do it is only 45 minutes (this could be 45 minutes of quite time too)

5 Years
• 11 a night, quite afternoon time is beneficial

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