This weekend my husband and I eagerly awaited our family trip “up north” to where Oma and Opa live. Beautiful rolling hills, the fragrance of pines and home-cooked meals not made by my hands…just some of the many benefits of being with my parents. To add to our normal crazy, we had just come off of a 10 day-knock-us-down-one-at-a- time tummy bug. Short-lived, thankfully…but messy. Baby got the worst of it, dealing with diarrhea for nearly a week.
Of course, as all moms know…our littles ones (and often our husbands) sort of go back a few years when sick. We dote over them, nurse them back to health…and then suddenly…although perfectly healthy and fine, they are still clingy and whiny. (Our babies, of course…I am not referring to husbands now. Wink.) Isn’t it interesting? A little extra hovering and doting and out emerges a sweet, little monster. Oh joy.
When your baby is sick — whether a younger baby or an older baby/toddler — it is very likely that they are up at night fevering, suffering from an ear infection or dealing with diarrhea. We must take care of them and we know that this is part of Mommy Basic Training — or not-so-basic if this isn’t your first. You just do you part and try your best to survive without catching the bug yourself. Finally baby is all better — no more midnight wakings.
But, if your baby is anything like any of my babies…he may just think that he still needs to wake up at 4:30 or 5:15am for that comfort feed. Certainly, you did that while he was sick…why would you not continue that personalized service?
How do I get my Baby to sleep through the night?
So here we are at Oma and Opa’s, ready for a fun, family-weekend of rest and relaxation… and sure enough, the very first morning…just like clockwork baby decides to begin crying at 4:10am. We take turns holding her and putting her down. She screams bloody murder. How on earth do we get her to sleep through the night? We are concerned she will wake everyone up. We go through a few more rounds of holding her, she gets some milk. Finally, I am done. About 5:30am I go back to bed and I don’t care anymore. Let her wake up the house. Husband is on duty now. At 6:30am I wake up to baby sleeping between us. The image dancing through my head is of a boxing match. This little 18-month old has succeeded to bring dad and mom into the ring and beat us up. There is no question she is the winner. Less than two feet tall and she won, hands down.
Setting Sleep Habits to Encourage Baby to Sleep through the Night
Whether your baby developed a habit of waking up early after being sick or already is in this pattern, it does not matter. Babies, from just a few weeks old have zones of light sleep, heavy sleep and wakefulness. That morning window between 4ish and 5:45ish is notorious for being a time of light sleep or wakefulness. It is a natural part of the body rhythm. So, if your baby begins to expect comfort, milk or the day to begin at this time…you, Mama, are in trouble!
It’s our jobs to help train our little ones back into good sleep habits, so no matter how tempting it is to continue feeding or comforting your little one at that time…you must resist. Now, babies who are hungry are another story. If your baby is under 4 months and about 10 pounds, she is waking up because she needs food. Feed her and put her back to sleep. If your baby is older, he is perfectly capable of a good night’s sleep. Here are a few tips to getting back to a good early morning routine.
7 Tips to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Tip 1: Wean your baby off of their 4-5am waking time. When she cries, go to her and talk to her. (She is a smart little cookie!) Tell her it is too early to wake up, it is still nighttime and it is her job to sleep. Calm her, make sure she is comfortable (no poopy diapers…etc). Once she is quiet, plus a few minutes for comfort, lay her right back down and say good night. You may need to repeat this many times until baby is finally asleep again.
Tip 2: Be consistent. Decide what a good, normal wake up time for your baby is. I like 6am, as the rest of the house needs to get up for school. For you it might be 7am. Decide that you will continue weaning baby of your comfort until baby consistently wakes up at the right time.
Tip 3: Don’t allow baby to cross the line. Once you decide baby needs to get past the 4-5am zone, stick with it. Do not give in to anything. Baby’s are quite persuasive. Don’t feed him. Don’t bring him into bed with you (unless that’s where he normally sleeps). Don’t change a wet diaper (that can be changed in the morning). Don’t rock him extensively or nurse him (unless you want to keep that as a pattern). He needs to learn to go back to sleep on his own. Maybe a tiny bit of help from you, but mostly…on his own.
Tip 4: Let her cry. Now, I am not an advocate of letting young babies cry. Young babies cry because they need us. But as babies get a bit older, right about 6 months and on…they are also very smart babies. And they know how to get their way. An older baby (6 – 24 months) will be just fine crying a few minutes. Certainly, the closer to 24 months…the longer you can let them cry. As you wean her off your early morning comfort, let her cry for 7 minutes, then 5, then 4…and repeat step one again and again if needed. Eventually, she will be doing the very low-key fuss that she will not die of and that you can ignore and will put herself to sleep.
Tip 5: Let him be awake in his crib. Many happy babies make noise at this ungodly hour of 4-5am …and then simply coo to themselves, shift around, play with their toys. If you can train baby into waking up and simply hanging out in the crib, you have got it made. This is the goal. Some days he will wake up and play for a bit, then fall asleep again. Other days he will sleep right through. All of my babies loved this hour for some reason. We interrupt their sleep cycle if we go to them and try to feed them or have them start their day.
Tip 6: Don’t make noise. Older babies will hear that you are awake and will want up. Keep things quiet. Babies are people, too!
Tip 7: Don’t give up. Usually after about 3-4 days of consistent effort to get baby back to a normal wake-up time, you will succeed. Don’t stop at Day 1 or 2. It takes effort and perseverance, but these little ones are so very trainable (as are we!). Keep on…and do’t forget tell us your success stories!
Image used under Creative Commons License –Flickr user ankurp 3/24/15.