6 month old dependent on pacifier
(Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada)
Question: My 6 month old is completely dependent on his soother and wakes 5-6 times a night screaming for it to be put back in. He goes to sleep between 6 and 7 and usually sleeps pretty good until around midnight but after that is up every hour.
I feed him only once because there is only one time during the night that his soother doesn't cut it and he continues to cry even when I replace it. I wouldn't mind getting up to pop it back in except that I am not the best sleeper and often lie awake for hours after getting up a few times and am now completely exhausted.
I have, up until this point, always thought I would not be able to let him cry but I am desperate! I have started only going to him during the time that I believe he is hungry and all the other times he is on his own. I do still put him down awake but with his soother at the start of the night because he drifts off so easily with it.
Is it unfair that I give it to him at the start of the night but do not replace it throughout the night? I am on night 3 and have noticed that he's not waking as often but when he does wake (usually around 5am) he seems to be crying for just as long as he did on the first night.
When I do feed him he will eat anywhere from 3 - 5 ounces and then falls right back to sleep (I put him in his crib asleep) but I find that he is not very interested in his morning bottle if the feed is any later than 1am. Should I cut out that feed? I am worried that he will get confused because I go to him once at night but not the other times.
Thank you so much!
Heidi's Answer: Hi Amanda,
It is a good idea to have one 'fixed' awakening where you feed, so you could decide to feed at his first awakening, around midnight.
First of all, that may very well get him off to sleep for a better stretch again, rather than wake every hour. Either way, after that first awakening, it's OK not to feed him anymore, especially since you feel he does not need it (as not interested in morning bottle when later than 1am).
As you know I am not a fan of letting them cry and I do not advise it, but if you do find it reasonable and it is helping you and him, and you really see improvement, why not.
Then about the pacifier. On the one hand it's OK because you are consistent: pacifier when first going down, then no longer during the night.
But if he's screaming for it in the night, it is of course no surprise, because that is what he first went to sleep with, so he's expecting it.
The best long-term solution to the awakenings for the pacifier is to work on ways for him to be able to take it and put it back in himself.
- practice during the day by playing games where he has to take the pacifier (or look for it) and put it in his mouth himself. Enthusiastically praise him for every effort of course.
- for when he sleeps, make sure the pacifier stays within his reach. A short ribbon (so short it cannot get stuck around his neck!) tied to his pajamas or sleeping bag.
What also works well for many is a Wubbanub Infant Pacifier or similar. It's a soft animal with a built-in pacifier that makes it easy (and fun) for baby to find the pacifier again.
Besides this, keep up the good work with putting down at night. Her going down awake and self soothing really well is something to cherish and keep encouraging.
And finally, please have a look at my pages on simple relaxation techniques and check out the body scan technique too. These are great help you find sleep again for yourself after yet another awakening.
Extra little tip, if you haven't already: hide your clock during the night. It's better not to know what time it is, or how much/little you slept.