Question: My ten month old little girl wakes every hour or so. She was actually getting better the last few months only waking 2-5 times (and would fall back asleep quickly). However, the last month she wakes every hour, and then takes about 30 mins to get back to sleep.
She cannot find a position that suits her (even nursing doesn't work) and she refuses my husband's help. She cries within 30 secs or so if no one goes in and she is staning and crying within 1 min (not hysterical but upset).
I do not believe in the Ferber Method, but I am at wit's end and I work FT. She is not sick and not currently teething and nothing unusual going on in the house. I am beside myself and do not know what to do. Please help.
Heidi's Answer: Dear Cathy, I know this is tough, especially since it has been better the last few months. Let's see how to make things better again.
Can you think of a reason why she refuses your husband's help? What often happens is that daddies, because of work and other reasons, find themselves spending mess time with baby than moms.
As a consequence, baby is less used to being soothed by dad. And that makes it more difficult when he's trying to help out at night.
This may or may not be your case, but if it is, the first thing to do is for your husband to spend as much time with her together during the day, whenever he can. If possible without you around. Every daytime moment spent together during the day will help twofold towards the nights.
Your little girl's sleep problems may be linked to separation anxiety. She's at a typical age for a phase where she fears not to see you again. Her refusal of your husband's help may be a sign of it too - and again spending more time together will help.
So with separation anxiety playing, when she wakes up at night (at the end of a sleep cycle), instead of going straight back to sleep as she had so nicely learnt, she realizes you are not there.
And that triggers her fear, making it of course difficult to go back to sleep. Her crying and being upset quickly also point to this.
Please do check the baby separation anxiety page. See if you recognize some symptom(s), especially the ones during the day. And use the tips to get you both through this phase.
What she needs most of all in this phase is your reassurance, and presence. That does not mean you have to sit and hold her constantly. But be there while confidently encouraging her independence.
Of course you will want a night light installed if you haven't already.
For sleeping it will be of no use to let her cry and become even more upset. So if she wakes up and cries, it's best to go to her. Reassure and then put her down, in exactly the same way as when she first goes down in the beginning of the night. Always stay in her room, do not use any extra light, interact as little as possible, ...
Now to avoid her waking up each hour: go to her about 50 minutes after she went down, so when she's still asleep. Be very quiet so as not to wake her. Place your hands on her tummy, stroke her forehead, place your hands on both shoulders, ... whichever you know will work best to comfort her.
The idea is that your presence will help her go straight back to sleep in stead of waking fully. So you'll want to stay for about 15 minutes.
Watch her closely, you will probably see her half-wake up (stay calm and do not interact), move and squirm a bit, maybe even cry a little. And then she'll doze off again.
This may not work from the very first time. Then soothe her and put her back down as usual. Then try again a next time. With patience, this can be very efficient to help her sleep more restfully again.
This is also a good time to re-evaluate her sleep schedule. She probably has 2 naps a day. Make these regular, one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. If possible, shift her night time bedtime a bit too. If she goes quite late (8pm or later), shift it to earlier, to 7 or even 6.30pm. Even if this sounds a bit strange, a one hour earlier bedtime helps many babies sleep through the night. If she already goes to bed early (such as 6pm), then consider shifting to half an hour later). Give each test at least a week before trying something else.
Even if she's not teething visibly, it may be worth checking some of the hidden signs of teething.
And finally, you mention she does not seem to find a comfortable position. Could it be that lying down flat makes her uncomfortable? Does she also cry when lying down during the day? Then it may be worth having her checked by a physiotherapist or a pediatric osteopath.