Question: I'm so glad I found this site!!! I've been looking everywhere for something that can help me and my baby sleep more! My son is just shy of 5 months and has, for about the last month and a half been waking up a lot at night. He usually sleeps quite well for the first 4-5hours of the night but after the first waking can be up every 1 - 3 hours.
He wakes at different times every morning. Usually between 6 and 7 and is not on a nap schedule because I find that he is still in the stage where he gets sleepy 2 hours after waking. Because he wakes up at different times and his naps can last anywhere from 30min to 2 hours depending on the day, he always seems to be sleeping at different times.
I try to have him in bed by 7pm but, again, if his last nap was longer or shorter than normal bedtime could be anywhere from 6:00 to 7:30. (On most days he has 4 short naps. I have tried to extend them with no luck).
I am also finding it really hard to coordinate feedings with sleeping. He still eats every 3 hours during the day but because bedtime is so inconsistent I sometimes put him to bed without eating at night because he is not hungry at the time that he gets sleepy. Example: Today he was ready for bed at 6pm but because he just ate at 4:30 he was not interested in eating before bed. Is there something I am missing?
I should also mention that he is unable to fall asleep with out a pacifier. I do put him in his crib drowsy but if the pacifier falls out before he falls completely asleep he wakes right up. Once he is in a deep sleep he does not suck on his pacifier and it usually falls out or I will pull it out.
Heidi's Answer: Dear Amanda, no there is not something you are missing: on the contrary you are doing well and I really like how you are sensitive to your son's needs, like his being sleepy after 2 hours awake time.
This is a bit of a transition age between not quite fit for a schedule, and doing well with a schedule. 6 months is usually when baby sleep patterns quiet down. That's when it becomes easier to find a decent schedule with naps and feedings.
Right now, I will not suggest you try and enforce a full schedule. His 4-5 hour stretch in the beginning of the night is actually quite good and his going down to sleep as you describe is good too. We do not want to throw these good things over board by putting him on a completely inflexible schedule now.
I advise you to focus on the naps first, trying to extend those and go to 3 naps per day. That, and time as he moves towards 6 months old, will help regulate the sleeping and feeding times.
To help make the naps longer, try the following:
- Go for a long stroller walk or put him in a good baby sling for a longer time, or even a car drive if he sleeps well in the car. Maybe it's a good idea to schedule a daily 'morning walk'? Try to have this walk at a more or less regular time, say 9 or 10am?
Being on the move it's often easier to stay asleep for longer so ... if you can spend a 1 or preferably 1,5 hour walking, or maybe shopping, or with the sling just going about at home that could work great. Even just a week of doing this consistently can be enough to get him to do the same regular 1,5 hour nap in his own crib.
- If you cannot have or do not want the walk, or at other nap times: go to him after half an hour of sleep. Be very quiet so as not to wake him. Place your hand on his tummy, or hold both his shoulders, or stroke his forehead, or other ... whichever you know comforts him best or maybe what you do when you put him down. If he keeps on sleeping, leave the room. Do the same half an hour later. And so on.
- At the times when he only took a 30 minute nap, remember to put him down a little later next time, when he's sleepier.
This third option may be the most important one for you: be extra attentive to his sleepy signals. Maybe write them down, together with how long he slept afterwards. You might learn that sometimes he's not as tired as you thought ...
I'm not saying this because you are not reading his signals correctly, but because you are clearly sensitive to his needs I know you can focus on this and put it to good use.
Don't stress too much about these nap techniques, keep it relaxed: gently guide him, but also give him time to grow into longer awake times and more regularity.
If you feel like you've tried all of this, and really urgently need some more regularity you can start with regulating the late afternoons and evenings like this:
Set a strict night time bedtime, say 7pm. That means a feed at 6.30pm and the previous one at about 3.30pm. You would then wake him from a nap or keep him awake, whichever is necessary to 'make' these feeding times.
It's not my first advice, but if you read this and think "hey that could work" because you find it doable to set those two feedings at fixed times: then it's my second best advice :)
You don't need to fix more than these two. Start with these, the rest will follow gradually.
Good luck, I would love to know which option you go for and how it turns out.
One more thing, as I mentioned, the way he's going to sleep sounds quite good actually. He does need the pacifier, but can do without once he's asleep: great! And you're putting him down drowsy ... even if he does sometimes wake when the pacifier falls out, it is a good way to go for now. So I do advise you to keep doing this: putting down drowsy, with pacifier, and then pull it out later on when you know you can.
Take care, Heidi
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