Question: We have an 8 month old daughter and we are also first time parents. Our little baby girl was not napping from the get go. We spent a week in the hospital because of my wife’s blood pressure then we finally went home. She was doing the regular eating every couple hours sleeping during the day and it varied at night.
A few months later, probably at 4 months she was doing real good but still very short naps during maybe 30min morning and 30min afternoon. 6 months we had her sleeping from 9:30 and she would wake up hungry at 1am on the dot. Sometimes it seemed like she would never go to back to bed. The only way we are able to get her to sleep is in her swing then put her in her bed. Which she did very good from 6 1/2 months to 7 1/2 months.
We went on vacation about a month ago and she did very well when we got back. But this week she has started getting very fussy come time for bed. Even as soon as she gets home which is at 6pm because we are both working she is already fussy. We feed her play with her then calm the room down and relax but she is still full of it. She will non-stop rub her eyes, pull on her hair and ear which is a way we think she is trying to keep herself awake. She will not go to bed before 9pm. She fights it until the end. She swings for about 20min. before she will fall asleep. I wait another 15-20 to make sure she is good and sleeping. I pick her up and she stays sleeping but the minute I put her on her side in her crib no matter how gentle I am those eyes pop wide open and she flips on her back and those legs start kicking. As soon as I walk out she starts screaming and crying to the point where it seems like she chokes herself because she starts coughing from screaming so loud and long. We don't know what to do. This just started and we are so puzzled why all of a sudden this happened. Is it separation anxiety, teething, she is fine when I put her down awake but again when I walk out the crying begins. She probably sleeps 6-7 hours a night if that but not all at one time. She wakes up every couple hours.
Heidi’s Answer: Hi Adam, First of all congratulations with your first baby and with being such dedicated parents. It may not feel like that to you right now, but you have been doing really well with helping her sleep. With a bit extra, you will be able to help her sleep better again.
The first thing I suggest we work on is her naps. Once she takes longer naps (1-2 hours) regularly (2-3 times a day) she will be less overtired at night. That will help her with settling and self-soothing because we know an over-tired baby won't sleep easily. The regularity during the day will also improve her sleep at night.
That means starting the nap when she is well fed, has played a bit but is not overtired yet. An over-tired baby won't easily fall asleep nor sleep longer stretches. When she starts staring, rubs her eyes, yawns etc., those are early signs that tell you she should be in bed asap. Once she gets overactive and/or cranky it is too late, so you know you should start earlier next time. Typical nap times at her age are mid-morning, early-afternoon and for some babies also late afternoon.
To help her take longer naps, you can help her (body) get into the habit of sleeping for longer. The easiest way is to avoid her waking up after the usual 30 minutes by having her on the move. That means you either carry her in a baby sling or take her for a walk in the stroller for say 1-1,5 hours at least. Do this with every nap when practical, or every other nap for a short week. You may see quick results.
Another way to keep her asleep beyond the first 30 minutes, is to go to her about 5 -10 minutes before she wakes, and place your arm on her tummy, or stroke her head, or any other that you know comforts her.
It would be great if your day care provide could support you and help with this too, although it may not be possible for them practically. If so, then at least ask them to have her nap extra, say about an hour before you pick up. This should avoid her being overtired when she comes home. You will al have a more relaxed evening and that can only help with her sleep, in so many ways!
Let’s see how this goes first, then we will progress towards self soothing to improve her settling by herself. You may also want to read my self soothing page already to learn about the gentle method and extra tips.
Teething can indeed also make things harder for her. Do you see or feel a tooth cutting through? Any teething signs? Do ensure she has a (cold) teething ring and check with your pharmacist if you feel she’s in pain or discomfort because of the teething.
Regarding separation anxiety, do you notice any of that during the day as well? Has it recently become more difficult to leave her at day care? Does she act differently towards her carers or other people she meets?
Is there a particular reason you put her on her side to sleep? The standard recommended position is on the back, although at her age she may alread roll over by herself anyway.