Ferber Method working for my 5 1/2 month old at naps but NOT at night!

by Julie B.

Question: I have been working the Ferber method with my 5 1/2 month old for over a week now. I have been sucessful with her naps at putting her down awake. She is now going down for 3 naps a day (although they are short naps averaging 45 minutes) awake in her crib and putting herself to sleep without crying at all!

Nights are a different story. She has proven over the months that she has the ability to sleep all night as she has many times. By all night I mean a long night......10-11 hours! She started waking in the middle of the night and I would feed her. According to Ferber I should be able to wean her feedings, which I have been doing but she is waking several times in the night. She generally goes down for the night at 8 p.m. and has been waking anywhere from 10:30 p.m. - 1:00 a.m. for the first waking. If it has been before MN I go in, offer the binky, tell her it is night time and she goes right back to sleep. If it is after MN I am assuming she might be hungry and I feed her and immediately put her back in her crib which most nights she readily falls back to sleep with no crying at all. I am now feeding her only about 2 oz. when she wakes and I only do it once a night.

The problem is that it seems she is waking more and more during the night whether it involves a check-in or a feeding. Not sure what to do now. For example last night she went to bed at 8:04 p.m. She was completely exhausted (I think because her daytime naps are so short) where it was impossible to put her to sleep awake because I couldn't awaken her after I fed her. I haven't been considering this a problem since she has demonstrated very well the ability to fall asleep on her own when put down awake during the day. So, she was asleep at 8:04 p.m. She woke at 12:44 a.m. I did a check in and gave her her binky and she fell back to sleep. Awake again at 1:32. I fed her 2 oz. and promptly put her back to bed at 1:45a.m. and she fell asleep without crying She was awake again at 5:08 a.m. I checked in, put in her binky and she slept until 5:30 a.m. I checked in again, binky and she fell asleep until 5:45 a.m. Check in again and she fell asleep at 5:53 a.m. Awake again at 6:03 a.m. After each check in she seems to all right back asleep but doesn't stay there.

I am very frustrated. I am very happy with the fact that she goes to sleep so easily for her naps, but her nights are getting worse. At about 4 months she was sleeping through the night 8-11 hours consistently for about 2 1/2 weeks straight. I'm not sure what step to take now!
The last several nights have been erractic like this and I have been waking her up each morning at 7:30 a.m. from a heavy sleep so as to get her on a napping schedule to try to allow her to have 3 naps a day.

Should I stop feeding her completely at night? Is she old enough to sleep 8+ hours without being fed?
I would appreciate any advice!

Heidi's Answer: Hi Julie,

To start with your final questions: she is theoretically old enough to sleep for 6+ hours without being fed but ... there is a but: even if she has slept long stretches before, it is very (very!) common to retrograde between 4 and 6 months due to a developmental step, teething, a change in the routine or in the family, ... or just simply due to being a baby ... She may simply just get hungry again.

Your plan to give one feeding per night is good. This allows her to feed as necessary, without it becoming a habit each time she wakes. You might want to give a bit more than the 2 oz, just to make it a real feeding (on demand, let her drink what she wants, with a maximum of course). Then stick to not feeding the other awake times.

What you can also do is, spread across the whole day, feed her a bit more. Without forcing of course, and definitely not overfeeding before bedtime but a little extra at each feeding will simply up her intake. This may be just what she needs: she's growing, and her body requires a bit extra now.

Then the naps. It is very good to have 3 regular naps. The fact that she is very tired at night might indeed show that they are 'too short'. To get her used to longer naps you could try this: after about 35-40 minuts go into her room very quietly so as not to wake her. Place your hand on her belly, or hold her hands, or stroke her forehead, ... whichever you know comforts her. The idea is to keep her from waking. This may not work from the first try, but with a bit of patience this can be very efficient to lengthen those naps.

(There is an alternative method where you take her for a walk or a drive of over an hour to ensure she stays asleep but to start with, I'd keep her in the cot as she is going down so well there now.)

Combined with this nap work, I would suggest to get an earlier bedtime, aiming for 7pm in stead of 8pm. You can do this drastically or in a few steps of 15-20 minutes.

The combo of the better naps, and the earlier bedtime will have her less tired for the night + change her sleep patters gently and this has a really good chance of changing her nights for the better completely.

Test this (longer naps + earlier bedtime with one good feeding per night) for a week, up to two weeks and see where we are then.

If you feel the Ferber-crying gets worse in stead of better, then you might want to give it a rest for a few weeks. She is still quite young, and 6 months is only just when her natural baby sleep patterns have had the chance to develop so she may need some credit there.

Good luck!

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