When I first had Layla she was 6 weeks early and I was unable to breast feed. The post partum nurses told me to wake her every two hours to feed her. So I did this, right up until her two month Dr's appointment, when our family Dr. told me that she was healthy and there was no need to do that.
Since then, Layla continues to wake up every three hours during the night. She goes to bed between 7 and 9 (whenever she seems tired). Since she was little my husband and I have been feeding her a full bottle before bed while she falls asleep in our arms, and then we put her in her crib.
Her first stretch of sleep is usually about three hours and that is the longest. After that she wakes about every hour, two hours if I'm lucky, to feed.
She is now nine months old, weighs 16 pounds and I believe she is a very healthy little girl. She has been drinking Iron fortified formula since she was born, and at 5 1/2 months she began eating solids. She now eats three meals a day as well as four 6 oz bottles (one of those being during the night).
When she does wake at night, I take her out of her crib, let her drink some of her bottle, give her her soother and wait until she is asleep to put her back in her crib. I know that all these bad habits are my own doing, but I don't know how to break them!
The last few nights I have been so exhausted that I have been letting her cry herself back to sleep a few times in the night, and this works, but then at around 4 in the morning she is wide awake! I go back to work in three months and can not be waking up every hour during the night. We have the bathroom fan on during the night as white noise.
Layla usually naps twice during the day. Once in the morning for however long she sleeps, and then once in the late afternoon.
Please help, I don't know what to do to help her sleep!
First of all, don’t feel bad about the "bad habits" you feel you’ve installed. You did well feeding her so regularly the first two months, the proof is the healthy little girl you have, who seems to be eating well and doing very well overall!
I don’t know how long she cries for, when you say you let her cry herself to sleep a couple of times the past few nights. If it is one, or a couple of minutes, and closer to fussing than to screaming, it could be simply her way of finding her way back to sleep again. You could then keep doing this for a few more nights and see if it becomes less.
If she cries for a long time though, or screams and gets really upset, that becomes crying it out and I don’t know if that is something you want. Let me know if you want to discuss that.
But luckily there are other, gentler, ways.
To start with, I suggest you try to fix the bedtime a bit more. Between 7 and 9 pm is quite a difference. A more fixed bedtime will help her settle her sleep patterns and give better nights. I would go for the earliest, so 7-7.30pm seems right. Keeps naptimes regular too.
From there, you can reduce the number of night awakenings in two steps: 1. reduce the amount of food she gets and then 2. move on towards self soothing.
1. Reduce the amount of food
From your message it is clear that she feeds sufficiently during the day. So it is OK to reduce the amount of food at night now. She’s just used to it now, and that can give her an actual hunger feeling, even if she doesn’t really need it.
To avoid going from some milk to none at all in one go, start with diluting the formula for the night bottle(s). So, less formula for the same amount of water. Gradually dilute more and more until you give just sips of water. There’s a very good chance she’ll wake less often by then. If not, you move towards giving no water, only soothing her.
Taking turns with your partner also helps: not only do you get more rest but it simply helps break the habit if it's not always the same person going in.
This whole process can take a couple of weeks, but you will probably see the first changes within the a week.
The gentlest way to help her with self soothing is to gradually move from putting her down asleep to more and more drowsy. Check the self soothing page for extra tips or read "No-Tears Self Soothing" for complete guidance, from setting the stage right to implementing the best-suited technique.
So again, please do not worry about that so-called bad habits. You’ve given her security and are there for her when she needs it. And from here, with the effective method above, you can work on changing it for the better.
Good luck! Heidi
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