Question: I have enjoyed reading your website and have found it very comforting and reassuring. My beautiful little boy Gidon is 9.5 months old, and we've had it pretty easy with him - he's happy, contented, energetic, crawling, babbling, laughing, has a hearty appetite and has generally slept pretty well.
I've also read up lots on sleep and have the Gina Ford, Ferber, Baby Whisperer and Pantley books. We've always put him in his cot asleep (he sleeps in his own room) and generally falls asleep without props, by himself. However, things have been going a bit wrong lately so I've been keeping a sleep diary and I can see that Gidon is now in a pattern of waking in the night - he goes down at 6.45pm without much fuss, in his cot awake and falls asleep easily. The trouble is now he wakes at any time from 11pm to 1am and I've been cuddling him to get back to sleep, sometimes letting him sleep on me (mainly so we can all get some sleep). He has also started waking at around 5.30am whereas before he woke at around 6.30am.
He has had lots of change in the last few weeks, including being ill with croup (1 night in hospital), and then an ear infection. I gave him lots of cuddles and reassurance then and I feel maybe he's got too used to that. Also I've gone back to work and he's at nursery, which he loves and seems very happy there. He's also crawling and pulling up to standing. Lots of new developments in his little world...
Our main concern is that he seems to have lost his ability to self soothe when he wakes in the night. (He still takes about 3 naps a day, 1hr in the morning, at least 1 hour lunchtime and often 30 mins around 4pm, or he can't make it through to 6.30pm!) I feel that I've robbed him of his ability to self soothe by holding him. I'm now back at work 3 days a week and I need my sleep, as does Gidon and my husband.
Perhaps this phase of night waking is separation anxiety after his phase of illness and me returning to work? Does it even matter if I understand the reason, or should I just fix the problem...I don't know!! Do you have any thoughts having read my story?
Many thanks. Jude :)
Heidi's Answer: Hi Jude, I think you have analysed and understood the reasons very well. And it's surely not just 1 thing: separation anxiety + nursery, been ill quite seriously twice, crawling, starting to stand, ...... a recipe for troubled nights.
And you've been doing perfectly: your cuddles and reassurance are exactly what he has been needing most. And it's what will get him through this phase.
I'd give extra attention to the separation anxiety: when dropping him off at the nursery, be consistent in your routine: lots of cuddles and kisses but with a clear goodbye moment (and goodbye place if possible) where you do not hesitate.
Talk to him a lot, when at home, on your way to the nursery: about how much you love him, how you're happy he can play at the nursery, and how you will pick him up (the main issue for him: will he ever see you again?). Little as he is, he will understand a lot and become more confident, especially if you sound loving, determined and confident when you say all this.
Does he have a special soft toy or blanket that he's attached to? Can you give him something with your scent on when he is at nursery? Maybe a scarf you wear when he's home with you, then give it to him once there. Your scent can reassure him andkeep the promise of your return. When made safe with a few knots, you could also give this to him in his crib at night.
I don't think you have robbed him of his self soothing ability completely. But it is good to keep encouraging him to do it. I suppose he still goes down by himself well at bedtime? Two ideas for when he wakes at night:
- don't rush in the first second. Give a few moments, he might just find his way back to sleep. - but go in before he gets upset (especially in view of the separation anxiety). Keep lights dim and voices low, tell him (using the same words always) it's night and he should go back to sleep. Hold and rock him to sleep if necessary, but work with this gentle self soothing method to gently bring him on the right path again. Don't forget to praise him each time he wakes after having self soothed (or almost) well.
Give it all at least a good two or three weeks. He may simply need the time to digest all that's been going on. Don't feel guilty about reassuring hil amply, just keep guiding him back on track with the ideas above.
Good luck, take care, Heidi
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