There may be a number of sleeping problems that can arise during the first year of life. Whether your baby decides she wants night feeds or develops a tendency to wake up during the middle of the night or whether bedtime is just unsettled in general, there are practical steps you can take to overcome problems.
By about the age of six months your baby should be able to go without food through-out the night, but she may settle into a pattern of waking in search of a feed. If you want to wean her off these night time feeds, start by reducing the amount you give her, gradually stopping feed altogether, but instead staying with her for as long as she cries.
At the bedtime feed don’t let your baby fall asleep with either breast or bottle in her mouth. She needs to develop the habit of falling asleep on her own rather than rely on sucking to relax her. As soon as the eye lids drop tuck baby up in her cot.
If she wakes through the night feed her only for the first few times, reducing the amount each time. If she continues to cry then wait five minutes then pop back in and reassure her. Then go back to bed, even if baby’s still crying.
Continue to pop back every five minutes if she continues to cry. Only pick her up if she’s beside herself crying, then put her back and leave for a few minutes again. This may go on for a couple of hours but persevere.
For the next few nights you should stop offering food altogether and instead adopt the tactics for night waking for as long as it takes to teach baby how to sleep through the night.
The key to solving this problem is to reassure her while you also convey the message to your child that you have not abandoned them in the middle of the night, but at the same time making it clear that during these hours she will only be able to command minimum attention.
If you hear the child stirring, wait a few minutes so see if they fall back to sleep again. If the crying becomes sustained then go in and check to make sure nothing is wrong. Soothe her by rubbing her back, or if that doesn’t help a pick up and cuddle should do the trick. Stay until the tears turn into sniffles and put her back to bed, snug and warm. Then go back to bed yourself.
If crying continues call out to her reassuringly from your bed but wait a few minutes before you go back in to settle her down again. When you do go back in comfort her but try not to have to pick her put out of bed unless she is really beside herself.
Continue going back at five minute intervals until baby goes back to sleep, but after half an hour increase the gaps between going in to 10 minutes. A week of gentle firmness should be enough to establish a better sleeping pattern.
From around the age of nine months it is good to establish a bedtime routine and sticking to it. If your baby gets into the pattern of not settling when you put her to bed then a week of resolutely following the tactics below should stop the pattern. Baby will get the message that you will always come if she cries, but you won’t get her back up again.
Make the bedtime routine fun but also loving, if she cries when you leave her go back and administer a loving kiss, but don’t pick her up and don’t stay long.
If she continues to cry, call out reassuringly to her but wait a few minutes before going back in to her. Make sure there isn’t something wrong like a dirty nappy or uncomfortable clothes, be cheerful but firm and after soothing her, go.
After several visits try increasing the length of time between each visit, but never leave your baby crying for more than 15 minutes.
It might be tempting to hang around in the bedroom longer but you need to show her that the brief reward of you visiting isn’t worth all the effort on her part. Eventually baby will drop off to sleep.
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