So you are here, reading this blog through foggy eye lids held up with match sticks to stay open. You were up every hour last night…and you need to find a solution to this problem. It is just not sustainable any longer for any of your family. And you are right. It is not sustainable for all of the family and your baby needs to sleep long stretches of time through the night for their own health, development and growth. Don’t fear, these waking’s in the night can be a thing of the past and your sleep can be restored.
Firstly we need to do a little trouble shooting here to assess whether these waking’s are normal. Perhaps your baby is still very young, a newborn. It is very common for newborns to wake frequently for feeding especially if they are only taking small feeds. But, what is not normal is if you have say a 6 month or older child and they are waking frequently, every hour or 2 during the night.
Certainly I have found many parents I work closely with say their baby slept well and for long stretches through the night but once 4 months arrived…boom….awake…every 2 hours…And this is because your baby’s brain has matured through the 4 month sleep "progression". This is a great sign your baby is developing and reaching milestones.
Now many babies sleep quite well from bedtime to around midnight, and this is because they are entering the deepest most restorative sleep during these hours and they are not very easily disturbed. They enter the deep sleep phase twice within about 3 hours of going to sleep.
Then you have a baby waking every 2 hours so we need to look at their daily routine, their food intake, there naps, awake windows and how they are getting to sleep. Of course sleep regressions can also be a factor. All these factors have a massive impact on night’s sleep.
Now we need to establish the cause and reason for your baby's multiple wakings of which there may be a few.
Ensure the room is pitch dark, no natural or artificial “blue” light is entering the room. External noises from neighbours (which can be hard to control..!) Use white or pink noise constantly all night.
If baby is only suckling and looking for a comfort feed at these wakings you can be sure they are not hungry. If you know they can go longer during the feeds than 2 hours you will need to encourage them back to sleep without feeding and then feed at the 4 hour mark if that is suitable for their age and stage of development. If you notice that they are not interested in their breakfast feed you can be sure they have had too much through the night.
This is parenthood and it will happen and be tiring. Know it is just a short time and it will pass…onto the next stage…!
So with that said, you can now try a little trouble shooting with your multiple night wakings and if you would like some more help and advice navigating your way through to better sleep in your home do get in touch and we can work together to restore sleep in your home!
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Ouch, staying awake till 10pm I remember being a killer in the early months, I recall going to bed at 8pm, setting my alarm for 10pm to then offer Leo the dream feed in the sheer hope and glory that he would sleep longer stretches at night or even till 7am thank you! Does this sound like you?
There are many conflicting opinions out there towards the dream feed and if you are thinking about or currently are offering your baby this feed you may like to know some facts.
Firstly, it does not work for all babies. Some babies yes it does, like a dream! Others not at all. And in fact it can actually contribute to more waking’s in the night and early rising.
Some parents say they had a hard time dropping this feed and it actually disturbed their baby’s sleep and they had a hard time to get back into a peaceful slumber afterwards. Then it became a habit feed. Baby started to wake for it right on cue. Every. Single. Night. They could set the diary for their child waking for it!
Some parents describe their baby far to sleepy to feed properly, they were just not interested and therefore what was the point spending night after night trying to make it happen when it clearly just was not going to ever happen?
Why might it not work…?
If your baby is in the REM stage of sleep when you rouse them for this dream feed their muscle tone will be very relaxed. More so than during another sleep stage. This means your baby is more likely to choke and be less able to swallow. You may have even had your baby projectile vomit the feed you reluctantly crawled out of bed to offer…I know Leo did on a few occasions!
If you do choose to offer the dream feed it is advisable to wake your baby fully so they have the muscle tone to swallow but of course once baby is fully awake, they may think it is time to party…?
For those who experience more waking’s during the night or even the dreaded 5am early rising, this will be because you have interrupted the night time sleep cycle, the digestion of this “forced” feed is contributing to more work the stomach is having to do and the sensations will be disturbing your baby’s sleep.
How do I know if it is working...?
If your baby is taking a dream feed and still waking around 1 or 2am am then I would suggest it is “not working” and you are best to let your baby wake naturally for a feed. If they sleep for at least another 5-6 hours then the dream feed is working and you may like to continue with it but please remember a baby who is ready to sleep longer stretches through the night will be developmentally ready, not because they got an extra feed at 10pm!
When is appropriate time to introduce a dream feed...?
I would say when your baby is settling to bed around 6 or 7pm. This is a great natural bedtime for many babies around the age of about 12 weeks.
How do I drop the dream feed...?
If you are looking for ways to drop the dream feed, it is best to do around 6 months of age. This is because of the digestion process, contribution to becoming a habit and as I mentioned already the dreaded early rising.
Here is a gradual process to reduce the dream feed…
Say your baby feeds for 10 minutes you would reduce this time by 1 minute every 3 nights.
If you are bottle feeding you can reduce the amount of milk every 3 nights and once down to 1oz... stop!
Don’t reduce the feeds too quickly, your baby will need to adjust gradually by taking more calories in during the day and this will enable the dream feed to be reduced.
You may also like to speak with your health visitor or GP before introducing the dream feed.
If you would like to discuss ways to help wean your child off the dream feed at night do get in touch and we can talk over the best ways that may be appropriate for your baby and family.
Many of us remember waking in the night thinking there was a scary green monster chasing us around the park or that the bogey man was coming to get us…this was us having nightmares. I for one can definitely remember waking up fearing something terrible was in my room and then running to my mummy in tears for comfort. Now your child may be experiencing nightmares and you may be wondering how to handle them.
It is a good idea to learn a bit more about nightmares first and then we can understand how best to “tackle” them.
First of all nightmares are VERY different from night terrors. Nightmares will occur at completely different times of the night to night terrors and you will be only made aware of the nightmare after it has occurred.
Nightmares will occur when the brain is very active, the REM stage of sleep. REM sleep occurs at different intervals during the first 7 hours of sleep. Your child will be asleep, "paralysed" as it were and these nightmares will be recalled by your child. They can be extremely vivid and memorable as we all know. They are extremely normal so don’t be too worried about it. It is a sign your child is showing signs of human survival believe it or not!
A Swedish scientist did a study into nightmares and found they are very “cultural”. His findings found that for example in Japan many children had nightmares about earthquakes and tsunamis and children in the United States of America often had nightmares about guns and shoot outs.
Nightmares can be very short lived and infrequent however, if you find they are often recurring and perhaps have been triggered by a traumatic event you may need to seek professional advice from your GP.
Now when we wake in the night from a nightmare we know it was a nightmare, not real, we may still feel a little “freaked out” by the event and need to switch on a light or snuggle up to our partner but when a child has a nightmare, to them it is real, they may be very confused and depending on the age of your child and their ability to understand they may not grasp that is was in fact a nightmare, a bad dream, not real. We need to comfort them as much as we can, help them back to a state of calm and relaxation whereby they feel “safe” enough to go back to sleep.
Top tips to help your child through a nightmare…
1. Be there as soon as you can to support and comfort your child upon waking from a nightmare. Stay with them until they have fully calmed down and relaxed.
Preventing nightmares can’t always happen but there are somethings we can do to stave them off...
How many times have you heard someone telling you their baby slept so well and now they are waking every 2 hours in the night? I for one can tell you I have heard it many times, it comes with my job! Now this can be very normal especially around the 4 month mark due to the maturation of your baby’s brain in what we know as the four month sleep regression.
You may be asking why your baby is waking so much in the night when they slept so well previously and what can you do to get back on track to you sleep goals? There are definitely things you can do to stop this happening that are perfectly safe and still nurturing your baby's needs.
Firstly we need to take into account your child’s age, weight and stage of development and any medical issues. Of course we would expect a new-born baby to wake perhaps every 2 hours in the night but not a 6 month old or even a 10 month old baby.
Then we need to look at how your baby went to sleep. How your baby falls asleep has a massive impact on their sleep habits. Then we look at how much sleep they are having during the day. These two things will give a huge insight to why you are experiencing many waking’s in the night.
Take a diary over the next few days and just note down how your baby is falling asleep for every nap and bedtime and through the night. You may find a common denominator here…perhaps it is feeding, rocking or even motion in a buggy to sleep. These are the crutches your baby is clinging onto and they only know how to get to sleep by these crutches.
Secondly, take a look at what naps they are having in the day time, times they are and lengths of the nap. An overtired baby will not sleep well at night equally nor will an under-tired baby. If your baby is cat napping or having all their sleep in the morning then they will be overtired come bedtime and this can also be a cause to multiple waking’s in the night.
During the night, sleep cycles slightly differ from the day in that and many babies do wake on the 2 hour mark.
Now, have a think what you are doing when your child is waking every 2 hours in the night? Are you feeding them back to sleep? You may find your child is not taking as much solid food or feeding during the day or indeed at their morning feed and this will be due to the large intake they had throughout the night. This is what is called REVERSE CYCLING. You will need to decrease the feeds in the night and then you will see a difference in the day time feeds.
HOW DO YOU DO THIS?
Well it is easier than you may think but you will need to want to do this and be prepared to take your time and stick at it. There is no quick fix when it comes to sleep shaping, I like to take changes gently and always keep in mind your baby's needs and respond to them accordingly, but once you start and you see results it is amazing and you will surely reap the benefits as will your child.
Firstly you need to ensure your child is the right age, weight and stage of development to be dropping feeds in the night. When your child approaches the two hour mark your child will be entering the lighter stage of sleep, REM sleep. They will be easily disturbed and woken. If they have a strong sleep association in place they will most likely wake and expect the same way to get them back to sleep again.
At this point you will need to pop in place a settling method you feel comfortable and confident to practise. You may like to use your voice, touch or a little cuddle.
When your child wakes again and it has been 4 hours since the last feed you can be assured they may very well be hungry at this point and will need a full feed.
You may start to see a difference in the night feeds now if you have missed a feed at the two hour wake up. The feed may be a little longer and stronger and in turn help sleep more conductively.
If you would like some more help and guidance with your child's sleep book in a complimentary call and we can discuss your sleep challenges.
TOP TIPS FOR A MORE SUCCESSFUL NIGHTS SLEEP