Frequent waker

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Frequent waker

Postby Louiserp » Sun 17 Mar, 2013 7:57 am

I have a 13 month old son that wakes up to 8 times a night.
He naps 1-2 times a day beautifully having a 1.5 or 2.5 hour nap. He doesn't need to be feed to sleep (still breastfeed) but occasionally is depending on his desire for it, probably 3 times a week this happens. He is put to bed with a cuddle, a book and some music and goes to sleep without a problem (at about 6.30)
From then he can start waking from 8.30pm. I have tried patting, cuddling and walking out but he has an incredible temper and this makes him scream louder and longer and makes it more difficult to get him to sleep. I have left him at times for a few minutes, I am not interested in having him cry it out, seldom this will work within 5 minutes but generally he needs me to go in and feed him or give him a bottle of water with a cuddle and then he will settle again. My daughter was similar until she was over 2 and I'm hoping to not wait another year for more then 6 hours of solid sleep. thanks for your thoughts and experience.
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Re: Frequent waker

Postby NgalaOnline » Sun 17 Mar, 2013 5:32 pm

Hi Louiserp

Thank you for your post. It does sound as though your baby has some great sleep skills such as the ability to settle himself to sleep and the ability to resettle himself between sleep cycles during the day. It sounds however, as though he has developed some different sleep associations that he feels he needs to resettle when he rouses between sleep cycles at night. It is quite common for babies to sometimes develop different "rules" for daytime and night time settling and resettling.

It may be helpful to examine what changes at night between when he is becoming drowsy and falling to sleep, and when he wakes again a bit later as he moves between his sleep cycles. Is the music that he falls to sleep to remaining on throughout the night? If it is there when he falls to sleep but not on when he wakes, this may be enough to make him rouse fully and feels he needs it in order to be able to go back to sleep. You mentioned that he is sometimes falling asleep whilst being fed. It is best to try to settle your baby into his bed awake and alert for all his sleeps as even if he is not falling asleep whilst feeding all the time, for some babies even if this is occurring some of the time it is enough for it to begin to become a sleep association and something that they seek again when they rouse. If he is being lifted out of the cot for a cuddle or needing feed or to suck on a bottle to lull himself into a state of drowsiness when he rouses during the night, it is quite likely that these things could be becoming sleep associations for him. Ideally it is best if the baby can come up into their brief awakening between sleep cycles during the night - open their eyes and feel that nothing has changed since they went to sleep and that there is nothing they require to go back into sleep except things that they can do for themselves (such as sucking his fingers, stroking his hair or his sheets, cuddling and animal). If you feel that feeding frequently in the night or drinking water from a bottle is becoming a habit that he thinks he requires each time he rouses rather than him being genuinely thirsty, it may be best to try to begin limiting or removing these things. By around a year of age most babies do not need night time feeds for nutrition if they are feeding well during the day. Alternatively, if there is a sippy cup that doesn't spill and you are happy for him to have in his bed, you might like to provide him one in his cot that he can access for himself. Sucking on a bottle teat can become an easy sleep association for toddlers as it does often lull them into a state of drowsiness, whereas using a sippy cup usually does not have the same effect of making the child drowsy.

It is very likely that removing the current sleep associations will result in a few difficult nights with reduced sleep for you all. There is likely to be some protesting and it is likely to take quite some time (such as an hour or so) to get your child to go back to sleep during the night, possibly more than once in the same night. It is normal for your baby to protest at the changes, as the current arrangements are working for him and he does not understand why they need to change. A lot of the protesting will also result from the fact that your baby is feeling tired but is unsure what to do with those sensations or how to return to sleep without his usual sleep associations until he is able to learn something soothing he can do for himself.

At thirteen months it is quite common for children to experience separation anxiety, and if you feel that your child is distressed by you leaving the room you may find it best to remain in the room near him until he returns to sleep. It is best to prepare yourself as much as possible for the first 3-4 nights to be quite challenging, but usually parents find that if they can be consistent and persist through the first difficult nights significant changes usually result within a week. Resting during the day, beginning at a weekend, having support available and reducing other responsibilities at this time helps many parents to get through the first few days. It is also helpful to remind yourself that you are making changes as you feel that improved sleep will benefit your baby and your whole family. If your baby is distressed then it is important to remain nearby and give reassurance, even if he does still cry or protest. You may find that he likes you to provide hands-on in-cot settling such as stroking him in his cot. If you provide this type of soothing it can help your baby to become familiar with getting drowsy and falling asleep in his cot. It is then important to begin reducing and gradually removing this hands-on settling over a period of a few days or a week, so that your baby can begin to settle independently. If your baby is not soothed by hands-on settling, then you may just need to remain nearby such as sitting on a chair or the floor near his cot. You can say "ssshhh" or "sleep time" to him occasionally but it is best to avoid eye contact, conversation or repetitively lying him down. This sends a message that you are nearby, that he is safe and can go to sleep - but that it is not playtime right now. Once the baby has begun settling well for a few days and you feel his anxiety about settling to sleep has reduced you can then begin moving yourself closer to the door by a metre or so at the beginning of his settling over a period of several days or a week. Once you are in the doorway you can begin making short excursions from the chair which you then begin to extend. Some babies are comforted by their parent calling out to them from the doorway or a nearby room, just so that they know their parent is nearby. This approach does take patience and persistence, but many parents find that if they are able to be consistent it is a successful way of supporting their baby to begin settling and resettling independently which results in improved sleep.

I hope that this information is helpful. Please ring the helpline if you would like more information or support.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
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