(Baby) Sleeparama
October 1, 2013 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I want to eliminate some of my son's nighttime feedings and start sleep training him. Am I going about this right?

We've started using Cry It Out with my four-month-old baby. It's only been one night so far. I know that he is capable of sleeping at least 7 hours at a time because he has done it several times in the past. Usually, however, he's up every 2-3 hours all night. We were feeding him and letting him nurse back to sleep at each waking, but since we started him on solid foods two weeks ago, we've noticed that he only drinks a few sips of formula at night, then falls asleep again. I'm aware that we've let nursing to sleep be too much of a crutch and we haven't let him figure out how to fall asleep on his own.

His schedule is normally like this: First down to bed between 7:30 and 8, waking again at 10, 12, 4 and 6, finally up for good around 8am.

With CIO, I was thinking his schedule would be more like this: First in bed by 7, dream feed between 10:30 and 11, top-off feeding at 6 so that he'll go back to sleep until 8am.

Does this seem right? Will it be too confusing for him to not be fed all night and then fed in the early morning and put back to bed? I was thinking that from 10 or 11 to 8am is too long for him to go with no feeding, but am I wrong? FWIW, he's been getting a hearty feeding of baby oatmeal mixed with formula before bed (6-8tbsp mixed in 4oz of formula).
posted by Kitty Stardust to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I live in Canada, but the community health teams here say no solids before 6 months and no sleep training before 6 months. A baby who is 4 months old is supposed to wake up ever 2-3 hours.

Also, to check for allergic reactions, which do not necessarily occur the first time, it's generally recommended to feed babies earlier in the day and not as a liquid. If your baby's tummy is not doing well the food, it may also keep them awake. See http://www.healthychildren.org/.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:38 PM on October 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

I agree that four months old is too young for both solid food and sleep training. Maybe check in with your pediatrician?
posted by Specklet at 1:40 PM on October 1, 2013 [9 favorites]

pretty sure 4 months is fine for solids as long as the Ped oks it. We started at 4 months at the direction of our pediatrician.

Not so sure about sleep training - but we found with our nine month old that our ability to keep him on his daytime schedule was hugely predictive of his ability to sleep through the night.
posted by JPD at 1:44 PM on October 1, 2013

I don't know your feeding schedule, but at 4 months on we put our critter down around 7 and did the dream feed at 9ish. We were waking for the day at 6AM though.
posted by sanka at 1:55 PM on October 1, 2013

Four months is certainly old enough for sleep training, and babies are expected to sleep through the night by that age in much of Europe. Google 'sommeil de bebe' for plenty of French resources on the topic (use Google translate). Some import tips are making sure the baby's entire day sticks to a strict schedule (feedings, naps, bedtime, waketime) and that that schedule is the same from day to day; make the room very dark for nighttime sleeping and then bring him out into the light/sun as soon as it's time to get up; no mid-night feedings (yes, this is fine, assuming your doctor has no objections). Babies can't connect their (60-ish min) sleep cycles so they wake up and fuss between them - if you wake him up further by feeding/holding him then he doesn't learn to connect them on his own. He will eventually learn how to sooth himself back to sleep and connect the cycles. If you want him to sleep past the sunrise, you'll need blackout curtains.

Solid food, again assuming doc has ok'd it, is fine at this age. If you think he might be having some constipation/gas, you can mix vegetable purees (no need to use the boring bland oatmeal) with his formula/milk (25/75 at first, then 50/50, etc) so he gets adequate water and it's easier on the stomach.
posted by melissasaurus at 2:03 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: At 4 months, that was our kid's schedule almost exactly. We did sleep training (Ferber, read the book if you can; skip ahead to the main chapters) to get him to fall asleep on his own at 4mo and to drop all night feedings at 6mo.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:17 PM on October 1, 2013

Response by poster: Popping in to add that my pediatrician has recommended both solids and sleep training for my baby.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 2:20 PM on October 1, 2013

There are many different styles of baby-rearing.

There are many different styles of baby for that matter. Some are easy-going; some are made dreadfully unhappy by the least little thing. But you've asked a question here, so I guess you're looking for advice.

My question to you is, why do you feel you need advice from AskMefi in addition to what your paediatrician is telling you and what is freely available on the internet?

Speaking of internet sources here is breastfeedingusa on introducing other foods.

About your parenting style and expectations. They differ from what I have experienced with young women nowadays including my daughters and nieces. When you say things like this:
I know that he is capable of sleeping at least 7 hours at a time because he has done it several times in the past, I feel you may be a little optimistic about when regular habits may be expected to kick in with new humans. Basically, they are growing all the time at a phenomenal rate - their metabolisms are working furiously and, to put it fancifully, you might have 10% more baby now than you did the last him h/she slept for 7 hours and that 10% needs 5% more something, whatever the heck that will turn out to be.

Babies are instinctive little creatures. They don't do things for effect. Sleep training, and feeding solids, may work for you, because you have that sort of baby. If it doesn't work it's not because your baby is stubborn, or has been spoiled, or allowed to fall into bad habits; it will be for some reason you haven't got a handle on yet because baby can't really tell you anything apart from by crying.

Good luck because it's very very difficult. You don't say if you are going to work, in which case the pressure to get the child into a routine is intense. Baby years are a crash course in dealing with impossible things. What's most important is that you have supportive people around you, and have people you can trust in an emergency on call. You love your child: do what your love tells you to do. 9 months of hormones and 50,000 years of evolution have fixed it so that love is pretty reliable as long as you don't have a huge amount of other, external stress. Trust yourself over a book or a system, and sometimes it is alright to let the baby cry.

(But I will say my happiest, calmest, easiest child was the one who was carried about in a sling all the time and breast fed on demand. Now I happen to think this was just a coincidence of character, but there you are.)

Ask for advice, sure, but all of it will be contradictory. Go online and research: stuff about baby development and milestones may be useful in understanding why the child may fret more at a particular time. Find a routine that suits you: there certainly will be a variety to choose from. But, within reason, if anything becomes a battle and painful to do, you don't need to do it. And your baby won't be spoiled by cuddling. Good luck. Hope this hasn't sounded patronising, apologies if it did.
posted by glasseyes at 2:53 PM on October 1, 2013 [16 favorites]

FYI, out of desperation we tried this when our baby was about this age, it was a complete waste of time (then again, she had never done a seven hour stretch at this time).

I'm not saying this to warn you off trying it, but just, you know, keep your expectations open. I think as new parents we can put a lot of pressure and expectation on ourselves, and when things don't go to plan, it can be upsetting.

For us, 5-6 hours uninterrupted sleep basically felt like winning the lottery until she was over six months, and it kind of became out defacto definition of "sleeping through" until she was over 10 months. But that was our baby and our baby's personality.

Looking at your provisional schedule, I do think that 11-8am is a very long time for a four month baby to go without feeding. But I'm not a midwife or anything. I think your proposed schedule is very ambitious and basically best case scenario - that's fine, sometime babies give us best case scenario, just don't be hard on yourself if it doesn't work out this way in practice. It feels like hell at the moment, I've so recently been there myself, but as the baby gets older it will get much, much easier, I promise.
posted by smoke at 4:45 PM on October 1, 2013

I read somewhere that moving the bedtime up sometimes helps babies sleep longer. Our 6 month old has pretty consistently been ready to get into his crib by 6:30 and is usually asleep by 7.
posted by betsybetsy at 4:57 PM on October 1, 2013

Thing is, your baby's waking every two hours all night for a 12-hour stretch. You must be shattered. I'm just wondering, if the question was put in those terms, maybe you'd get a greater range of solutions than posing it as simply a sleep-training problem?
posted by glasseyes at 5:03 PM on October 1, 2013

Best answer: I'm in the USA and my pediatrician OK'd solids for "4 to 6 months", although I didn't start til about 5.5, and it was fine.

I did Ferber method at 4 months and it worked out well for me. Prior to doing the sleep training she was up about every 2 hours, and I do shift work with fairly rough hours so I was falling asleep on my drive in/out of work every day and afraid I was going to literally die from lack of sleep, so I did the sleep training despite the fact that many folks here think that's too early.

I did exactly what you describe and we are still doing that now at about 8 months. We had a bit of a harrowing few days when we first started, and a few setbacks here and there with weekends away and so forth, but she settled right in to sleep from 6:30-7pm and doing the dream feed with no other wakeups.

I think you are probably not going to achieve the sleeping til 8am thing though. You're welcome to try, but babies just naturally are early risers. It kills me too, because I'm so much a night owl, but once she hit 4-5 months she was awake at 630-7am and was AWAKE and rolling around her crib and babbling away, a feed would not knock her back out. Best of luck to you!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:06 PM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: And by the way, I'd like to add on a positive note:

I was so pleased when we got into the sleep training and she was getting such a great stretch of sleep overnight, to find that her temperament after that much sleep was fantastic.

Although I'm no fan of waking up at 630am, going in to a well rested after 12 hours slumber baby with the brightest beaming smile for you at that time of day is actually kind of wonderful.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:10 PM on October 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My baby was sleeping 7-7:30 until anywhere from 5-7am almost every night by 4 months. We did sleep train but he also had naturally dropped some feedings, so by the time we were sleep training it was really to get him off of waking up at ~4am to come into bed with us. It is by no means perfect but there's no reason a baby can't go 10-12 hours without feeding at 4 months. Whether or not YOUR baby will do it is another story.

Every 2 hours all night is not good for any of you. You know your baby better than we do: I knew at which point my baby was crying because he really needed me vs crying because he just was used to it/wanted us there. If you think it's more the latter than the former, it's time to stop going in the room to comfort him. You may have to leave the house for a couple nights and let your husband take the baby to do the training. That's the way we did it and friends of ours also did this; sometimes it's just too hard on mom.

I will say that while some people I know swear by the "dream feed", it never did anything for me so I ended up getting rid of it. He goes down and is down until he wakes up for morning feeding. I breastfeed so whenever he wakes up (between 5-7, usually around 6:30) we just bring him in bed with us and he will at least sometimes eat and snooze for a while longer.

Good luck, I'm sure you're exhausted, don't let anyone guilt trip you about the desire to get more than 2 consecutive hours of sleep a night.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:06 PM on October 1, 2013

Best answer: 4 months is one of the prime times for a sleep regression, so keep that in mind.

On the other hand, if he wakes up in the middle of the night and only takes a few sips of formula, then he probably isn't waking up because he's hungry. I would find some other way to get him back to sleep. Not that my experience will be your experience, but this is what happened with my daughter around 9-10 months. She was a waker-upper and I'd nurse her back to sleep even though I knew at that age she didn't have to eat in the middle of the night anymore. I was definitely using breastfeeding as a crutch instead of doing the hard work of finding another way to get her to sleep (i.e. cradling her while I sat on a stability ball bouncing up and down. Quite labour intensive). I remember one night where she woke up yet again and I decided not to bf her, I bounced her, she cried loudly for a while and I think she fell asleep. That was a rough night. :D Then a couple nights later or something she slept for several hours, which was amazing.

What I would try to do is, when he wakes up, try to get him back to sleep some other way. If you feel like he's crying too hard for too long and nothing's working, then feed him. You always have that option, just don't make it your first option.

Don't expect a change immediately, it might take a few days.

With CIO, I was thinking his schedule would be more like this: First in bed by 7, dream feed between 10:30 and 11, top-off feeding at 6 so that he'll go back to sleep until 8am.

I don't think this is unreasonable per se, the longer stretches just might not happen that way.

I was thinking that from 10 or 11 to 8am is too long for him to go with no feeding, but am I wrong?

Try it out. If he can go without feeding that long, great. If not, try again in a month.
posted by foxjacket at 7:19 PM on October 1, 2013

Nighttime waking has a good biological reason in kids so young. It helps prevent SIDS.
posted by chiababe at 8:18 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: I guess what we've been doing is more of a Ferberizing approach (checking in at set intervals), which has been working really well for naps. The book I'm using, Good Night Sleep Tight, claims that a 4-month-old should be able to go for at least 8 hours of sleep straight, but I wasn't sure he could go that long without food. (We're talking about an 18lb baby here.) So I decided six hours might be a better interval.

Last night he was in bed by 7:30pm, woke at 9:30 and we used Ferberizing to soothe him back to sleep, dream feed at 11, woke at 2 and again, we put him back to sleep, dream feed at 4:30, then slept through until 7:45am. In all cases, he cried a bit but was back to sleep within 15 minutes.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:48 AM on October 2, 2013

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