Things that go WAAAA! in the night
October 11, 2006 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Parents, what has worked for you in getting infants to sleep for longer stretches at night?

Our second child, age 9.5 months, will not sleep through the night, and is usually up crying 2 or 3 times each night. My wife is now starting to lose it due to exhaustion and sleep deprevation, as she is up feeding her at least 1 or 2 of those times.

If it helps, the baby is breast-fed and is eating at least some rice cereal and/or baby food at breakfast/lunch/dinner.

I'm interested in practical success stories rather than general parenting philosophies.

I just got done reading several of the threads with baby+sleep tags, and there was some useful info there, but mostly dealt with getting babies to sleep initially, not with multiple wake-ups through the night.
posted by mcstayinskool to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Around the age of ten months, an infant's sleep cycle gets out of whack, and for a few weeks they insist on getting up once or twice. I recommend the book Health Sleep Habits, Happy Baby if you haven't gotten it already. The parents I know have been really pleased with the techniques Weissbluth offers.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:46 AM on October 11, 2006

Is your baby teething? THe pain is quite intense for some infants. Try a teether that's been chilled in the freezer if you think this is the case.

Also - give the baby a bottle of water instead of the breast. It is best if you give her the bottle; she may not accept it from your wife, who has the "good stuff". Try this at first during the day, natch, not at night when the kid is screaming. He/she won't want to try something new at night while in a panic.
posted by Mister_A at 7:54 AM on October 11, 2006

Co-sleeping. We did it for a while. My memory of that period is fuzzy, but it's alot easier to feed overnight if no one has to get up. Since you're breast feeding, this is pretty simple - mom rolls over, sticks it in the kid's mouth and everyone goes back to sleep.

It's not a permanent solution, obviously, but at some point when your kid is a bit older you deal with weaning them off of night feedings separately. In an ideal situation, the kid eventually stops looking to nurse at night of his own accord and you see about getting him to sleep in his own.

If the bed is too small to fit everyone in, you may have to split up for a while and hit the guest bed/couch. (Paging Dr. Freud)

Once my son was big enough for his own bed and stopped night feeding (between 1 and 2 years), we put his mattress right on the floor and every night I fell asleep with him. I worked with the mindset that I'd have to potentially teach him everything, including seemingly obvious things like how to sleep. I'd awake groggily half an hour later, but he'd be asleep and I'd stay up another few hours before heading to bed. But that's after where you're at now.
posted by GuyZero at 7:55 AM on October 11, 2006

When we lived in Chicago, our pediatrician was a man named Marc Wedsbluth. He wrote this book. Worked wonders for our children. Essentially, let 'em cry. Be on a set more rather than less rigid schedule.

On preview, zoomorphic beat me to it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:56 AM on October 11, 2006

beware the co-sleeping... both our kids ended up sleeping with us until the oldest was 4 and the youngest was 2. it was extraordinarily difficult to get them to sleep in their own bedroom after that.
posted by joeblough at 8:01 AM on October 11, 2006

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. You have my sympathies, fwiw.

We really weren't keen on doing the 'leave them crying for hours' controlled crying thing frankly, and both felt that it seemed cruel: To us, it looked like giving the child the impression that no-one would come for him if he was upset in the night at all.

What eventually worked for us was a halfway house between controlled crying and going in and rocking him to sleep every time.

Instead, every time he woke up and cried we would give him a minute or so to see if he'd settle. If he didn't we'd go in, give him a short cuddle to let him know we were there, check that he was physically OK and there was nothing actually wrong with him and then walk straight out again.

The first night or two I think we were going in twenty or thirty times in the hour after he woke in the night. By the end of the week, he was putting himself to sleep if he woke in the middle of the night.
posted by pharm at 8:03 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you can handle it, letting him/her cry it out is best, I think. Yes, it's very hard to listen to, and might cause you some distress, but it does do the trick, and quickly. It worked with both of our kids after we got sick of getting up in the middle of the night to give them bottles. Good luck!
posted by dshargel at 8:05 AM on October 11, 2006

My wife has had very good success with our daughter (now 20 months) by setting a fairly rigid schedule of naps and bedtime and sticking to it. We are loosening up some now, but for the past 20 months we have pretty much scheduled our activities around our daughter's sleep cycle rather than the other way around. I also agree with the concern about teething; at that time a little Tylenol at bedtime worked wonders.
posted by TedW at 8:07 AM on October 11, 2006

nb, we essentially used the technique as suggested by Tanya Byron who presented the "Little Angels" parenting program on BBC3.
posted by pharm at 8:08 AM on October 11, 2006

pharm's description sounds like nearly-textbook ferberizing, based on Dr Richard Ferber's book.

Ferber's book, in some circles, incites opinions that made mideast sectarian violence look tame. I don't personally think it's as bad as all that, but if you adopt this approach, you might want to avoid calling it "ferberizing". On the other side of the fence, a lot of people swear by this method.
posted by GuyZero at 8:09 AM on October 11, 2006

We had trouble at 9 months too. What definitively helped us was the No Cry Sleep Solution. Developing a very structured bedtime routine was by far the most important thing. I also glanced back through my journal and see these things were important:
(1) the No Cry solution worked immediately, and in our case wakeups were cut from every 20-30 mins to 2 hours or more
(2) a structured bedtime routine was key
(3) a poor nap usually derailed his sleep for the night
(4) we had to cut way back on night feeding.. my wife was turning into a 24-hour bar
(5) some of the problems happened before a tooth emerged, so giving some baby ibuprofen before bedtime might help
posted by rolypolyman at 8:11 AM on October 11, 2006

Response by poster: Great comments everyone, just what I was looking I love askMeFi.

btw, I'm not going to mark any answer "best" in this thread because "best" doesn't work in this context. The one thing I'm absolutely convinced about is that different things work for different babies. These suggestions are wonderful for giving us (and hopefully others) some quality ideas of what to do.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:11 AM on October 11, 2006

No, definitely not ferberizing: we didn't increase the time we left him crying at all. We just kept on going in, giving him a hug & going out again...
posted by pharm at 8:12 AM on October 11, 2006

I suppose you could call it "Ferber-lite" if you liked.

(too many followup posts...)
posted by pharm at 8:13 AM on October 11, 2006

I second GuyZero's advice and would also recommend a crib sidecar if you go the co-sleeping route. We have been using a setup like this one for several months now and it has worked out great for everyone.
posted by Otis at 8:13 AM on October 11, 2006

On the off chance you haven't tried this yet, maybe change diaper brand. We switched my son from Cruisers at night to Baby Dry and night and that seemed to help.

I tend to think that waking once or twice is simply "the norm" when you're breastfeeding. My daughter did not sleep through the night until she switched to formula at 10 months. She still lets out a loud scream almost every night at 11:00, then goes back to sleep. I tend to think that's her diaper wetting, or gas.
posted by saffry at 8:15 AM on October 11, 2006

"No Cry Sleep Solution". God I hate that book. The author manages to write prose which appears finely tuned to make the reading parent convinced that all problems with their child are their fault & if only they stopped being such useless parents and followed the one true path to parenting happiness (which naturally is contained within her books) everything will be fine.

Needless to say, real life isn't like that.

(This is the woman who threatened to sue a parenting forum in the UK over the things some of the forum posters wrote about her in jest. See past mefi thread on the topic...)
posted by pharm at 8:18 AM on October 11, 2006

No wait, wrong book & author!

Not my day obviously...

No cry is OK, but didn't help us much IIRC.
posted by pharm at 8:20 AM on October 11, 2006

We had the same problem with our ten month old. He had slept well until he was about 8 months old and then it all went to hell.

Ferberizing was hard for the first few nights but worked great and improved our son's mood during the day also (since he got better sleep also). Our pediatrician recommended the Ferber book. Ferber is emotionally hard on the parents, but works quickly on most children. Get the book don't just follow shorter version of advice found on the net.

He is now 20 months old and only once has had a 'relapse' after being sick. We referbered and things were great again.
posted by crhanson at 8:26 AM on October 11, 2006

(pharm - which baby sleep book are you talking about? just curious is all)
posted by rolypolyman at 8:32 AM on October 11, 2006

Gina Ford, Contented Little Baby.

excuse me, I have to go wash my keyboard out now...
posted by pharm at 8:38 AM on October 11, 2006

Co-sleeping is definitely the easy remedy here -- everyone sleeps all night. Our youngest, 2, is slowly but surely moving out on his own now.
posted by blueshammer at 9:08 AM on October 11, 2006

Don't be afraid to let baby cry for 15 to 20 minutes. You should be able to tell between a strong "feed me-hold me" cry and a high-pitched "it hurts" cry. Don't let pain go unattended, but wait out the other. Set a timer and if baby is not showing signs of settling, give some comfort and reassurance, and put baby back in bed. It's just that simple. Bed time means sleeping.
posted by kc0dxh at 9:19 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

We followed the recommendations from Sleeping Through the Night by Jodi Mindell and now have a great sleeper. This book appealed to me because it seemed closest to my own philosophy (or hopes?) of how things would work. I had already read Ferber, Weissbluth, The Baby Whisperer, The No Cry Sleep Solution and The Contented Baby, but none of them made sense to me the way the Mindell book did. Also, she's got great credentials, so both DH and I were on board (very important!). We had the same issue: he was able to fall asleep easily but would wake up 1-3 times a night. Within 1 week of starting the routines in the book, he was sleeping about 9 hours in a row.

We had tried co-sleeping but both my son and I are light sleepers and we didn't get a lot of sleep that way. He is also exclusively breast-fed and there was an expection of that (on both our parts!) when he would wake in the middle of the night.

He's now 1yo and sleeps about 10-12hrs a night. He wakes up in the middle of the night maybe once every 2wks. DH has always been the one to soothe and I think that helps a lot.

Very important: have a plan in place before your daughter wakes up of what you're each going to do when/if she wakes. It's very hard to think on the fly in the middle of the night. Much easier to just stick to the plan and debrief in the morning to see what worked, what didn't.

Good luck!
posted by cocoagirl at 9:45 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I thought the Trixie Update from a previous thread was great!
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:29 AM on October 11, 2006

We found that having a rigid sleep schedule has paid massive dividends. Our 20-month-old tends to go down at 2000 and sleep straight through to 0500 most nights, with the only real changes coming during teething periods or growth spurts, when he gets a lot more hungry.

Here's our routine:
  • Dinner between 1700 and 1730.
  • Cleanup and trip to local park to run around outside from roughly 1800 to 1900.
  • 1930: "kill the pillows/stuffed shark/etc." horseplay on bed or floor.
  • 1940: breastfeed.
  • 2000: Dad (me) sits in glider with kid, does "Goodnight Moon"and soothes down.
  • 2010ish: put kid in crib, pat on back for 30 seconds or so, and hightail it out of room.
The mainly notable thing about this routine is that it has been nearly unvaried for nearly his entire life thus far: that, I posit, is the reason it's successful. In this one area, we've managed to program him pretty well.

YMMV, but we've found that consistency and a certain degree of hardassedness (when he wakes up and cries, generally we'll let him cry it out: we go in when he hits the 30-minute mark or he's making the distinctive "I just crapped in my pants" grizzling sound) have made all the difference.
posted by scrump at 10:58 AM on October 11, 2006

++++ Rigid schedule.

Do *exactly the same thing every single night* She is 3 and I still say the same words when I leave her room at night.

Cosleeping is a bad idea now (nobody gets much sleep) and disastrously bad idea down the road. Wait till they are 3 and won't sleep in their own room. At least that's what everyone we know who fell for the attachment stuff says.

Pharma, every parenting book tells you that you are doing it wrong, then proceeds to offer no valuable suggestions except platitudes and burning of their preferred straw men. That's the entire genre right there. NCSS is one of the few that actually gave a detailed plan.
posted by mrbugsentry at 11:09 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I absolutely vote heavily for the rigid schedule and routine. Also as they get older books that talk about sleep and bedtime are perfect.

One other possibility: formula [/me ducks]. I know the breast/bottle thing is a religious argument, but we discovered fairly early that our big baby was not getting enough from his mom, and a top-up of formula worked wonders in extending his sleep time.
posted by pivotal at 1:04 PM on October 11, 2006

Agree with everyone who says it's just a developmental stage. Both our girls were restless at 9-10 months. Big girl just grew out of it; I expect little girl will too.

Agree with the importance of daily naps and evening routine, although I do think you can vary the words :)

We coslept with both. Big girl moved to her own bed at about 15 months and is now a champion sleeper: 9pm-8am practically every night.

Key insight: the OP is right - every child is different and responds to different methods.
posted by rdc at 1:28 PM on October 11, 2006

This is definitely a developmental thing, we're just on the other side of it here, but it's been universal with all seven of my children who have been with us since their birth. We co-sleep, so there's awakening in the night to feed regardless (which often doesn't wake me, the source of food, at all) but around the 9-11 month age the wakefulness is more serious and less easily reversed with just a quick nip of milk.

As such, I'm hesitant to say that it's something that can be managed or changed, as much as something that parents must learn to cope with and allow for during the very brief period of time in which it goes on. Keep up with the normal routine, meet the child's needs, feed him when he's hungry, soothe him when he needs comfort. Meanwhile, let mama and daddy get to bed a little earlier or take turns spelling each other for a nap in the afternoons/evenings. It won't last forever. In fact, by the time you read a book, like the solution it offers and try to implement it, it'll be done with.
posted by Dreama at 1:43 PM on October 11, 2006

Cosleeping is a bad idea now (nobody gets much sleep) and disastrously bad idea down the road. Wait till they are 3 and won't sleep in their own room.

Well, no. I won't say cosleeping is going to work for everyone, but we coslept at least part of the time (I didn't take notes and my memory is fuzzy as I said...) and heavens, no, it was not as bad as that. There was a transition period from crib & parent's bed to his own bed, but it was never a huge deal. My son was sleeping by himself in his own bed, in his own room, after having been through a cosleeping period, before he was 2.

That said, this, like many topics in modern parenting, is a pretty hot issue. I would say that you need to try a few things and that if you're not sleeping much now, it's unlikely that whatever strategy you adopt will make things much worse. If you try cosleeping and it's not working, try something else. If you try Ferber and it only teaches your kid to climb out of his crib, try something else. It's not a battle - your child wants sleep too. You just have to help him figure out how to do that. But no strategy will result in you being worse off down the road, except maybe for beating the child to sleep.

Also, I would also vote for a regular, early schedule. Both my kids have been lights out at 8 PM from early until now where my son is 8. Yes, he does wake up a 6:30 AM some days, but he's well rested and my wife and I get a couple hours of peace and quiet after bedtime. Plus it was a good incentive for him to learn to read - if my kids get up earlier than us, they turn on their lights and get a book. Damn kids are like the marines - they read more before I get up than I read all day.
posted by GuyZero at 1:48 PM on October 11, 2006

Just another data point for you. We did Ferber when my daughter was around eight months old, and I felt terrible about it at the time, but it *totally worked* with no apparent ill effects. She's a well-adjusted and happy preschooler now. I have blog entries about the initial process here and progress updates about a week on and a few months later.

We started out trying something more like No-Cry Sleep Solution, but in our case, when we went in to comfort her, it just reinvigorated her and renewed her outrage. She would be cstarting to calm down a little but still crying -- and then as soon as one of us went in to check on her she'd grow irate all over again.

I agree that the rigid schedule is a necessity. Our schedule does so well by us that I kind of dread family trips and holidays that disrupt it, because it's so miserable for everyone (fatigue, misbehavior, difficulty getting back into the routine.)

It's hard, though nothing's really easy in parenting, is it? It does get physically less demanding, I promise. :) Good luck, and keep us posted on what you decide to do.
posted by Andrhia at 3:15 PM on October 11, 2006

Probably I will be hung for adding this text as a reference - Babywise - written by Ezzo is a book that tells parents to schedule feedings and sleep schedules from day one. If a person used it verbatim, there could be problems. But we used it as a general guide and it was simply amazing. Get it at the local library, don't bother buying it, but its very good with a grain of salt.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 5:30 PM on October 11, 2006

My daughter, who had slept through the night beautifully since she was three months old, started waking up 1 - 2 times per night during the last month or so (at 13 months). I'd go in and nurse her, and she would go back to sleep for a few hours.

It turned out that the problem was that it was getting chilly in her room; nursing her warmed her up for a while, but then she got cold again. As per the pediatrician's instructions, we had her in a blanket sleeper but had no blankets in her crib. We've started putting an afghan over her at night, and she's waking up much much less! (Ok, she still wakes up some, but I blame the headcolds she gets at daycare.) I don't know how you feel about blankets for a 9.5-month old, but heavier PJs might help!
posted by leahwrenn at 6:47 PM on October 11, 2006

Our son had been very colicy as a small baby, and did not sleep consistently through the night until around 8 months of age. Additionally, he was terrible at napping as well. Needless to say we read all the books--No Cry Sleep Solution, Ferber, Weissbluth, and probably a couple of others that I'm forgetting :-)

We got useful advice from all three of those books, but the most helpful was Dr. Weisbluth's, mainly because it has very specific advice on how to schedule the day. For two very tired parents, that specificity made it easier to follow.

Ferber's book had one very good suggestion that helped us. It turned out we were feeding him too much in the late evening (in the hopes that it would help our very large baby sleep longer). By reducing the amount of milk in the evening we eliminated one of his awakenings per night. I don't remember the exact advice so you would want to consult the book itself instead of a random guy on the Internet :-)

We also were putting him down too late and started putting him to bed at 6:30pm which helped a lot with napping (though only age cured the napping problem completely). Babies need a ton of sleep, more than a lot of people realize.

Double-plus recommend a rigid schedule and a consistent bedtime routine. These are critical.

We did eventually have to let him cry it out to achieve full sleeping through the night, which was rough, but he didn't actually cry for very long - on the order of 15-20 minutes. The next night he cried for around 5 minutes, and the night after that he slept straight through. I think that many babies can achieve sleeping through the night without that, and life is certainly more pleasant if you can avoid it.
posted by dweingart at 9:34 PM on October 11, 2006

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