You could ask ten different people what the “right” response is when your baby wakes up at night, and you would likely get ten different answers. Let them cry, go in immediately, rock them, nurse them, change their diaper. Every parent has a response that they view as the best approach.
Any one of these approaches might help your baby quiet down and get back to sleep for a while, but if you want to help them learn to settle themselves and sleep through the night, you’ll have to help them learn some sleep skills, and I’ll tell you how to do exactly that in this week’s video.
Obviously, if we’re talking about a newborn baby who is waking up in the night, you’re gonna need to respond. That’s a given. One suggestion though around that is to at least wait a small amount of time, even 30 seconds of time. It’s very common for babies of all ages to have just little partial arousals in the night where they’re kind of awake but not really and they tend to cry out a little bit at these wake ups. And if we rush in there the second we hear a squawk, we might actually interfere with their ability to slide right into another sleep cycle without a whole lot of help from us.
So I’m not saying to wait anything longer than a minute or two if we’re talking about a newborn baby, but giving them an opportunity and you’ll see that at least on occasion, they return to sleep and there’s no need for you to intervene at all.
One other little tip for the newborn. There is some evidence to suggest that giving a diaper change first before you feed a newborn baby just builds a little bit of distance between the idea that as soon as I wake up I get a feeding and that the study found that babies who had a diaper change first and then a feed tended to become better sleepers faster than babies who got a feed immediately upon wakening so that’s just a little bonus tip for you people with newborn babies.
But let’s now move into older babies and I’m roughly talking about six months and up, what to do when your baby wakes in the night. Well, the first place you’re gonna always wanna look is bedtime. I’m a broken record about the bedtime. We have to look and see what’s going on there first. That’s where all the answers are.
So I want you to have a look at your baby’s routine, what are the steps that occur in your bedtime routine before we get into the crib. Now, most people who are looking for help in regards to their baby’s sleep, somewhere in the bedtime routine, baby’s already falling asleep so usually on the feeding or by rocking or bouncing on an ExerSaucer or whatever it is, but there is some sort of external help that you’re giving your baby that lulls them to sleep before you put them in the crib. So that’s really where you have to start.
If you answer yes to that that yup I nurse her to sleep or I rock her to sleep or I bottle feed her to sleep, that’s the first place you need to start. You really need to encourage your child to find some strategies that are all her own so that she’s not relying on anything external to get her to sleep in the first place.
The Sleep Sense Program’s got a great step-by-step guide in there. If you feel like that’s your issue, that’s what we have to solve here. We really can’t even look at what’s going on in the middle of night until we solve that issue. If you’ve already been working on the program though and you’re still experiencing some night wakings and you think we got the bedtime, it’s going great there, but we’re still encountering some nighttime wake ups, there’s a few things you can do, the first one being wait, right? Again, wait and see what your child can do.
I love if parents can wait 10 minutes. There’s something very special about that 10-minute wait period that often a baby will go back to sleep within those 10 minutes and you won’t even have to intervene. If it goes on longer than 10 minutes, I definitely want you to go in there and have a check, make sure there’s nothing actually required, there’s no foot stuck in the bar or a dirty diaper or anything that needs your immediate attention and then repeat whatever process you did in the first place to get them sleeping great at bedtime so you can stay or you can leave and check and you’re gonna repeat that process all through the night.
The common areas of mistake or pitfall that a lot of people do is that they still continue to offer feeds. Now again, it has to be age appropriate, definitely check it out with your doctor if you have any concerns, weight and health all have to be good, but if you feel like, “Hmm, she doesn’t really need these nighttime feeds anymore “or I’m pretty sure she doesn’t,” then you’re gonna wanna go ahead and pull them because some babies get very confused.
They can do their own skills at bedtime, but then they rely on some help from you through the night with the feed process so you’re gonna wanna have a good hard look at that and if that’s why your baby’s waking in the night, then that’s the best way to solve that issue.
Thanks so much for watching today. Sleep well.