Jan 22, 2015
The wonderful ‘sleep fairy’ Dee shares her advice on dealing with night waking from babies to toddlers….
Having worked with children since 1994, experience has allowed Dee to develop a variety of techniques to resolve babies and children’s sleeping and behaviour issues by focusing on and responding to their needs, whilst taking into account the needs of the families she works with. As a mother too, Dee believes that every child is different so the “one size fits all” approach to parenting can lead to more difficulties, which is why it is so important to focus on each individual child. With this in mind, she started working as “The Sleep Fairy” over 5 years ago and has helped hundreds of families find peace and sleep. Based in Henley, she works with families all over the world.
Most babies will go through periods of night waking at some point in their first few years. It could be a brief “blip” lasting a few nights or it could become a habit and go on for many months. “Good sleepers” can suddenly start waking once or several times a night. Depending on their age, the temperament of the baby and the parents’ approach to parenting, there are numerous ways of dealing with this. If you find that night waking turns from a blip to a habit, take charge of the situation and make some changes.
Whatever the age, a good daily routine is always beneficial so that when you put your little one to bed, you can be confident that she has eaten well, and not had excessive sleep during the day. It is also beneficial to let your baby learn to calm herself so that you don’t have to spend your nights “settling” her.
If your baby is still feeding during the night, keep wakings to a minimum by working out what time she will need to feed, set an alarm for those times and try dream-feeding (lift your sleeping baby and put her to the breast or on the bottle). By doing this, you can stop responding to her night-wakings with feeding and she will then not expect to be fed whenever she wakes during the night.
The sooner you can let your baby learn to calm on her own when she’s in her cot, the more quickly you will have less disturbance at night. And once she can calm independently, it will be easier to work out that there is a reason for the waking such as illness or teething.
At this age, you would expect your baby to be waking one to three times a night as she still needs regular feeding. If you set your alarm for every 3-4 hours for dream-feeds, you can then soothe her back to sleep when she wakes at other times. OR if you’re feeling brave, you can see if she’s ready to do it on her own.
By this age, your baby can probably go for long stretches through the night without needing to feed. If you make this a dream-feed between 10 and 11 o’clock, you can soothe her or let her calm and fall back to sleep at all other times.
This is also when your baby is likely to start being woken by teething (although it may already have started for some babies) and if this is the case, her crying will be consistent and sound as though she is in pain.
Ashton & Parsons Infants’ Powder can be used to soothe the symptoms of teething pain. Pain killers specifically for babies can also be used (always check the age range). If you’re not sure, speak to your GP or pharmacist. Cuddle her while the pain eases and then soothe her back to sleep unless she can settle on her own.
By now, your baby may be able to pull herself up to sitting or standing when she wakes at night which can make wakings REALLY difficult. But if you can let her figure out how to lie back down, she is more likely to calm and settle again on her own.
If she has been miserable with teething during the day, you could have some sachets nearby for when she wakes at night!
As your baby turns into a toddler, without the need for milk during the night, her night-wakings can turn into full-blown tantrums. The best way to deal with these, is to let her work out how to calm down from them without distraction during the daytime, then let her learn to do the same during the night.
There should be a clear difference in the sound of a tantrum and a cry of pain which could be indicating teething or illness.
18 months to 3 years
As your toddler learns more words and becomes wiser, night wakings can become even more tricky as she works her way through a repertoire of reasons for being awake: runny nose, dirty nappy, water, milk, “mummy cuddle” etc. If you have dealt with any real reasons for being awake such as teething, illness or heat, keep the attention you give her to a minimum, and give her plenty of reassurance and time to calm on her own.
AL/1858/01.15/0.001. Date of prep: Jan 2015.