There are many reasons why babies wake up at night and yell their guts out.
Most commonly, they will wake up because of hunger, illness, discomfort, teething, sleep regression, working through the milestone, growth spurt, separation anxiety and later night terrors.
These are very valid reasons for disturbing your baby to sleep.
But what if my baby is up and running EVERY NIGHT AT THE SAME TIME? And I ruled out all common culprits for night-time waking? (Or more or less, since you can never be sure with babies, can you?)
Well, allow me to introduce you to habitual waking and what you can do to break this unwelcomed habit.
Why Does My Baby Wake Up Crying At The Same Time Every Night?
If your baby started waking up every day at the same time, the chances are that it’s a habit that has to be changed. First, ensure your baby isn’t waking up because of hunger–so establish a healthy, well-balanced diet. Then, stop feeding your baby to sleep. Rather than feeding as the last activity of the day, move it to thirty minutes before bedtime. Simply feed your baby before the bath and story time. Teach your baby to self-soothe, so that she can comfort herself back to sleep. Or consider sleep training, which limits or eliminates parental aid in falling asleep.
So, what is a habitual waking?
Well, this usually occurs in babies older than 6 months. They are healthy and gaining weight properly and dropped their night feed.
These babies also already demonstrated the ability to sleep through the night – multiple times.
But suddenly, with no warning, they started waking up every night at the same time as their night feed used to be. Usually, between unsociable hours of midnight to 2 am…
Because habitual waking happens not because of genuine hunger but because of… well, habit.
Related Post ===============> How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need?
What Can You Do To Break The Waking Habit?
First, don’t worry. You are not the only parent having a baby with questionable sleeping habits. In fact, many parents face the same problems.
And the good news is you can train your baby to drop this unwelcomed habit. All you need to do is simply tweak your own routine to help your baby settle for sleep independently.
1. Make Sure Your Baby Is Eating Enough During The Day
To be sure your little one isn’t waking because of hunger, set a well-balanced diet with age-appropriate portions. Especially if your baby is well established on solids.
In fact, based on the study, babies should sleep better when they are fully weaned!
So, to ensure your baby receives all nutrients during the day, they should have 3 meals a day and 2 to 3 healthy snacks + milk.
Therefore, no reason for middle-of-the-night snacks!
2. Avoid Feeding For Comfort At All Cost
So, “feed to sleep” is a big no-no, especially if you want to break your baby’s habit of waking up at night.
That’s because your clever little Bobo has made the connection between breastfeeding (or bottle feeding) and sleep.
Because feeding brings them comfort and gives them security.
Meaning- if they wake up in the middle of the night, they demand feeding to fall back to sleep. EVEN THOUGH THEY AREN’T HUNGRY!!
While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with comfort feeding, if you want a decent night’s sleep, avoid feeding to sleep and follow the next three suggestions.
3. Make Sure The Last Meal Is At Least Half An Hour Before Bedtime
So if nursing or bottle feeding was the last activity before your baby went to bed – this enforces the association between feeding and sleep. And you must change it!
So, tweak your baby’s bedtime routine (assuming you have one, of course. If not, you’d better start ASAP because babies looooove a consistent routine).
Basically, move the evening milk before the bath or story time.
So that the last activity before going to bed isn’t feeding. And so that your baby will fall asleep without the bottle (or nipple) in her mouth!
You should see your baby stop associating feeding with sleep time after a week, and they no longer will demand milk to fall asleep.
4. Teach Your Baby Self-Soothing To Fall Back To Sleep
Now that you have broken the association between feeding and sleeping, your little one must find another way to drift off peacefully.
If your baby enjoys sucking on a pacifier, make sure there are always a few available in the cot, so they can find it. (And for a few helpful tips on keeping the pacifier in place, check out my post How To Keep The Pacifier In My Baby’s Mouth[ds1] ?)
Or perhaps you can introduce a blankie or baby lovey – a comforting, soft, plush object that your little one will associate with safety and comfort. So that she can use these objects to help her fall asleep.
Perhaps it is time to introduce such an object into your baby’s life if you haven’t already.
Related post =========>How To Introduce A Lovey To Your Baby?
5. Try Sleep Training
Sleep training delays comforting, cry it out method or extinction method.
Whatever you name it – it is still a dreaded and highly controversial subject for many parents.
As with anything else, when it comes to baby care, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach.
Because sleep training is simply not for everyone. In particular, to those parents who can’t ignore their baby’s cries…
So, it’s up to you if you want to give it a go.
What exactly is the cry-it-out method?
Well, cry-it-out is a method of putting babies to sleep when they are drowsy and letting them sleep on their own. In the absence of feeding, shushing, patting, rocking, or any other form of comforting from the parents.
So, it is a sudden – and quite radical, yet very effective – change in the sleeping routine. Which involves lots of crying and perseverance.
The goal is to help babies doze off independently without parental help and reduce night waking.
Now, there are many variations of cry-it-out methods, depending on the level of parental intervention.
For example, in total extinction, parents are instructed to ignore crying and not to interfere.
Gradual extinction is a progressive waiting and responding to cries at specific intervals.
One of the most popular gradual extinction methods is the Ferber Method, and the video below will give you an idea of how this method works and how to implement it.
Sleep Training made easy with the Ferber Method
Final Few Lines
Babies and sleep can be an enormous challenge. For many parents, it may feel like it will never end…
But with a few adjustments and perseverance, the habitual waking can be changed to a long and peaceful stretch of sleep. These adjustments are:
- Your baby is eating enough during the day, so she doesn’t wake up because of hunger.
- Stop feeding your baby to sleep.
- Make sure feeding isn’t the last activity of the day.
- Teach your baby self-soothing.
- Consider sleep training your little one.