Sleep School

Parenting

At 7 1/2 months, Ben was still waking and feeding up to 3 times a night. This was getting to be a real problem for me – I was fed up with feeding so many times in the night. He was on 3 meals a day and eating really well, and taking 3 or 4 milk feeds as well. I was convinced that he had got into the habit of feeding throughout the night. This was verified by the regular timings of his feeds. He would go to bed around 6.45pm, be asleep by 7pm, and then wake regularly at 10.30pm, 1.30am and 4.30am. In short, every 3 hours.

This is typical for a newborn. It is not necessary for a 7 month old.

Why had I kept feeding him for so long? At around 4 months, he had several nights when he woke once, around 4am, fed, and then went through until 7am. At that stage, I was thinking, this was great. 4 months old, exclusively breastfed and only 1 feed at night. I thought it was only a matter of time before he was sleeping through.

How wrong I was. Over the next few months, I found myself getting up 2 or 3 times a night until he fell into the pattern described above. I did sometimes try to settle him using white noise, but often it was easier and simpler to get up, feed him and know that I could have another 3 hours sleep. Ben was an easy baby to feed: feeds took around 15 minutes, and then he would go back to sleep. I was anxious about letting him cry for more than a minute to see if he would settle – it would disturb Tim, and he was having to work the following day. Being on maternity leave meant that it didn’t matter if I was tired.

At six months, I was pretty much ready to try some sleep training. However, we had a holiday planned and a visit to some family. I decided to put it off until after then, when we would be at home. Then Ben got a nasty cold, and I put it off for a second time, until he was better. Then we had visitors. I put it off again. By now, he was 7 1/2 months old, and still feeding three times a night. It was time to start the sleep school.

I decided to aim small: this was not about getting him to sleep through the night. This was about getting him to stop feeding through the night. I wanted to be able to settle him without feeding him. If he was still feeding at night, there was no way he was going to sleep through.

In many ways, it felt good to be taking control of the situation and doing something proactive about it. I had been responsive to his cries for so long at night, whereas during the day I tended to set the agenda, knowing what he would need.

I had a plan. To start with, I would only deal with one feed at a time, starting with the 10.30pm feed.So I would do everything I could to settle him until his next feed time of 1.30am. Once he was sleeping through and self-settling until 1.30, or close to, I would move on to tackling the 1.30am feed.

I also decided that when he cried I would:

  1. Let him cry for up to 10 minutes without getting very upset (often, his cry is more like a moan). See if he could self-settle.
  2. Play him some white noise for 10 minutes. Ben finds this very soothing. If he was still not too upset, I could repeat this stage once.
  3. Go in, pick him up and cuddle him until he stopped crying. Then put him down and leave the room, even if he started crying again. I could repeat this as many times as possible.

We were prepared for serious amounts of crying, and were prepared to get less sleep while this was happening.

The following notes describe our experiences.

Night 1

  • 10.30pm Ben wakes up and shouts. I ignore him for 10 minutes. He cries for 9 and then goes back to sleep.
  • 11.30pm Ben wakes again. He’s a bit more upset this time. I play some white noise over the baby monitor and he goes back to sleep.
  • 1.30am – Ben wakes and I feed him.
  • 5am – Ben wakes and I feed him.
  • 8am – Ben wakes for the day.

Night 2

  • 10.30pm – Ben wakes. I wait for a few minutes and then give him some white noise. He takes about 15 minutes to go back to sleep.
  • 1.15am Ben wakes and I feed him.
  • 4.30am Ben wakes and I feed him.
  • 7.30am Ben wakes for the day.

Night 3

  • 12.20am Ben wakes. He’s slept through the first feed! I don’t want to feed him until 1am but he’s upset and won’t settle with white noise. I go in, pick him up and cuddle him for a few minutes. He’s not too hot, his nappy is fine, and he calms down. I put him back in his cot and he starts to cry. I leave the room, planning to go back in a few minutes. He cries for 2 minutes and then goes back to sleep.
  • 4am – Ben wakes. I feed him.
  • 7.30am Ben wakes for the day.

Night 4

  • 11pm – Ben wakes. He settles himself with no intervention from me.
  • 2am – Ben wakes, doesn’t settle with 10 mins of white noise. I go in., give a quick cuddle and leave. He cries for 2 minutes.
  • 5am – Ben wakes. I feed him,

Night 5 and 6

Similar to Night 4 but without the 11pm wake.

Note – Clocks went forward on Night 5

Night 7

Ben was sick tonight – just before bed, and he had been sick when I went to check on him at 10pm. I didn’t feed him until 3.30am, but did offer water as I was worried about dehydration.

Night 8

  • 12.50am – 1st wake
  • Between 1am and 3am – several wake ups.
  • Fed at 4am.
  • 5am – woke, had been a bit sick

Note: Ben had eaten very little solids today.

Night 9

  • 12.50am – 1st wake – settled with 10 minutes of white noise
  • 3.50am – Fed
  • 5am – woke, had been a bit sick

Again, Ben only ate limited amounts of solids today.

Night 10

  • 1.30am – Ben wakes. Settled with 10 minutes of white noise.
  • 2.30am – Ben wakes. Doesn’t really settle – I think he is a bit cold and also is in a different place. I feed him at 3.30am.
  • 6.45am – Ben wakes for the day.

Note: Ben sleeping in a travel cot at grandparents today.

Night 11

  • 1.30am – Ben wakes. Settled with 10 minutes of white noise.
  • 3.15am – Ben wakes. I feed him.
  • 7.00am – Ben wakes for the day.

Note: Ben sleeping in a travel cot at grandparents today.

Night 12

  • 8.30pm – Ben sick in his cot. Again.
  • This led to quite an unsettled night – every time he made a sound, I went in to check he hadn’t been sick. I fed him at around 3.30am.

Night 13

  • 8.30pm – Ben wakes. Settles without any intervention.
  • 10.30pm – Ben wakes. Settles without any intervention.
  • 2.30am – Ben wakes. Settles with white noise.
  • 5.30am – Ben wakes. I feed him.
  • 8.00am – Ben wakes for the day.

Night 14

  • 2.30am – Ben wakes. Settles without any intervention.
  • 5.00am – Ben wakes. Takes a while to settle, using white noise and going in, but I don’t feed him all night.
  • 6.30am – Ben wakes for the day.

Night 15

  • Ben woke 2 or 3 times during the night, but each time settled himself until 4.30am, when he settled with white noise.

Night 16

  • Ben slept through from 7pm to 6.15am.

Night 17

  • Ben woke at 4.30am. He took a while to settle.
  • 6.30am – Ben wakes for the day.

Night 18

  • 3.30am – Ben woke and settled without any intervention.
  • 5.30am – Ben woke. Settled with white noise.
  • 6.15am – Ben woke for the day.

Night 19

  • 3.00am – Ben woke. Settled quickly.
  • 8.00am – Ben woke for the day. I was in shock at the lie-in!

Over the next few weeks, Ben quite often woke once between 3am and 5am, but only ever needed a quick cuddle or some white noise. At this time he was suffering quite a bit with a cold and his eczema really flared up. I continued not feeding him through the night and found other ways to settle him.

He’s now started sleeping through until 6.15am. 7pm-6.15am is a pretty good long stretch, and I’m happy with that!

By Naomi

Comments

  1. Reply

    My son was quite similar, at the same age. At first I just cuddled him instead of feeding him before midnight and in 2 days he dropped the first feed, then did the same at 5ish still feeding around 2am and within a week he was sleeping through. I am sure it was habit. Well done you for getting through the tricky bit in the middle with all the sickness.

    1. Reply

      Thanks… I do think it’s a good way to go. Currently waiting for baby no. 2 to get to the same stage!

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