Your goal is to help your baby learn how to get himself back to sleep in the middle of the night. Some babies seem to instinctively know how to do this; others need a little coaching from their parents.
There are many things that can cause a child to wake up during the night. A big reason why babies wake up at night and cry out to their parents is:
- sleep associations and the fact that they can’t settle themselves back to sleep. The association or sleep prop might be feeding to sleep, a dummy or rocking to sleep. Babies at the age of 6 months do not need to feed overnight unless parents were otherwise advised by a paediatrician. Stopping night feeds might stop the wakings.
The most valuable thing you can do for your child is to put him in his cot awake at bedtime and allow him to fall asleep independently without rocking feeding etc.
Other reasons for wake ups could be:
- teething. Use some teething gel and the recommended dose of Baby Panadol or Nurofen before bedtime; that might help baby through one or two nights of teething. The pain shouldn’t last more than a few nights.
- Check that he isn’t wet or cold or that he isn’t in discomfort because of a weird position he got himself into.
This is how you can help him learn to comfort himself and go back to sleep:
- If your child needs a clean nappy or other care, provide what he needs with minimum disturbance: Keep the lights dim, speak softly and no more than you need to, change the nappy and place him right back in his cot (or change his nappy in the cot if you can), and quickly return to your bed, as at bedtime.
- If your baby’s crying persists longer than 5 to 10 minutes after you’ve left, return to him without turning on the light, quietly tell him it’s time to sleep, then leave again. Repeat your visits at progressively longer intervals within the 5-to 10-minute range and be firm: no picking up. If you pick him up, your baby will expect a lengthy cuddle and will redouble his crying when you place him down again; sleepiness will be delayed even further. In most cases, this technique will take more than one night. It generally takes 3 to 5 nights for your baby to fall asleep and resettle himself back to sleep without too much fuss.