A cry pulls you from the sweet arms of slumber. You roll over and look at the clock. It’s 3 am and your little one is up again. For the fifth time in just as many hours.
There’s no doubt that parenting has its challenges, and sleepless nights just so happens to be one of them. But, what do you do when your 4 month old waking every hour? How can you possibly make it through the following day, much less the following week when baby makes a repeat performance?
Well, the good news is that while baby’s behavior is annoying, it’s completely normal. Babies will often have disruptive nights when they are having a growth spurt or hitting a new development stage (think sitting up, crawling, walking).
The bad news is that this will most likely happen more than once. But, hang in there! You’re not the only mom or dad who has had to deal with all night wakers. Here’s some practical advice on how to handle these challenging moments.
If you have a partner, consider splitting the night with them. Once of you takes the 9-2 shift and the other takes the 2-6 shift. That way, each of you gets at least half a night of rest.
If you’re breastfeeding, your partner can still help. Ask them to bring you your little one during their shift and change diapers afterwards. If you’re a single parent, consider asking a sibling, parent, or friend to spot you a night or weekend day every now and then. One night of support can make a huge difference.
Seeking advice and comradery from other mothers (as well as your own) can make a big difference as well. Sometimes, knowing that you aren’t alone can give you the boost of confidence you need to make it through a rough night.
If you don’t know any other moms, take your questions online. There are numerous support sites, like babycenter.com, where moms of all experiences gather to share and commiserate. Talking about your frustrations, exhaustion, and attempted solutions is a great way to work through the rough times.
Create a bedtime ritual
It’s never too early to start a bed time ritual with your child. Rituals help prime your child for nighttime and sleeping expectations. It also gives them quality time with their caregivers which can be comforting as well as relaxing for your little one.
Bedtime rituals can include baths, essential oil massages, bedtime songs, and stories. It’s important to remember that bedtime rituals should emphasize security and calm. To help your infant transition to bedtime, it may help to turn off the tv and move to quieter spaces, like a dimly-lit bedroom.
It’s also important to remember that routines work best when you create a habit out of them. For that reason, it may take some time before your baby becomes accustomed to the routine and knows to expect bedtime soon after.
Consider dinner choices
If your little one is waking repeatedly, consider their diet as a possible cause. As mentioned above, many infants wake more when they are going through a developmental or growth stage. Perhaps they need more food during the day – schedule more breastfeeds if you infant will let you, or consider supplementing with formula or cereal. It is recommended to begin cereals and at four months of age.
If you are breastfeeding, consider what you are eating. Avoid spicy or overly fatty foods before the nighttime feedings. And it’s probably best to save new foods for earlier in the day – brunch or lunch. Likewise, if your baby is beginning solids, make sure to try new foods as early in the day as possible. If something doesn’t seem to sit well with your little one, speak with your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
Co-Sleep to sooth a fussy baby
If your child is sleeping in another room, consider co-sleeping. There are a couple of ways to co-sleep. Some families bring the crib right beside the bed and others bring the child into the bed. Either way, make sure you and your partner are comfortable with the arrangement and aware of the risks. Simple infant cosleeping beds are available for parents considering cosleeping.
There are many benefits to cosleeping. Primarily, it eases the midnight call and answer for the parents. The baby is close and the nightly wake time can be shortened when everyone’s already in the same room. Also, the sound of the parents’ breathing or even closer, the mother’s own heartbeart, can be immensely relieving to babies who are having trouble sleeping.
Power-up when you can
If you are fortunate enough to be home with your child, take every opportunity to sleep. Notice the times of day when your child naps the longest and lay down at the same time. If you work, cat naps aren’t always possible. Tell yourself it’s okay to take it easy on weekends and ask your partner to help with other household chores if you are breastfeeding.
Regular exercise is another way to help boost your body’s energy levels. Not only will it keep you fit, but exercise will also strengthen your immune system which can help prevent colds and general feelings of burn-out. To supplement a healthy exercise routine (which can be as simple as going for daily walks with your stroller), be sure to eat healthfully as well. Take vitamins and avoid alcohol to keep yourself tip-top.
Educate yourself about sleep training
At four months old, babies are old enough to begin to sleep train. How you approach this particular task will be personal and should be suited to the individuality of your child and your family. Sleep training can begin as simply as creating a bedtime ritual. If you want to go more in-depth, there are many books on the topic. At the very least, you can educate yourself about the developmental phases of your child and better understand why they may be waking all the time.