Hi. I’m Kim West, the Sleep Lady, and in this video I’m going to answer Tiffany’s question about night waking. Here’s what she wrote in:
“I cannot kick the night wakings of my nine-month-old. Our daughter is obsessed with her bottle whether hungry or not and must have it when she wakes for comfort. How do I break an addiction like this? The problem is that she will go from groggy and fussy to full out awake if we don’t give her one right away. So, more often than not, we just give her the bottle. But it’s getting exhausting to wake as many as four to five times per night.”
Check in With Your Doctor
Before we attempt to change your daughter’s night waking and eating several times at night, check with your pediatrician first to be sure she is on track with her growth and the food she is eating. Ask your pediatrician if she needs to eat in the middle of the night given her age, weight, health, and how much she is eating during the day. If your doctor states that your baby does need a feeding during the night, please ask how many.
Going to Sleep Independently is a Skill
It sounds like your daughter needs to learn how to put herself to sleep without sucking on a bottle to get her drowsy. She has to learn this skill at bedtime so she can begin to learn how to go back to sleep during the night when she wakes. This means you will need to start gentle sleep coaching.
Start On a Great Day of Naps
You will begin coaching her at bedtime after a great day of naps. In order to have a great day of naps you may need to hold her and feed her to sleep for her naps on this first day of sleep coaching. You want her to sleep about three to three-and-a-half total hours during the day.
Make Bedtime Early Enough
Start at an early bedtime that is in sync with what her circadian rhythm and her baby sleep cues are telling you. Often, this is between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. for her age. Look for sleep cues such as yawning, staring, losing interest in play, fussing, and rubbing eyes or ears. Move her right to her bedtime routine as soon as you see one of these.
If you’re giving her a bedtime bottle, follow your bedtime routine and keep the lights on when you give the bottle. You may even look at a short book, and then put the bottle down, give her kisses, turn the lights out and put her into the crib awake.
Into the Crib Awake
Ask yourself, is she dry, warm, fed, and loved? Yes! She should be all of these, but also awake and aware that she is going into the crib. Last but not least, do not let her fall asleep with a bottle.
Next, I want you to sit by her crib, offering physical and verbal reassurance. Pick her up to calm her if necessary, but then put her back into the crib. Stay nearby her crib, sitting in a chair, until she’s asleep.
Decide How to Handle the Night Waking and Feedings
Assuming you have your pediatrician’s support you can decide between a couple of options regarding her night feedings.
- Reduce the Feedings
If it’s four to five times a night that she wakes and drinks a good bit of milk or formula, you could reduce the ounces over the course of three to four nights. Once you get to 2 ounces you can drop the bottle at those feedings.
If you’re keeping one feeding because your doctor wants you to, then you will just reduce all of them down to zero ounces except the one feeding. Decide which waking will be her full feeding. For example, the first waking after midnight is when she gets the full bottle and all of the awakenings before and after that will be reduced by a few ounces each night.
- Go Cold Turkey
If all of her bottles at night are only one or two ounces and it’s just a little suckle, then you might have to go cold turkey.
Water in the Bottle
I know that some families will try water, but some babies will be happy to just have a bottle of water. If that’s the case with your daughter then you will still be up four or five times a night giving her a bottle of water. This happens when your child really just wants to suck for long enough to put herself back to sleep.
Other babies don’t want water. If they can’t have milk or formula, they don’t want anything at all. You’ll have to figure that out for your child and then plan accordingly.
It should take only three to four nights to reduce the bottle during the night, and then you will want to be really consistent with the new routine. Keep up your gentle sleep coaching at night, putting her into the crib awake and aware, staying by her bed, gently assuring her you are nearby until she is asleep. In seven to ten nights you should see huge progress such that she’s largely sleeping through the night. You may experience a little early rising, depending on what’s going on with the naps and bedtime.