Let me guess, you found yourself here because you are exhausted and sick of trying to get your baby back to sleep at night. You want to know what to do so everyone in your family gets some sleep!
In this post I will share my own personal experience with one of my children and night waking. At first our baby would wake up once and we would hold her for a bit and she would go back to sleep.
But, slowly this evolved into habitual wakings throughout the night. So, in this post I will share what we did to stop baby waking at night out of habit.
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When Do Babies Sleep Through The Night
Before we tackle sleep training for middle of the night wakings, we need to discuss when babies sleep through the night and when babies drop night feedings.
As far as sleep training goes, it is not recommended to sleep train your baby before 4 to 6 months old. I know personally, I didn’t feel my babies were ready until 6 months.
So, if you are here because your newborn is wide awake at night, this post is not for you. If you are struggling with newborn sleep, then I recommend investing in these baby sleep schedules, which include a typical newborn schedule.
Typically, at 3 to 6 months old your baby will be able to sleep through the night without feedings. Now, when I say “sleep through the night”, at first, that means your baby is sleeping 5 to 6 hours at a time.
As your baby gets older, he or she will slowly move towards longer chunks of sleep at night and your baby will also drop feedings. For my babies, more sleep along with dropping feeds seemed to happen in approximately 3 month increments.
So, after the newborn phase, at 3 months old my babies slept longer at night and dropped a feeding. This happened again at 6 months old too.
After 6 to 7 months old my babies sleeping and feeding schedules stabilized. There were no more early morning feeds and they were sleeping about 12 hours at night.
Signs Baby Is Hungry At Night
Now that we have a good timeline for sleeping and feeding expectations during the first 6 months. It think it is important to understand signs your baby is waking because he is actually hungry.
This will help you determine if your baby is hungry at night and that is why he is waking up.
If your baby is older than 6 months, has already demonstrated the ability to sleep through the night, and is waking up habitually, then it is highly unlikely he needs to eat.
If you cannot get your baby to sleep for a long time without feeding or your baby sleeps in a long stretch after being fed at night. These are both signs that night feedings are still necessary for your baby.
Why Is My Baby Waking At Night Out Of Habit?
Now that we have an understanding of baby sleep schedule expectations for the first 6 months. And, we know the signs for when your baby sincerely needs to eat at night. We can start talking about how to stop your baby from waking up in the middle of the night out of habit.
I want to first share with you my personal experience, as you might find it familiar. Around 8 months old one of our twins started waking up about one hour after having gone to sleep no problem.
At first, it was innocent enough. She would wake up crying, one of us would go check on her. We would hold her for a few minutes and she would go back to sleep.
Initially, I thought she was just going through a sleep regression that she would grow out of. However, I came to find out it doesn’t usually work that way.
Well, as the days went by she continued waking up out of habit about one or two hours after falling asleep. And, the longer this went on, the harder it was to get her to go back to sleep.
We had gotten to the point where we would hold her for up to an hour and she would finally fall back asleep. If we were lucky she would stay asleep when we put her down in her crib.
But, many times she would wake up just as we were transferring her to her crib. Well, guess what? The whole process of holding her and putting her to sleep would start all over again.
It was exhausting!
I knew my baby girl was capable of sleeping through the night because she had been sleeping 12 hours at night starting around 6 months old. I decided I just couldn’t deal with it any longer and I needed to find a solution. Not only for my sake, but also so my baby could get back to getting enough sleep too.
Sleep Training For Middle Of The Night Wakings
There is a lot of information out there on sleep training your baby at bedtime, but I wasn’t sure how to deal with a baby that had already been asleep.
The next step was to figure out how to stop our baby from waking up at night out of habit. But, before I proceed I want to mention that it is necessary that your baby has the ability to self-soothe before trying sleep training.
As it turns out, sleep training for baby’s habitual night wakings isn’t much different from sleep training at bedtime. Here is how we handled it.
We went through our normal baby bedtime routine and our little girl would go to sleep no problem, as always.
Then, as expected, she woke up crying. One of us went to check on her, and made sure she was okay. Everything was fine, so we would make sure she still had a couple pacifiers in her crib and leave.
One thing that was super helpful to have through all of this was a video baby monitor. This allowed us to see that our baby was safe without needing to be in the room.
Using The Cry It Out Sleep Training Method (Ferber Method)
Next, we would wait 5 or 10 minutes while she cried. Then, we would go check on her again. As long as everything was okay, which I should mention was always the case, we would leave without saying anything. When we were in the nursery we would put any pacifiers that had been thrown out of the crib back in too.
We did not talk to our baby and we did not pick her up. Make your nursery checks as quick as you possibly can.
As time went on, the time between going to check on our baby increased. So, the first two checks were at 10 minute intervals. Then, 20 minutes and then 30 minute intervals.
Until, eventually the crying stopped. Once the crying was done, our baby would usually sit in her crib calmly for a little bit. After a little while that led to our baby falling asleep in her crib without being held.
How Long Does Sleep Training Take?
Sleep training is HARD! It is heart wrenching to listen to your baby just sitting there crying and crying. But, if you stick to your plan, it only lasts about 3 nights.
In my personal experience with sleep training. Typically, the first night was the hardest and longest. My babies would cry anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. This was the same whether it was at bedtime or my baby waking up at night.
The second night was surprisingly much easier. Maybe 15 minutes of crying. But, don’t be fooled, for whatever reason night three was always more difficult. The crying was almost as bad as night one.
On night three I would start questioning if I was doing the right thing. Why was my baby crying more? Maybe sleep training was not the right thing to do.
Well, after getting through night three it was like a switch flipped. By night four my babies were sleeping through the night no problem.
For our family, sleep training because our baby was waking up at night out of habit, was so worth it. It helps both you and your baby to get on track to healthy sleeping habits.
What’s next if sleep training doesn’t work? Or, maybe you don’t want to use the cry it out method. In this case, I highly recommend you get these baby schedule cheat sheets.
Not only does it include example baby schedules from newborn to 4 years old, but you receive all sorts of helpful baby sleep tips from a pediatric sleep consultant. Basically, you get over 40 pages of baby sleep help to get your baby sleeping and make your life much easier.
Stopping Baby Waking At Night Out Of Habit Step By Step
Before I go, I thought I should summarize the key points so you are ready to stop your baby waking at night out of habit.
- Be sure your baby is at least 4 to 6 months old, this is typically when babies start sleeping through the night.
- Be sure your baby is not waking at night out of hunger.
- You can use sleep training for baby night wakings, just like the sleep training methods used at bedtime.
- Expect sleep training to take approximately 3 nights.
This wraps up our post on how to stop baby waking at night out of habit. Good luck and I hope your household is back to a normal sleeping pattern soon.