Our daughter Maeve has been a light/difficult sleeper ever since she was born. She refused to sleep in anything but her bouncer or swing until she was about five months old. Now she's waking up throughout the night, and it's become much worse since our trip last week.
She usually wakes up between 6:45 and 7:15 a.m. If she has a night where she wakes up for long periods of time, she tends to wake up earlier, like at 6 a.m. On a normal day, she will start getting tired 2.5-3 hours after waking up, so usually around 10 a.m. The length of her nap varies, but on average is an hour at daycare and an hour and a half at home. Sometimes she doesn't take a morning nap at daycare. Lunch is between noon and 12:30, followed by a bottle and nap. Since she usually naps longer in the a.m. at home, her afternoon nap may not be until 2 or 2:30. We give her another bottle at 7:15-7:30. She usually falls asleep taking this one (and actually most other bottles). So on average, she is asleep by 7:45. She usually wakes up during the 11 p.m. hour. If we just leave her without intervening, she can be awake for an hour plus. She also tends to wake up anywhere from 3-5 a.m. wanting the same thing. A lot of times I give her a bottle at this waking and then she'll go back to sleep. She is almost a year old, so I would assume that she really doesn't need this bottle.
Last week when we were in the hotel, the night waking and refusing to go back to sleep were the worst they ever been. When we got home on Friday, she did better that night and Saturday, but Sunday was bad again. I’d like to help her start sleeping more comfortably through the night and start to wean her off the bottle. Can you help?
Hi there. First, don’t beat yourself up about the poor sleep on your trip. I think the long wakings at the hotel may have been the result of sleep routine disruption and a new sleep environment, and not reflective of her sleep routine at home (even "good sleepers" have problems sleeping in hotels!). So I would consider her sleep on that trip something of a fluke and focus on your routine at home.
From the routine that you describe, I believe she is overtired. Here are a few reasons why I believe this: At 11 months, most babies need two naps (one morning one afternoon). You said that she is normally tired and ready for a nap within 2.5 or 3 hours of waking, yet she is going 3.5 hours between her a.m. nap and her p.m. nap, and sometimes skipping her a.m. nap altogether. She is also going a long stretch between her p.m. nap and bedtime.
The fact that she also wakes even earlier after a poor night is another clue that she is overtired. (The adrenaline resulting from overtiredness encourages babies to wake up even earlier that normal, even though they need more sleep).
Since she may be nearing the age where she will drop her a.m. nap and move to one nap (15 months is average for this, but some babies start the transition to one nap before their first birthday), I recommend keeping a close eye on whether she's napping at daycare. If she does not take a morning nap at daycare, she needs to be down for her afternoon nap right around lunchtime, 12 or 12:30 at the latest
On days that she does take a morning nap from 10-11, move her afternoon nap up to 2 p.m. at the latest. Ensure that she is awake by 3:30 p.m. Then begin her bedtime routine by 6:30 or so with the goal of having her asleep by 7 or earlier.
(Of course these are suggestions for timing. You can start with this routine and tweak things as you figure out what's working for you.)
Once you have her routine a bit more solid and her night sleep improves, perhaps in two-three weeks, I suggest helping to break her bottle-to-sleep association with the method I describe in Ready, Set, Sleep; i.e. moving the bottle earlier in the sleep routine and replacing it with another sleep association that can help her get to sleep instead, like music or a special toy.
It's fairly common for babies to have one night feeding at 3-5 a.m. at her age, and the early-morning feeding is the last to go. Once she breaks the bottle-to-sleep association I expect that night feeding will fade away soon enough.
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