You’re at a weekly baby and me class, sharing (gloating!) about how great your child’s sleep is – going to bed easily and for the past several weeks, sleeping through the night – and then a few days later…
BAM!! Out of nowhere she’s waking up every few hours and crying for long periods of time which she hasn’t done in
She hasn’t fallen off the sleep wagon permanently.
This is actually quite common and happens to many babies who have previously been sleeping well.
There’s almost always a good reason, and it’s usually only a phase that will pass soon enough.
Here are some of reasons why this might be happening:
1. Testing the waters
As adults, we understand that once a rule, always a rule (ie don’t cut in the front of the line at Starbucks, eating Rice Krispie treats and a double espresso before bed will not help you sleep, etc).
But children don’t think that way. For them this new bedtime knowledge you’ve so painstakingly taken time to teach them has not yet crystallized. In their minds, just because something was the rule today does not necessarily mean it will be the rule tomorrow or three weeks from now.
Most children will repeatedly test you and push boundaries around everything (I’m not telling you anything new there!), but they will especially test your expectations around sleep.
That’s why it’s so important to stick to your plan. Remember that consistency is a huge part of teaching healthy sleep habits. So that means you shouldn’t start bringing baby into bed with you at night when he cries if he’s been sleeping in his crib this whole time. Don’t start rocking him back to sleep every two hours when you know he doesn’t need that anymore because he can fall asleep independently. Don’t throw away all your hard work and take 3 steps backwards! Just follow your plan consistently and soon he’ll figure out that bedtime and sleep routines are here to stay.
2. Rule out discomfort/illness
If your baby was sleeping soundly at night and then suddenly wakes up crying (in that cry you know means something’s not right), it’s possible she might have an ear infection. With some children it isn’t as easy to detect, and they may not be pulling on their ears or fighting a fever (usually a telltale sign).
It could also be teething, a tummy ache, etc. If you suspect your baby might be waking from pain (especially if you suspect an ear infection), take her to the doctor and have her checked out. Once she’s treated, she’ll most likely start sleeping soundly again, assuming you haven’t reverted to old sleep props during the 24-48 hours since the illness began!
3. Developmental Milestone
If your baby starts crying at night out of the blue, it’s also possible it could be related to a developmental milestone.
Has your child recently learned a new skill (sitting, crawling, walking etc.)? This could be what’s causing the momentary ripple in bedtime routine. Give your child ample opportunity outside the crib to practice and master the new skill, stick to the plan and it should blow over in a couple of weeks!
4. Caregivers haven’t been consistent
You follow the routine to a “T”…but your nanny or spouse is a little bit lax and sometimes lets her fall asleep with the bottle, etc.
The more that happens, the more your child will think it’s a possibility – for anyone taking care of her – including YOU!
So just make sure everyone’s on the same page with the routine and not using sleep props to get her to sleep and once she realizes that’s the way it is now – with everyone! – she’ll go back to sleeping through the night.
Just remember: Whatever the reason for your baby’s nightwaking, don’t panic and rush in there to help immediately. Remain consistent with your response and expectations or you will quickly undo all the progress you’ve made. As you stick to the plan, your baby will continue to solidify these sleep skills and they’ll just become part of his daily routine, which will set him up to be a great sleeper going forward!
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