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When baby stops sleeping

A lesson I’ve learned the hard way, is that sometimes, once Baby sleeps through the night, he is not necessarily programmed to do so forever. His patterns may go through more changes as he continues to change and grow, especially during his first two years.

I have vague memories of our older boys, sleep habits, especially those first couple of exhausting months, but now that we’re starting over again with our latest edition, I am reminded (all too painfully) that sleep disturbances can reoccur as a baby develops.

I like Elizabeth Pantley’sNo-cry sleep solution‘, from which I’ve only read excerpts. Once our baby slept all night long, I happily tucked Pantley’s book away on the book shelf, next to our other parenting books. Now I find myself staring at this book through bleary eyes, again.

I spoke with the pediatrician last week, out of desperation and frustration. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing some hidden cause for baby’s night-time waking. Her concerns were pretty much the same as mine. This is a basic checklist when trouble-shooting about baby’s sleep troubles:

  • Is he hungry/has he had enough to eat during the previous day/evening?
  • Is he experiencing pain or discomfort due to teething?
  • Is he experiencing pain due to reflux, a common ailment in young babies, which is similar to heartburn in adults?
  • Is he breathing easily or are his nose stuffy, causing interruptions in his sleep?

At bedtime, does he fall asleep while nursing, bottle-feeding or sucking his pacifier (and therefore, need one of these in order to fall back asleep when he awakens at night)?

  • Is his sleep environment comfortable: not too hot, not too cold, not too dry?

Most of these problems can be easily tended to. If Baby is hungry, you may need to work harder at filling his belly during the day. Our pediatrician suggested feeding our little guy cereal at four months old, then slowly introducing other solids and working up to three meals a day fairly quickly. Sometimes our Baby is interested and sometimes he ‘poo-poos’ his meals by turning his head away and fussing. Figure out which foods are your baby’s favorites; our little man prefers oatmeal, sweet potatoes and apple sauce at this stage.

Reflux should be diagnosed by a doctor, and yes, our baby has suffered from it. He used to arch his back and cry when he was eating. The doctor prescribed Prilosec, twice a day. My hunch is that he has outgrown this but we are continuing to give him at least his evening dose, until he evens out and sleeps again.

If Baby sounds stuffy, use saline drops and a bulb syringe several times a day to help clear his little nose. A cool mist humidifier is a good idea.

(Signs and remedies for teething can be found in an earlier post I wrote, as well as in a recent post by a fellow blogger.)

Our baby’s problem right now is the toughest one to solve: We made the mistake of giving him a bottle in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. Now he’s back in the habit of ‘nibbling’ in order to fall back asleep. He seems to be getting up every three hours for a nibble (he used to sleep 7-10 hours, through the night).

We will weigh our options and try to re-train him to sleep. I prefer gentler methods, such as Pantley’s, but out of desperation, am tempted to let him ‘cry it out’ just a little bit. Mommies and daddies need to function for the rest of the family. We have to go to work to earn a living, run errands, cook, clean, help with homework, sit through (and sometimes coach, as in the case of my husband) soccer and baseball games. We need our sleep in order to accomplish all of this. Our baby is old enough to start ‘crying it out’. I’m just not sure if I’m tough enough to let him.

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