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Jul 21 2014

Ask a Sleep Coach: My Baby’s Day Sleep is Only Getting Worse

By at 3:39 pm

Sleeping-baby

Dear Batya,

I hope you can help! My 7.5-month-old’s sleep has been steadily worsening since he was about 6 months old.

In the day, he has always had a hard time napping and sleeps with quite a lot of effort on our part–45 to 50 minutes, 2 to 3 times per day. Up until a month ago, he would nap in his crib in our bedroom. Then I started to nurse & nap with him in our bed and try extend sleep by nursing when he would wake. We both really love this, although it only works once in a while at making the naps longer. 
However, now he completely refuses to nap in his crib, and has a very hard time napping without nursing. And after I remove him from my breast and we lie to sleep, he has started waking after about 10 minutes. My biggest concern is that my sweet little guy isn’t getting enough sleep, especially during the day.

Thanks so much,
Emilie

***

Hi Emilie,

Although it’s definitely a great idea to encourage self-soothing tactics for your baby, it will not get to the root of his problem–and seems like it will be merely trying to solve a symptom of his sleep fighting. Before working with actually helping him sleep better (for naps and the nights), it’s crucial to first address WHY he is waking up to begin with…especially because he didn’t used to go to sleep much easier.

First, it sounds like he is drastically overtired (as you noticed as well) due to his lack of daytime sleep. A baby his age definitely needs to be sleeping even more, and the fact that he fights sleep so much just causes him to become more frustrated, more overtired, and starts a snowball effect of sleep deprivation.

If you’ve read my other sleep articles here on Kveller, then you already know that I very strongly believe you have to first tackle the WHEN of sleep to ensure that you are introducing proper patterns for your baby so you can work his body’s natural rhythms. Otherwise, you will spend a lot of wasted energy attempting to teach him how to sleep better without even knowing when the optimal times are that his body needs to be sleeping! Here are three important suggestions to keep in mind:

1. Keep a log. Keep track of his habits for 2 or 3 days and take note of what his needs are. When does he seem to show his initial signs of being tired? At what point do you pass that ideal sleep window and reach the point of no return? Doing this will first help you establish predictable nap times his body needs to ensure that you are at least offering sleep initially at the best times for his body.

2. Just Get Him to Sleep! Forget about how he sleeps or where he sleeps. Your short term goal should just be to battle his exhaustion with ensuring he is getting the daytime sleep he needs! Nurse him, lay with him, take him for a walk, and do whatever you can to ensure he is sleeping at the times you’ve noticed he is most tired. Getting his body accustomed to certain sleep times is the first step to battling his over-tiredness and teaching his body actually HOW to wind down for sleep. Also, by doing this he shouldn’t fight sleep as much because you are catching when his body wants to sleep…so it will help avoid these nap time battles you outlined.

3. Work on the HOW. After you’ve spent a few good solid days ensuring he is at least getting better rest, then you can move back to teaching him how to sleep on his own. If he already knows how to do so sometimes, it’s safe to say that he really knows how to do it all the time…he just may not want to. Keep allowing him to settle without your help and if you ever feel his crying escalates to a point you are uncomfortable, then definitely settle him. But the more and more his body adjusts to better daytime sleep and rhythms, the less of a fight he’ll make at bedtime. This will set the stage for proper night sleep and hopefully get everything back on track!

Do you have a sleep question for Batya? Send it into info@kveller.com with the subject line “Sleep Coach.”

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