I recently had an opportunity to help a mother whose happy, healthy six-month old changed from a baby who awoke every 3-4 hours through the night for a nursing to a baby who wakes up hourly through the night, crying, requiring parental soothing and suckling even when not hungry. What to do? What to do!
My first suggestion is The Period of Purple Crying, http://www.purplecrying.info/sleeping.php, authored by Dr. Ronald G. Barr, MA, MDCM, FRCP(C).
Of special noted is Dr. Barr's Information for Dad's.
Dr. Barr and I share some history and as a result a common approach to many issues. Dr. Barr was a Fellow in Ambulatory Pediatrics at Boston's Children's Hospital Medical Center when I was Chief Resident in Ambulatory Pediatrics at the same hospital. I highly recommend your reading The Period of Purple Crying if your infant is troubled with bouts of crying or interrupted sleep overnight.
He makes these basic points:
- There is nothing physically wrong with most infants who wake and signal parents in the night;
- Except for continued sleeping problems, most infants who wake and signal in the night are normal in their long-term development.
- Quiet a baby thought to be sleepy in a crib or similar place, and avoid feeding or cuddling the baby to sleep at night-time.
- Reduce light and social interaction at night, but make social interactions enjoyable in the day-time.
- Once the baby is healthy, putting on weight and developing normally, begin to delay feeding for a few moments when the baby wakes at night. The short delay means that waking is not immediately rewarded by feeding. This is done gradually, using handling or diaper changing to add a short delay, but this does not involve leaving the baby to cry for a long time.
He notes two important principles of soothing crying:
- Some soothing behaviors work some of the time, but nothing works all of the time;
- Soothing can work preventively if the soothing activities are applied when the infant is not crying rather than just in response to crying.
Secondly, there are many books on troubled sleep and crying infants. This one, The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp is highly recommended.
Thirdly, I recommend Laura Swartz's website www.healthyhappysleep.com or her Facebook page, Healthy Happy Sleep, as a good source of basic information and sound principles.
And to help keep some sense of humor about this common area of parent sleep deprivation, I recommend that you view the episode "The Conversation" from the TV sitcom, "Mad About You" starring Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser on YouTube, You will laugh in empathy at this episode.
Lastly, many parents can be very creative as to how they exit the bedroom of their sleeping infant so as not wake the little sleeping "nitro-glycerin" crier: https://youtu.be/3qrrcjoJdBQ.