Sleeping FAQ: 6-9 months – Night Waking

How can I stop my 6 month daughter waking at 4am every morning?

My daughter has followed the routines since 1 month old. In the beginning she would cry every time she was put down, but I persevered and up until last month she was a contented baby. I am now having the problem of her waking every morning around 4am. She settles well at 6.45/7pm. I have tried leaving her to settle herself back to sleep but it is just not working. I put a music box in her room but that is not working either. Is there anything else I can do to sort the problem out?

She is fully weaned on three meals a day. Her milk intake is 22ozs; 7.30am 8ozs, 2.30pm 6ozs, 6.30pm 8ozs.

She takes 1/2 weetabix at breakfast, lunch varies between vegetable soup, chicken casserole or fish pie, followed by fresh fruit. Tea is a similar meal, followed by yoghurt. Her protein based meal can either be at lunch or teatime. My daughter also has a snack at 10am and 3.30pm.She usually eats a full baby bowl.

My daughter naps at 9-9.45am and her lunchtime nap varies between 12-3pm, it is normally 11/2 to 2 hours long.

Finding why your daughter is waking at this time every morning could be a process of elimination. The two main reasons, hunger or too much sleep in the day, need to be looked at first.

At six months your daughter has only just begun to have protein based meals. It is better if this meal is always given at lunchtime. A baby who is getting tired at the end of the day may not always take the amount of protein needed and so not fill themselves up as well as they would if they were less tired. By knowing she has had a good breakfast and lunch you can base her tea on carbohydrates, to help her through the night.

A tea which is rich in carbohydrates will help fill her up. Serve thick vegetable soups, vegetable bakes, pasta or jacket potatoes with grated cheese or vegetable based sauces. Recipes for all these can be found in the Complete Weaning Guide. Check that the snack your daughter is having mid-afternoon is really needed. It may just be taking the edge off her appetite for tea at 5pm. If she seems hungry mid afternoon offer her a piece of fruit rather than rice cakes or bread sticks.

Next, look at her day-time sleeping which, in your daughter’s case, does not seem to be excessive. During the second part of the first year the morning nap begins to get pushed on towards 9.30am, especially if you are having to wake your daughter at 7am. This nap shortens to 20-30 minutes, often by the first birthday. The knock-on effect of this is that the lunchtime nap moves on to nearer 1pm and is given for 2 hrs.

At your daughter’s age she is becoming more mobile and active in the day and may well be falling straight into a deep sleep at 6.45pm/7pm. A common reaction to this is waking early in the morning. Begin to watch how you structure her sleep by day and try to keep to roughly the same times every day. This is especially important at lunchtime. If your daughter is settling at 12 midday for 2 hrs, she is awake from 2pm all the way through the afternoon until bedtime. Many babies of this age who are having earlier lunchtime naps or not sleeping two hours will need a 15-20 minute cat nap around 4/4.30pm, so that exhaustion does not cause them to fall straight into a deep sleep when put to bed in the evening. If your daughter has her lunch at 11.45am, have her in bed by 12.45pm at the latest. Watch during the afternoon for signs of tiredness and, if needed, take her for a short walk around 4pm so she can rest or catnap for a short while if tired.

If your daughter does not seem to need a short nap in the afternoon and is keeping to a regular lunchtime nap, you may need to have her in bed by 6.30pm. This will help her settle herself within 20 minutes but not fall straight to sleep. You may have to persist with an earlier bedtime for at least a week before you notice any real difference in your daughter’s night waking. Her body clock needs to be reset and this can take time.

Once you have eliminated hunger or too much daytime sleep, look at how she sleeps at night. Is she beginning to move around the cot at night? Maybe she has begun to turn herself over and wakes herself when caught or unable to get back again. Using a sheet to tuck her in can help this problem. Check she is neither too hot nor too cold. Early mornings can be chilly and a baby may wake through moving from under their covers and becoming cold.

When you have checked through all these things, you will need to decide how you will tackle getting your daughter to settle again if she continues to wake in the night. As she is waking at the same time every night it could well have become a habit, so you may need to teach her how to settle herself back to sleep again. Leave her for 10 minutes when she first wakes so, if still only half awake, she may settle herself back. Then go in and reassure her with a few words and tuck her back in her cot. You should keep going back to reassure her every 5-10 minutes for the first half hour she is awake. Just reassure her and stroke her head briefly then leave the room again. After half an hour begin to leave her for 15-20 minutes before checking. Keep checking her every 15-20 minutes until she settles back to sleep. This is following the first day of the controlled crying technique as described by Gina in her Complete Sleep Guide, page 47. On subsequent nights you lengthen the time before going in, so your daughter learns to settle herself back to sleep on her own. Providing you have checked for all the other reasons first for your daughter’s night waking, this method should see her settling herself within about 20 minutes after 3 or 4 nights.