Sleeping FAQ: 8-12 Weeks – Night Waking

My 9-week-old son has recently slept until 6.15 for two nights in a row and then 5.30 for another three, so I thought we were gradually getting to the holy 7am, but the other night (and again last night) he woke at 4am.
The first time I tried to use the core night method of settling him with patting or a dummy; patting had no effect so I gave him a dummy, which kept him quiet, but I could tell he wasn’t asleep so I eventually fed him at 5am, and he went back to sleep until 7am. He was then irritable all day which I put down to the disrupted night! Last night I tried to settle him at 4am with water, but he refused to settle and then I had to offer him 100mls of expressed milk to get him back to sleep. After this he woke at 6.50am and wasn’t interested in a top-up at 7.30am, but wouldn’t settle for the 9am nap until I topped him with 60mls of expressed milk.

The core night method doesn’t seem to be working – unless I am doing it wrong? I am a bit worried he will drop the wrong feed if I keep feeding him in the night.


As your baby is nine weeks old and possibly going through a growth spurt we would recommend that you go back to feeding him when he wakes in the night for the next week or so, even if it means he takes less at the 7am feed in the morning. There is always a stage in the routines where a baby will feed at 4/5am and not be so hungry at 7am. If he refuses a top-up at 7.30am, then you will have to top him up prior to his morning nap, so that he sleeps well. If he takes a top-up at 7.30am, you may find that you will have to feed him around 10/10.30am, with a top-up at lunchtime to keep the routine on track.

The most important thing to remember when establishing good sleeping habits, is that your aim should be to encourage your baby to naturally sleep soundly for long spells, even if it means a quick feed in the night. It can take slightly longer for breastfed babies to sleep through the night. If you try to push your baby through the night before he is ready, you will end up with a baby who gets into the habit of being awake on and off in the night, and as you have already found out, is tired and irritable during the day. A vicious circle can soon evolve where the baby stays awake longer in the night, because he is sleeping too much during the day. This is a far worse problem to resolve, than getting rid of a night feed. At this stage we would suggest that you give him as big a feed as he needs in the night to get him back to sleep quickly until 7am. It is pointless restricting the amount you give him, if then he wakes up at 6am !
Once he has been sleeping through regularly to 7am for at least a week, you could try the core night-method again. But always bear in mind that it should not be pursued unless the baby is settling back to sleep quickly with the aid of the dummy, water or a cuddle. If he hasn’t settled within twenty minutes it is best to feed him so that he is not awake for too long. As long as he is settling back quickly, with one of the suggested ways of settling and perhaps a small feed, you could continue using the core night method, provided he is sleeping until 7am. If he does settle back to sleep without a feed, but then wakes again an hour later he should be fed immediately. The aim of the core night is not to eliminate the night feed totally, but to encourage him to gradually sleep a longer and longer from his last feed. If you attempt to settle him a second time in the night with the dummy or water, that in itself could establish the wrong sleep association.

Sleeping FAQ: 8-12 Weeks – Lunchtime nap

Should I start sleep training or walking my 8-week-old son for his lunchtime nap?

I suffer from an immune disorder which makes me very weak physically; having a second child was a bit of a risk really. I have also just been diagnosed with PND. We have been trying the routine but are having such problems with the lunch-time nap as our 8-week-old wakes after 45 minutes. Our first child, was a “catnapper” and very unhappy as a baby; I am desperate for this not to be the case for our new baby. I have been reading the advice on the website and in the book but am at a loss as to whether to let my son sleep for the two hours by walking him or to start sleep training?
He is also not sleeping through the night, he wakes between 2-4am. We need some help urgently.
At present he feeds 7.30am, 10.30am, 2pm, 5.45pm, 10-11pm which are all 6oz feeds and takes 5ozs at 2.30am.
He naps at 9-9.45am, 12-12.45pm,1-1.45pm and 4-4.45pm. He is settled by 7pm.

With all the health problems you are having you could perhaps consider employing a maternity nurse for a week or so. You will need to specify that you need someone who will follow a Gina Ford routine- and help you get your son into a better lunchtime pattern as well as beginning to push on in the night. Another option [in London] is to consider the Night Nanny service.

There is a question on the bottom of p87 of The New Contented Baby about the lunchtime nap which may begin to help you solve this problem.
I would suggest that you offer your son a top-up feed before going down to eliminate hunger from the reasons why he has begun to wake after 45 minutes. Make sure his room is really dark and he is well tucked in with a sheet lengthways across him as his Moro reflex could still be quite strong and this disturbs him after his first sleep cycle. He appears to go back to sleep in 15 minutes; how does he do this? If you leave him to settle himself alone then 15 minutes is not long and he is doing it by himself. I understand from your mail you would like him to sleep straight through for 2 hrs. He needs to learn to settle alone now if, as I understand, he is only awake for 15 minutes.

It can be hard to listen to a baby cry, but if it is of the on/off type rather than getting really worked up, it is best to let him settle himself alone. If you are having to go back in and get him off again I suggest you begin to lengthen the time – give him at least 10 minutes before going into check him. Tuck him in again if needed, shush and give him one or two firm pats and then leave. Repeat this ten minutes later if he is still unsettled. This way you are reassuring him you are still there but giving him the chance to fall back to sleep alone. This method of sleep training is suited to babies of your son’s age.

The idea of walking your baby in a pram at this time can help a baby learn to sleep for a longer without the 45 min wake up. It can depend on how your baby sleeps as to whether you put him in a pram and walk until he is asleep, then leave him in a quiet spot or keep walking especially over the 45 min window to keep their baby asleep and teach him how to sleep for a full cycle. Some mums find this works well for shopping trips etc but it is probably the best to get your baby sleeping in his cot as well at this time. In short, train him to sleep for 2 hours and then get that to happen in his cot as well as with the motion of a pram.
As for nights: try splitting his 10pm feed, although you may do so already as you have written 10-11 on his form. For this to work wake him at 10pm and feed him 3-4 ozs. Then let him have a real break to 11.15pm (can your partner do this feed for you?) with a kick and some quiet play then give him a fresh bottle with another 3-4 ozs at 11.15pm. Give it after his change and in a dark room so he settles back to sleep. As he is now 8 weeks and still waking at 2am offer him cool boiled water when he wakes to try to settle him back again. This will begin to push him through a bit as it would seem he is waking from habit at this time. He may only settle for an hour before needing a small feed to get him through to 7am, but this will begin to push him on. Try to see if you can settle him with 4ozs in the night so he begins to increase his daytime feeds rather than having a full feed in the night. See p 148-149 of the Contented Little Baby about this use of the “core night”.

Sleeping FAQ: 8-12 Weeks – Lunchtime nap

How can I get my 9-week-old daughter to sleep better at lunchtime?

I have been having the ever popular problem of the lunchtime nap. At 9 weeks old my daughter hasn’t had the full sleep now for 2 weeks and is becoming a very unhappy baby as a result. For the first week I kept her in her cot, pitch black, well tucked in but every day she woke after 45 minutes. I tried giving her a top up before going down but wasn’t interested. I then tried giving the 11am feed at 10.15 but still not interested so I don’t think her waking is a due to hunger. For the second week I have been taking her out in the pram to see if I could get her past the 45 minute mark. Today is the 6th day and she has made it past then twice, even then she still spent a lot of the time awake and crying. I don’t feel as if this is working and I’m my feet are killing me; I’ve done so much walking! To get through the afternoon I let her have 30 minutes after the 2.30pm feed (which she will fall asleep half way through) then another 30 minutes at 4.30pm. She is still very unhappy all afternoon and almost unbearable between 5 and 6pm. She still sleeps well at night but am worried that it won’t last. I am tempted to just get her up after the 45 minute waking and let her make it up in the afternoon but I realise how important the lunchtime nap is so desperately want to make it work again.
At present she naps at 9-9.45am, 12-12.45pm, 3-3.30pm and 4.30-5pm.
She feeds at 7am 6.5ozs, 11am 6ozs, 2.30pm 5ozs, 6.15pm 6ozs, 10pm 4ozs. She weighs 11lb 5ozs.

At your daughter’s age problems can begin as a baby’s sleep cycles begin to change around now. It can take persistence to overcome the problem of 45 min waking but well worth making the effort.
If you have not done so already look at the lunchtime nap article written by Gina

When your daughter began waking after 45 minutes, how long did you leave her to settle again? At her age it may take 20-30 minutes of “crying down” to resettle herself. This is a skill she needs to learn. It can be hard to listen to a small baby cry but if you go in every 10 minutes or so to reassure her of your presence, trying not to lift her from her cot whilst you do so, she will learn how to settle herself back without needing your help which in turn may lead to more sleep associations.

Another alternative to consider is to lie with her for the time she should be sleeping. This option is another way to help her learn how to stay asleep throughout the two hours but obviously is a far more involved for you, although more restful than walking! It may take a week or more for her to fully adapt to being asleep for a longer period of time which is why you do need to be persistent in helping her to do this.

To help her get through 5-6pm better split her feed in the way you may have done when she was younger. Offering a small feed at 5pm will help her enjoy her bath time and then enjoy her feed afterwards. It can also help with the overall intake for a baby as the two bottles added together will be a slightly larger amount than she is managing to take now.

Sleeping FAQ: 8-12 Weeks – Lunchtime nap

Despite trying your advice for a week, my 10 week daughter still only sleeps for 45 minutes

I wrote to you last week about my lunchtime nap problem and many thanks for your reply. I have been trying what you suggested but unfortunately without success. I have tried leaving my daughter for 10-20 minutes, sometimes 30, but she cries and cries. This last week after 45 minutes I have gone to her immediately before she fully wakes up. I know that she will not settle in her cot, so I pick her up and hold her in the dark. She will go back to sleep almost straight away, but when I try putting her back into the cot she wakes again. By doing this I am worried that she may learn the wrong associations and want to be held all the time. My other friends who have had the same problem say that it will disappear, but as I am now entering a 4th week of unsuccessful lunchtime naps, I am not optimistic.
At present she sleeps 9.00-9.45am, 12.00-12.45pm, 1.00-2.15pm and 4.45-5pm.

Getting the lunchtime nap into place needs consistency and persistence, as it can take time for babies to learn how to settle back after their first sleep cycle of 45 minutes. In your first question you said you had tried to feed your daughter before going down, but she was not interested. As hunger is often a cause of waking, try moving the 11am feed back to 10.30am.

Your daughter may take a smaller feed at this time, but then offer her a top-up feed just before going down. You are, in effect, splitting the feed in the same way as at 5/6pm.
Continue with the holding to sleep for another week as it can take at least two weeks for a baby’s sleep cycle to readjust itself. Keep trying to put your daughter down once she seems to have settled back to sleep. You may well have to put some ‘crying down’ into place so she learns how to settle herself. For a full description of this see p39 of ‘The Complete Sleep Guide’ and also the section on Sleep Training in Gina’s article on the website. This method will reassure your baby that you are still there, but she will learn the important skill of falling back to sleep without assistance. Again, it takes persistence, so continue in the same way every day. A baby may cry down, gradually decreasing in volume and intensity, for 20- 30 minutes.

Make sure you have at least a twenty-minute wind-down time before settling her for her lunchtime sleep. Again, keep to the same routine every day so she learns to associate it with having her long nap. Sitting quietly in a darkened room, singing the same lullaby, tucking her in with the same words every day will give her the signals to settle to sleep.

Sleeping FAQ: 8-12 Weeks – Lunchtime nap

My 9.5-week-old daughter’s lunchtime nap is now disturbed by nursery runs

Since my 3-year-old son has been back at nursery, the midday nap for my daughter has gone wrong. He has to be collected at 12.30 so I have to leave at 12.15. My daughter is tired at 12.00 so I put her to sleep in her car seat ready to put in the car. She sleeps fine until I take her out of the car at 12.30 to collect my son. I have tried putting the car seat in the buggy and just carrying it but she always wakes up and will not go back to sleep. I know it is because she has come into her light sleep but these are the times I have to collect him. When we get home I try to settle her in a dark room either in her cot or remaining in the car seat but she then cries on and off until 2pm. She is then overtired for the remainder of the afternoon. She will not sleep after her 2pm bottle either. Before my son went back to school she was sleeping brilliantly at lunchtime. What can I do before it begins to affect her routine? Should I try to keep her awake until 12.45 when I get home? Her 2pm bottle will then be late.
At present she naps at 9-9.45am, 12-12.35pm and 4-4.30pm. She settles at 7pm.
She feeds at 7am 3ozs, 10.45am 5.5ozs, 2.15pm 4.4ozs, 5pm 3ozs, 6.15pm 2ozs and 11pm 3ozs. She weighs 11lbs.

It must be frustrating to have lost this lunchtime nap but at her age her cycles are changing. This change has coincided with your son’s return to nursery.
When you return home, presumably around 12.45pm offer her a small feed of around 2ozs. This may help her be settled back into her cot. Her afternoon feed could be moved onto 2.30/2.45pm if she is not so hungry before this and may be slightly smaller due to the earlier amount.

You could try hanging a blanket over the car seat when she first settles to sleep and see if this will encourage her to stay asleep for longer.
If her sleep is still not so long as you would like, try putting her down a little earlier in the afternoon, or going for a walk around 3.30pm and see if she can have nearer to an hour. This should then see her through to bath and bedtime.