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We weened our 7 month old daughter off using a pacifier at night about 2-3 weeks ago. When using the pacifier, she sleep well (once she was asleep). Since getting rid of it, she sleeps through the night on some nights, but most nights, she is waking up every 1-2 hours.

On the nights when she is waking up frequently, if my wife picks her up, she won't calm down until she is breastfed (although this seems to be for comfort, not need). If I pick her up, she falls asleep in my arms almost instantly. If I can put her back down without waking her up, she'll stay asleep for another 1-2 hours. If I do wake her up putting her back down, picking her up causes her to fall back to sleep immediately again.

When she wakes up, it usually starts with a whine, then turns into crying. My wife is opposed to letting her cry it out.

Does anyone have tips on avoiding this situation continue or determining why she is waking up? Obviously this is not a habit that we want to develop.

Edited: To clarify that this was a change in behavior since being weened off pacifiers.

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One obvious approach is to wait until she grows out of it. She's a baby, after all, and needs her parents. –  Dave Clarke Aug 3 at 13:33
    
I've edited the question a little to show that this was something she wasn't doing when she was using the pacifier. It very well might be something she will grow out of, but it was a change in behavior (she slept very well from the start), so I'm thinking something changed that is affecting her sleep. I know she's at an age where she can start to develop "habits", and we don't want her to become dependent on being rocked every 1-2 hours. –  Scribblemacher Aug 3 at 15:09
    
What happens if instead of picking her up, you hold her hand, maybe place a hand on her stomach or head? –  RemcoGerlich Sep 1 at 8:40
    
@RemcoGerlich Now that she is sleeping well again, that technique works great to coax her back to sleep if she wakes up. At the time that I asked this question, it was completely ineffective. That should have been a sign to us that something was wrong and it was not just a phase. –  Scribblemacher Sep 1 at 11:17

4 Answers 4

The most simple answer would be to restore the pacifier. Pacifier use up until 12 months or longer isn't any issue

If the only thing that has changed is the pacifier let them keep using it.

As with most things in life you have to make a choice. Is sleeping through the night, for you, your wife and you child more important than the reason you decided to ween them off the pacifier.

I know it's hard to go back, all the work and effort to getting rid of it, but in the long run there may be less impact from letting them have it and more upside to better sleep.

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In desperation, we attempted to give the pacifier back about 4 weeks after weaning. She refused it. She would chew on it and throw it, but would not suck. –  Scribblemacher Aug 30 at 15:23

I know a lot of people say 'by so and so age, a baby should be able to sleep through the night'.

However, almost every parent I know have reported their babies wake up at least one time a night until 12 months, many longer. (What I suspect is that they don't NEED food at night from a medical standpoint, which tiny babies does).

When your wife picks up the baby, the baby smells food, and will be hungry. She doesn't know it is the middle of the night, so she will be hungry.

I would suggest:

  • Go back to pacifier

or

  • stick it out a little longer with picking up and calming. If she was sleeping with the pacifier, she was soothing herself with it, and now she doesn't know how. I would think she would be able to learn it. I would let her cry maybe 2-3 min, then go pick her up. (I am opposed to crying it out too, like your wife, but sometimes they need a little time to go back to sleep on their own). I would see if you could comfort her without picking her up too (pat on back etc - never worked with my kids, works great with some).

Good luck.

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2  
You are spot on about my wife and feeding. We finally got our daughter sleeping well, but when she wakes up in the middle of the night, I have a significantly easier time getting her back to sleep than my wife. She still tends to kick and cry until my wife feeds her, whereas I'm able to calm her back down quickly. –  Scribblemacher Aug 30 at 15:25
up vote 2 down vote accepted

We found that the best way to troubleshoot this problem was to closely examine her routines--specifically when she was getting up, when she was taking naps, and what she was doing before bedtime. After reviewing this, a few things became clear:

  • She did not have a consistent wake and nap schedule, waking between 9-11:30 AM and going to bed around 10 PM (but not sleeping much until about 3 AM)
  • She was taking naps on-demand, at random times
  • Her naps were averaging 30-40 minutes, not enough for quality REM sleep
  • Due to the short naps and frequent wakings, she was over tired

Overtiredness was the root of the problem.1 Over the course of several weeks, it had gotten so bad that most methods of calming her (holding, rocking, nursing, etc) stopped working altogether. In a desperate attempt to get sleep for all of us, we attempted to re-introduce the pacifier, but she completely rejected it. The "cry it out" method (specifically the Ferberization method) was not effective.

The solution that ultimately reversed her overtiredness involved the following:

  • Strict wake time (8 AM)
  • Strict nap times (10:00-noon, 3:00-5:00)
  • A bed time routine starting at exactly 7:00 PM, that included a bath, nursing, story time, nursing (with lights out) and bed.
  • Putting her down slightly awake, rather than asleep
  • White noise CD, such as this one

Of these things, the strict sleep schedule was by far the most effective. She also woke much less frequently with white noise in the background.

Once on a consistent schedule, she began to get more sleep, and the fussiness subsided.

One technique that I found very successful to get her from arms to crib without annoying her was to hum, which offered her a consistent distraction during the process. She particularly enjoys Aerith's theme from Final Fantasy 7.


1 Several friends and co-workers wanted to blame teething too. I was inclinded to believe that at first too, but it was more of a phantom than anything else. Proof of this would be that about 2 weeks after we got her back to sleeping, she cut 3 teeth at the same time. This had a negligible affect on the quality of her sleep. I think blaming teething for unexplained problems can be a bit dangerous, because solutions for that problem include giving medications such as topical gels and acetaminophen. Many of the topical medications include benzocaine, but do not have clear warnings that they can be fatal to small babies.

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Ah, I hadn't noticed your question was from a month ago. Good to hear it was solved, and a nice warning for me: our 4 month old's sleep patterns are all over the place. –  RemcoGerlich Sep 1 at 11:49

First and foremost: When a child of that age cries, then that means the child is distressed. The reason we usually cannot let a baby cry is that, over millions of years, crying has become a statement of "something isn't right!" and hearing a baby cry has become a reminder that "something needs to be made right!" It's built-in – both into the baby and the parents. So do not let others talk you into "some crying isn't bad, wait it out." A baby cries when something is wrong, and our natural reaction is to try to remove whatever makes the baby feel bad. What worked fine millions of years shouldn't be easily dismissed for some cultural habits gained a few dozen years ago.

Working from that, the question becomes "What is wrong and what can we do about it?"

What is wrong I could only speculate. One thing immediately coming to my mind is that, for millions of years, a child that didn't feel contact with a familiar adult had been lost in the forest and needed to draw attention so the parents can pick it up. This, too, is built-in. IME, some babies need more physical contact and others do less. But physical contact usually helps make the baby feel safe and peaceful again. That is, why we feel the urge to pick up a crying baby, after all – this was the right thing to do for millions of years, and it still works.

So my suggestion is to make it easier for you and the baby's mother to make the child feel good, so that the two of you will also get enough sleep to get through that period. (Always remember the parent's mantra: "It's just a phase. It will pass.")

One thing we have done was to build a small extension to our bed where a child can easily be put to sleep alone, but just as easy be picked up from when it cries. It was about an inch lower than our mattress, so that the children would not roll into our bed by themselves. (Some children "travel" a lot during sleep.) Putting it on my side of the bed somewhat lowered the lure of wanting to be fed in the middle of the night. I would lie on my back, the baby on my belly until the baby was quiet and comfortable. Then I'd slowly roll to the side and let the baby slip to its "balcony". If the baby starts to cry, I'd pick it up again. After a few nights this could become routine for the two of you and the child might be more relaxed about lying alone.

One thing you also might want to try is tight-wrapping the child, which helped with one of my kids.

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