The 2 a.m. Party Animal (actually it’s an Awake Baby)
I am long time reader and big fan, and am hoping you might have some words of wisdom for our situation.
We recently sleep trained my six month old – or rather, we totally night weaned him so that he would have no choice but to take the bottle during the day (a whole other problem), and assumed that would solve the night wakings. And it did, sort of. Now, instead of waking every 1.5-2 hours to eat all night long, the kid passes out between 6-7 pm and then is up and ready to party at 2 or 3 am (he does get a dream feed around 10).
But here’s the thing – he’s not crying or unhappy. He’s just awake. Awake, and chatting to himself. LOUDLY.
We’ve tried ignoring him and he eventually does go back to sleep for a quick nap around 4 or 4:30, but then is up again and ready for the day at 5am. So then he needs a nap at 7, usually a cat nap, and then has two long naps (1-2 hrs) during the day, the last one usually ending between 2:30-3:00 which leaves us fighting to keep him up until bedtime.
Meanwhile, we’re all exhausted.
So what do we do? Cut out one of the naps? Force him to stay awake longer between naps or at bedtime? Give in and reconcile ourselves to a semi-nocturnal life? I’m sure (hoping?) that we’re not the only ones who find themselves with a ridiculously early rise but I’m too sleep-deprived to find any helpful advice out there.
Diagnosing the Nighttime Sleep Problem
So there’s a lot going on here:
- First, he’s still super-recently sleep trained and night weaned.
- Second, he’s six months old. Primo sleep regression window — which, in your particular case, might not seem very “regression-y” because on the one hand, he’s sleeping for longer stretches than he did before. But on the other hand, waking up a 2 a.m. ready for his day to begin is a no-good, very mixed-up schedule.
Sounds like a Sleep Regression
But I mention the regression because there is a chance that this is one of those sleep hiccups that will resolve itself on its own, in a bit more time. So I’m hesitant to nitpick over every minute-to-hour of his schedule or recommend drastic changes, especially since I don’t know the full details on the daytime bottle/feeding issue and wouldn’t want to disrupt anything on that front. (But do not eliminate a nap! I think that will only make things worse at this point, to be honest.)
Since he’s waking up happy and his night-owl hours aren’t being spent in full-on scream mode, I’m honestly okay with you just…continuing to ignore him during that time? Install a crib aquarium he can kick at and amuse himself with? Buy some earplugs and a white noise machine for your room so you don’t hear him babbling so clearly?
He’s honestly not THAT far off from a “pretty good, not mixed-up schedule” for a baby his age — ideally that 2-3 a.m. waking would be for one more night feeding, and then those two 30-minutes catnaps at 4 and 7 a.m. would get combined into ONE morning nap that 1) happens about two hours after he wakes up at a more reasonable hour, and 2) lasts at least one hour. Then you would continue his naps throughout the day, spaced about two to three hours apart, with an eye on eventually shifting to the 2-3-4 schedule.
A 2-3-4 Sleep Schedule should emerge soon
The 2-3-4 schedule would drop him down to two loooong naps during the day, but again, I don’t really want you messing with his daytime schedule when he’s missing such a big chunk of his overnight sleep and starting his day so ungodly early. If anything, I wonder if you could try to squeeze one last extra little catnap after his 2:30 – 3 p.m. waking (like around 4:30/5 p.m.). Wake him up after 30 minutes, feed him dinner (if you’ve started solids), and see if that helps push his bedtime back to 7:30/8. That should, IN THEORY, set him up to be sleepy-but-not-overtired and ready to settle in for a full 11-12 hours of overnight sleep.
BUT AGAIN, if he was ANGRY and HANGRY and SCREECHING every night, my advice would probably be more definitive and specifically actionable. I’d likely suggest you consider adding a 2 a.m. feeding back in (maybe going in before he wakes up completely to top him off and keep him feeling all warm and full and sleepy), to see if that holds him over until a more acceptable wake-up time. But since he isn’t clearly hungry, and we do not want to reinforce the idea that milk = sleep any more than absolutely necessary, but we do want to encourage good solo self-soothing habits around non-hunger-related night wakings, so…yeah.
If your baby is safe, let him be
I’d just leave him be, for now, and let him amuse himself during those weirdo wakings until he falls back asleep on his own. (While you do whatever you need to do to sleep through the weirdo wakings!) This may sort itself out as 1) he moves past the six-month cognitive leap/growth spurt, 2) he gets the message that nothing fun happens at 2 or 3 a.m. (no milk, no Mama, etc.) and it’s easier to just go back to sleep, 3) starts and/or increases his solid food intake, or…4) changes all the rules on you all over again, because he’s a baby, and that’s just what they do.
But in the meantime, worst case scenario: He’s happy and safe in his crib and not demanding your immediate presence, which is great! He eventually goes back to sleep all on his own, which is awesome! You have my blessing to roll over and zonk the hell back out while he sorts this one out on his own.
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