Helping Older Babies Sleep (6 to 12 months)

Problems That Some Parents Experience
* You had an easy baby. Sleeping was never an issue. But suddenly, after he turned 9 months, he is awake a lot at night. He wakes you up. When you go to him, you find him standing in his crib. He starts crying when you leave the room. In the evening he no longer wants to go to bed.

Between 6 and 8 months, the baby goes from three to two naps a day. It helps now to bring him to bed for his naps at fixed times, for example at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The vegetable and fruit meals are right after his first and second nap. Nursing can be done after waking up in the morning, as a dessert for the meals, or just before the naps and once or twice in the evening.

If you nurse your baby before bed, he becomes totally calm. Try to continue nursing after six months. If you are a working mom and no longer want to pump, you can still nurse every night and in the morning.

At approximately 8 months the baby needs to eat more than before. In addition to the fruit and vegetable meals, you can give a cereal for breakfast and a cereal before bed in the evening. At that age, they normally do not need to be fed at night anymore. It is important that the baby eats enough during the day and that he is full before going to bed. Otherwise, he will wake up at night because he is hungry. If he wakes up, you just want to be sure he is not hungry.

Separation Anxieties
Between 8 and 9 months, separation anxieties can start. The baby thinks that when he doesn’t see his mother, she is not there. Most children wake up at some point during the night. If your child wakes up in his own bedroom, he thinks he is alone. Then it is totally normal that he wakes up his parents because he needs to be sure the parents still exist. Peek-a-boo games help alleviate the separation anxieties. During the day when you leave the living room, you can talk or sing. This way he learns you are still there.

Deep Sleep
Around 9 months, babies start to sleep more deeply with nearly total muscular relaxation. The baby can wake up from this if he falls into this deep sleep too fast because the body can make a sudden movement.

Between 9 and 10 months, many babies learn to stand by themselves while holding on to something. They are very enthusiastic about their ability to stand and sometimes practice this new skill even at night.

Waking up at Night
If the child starts crying in the evening, or if she awakes in the night, you can go to the child to reassure her that you are still there. You can put your hand on her head/back, and use your voice (for example, hum a short song.). Do not take her out of her crib even if she is standing. If this is repeated a number of evenings in a row, she will learn that her parents are always there. I often advise parents to put the crib next to their bed. You can put your hand through the crib rails. When she stands up, you can say: “Go back to sleep. I am also asleep.” Do not pay attention to the standing. This is to prevent it from becoming a battle or a game. Of course, you have to intervene if the baby is not able to get down or settle down easily. Most children lie down by themselves. Keep her in her own crib with a sleeping sack. For many children it is also OK to go to them after a few minutes, because they often quiet down soon by themselves and go back to sleep without any intervention.

Co-sleeping often prevents the problem of separation anxieties. If you co-sleep, you need to be able to sleep yourself. Sometimes the child is going to crawl around when he wakes up or try to stand and wake up the parents. Some parents take the child into their bed for a few nights and then find they are not able to put him back. The child only wants to sleep with them from that point on. If you start co-sleeping, you need to be aware that you need to do it every night.

It helps to have the same clear ritual before bed every day. For example, every night, you could give the child a warm bath or massage before bed and always the same lullaby. Sometimes it helps if the baby has a small, soft doll to bring into his bed.

Make sure the child is warm enough during the night. Babies this age have strong legs and can easily kick off blankets. However they are unable to re-cover themselves at night. You can use wool/silk undergarments and a woolen sleeping sac. If the child is too cold, she will awaken more easily.

From Two to One Nap a Day
The naps shorten as the child grows older. After around the first birthday, often there is an arrhythmic period. The child is too small for one nap a day and too big for two. It can take a month before a new rhythm is found. Then, after about 14 months, children only take one afternoon nap.

Mother’s Sleep is Holy
Always remember that it is not good when parents are tired, especially when you have more children. You require a lot of energy and a good mood. If you are tired, make sure you are in bed on time and continuing to try new strategies to help your baby sleep as soundly as possible.

© 2009-2011 Ester Delhoofen. All rights reserved.