With a desired wake time to start the day being 7, having a baby wake at 5 is like torture. How do you handle it? How do you get them to drop that feeding and make it until 7? Having to wake yourself up to feed your baby at 5 am knowing you will be up again at 7 is truly misery! Here's how I handle dropping the last middle of the night feeding:
1. Treat it as a Full Feeding then Re-Wake: This is frustrating. Because you nurse your baby at 5 am and then they are supposed to wake again at 7 am and eat again! When my babies first drop their middle of the night feeding and start to sleep solid from their dreamfeed until 5 am, I do treat the 5 am wake up as a full feeding. I offer both breasts and make sure they are full. Then I put them back to bed.
Some people like to go ahead and start the day and adjust the schedule from that point and treat the 5-6 wake up as the start of the day. Personally I prefer to put them back to bed (even if it's only for an hour) and then wake for my desired wake time. If they wake at 5 and are back to bed at 6 I will wake them to eat again at 7-7:30 to start the day! My personal goal is to always be within the 30 min window of my scheduled times. So if my baby does make it until 6:30 I will treat it as the start of the day since it's only 30 min before my desired awake time!
2. Nurse back to Sleep: After a few mornings of a full feeding at 5-6 am and then back to sleep and re-waking at desired awake time, I will stop treating the 5-6 am wake up as a full feeding. Instead I will sneak into my baby's room, as quietly as possible, and offer them just enough to eat to get them back to sleep. I will keep my baby fully swaddled, I won't change their diaper, I will just offer one breast in the complete dark and nurse them until they are asleep. Then I put them back down in the crib and wake them again at 7 to start the day. This way they have enough in their belly to feel satisfied and to be able to sleep for that extra 1-2 hours to make it until our desired time to start the day! When I think back to the newborn stage with my babies, this "sneaky nursing session" ends up being one of my sweetest memories. There is something precious about just sitting in the dark with your almost-asleep baby at your chest!
If you are formula feeding I would recommend cutting back on the ounces offered at this wake up and treat it the same way I do while breastfeeding. Keep the room dark and be as quiet and disrupt them as little as possible. With formula feeding you can see how much they are drinking and it may help you to know that they can make it until 7 because they aren't drinking very much!
3. Comfort: I have found that none of my babies respond well to me going in and just holding them or comforting them if they wake at the 5-6 hour. Since I breastfeed my breasts are yelling "empty me! empty me!" at this time and hearing my baby cry only makes that worse. I feel that the baby can also smell that milk and knows that Mommy is a feeding machine so if I try to hold them, they just get more worked up until I nurse.
However, if you have a hands-on husband he may want to try going in when they wake and simply holding them or even rocking them back to sleep. My husband is a pro at this! I'm so thankful he's always willing to run in and comfort our babies. Our second child responded very well to physical touch and this seemed to work best for her to help her transition back to sleep rather than staying awake!
4. Sleep Prop: I'm not a big fan of sleep props but this is THE time that I highly recommend using a pacifier. Usually what happens with my babies is that they will sleep solid through the night. They will not wake at the 5-6 hour and will sleep until desired awake time of 7! Yay! But then...it's like a fluke and they go back to waking again at the 5-6 hour. So frustrating to have had that full night of sleep to only start having to wake up at 5 am again! However at this point I know they CAN make it until 7 so I don't feel as much urgency to feed them when they wake.
In this scenario my husband or I will go in right when they start to fuss. If I let them fuss too long I've found they often get more worked up and more hungry and will be less likely to fall back to sleep. I go in right when they first wake and give a paci. Hold it in their mouth until they are back to sleep and then I leave again. I will do this twice. If they spit the paci out two times then I know they are legit hungry and I will go ahead and feed them!
The beauty of using the pacifier in this situation is once they do sleep solid, they don't have any need for that paci. It's truly a sleep aid rather than a prop. I have found it works pretty flawlessly in helping hold my babies off until the desired awake time.
5. Swing: I'm personally not a big fan of any props be it pacifier or swing, but both serve a helpful purpose in certain situations. If your baby is waking at the 5-6 hour it may be tricky to get them back to sleep. Some babies are "ready for the day" at 5 am! You feed them and try to put them back to sleep so you can wake them again at 7 but they aren't having it. This is a good opportunity to utilize the swing. I always "start as I mean to go on" meaning I'd try to first put them back to sleep in their crib but if they aren't having it I'd move to the swing in hopes of getting them back to sleep until the desired awake time.
6. Cry It Out: I don't recommend letting a baby cry who hasn't been consistently sleeping through the night. However, my last baby had a FIERCE sleep regression issue at 4 months old. I tried everything and nothing worked. It ended up being best for HER if I just let her fuss when she woke middle of the night. Some babies just cry more than others. Some get more worked up when the cry and need to have comfort or a prop or even use the swing but others just need to fuss and actually get worked up more when someone intervenes. As heartbreaking as it was for me to hear her over the monitor, it was what gave HER the best rest and that's really what is most important! If you have an OLDER baby who has started waking middle of the night again, then letting them cry may just be the answer!
The 5-6 am wake up is one of the most frustrating times as a mom. You know your baby is so, so close to that glorious victory of sleeping through the night, yet it feels like it's never going to happen! My babies ALL struggled with the 5-6 am wake up and it is a short lived phase. I know when you are in the heart of it that it feels like an eternity but my babies all only struggled with it for 2-3 weeks and then they started sleeping fully through the night from their dreamfeed until the desired awake time! Stick with it! Soon this aggravating phase will be in the past and you will actually be well-rested (yes, YOU!!)!
Other Helpful Posts:
- Where to Get Help with Babywise
- Britt's birth - 6 month schedules
- Starting Babywise from Birth
- How to Start Babywise
- Newborn Sleep Hierarchy
- Baby-Led Weaning Guide
- Newborn Sleep Guide
- Infant Sleep Guide
- Tips for Successful Breastfeeding
- Myth of the "Perfect" Babywise Baby
- 4 Month Sleep Regression
- Weekly and Monthly Summaries for the 1st Year
- Birth to 12 Months Schedules
- Babywise and the Pacifier
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