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When Baby Keeps Waking at Night: Swaddling an Older Baby

By five months of age, most babies are supposedly old enough to be able to sleep through the night.  My husband and I clung to this hope as soon as our son turned 5 months, and then 6, and were still counting as he neared 7 months of age.  Surely his sleeping habits would get better as he got older, right?  As a matter of fact, they were getting worse.  And to our dismay there seemed to be no reason for his constant waking at night.  Sounding familiar to your situation at all?  Luckily, we found a simple solution.

Here is a little bit about our baby’s sleep history.  We swaddled him up until 4 months of age.  Up until this point he was only waking once in the middle of the night to feed.  Once he reached 4 months, however, we decided to break him of his swaddle.  We also started him on cereal at the same time, which turned out to be a big mistake.  We went through a few rough nights after starting cereal since his body was having trouble digesting it, but once we took him off the cereal he started sleeping better, so we thought.  He never went back to his normal pattern of waking up once per night.  In just a few short months he went from waking once per night to waking up every 2 hours, and sometimes more often.  We simply couldn’t figure out the reason other than he moved so much while sleeping that it would wake him up.  I was at my wits end with a near 7 month old that was waking as often as a newborn!

So now to the solution.  We discussed the cry-it-out method, but I simply didn’t have the motivation or the heart to attempt it at that point in time.  My husband spoke to a coworker one day about our problem, and he gave us our golden solution: bring back the swaddle!  His daughter had the same problem, and swaddling took care of it immediately.  I was pretty skeptical that it was actually going to work for us, but I was desperate.  I figured our son would just break out of the swaddle all night long and continue his waking pattern or that he would hate it and scream every time we swaddled him.  So here is how it went:

Night 1:  Woke up once after sleeping 7 and 1/2 hours straight.  Fed and slept till morning.  My thoughts- “Great!  But it was probably a fluke thing.”

Night 2:  Woke up once after sleeping 6 hours straight.  Reswaddled and fed, and slept till morning.  My thoughts- “Maybe it’s actually working?!”

Night 3:  Woke up once after sleeping 7 hours straight.  Fed and slept till morning.  My thoughts- “Why didn’t I think of it sooner?!  It does work!  I’m a believer!”

So now baby, my husband, and I are all feeling very well rested and relieved (and somewhat frustrated) that a simple swaddle was all it took.  Yes, most baby experts say that older babies don’t need to be swaddled, but when you are exhausted from sleep and your baby is not sleeping well either, it just might be the right solution for you.  Some babies love the comforting feeling of being held snugly, and that is what swaddling does.  Just be careful not to use a heavy blanket that will overheat baby since swaddling will keep them nice and warm. 

I wish I had known sooner that all our baby wanted was the security of a swaddle to fix his recurrent waking at night.  But it immediately changed our son’s sleeping behavior, and if you’re having the same problems with waking, it’s worth a shot.  Happy sleeping!

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