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A Little Secret About Frequent Nighttime Waking in Babies and Toddlers

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How do you sleep?

How do you sleep?

Just a few minutes ago, I was doing the dishes and I heard little babe squawk for about the third time since I put her to bed a couple hours ago.  My husband is in there with her, so the first two times, she easily settled back down and fell back asleep cuddled against him.  But, when I heard her wake up for the third time, I thought, ‘Oh, she’s gotta pee‘.  So, I took my dishwashing gloves off, went into the bedroom, where she was tossing and turning on the bed next to Art.  She’s almost 11 months old.  I pulled off her pants and cloth diaper, then held her over a little potty I have by the side of the bed.  She complained a little, semi-cry, like, ‘man, this really stinks, I’m so tired and I want to be sleeping, but damn it, I have to pee!’.  (come on, you know the feeling, haven’t you ever been so comfy in bed that you wish someone could get up and pee for you?).  I wiped her off, plopped her back on the bed, put her dry diaper back on, laid down, gave her a few  minutes of boobies, then pulled away.  She complained a little (really wanted that boob still in her mouth), but then flopped over and squashed herself up against Art.  I got up and went back to doing the dishes.

This is our routine, more of less, almost every night.  I usually take her at least once, twice or occasionally even three times a night.  A very little known secret in first world countries, where nearly all babies wear diapers (even mine), is that BABIES WAKE TO PEE!  Yes, it’s true!  The ‘sleep experts‘ don’t even talk about this one much.  Babies will not eliminate in a deep sleep.  First, they stir.  (Of course, there could be many reasons for a baby waking at night and it’s completely normal for a baby to wake up multiple times throughout of the night).  Then, mom or dad have some routine of getting baby back to sleep.  So, if you have your baby in your bed, like us, often your first reaction (and I wouldn’t even call it a reaction because you can do it sometimes completely asleep) is to stick the boob into the mouth.  Plug up the noise hole and pray that they go back to sleep.  Sometimes they go back to sleep and you can ‘milk it’ (haha, get it) for another hour or two, but then the stirring happens again… then the pee… then they’re wet.

If you’ve got them in cloth diapers, then they’re REALLY wet and you’re supposed to change them straight away.  So, I find that even if I’m too lazy to take her to the potty, I still end up having to get up and change the diaper anyway!  So, may as well do the potty. Even in a disposable, I’ve used them sometimes and I felt as though they got really cold (even in summer) if they were wearing a wet diaper.  Since Margo was born, I knew that she was waking to pee, but I thought that if I just let her go in the disposable that it would somehow make it so that she couldn’t feel it and we would get more sleep.. but no… that was so not the case.  Until I changed her, the night waking would happen at least every hour, sometimes more.  I mean, it really made sense to me, after all, no animal lets its baby poop and pee where it sleeps without cleaning it up, so why would a human baby be able to sleep in the same?  So, quickly, by the time she was a few weeks old, I was doing EC (elimination communication) with her consistently at night, knowing that even though it was a bit of a pain to get up and take her, that it would mean that we could have a more restful sleep if I did.  Short term effort, long term benefit (ehm, longer stretches of sleep).

I’m all about on demand feeding and letting babies have boobies at night, but I feel that once they hit a certain age (maybe 6 months-ish), they’re were not waking ALL night long because they are hungry.  Thirsty maybe, and maybe going through milestone development, but in my opinion, not starving hungry.  So, it was at this time that I started just making the feeds shorter.  I would let them have a nibble, not a huge meal, and then pull away.  I’m certainly not an expert in nutrition, and every baby has different needs, but at this age, my girls were both above the 97th and 90th percentile, respectively, for weight, so I was not concerned that they needed to top up on nutrients at night.  Constantly night feeding, to me, just meant that I would have to wake up and take them to the potty more (yawn.. who wants to do that five times a night?).

I don’t have any solutions to this night waking, as I don’t really see it as an issue.  I’m not offering advice on how to stop night wakings, only ways to deal with it or at least to offer an understanding why SOME (not all) of the night wakes might be happening.  To help, you can certainly take your baby to the potty, or you can let them pee in the diaper and then change them so they feel comfortable.  You can also make feeds a bit shorter and possibly not offer the boob at every time they wake.  For example, if I know that there was just a feed an hour ago (assuming it’s an older baby), I probably would just give a cuddle before offering boob.  It’s really no secret if she’s after boobs anyway, she usually goes lunging for the chest if she wants it.  If she’s not really interested, she’ll complain and then fall asleep.  (miraculously not waking her 3 year old sister, who is sleeping on the other side of me).

My older daughter was completely out of diapers from the age of 14 months, and I could seriously count the number of nighttime accidents on one hand, and she’s almost 3 1/2.  I really believe that she has excellent control over her bladder because of the EC that I did with her from birth.  I once heard that going to the toilet is a huge impression in the mind.  In other words, often you think you have to constantly go, or are afraid that you won’t make it to the next pit stop, but you really are fine and don’t have to go.  It wasn’t until I went to India that I realised that all the people there can hold their bladders for ages and they have a very good awareness of ‘liquid in, liquid out‘, like, they drink just enough so that they’re peeing all day long.  Well, funny enough, most people in India were raised doing EC (although not as much with the younger generation now).  I’ve noticed that Margo is very conscientious of ‘what goes in, comes out’, and she too will only drink just enough liquid to have very infrequent pees, without her being dehydrated.

Anyway, I better get to bed now, because the little one will be waking up in another couple hours to pee… bless her, the cute little thing.. it’s ok when she wakes, because guaranteed, I’ll be busting to go too!  Anyway, I don’t really mind taking her at night, she’s super cute when she sits on the potty or I hold her over the sink, because she does the whole thing with her eyes shut!  Both my girls did the EC thing at night in their sleep, nodding their heads on the potty.  Total cuteness!

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