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Night Waking Issues

Nightwakings and Getting Out of the Bed aka "Jack-in-the-Box" syndrome.

There are two ways you can classify night wakings:


  1. True feedings : For babies at about or younger than 9 months of age still might need one to two feedings a night. You have to be the judge.
  2. Fears
  3. Nightmares
  4. Night Terrors
  5. Illness


  1. Anything other than the above.

Causes of Unnecessary Night Waking

It’s important that you know what your child’s age specific sleep needs are and whether or not you are meeting those needs (go to “Age and Needs”) to double check first. If the foundation is correct and night wakings are occurring then consider the following.

  • Either too late a bedtime and/or lack of sleep during the day
  • For babies who are still napping and are well rested throughout the day you might consider making the bedtime earlier. The bedtime might be too late.
  • Depending on your child's age if she still needs a nap/s and they are inconsistent and/or not long enough, making the bedtime earlier will promote healthier sleeping during the day and stop unnecessary night waking.
  • If your child has outgrown naps, again the bedtime might be too late and/or you might also need to implement some incentive plan like a star chart which will be explained down below.

If all of the above mentioned reasons have been covered and your child is night waking you can assume it is a night waking habit. There are a number of choices when it comes to dealing with them.

  • Since the night sleep is disrupted because of this night waking, you definitely want to make the bedtime earlier to help for this loss.
  • You might choose to stop going in at this wakening.
  • You might choose to go in at intervals and stretch the time in between. Wait 5 minutes, go in and rub his back and then leave, then wait 10 minutes go back in and rub his back and then leave, then 15 minutes and so on... (Ferber Method)
  • You might place a chair next to the bed/crib and stay with your child until he calms. Every couple of nights move the chair closer to the door until eventually you have left the room. You can quietly talk to your baby when you are in the room.
  • If you child is older and out of a crib and coming out of the room consistently you might implement a "Jack-in-the-Box" strategy.

Each method works for different circumstances. Some of the choices take longer to implement than others. As a parent you have to decide what feels right for your situation. The most important thing to remember when you are implementing a plan is to be consistent and to give it sufficient time. None of these options will work if not used consistently and without 100% effort.

"Jack-in-the-Box" syndrome:

Whether or not your child is in a crib or bed at some point she will learn how to get out of it. To her it's a new found freedom which can spiral out of control if not dealt with quickly. This is how you can end it:

  1. Every time your child gets out of the bed you will immediately put her back into the bed.
  2. During this time, you will not acknowledge her by talking or even having eye contact. You are completely silent.
  3. You might do this 20 times or you might do it 100 times the first night.
  4. The second night she might push harder, but do as you did above. Be persistent!
  5. Usually the third night is the charm.
  6. The strategy here is if you talk to her you are reinforcing the reason why she is getting out of bed in the first place. If there is no communication, the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Our children are quick learners.

Star Chart: for the older child

If your child is having trouble staying in bed and or going to sleep (need another glass of water, have to go to the bathroom etc.), you might want to try positive reinforcement. Try to cover all your bases first by making sure that water is next to the bed and that she did use the toilet before bed. Then, you will make a chart with her. Place the days of the week on the chart and graph out boxes to place stickers on. You will explain to her that there is a "new" plan for bedtime and it's "going to be great". Explain to her that every time she stays in bed all night and doesn't get out of bed she can place a sticker on the chart the next morning. She will need to consecutively (4-5days) get stars in a row to get her reward. You will decide what award should be appropriate. You might choose a favorite dinner, videotape, piece of candy or a little gift. Make it small enough so that should you need to continue with the incentive for a couple of weeks you won't run out of rewards.

Need some additional help? Email Deborah