Sleep Training and the Startle Reflex

Updated on February 26, 2008
D.M. asks from Washington, DC
7 answers

Hi - I have a three month old boy and am about to go back to work next week. I would love it if he started sleeping longer at night - right now he starts out with a four or five hour stretch, but then wakes up every two or three hours. He still has a really strong startle reflex, though, which wakes him up and keeps him from sleeping deeply if he's not swaddled. We're still swaddling him at night, and his daytime napping is really sporadic. I start him out at night in a cradle in our room, and then put him back in it after he nurses the first time, but then I'm usually too tired later on and just leave him in between our pillows or in the crook of my arm after he nurses. I'm not looking forward to doing this while I'm working all day, too! What are your thoughts on trying to sleep train him while he still has his startle reflex going on? I have read that it goes away sometime between three and six months. We have a crib set up for him in another room, but since he can't roll over yet, I'm not sure if we would sleep train him in the cradle or in the crib. Thanks!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the support and suggestions! I realized that I had two questions in one - how to get him to sleep longer, and how to get him to fall asleep on his own. The sleeping longer seems to be sorting itself out, actually, which is nice. I'm not sure we'll be able to listen to him cry it out, so I'm going to read the books that were recommended and see what I can come up with that will work for our family. Fingers crossed!

More Answers



answers from Charlottesville on

I would suggest putting his crib next to your bed, take off the front bar (secure the crib to your bedframe so there's no gap that he could fall into!)
This will:
1. Allow you to nurse him to sleep, gently move him to his crib mattress - or if you're able, nurse him while he's already on the crib mattress and then YOU move out)
2. He will sleep better knowing you are there - smell/heartbeat close
3. If you DO need to wake up for him, at least you won't have to get out of bed. Have diapers on hand

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

There is a book out there called Baby Wise, I have heard it works for a lot of people. Unfortunatly it did not for my children. I have a seven year old and a 15 month old. I can tell you this, the first year is the hardest to get through, but it breezes by so fast. I started working 3 to four months after booth of my children and the fist one woke up 3 to 4 times a night for 2 years. I promise the fear of going back to work is the biggest worry.



answers from Richmond on

That's a hard one...I seem to be the most un-crunchy one here as I suggested a woman stop breast feeding as her child is 12 months old. Anyway, with that in mind, I would train him in his crib!! Its going to be difficult no doubt, but you might as well start now.
You have to make yourself put him back after that additional feeding or, try feeding him some heavier food before bedtime & see if that holds him. Once he wakes up, try to let himself get comfortable putting himself back to sleep somehow. It was about this time when my son would take a pacifier, but if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't use one. A slow music CD full of classical music has worked and still works - my son is 7 now, but he was also a heavy one at 10.4 & 23". I found he didnt sleep well until he could roll over and I could put him on his stomach and feel that he was safe. Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

Hey! Take my advice with a grain of salt because each baby is unique. My daughter is now 5 months old but she too had the same sleep pattern as your son. Several of my friends and sisters recommended that I cut out her late night/early morning feeding cold turkey. They did it with their babies and it worked for them in 3-5 days. For example after the 4-5 hour stretch when your son wakes up for another feeding at 2 or 3 am, rebundle him, rock him and put him back to sleep but don't feed him. He will most likely cry for a while but each night he will cry less and less until he no longer wakes up for that feeding. I am too sensitive and couldn't do that. However, I was struggling with PPD and was desperate for sleep, so my mom intervened. What a saint! Rather than having me breast feed my daughter at 2am my mom would give her a bottle but would slowly reduce the amount of milk each night by half an ounce. Starting out with 3oz the first night, 2 and 1/2 oz the next night, etc. slowly going down to a half ounce. When my daughter would still wake up, my mom would rebundle her and put her back to bed with a pacifier but not feed her. Within 9 days my daughter was sleeping through the night (7-8 hours straight). Now at 5 and 1/2 months she's sleeping 10 hours at night. It's great!
Regarding the startle reflex, my daughter too struggled with this. We tried the Swaddleme Blanket by Kiddopotamus but it didn't work well. She would still wiggle out of it and wake herself up. However,the Miracle Blanket worked for us like a charm! It wraps around the baby like a burrito and keeps him/her snug! We got it at Buy Buy Baby and loved it! I seriously recommend it. Around 4 and 1/2 months she grew out of it and rather than buying the next larger size, we quit bundling her cold turkey BUT when we did that we introduced a sleep buddy to her (kinda like a baby blanket with a bunny head on it). I put some of my breast milk/scent on it and gave it to her. She loved it instantly and slept/sleeps with it unbundled. She no longer wakes herself up.
Again, I recommend either cutting out the 2 or 3am feeding cold turkey or by weaning him slowly with a bottle. Also, I recommend the Miracle Blanket at Buy Buy Baby. It's worth the $30!!!!



answers from Charlottesville on

Wow. Your baby is just about in the same boat as my little girl -she's 10 weeks but the same sleep issues (night waking and sporadic naps -short ones too.) I'm anxious to see the replies. She was doing about a four hour stretch by six weeks but now that's down to a three hour stretch (she goes down around 9:00). So we are going the wrong way! And she's not neccessarly hungry when she wakes, it's an issue of waking and not being able to fall back asleep. She simply cannot resettle...she is swaddled but always manages to escape. I end up with her in our bed too (she sleeps just fine there). I'm concerned about creating a habit. Although everyone I know keeps trying to assure me it's just fine to bring her into the bed for the rest of the night (but I don't sleep as well and it's getting hard to be so tried all the time). I would love for her to be able to fall back into a deep sleep in her own bed.

Now, one thing I have read again and again is five hours is considered "sleeping through the night" at this age. So that may be all you can expect right now...



answers from Washington DC on

Babies often have trouble falling back to sleep when you are there - "hey I want to hang out with them!" But when you are not in sight - they are likely to never fully wake up. The startle reflex will go away or he will learn how to fall back to sleep on his own - but if you are there, you will help him and he will never learn to do it on his own. He needs to learn on his own.

You can't be 'too tired' to put him back. It is so important for him to learn how to put himself to sleep and back to sleep when he wakes up in the middle of the night. If not, that could carry over to when he is 6 months, 12 months etc. Putting him in his own crib and helping him learn how to fall back to sleep is one very important lesson you can teach him - you will be glad you did.

Good luck to you!



answers from Washington DC on

Hi D. my name is Lena, I'm thinking that he might not be getting enough to eat, so maybe U should mix up your routine, breast feed and than maybe an hour later formula feed, or just give him more ounces, how many is he drinking now? Because its just like us, if we are full were happy and we sleep through the night, if he drinks more he will be full, I have a 9 month old and what I did was feed her every 3 to 4 hours or sometimes I just wait until she wakes up from her nap, but I would make it a point to feed her @ 10:00 pm that way she will sleep all the way until 7:00am so I would feed him a little later in the eve. Try that and see what happens, he's probably not getting enough milk. Let me know. Good luck Lena

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