Sleeping FAQ: 6-9 months – Night Waking

My 8-month-old son is still waking several times in the night after a recent time of illness

He has been a really good sleeper – right through the night from 7 weeks old. He took to weaning well and is generally happy and very content. We had a few disturbed nights when the lower two teeth came through but were getting back on track when he started to show symptoms of a cold about two weeks ago. This then turned into vomiting and diarrhoea. It was not constant but after every feed he would vomit much of it back up, particularly the milk, and fill his nappy.
We were advised by the doctor to water down the formula as it is not well tolerated by an upset tummy which we did. The trouble was, my son went right off his solid food and with watered down formula (and only taking 4 oz of that each time) was hungry a lot during the daytime and started to wake at night. I presumed this also to be hunger and continued to give him the watered down formula during the night. After three or four days of doing this, the vomiting and the diarrhoea stopped and he got his appetite back. He has a bigger appetite than before he was ill, which is good as he dropped some weight during his illness. So I’m feeding him up in the daytime.
The trouble is despite being well and eating properly again, my son is still waking up at night and it seems to be getting worse. The last two nights I settled him at 7.00pm and he woke at 10.30pm, 11.40, 1.00, 2.40, 3.40, 4.15 when eventually having tried and failed to settle him with water, I gave him some formula. He took 4-5 oz and settled until 7.50am (I was too tired to set the alarm for 7.00am!).
He wakes up crying quite hard and if I leave him it gets louder. I try to settle him in the cot and resist picking him up but he just gets hysterical rocking backwards and forwards on his hands and knees, sobbing and grabbing at my arms. Often when I do pick him up he falls asleep almost instantly in my arms and I can put him back in his cot on his back and he shuffles, rolls onto his side and goes back to sleep.
I follow the weaning guide almost to the letter, making sure he has at least 3 portions of carbohydrate, a good 3.5-4.0oz of protein with vegetables. He eats well, but lets me know when he’s full and I don’t force it.
I’m getting to the end of my tether with him! Including the time he was poorly, this has been going on for over two weeks now. I’m exhausted as I keep him on track with the routine during the day – so he (and I!) only get 2 1/2 – 3 hours sleep during the daytime. It’s like having a newborn again except he wasn’t this challenging even as a newborn!!
I’m not sure whether it’s separation anxiety. He has shown signs of this during the day and cries when I leave the room he’s playing in. Could it be his upper teeth coming through? I’ve tried the gels and powders but they don’t seem to settle him. Is it possible that he could be hungry? Should I start the 10.30pm feed again? The only other thing I can think of is that he took a tumble out of his buggy just before he got the cold (it was a new buggy, new straps… he does like to lean forwards). Fortunately he landed on sand rather than a hard surface as we were walking in the woods. Is it worth seeking out a cranial osteopath to check him over? The GP has seen him. He still sleeps well during the day though and doesn’t show any signs of discomfort.
I just don’t know what to do. My husband and I are both exhausted and really need some help.
His present feeding is; 7am 5ozs formula, 5-6 tsp oat porridge or baby muesli. Sometimes with added apple, banana or blueberries. 3ozs milk used to mix porridge. Offered the rest of formula at the end.
11.20am Protein and vegetables such as salmon/ chicken pie. Followed by yoghurt, sometimes a biscuit or rusk. 4-6ozs of water.
2.30pm 5ozs formula- varies as it depends how much he ate at lunchtime.
5pm savoury biscuits, toast fingers, vegetable pasta cheesy bake, another yoghurt if needed. 6.30pm 8ozs formula. 5-7 ozs formula given as a last resort in the night.
He naps at 8.50-9.30am and 12.15-2.15pm. He is settled at 7pm.

As your son has been taking a feed late in the night and still managing to eat well in the day it would be a good idea to try giving him a feed at 10.30pm for a week or so and see if this helps the repeated night wakings. Offer him 5-6 ozs and see if he is able to sleep better in the night. If he is able to sleep through again allow another 7 days for it to become a habit again and then begin to decrease and drop the feed.
Continue to reassure him at night if he continues to wake. If reinstating the 10.30 feed eliminates his hunger, you may then have to put some sleep training in place. He has grown used to settling back to sleep with you holding him. Reassure him with your voice and touch and keep your hand on him in the cot as you lie him down again. Keep reassuring him with your voice, even if he continues to cry. Once he shows signs of calming down, remove your hand but stay close to the cot using your voice to tell him you are still there. Offer him water if this helps but he should be able to go through to nearer 7am with a feed (if it has been successful) at 10.30pm. Gradually begin to move away from the cot still using your voice to reassure him, until he is more able to roll over and settle back to sleep again.
As his illness happened around the time when separation anxiety can begin there is most likely some of that too. After illness it can be difficult for a baby to adjust back to the normal routines. When he was ill your son had your complete and undivided attention, both day and night. It can take time for him to adjust to the fact that this is now no longer the case.
During the day begin to play hiding and peek-a-boo games with him so he gets used to you disappearing and reappearing again. Begin with sitting close to him and hiding behind a book then popping out. Move onto being behind a newspaper whilst sitting on a chair. Call out to him ‘Where’s Mummy?’ and then reappear again. Move onto hiding in the same room as him and then get behind the door. Watch his reactions and if you see he is becoming distressed stop the games and reassure him. If you do need to leave the room where is playing tell him you are going and call to him from the next room. Separation anxiety can be a trying time for you, but it is better to always take him with you if you are going to be away from his sight for more than a few minutes, or need to go further than the room next to where he is. If he becomes more anxious about your disappearances he will become more clingy. Helping him to learn how to cope with someone going out of sight is the reason behind the games. Once a baby becomes more mobile and can more easily follow you they can get better about being left behind, as long as you give them time to catch up with you.
If you are concerned that his recent fall may have had some affect on him a visit to a cranial osteopath will not do any harm. They can be a real help in diagnosing problems unseen to us which may be causing these repeated wakings. It may involve a few sessions, but a cranial osteopath may well be able to help sort out your son’s present problems.