Sleeping FAQ: 6-9 months – Night Waking

Following an illness, my 7-month-old is very unsettled through the night

In general, Ben has settled into the routines well and goes down happily at 7pm. Following several episodes of illness, however, he has become very unsettled at night, sleeping for no more than two hours at a stretch, before waking up crying. This can happen more than ten times a night, and sometimes he even cries in his sleep. I try to leave him for five minutes before going in, and he will settle again if his dummy is replaced or if he is turned on to his side. As Ben suffers from reflux (due to milk allergy) he has more than the recommended number of feeds during the day. Please help, as I have no idea how to solve the problem.

Ben’s waking could be due to one of several problems. Firstly, as Ben uses a dummy to go to sleep with, he could be waking every time he enters a light sleep cycle and needs to use it to get back to sleep. You could gradually lengthen the time before going in, to see if he is able to settle himself back to sleep. If his dummy is nearby, he should be able to find it by himself. If the dummy is in already, he will need at least 10 minutes to settle.

Secondly, by this age Ben can probably roll quite well, but during the night he may find turning from his back to his side or front a little difficult. If Ben is in a sleeping bag, he may be getting stuck when moving around in his sleep. Either secure him with a cotton sheet or cellular blanket, or if the bag is extra long, tuck the end into the bottom of the cot to prevent him from twisting too much until he is better at turning over.

Thirdly, if Ben is not in a bag, he may be waking through feeling cold, having kicked off his covers. If this is the case, try a bag of 2.5 tog, which will keep him warm without the need for any additional covers, unless on an exceptionally cold night.

Finally, to eliminate the possibility of hunger, you could offer Ben a full feed around midnight. If he takes this and sleeps through you will know why he is unsettled for most of the night. At this age Ben should be increasing his solids, but he may not yet have the right balance of milk and solids by day to see him through the night. You may need to consider all of the above possible causes and experiment a little before getting to the root of the problem.