Sleeping FAQ: 6-9 months – Night Waking

My 6.5 month son is waking at night – is it hunger?

My son is 6 and a half months, was 7lb at birth and now weighs 16lbs. He is breastfeeding from both breasts at 7am; 2.30pm; 6.20pm; 10.30pm; about 2.30am and 5am. He is having 4 tsp cereal with grated pear at breakfast. Lunch is 2 cubes of chicken casserole, 2 cubes broccoli or 2 cauliflower. Dinner is 6 tsp baby rice with grated apple. I have kept to your routine in the weaning book. I’m just about to start him on a carbohydrate in the evenings. His daytime naps are 0915 to 0955, 1300 to 1345 then 1915 to 2230. He settles on his own in the day but at night it is a complete different story.
After his baby rice and apple in the kitchen I then bath him. Then in his bedroom with the light on low I breastfeed him. For the 2nd breast I turn the light off and sit in darkness. He goes to sleep straight away at 19.00. He wakes up about 3 to 4 times. The first wake up is at about 10.30pm. I breastfeed him and he is happy to go back to sleep. Then he sometimes wakes up at 2.30am. I offer him a drink of filtered cool water but he drinks only about half an ounce and screams. I end up breastfeeding him. Even after breastfeeding him he cries and cries. It takes about 2 hours to settle him. Then he wakes up again at about 5am. I offer the water to him but he rejects that. Then I breastfeed him. Sometimes he manages to go back to sleep or I just pace around in his room desperately trying to settle him.
I appreciate that you are busy and cannot answer everyone’s questions but I am simply exhausted and don’t know where I am going wrong. I have tried to stick to your routine, except my son has never slept very long at lunch. I have left him crying and crying in the hope he will settle himself but it simply doesn’t work. There are black-out curtains in his bedroom so daylight is not the problem.
Night time is a nightmare! I have approximately 4 hours sleep a night and am exhausted. Where am I going wrong? Does he need more food, or more milk? I really hope I have given you enough information.

At his age your son does now need both protein and carbohydrate to meet his growing needs. I would begin to speed the weaning process up a little, increasing his amounts every few days. By eating more solid food, he should be able to go longer stretches at night and you can begin to eliminate the night feeds. You may have to put some controlled crying into place but first you must make sure he is taking enough food and milk by day.

I wonder if possibly your milk supply gets low by the end of the day? If you are having so little sleep and are busy all day with your son, he is maybe not getting enough milk in the last few feeds. I notice he spends longer at the later feeds which indicates his needs may not being fully met.

I suggest you replace the 10.30pm feed with formula. You have breast fed your son for over six months so given him the very best start in life. Replacing one feed with formula will help you both. Possibly your husband could give this feed. You could get an early night. This formula feed should settle him for longer. Try him with 6-7ozs and see how long he sleeps for.

Because your son sleeps so little in the day he is going to bed exhausted and falling into a deep sleep, this effect is that he comes into a lighter sleep earlier in the morning and is unable to settle back to sleep at 5am. If you can get him to take an afternoon nap from 4.30-5pm while you are making these changes, he might be less overtired at bedtime.

Once his feeding by day is increased, I feel he will be easier to settle at night, but he needs to learn how to do this himself. This could help him settle himself longer at lunchtime.