Sleeping FAQ: 6-9 months – Night Waking

What can I do to get my 8.5mth old son to sleep through the night?

I am trying to get my son to sleep through the night but he just won’t. He’ll sleep from 7.00pm – 10.00pm and I go to feed him but then a little while later he wakes up again and just won’t settle back down. I end up going to bed then and taking him in with me.
He is fully breast fed, and was weaned at 6mths.
He takes one side at most feeds which takes him between 5-10mins. He takes these feeds at 7am, 9am, 12am, 3pm, 6.30pm and 10pm.

For breakfast he takes 1/2weetabix, at lunch 1/2 jar savoury puree and 1/2 yoghurt, at tea 1/2jar of savoury and some fruit puree.
He weighs 17lbs 11ozs.
He naps at 9-10am and from 1.30-3.30pm.

Looking through your son’s notes it would appear that one of the reasons your son is waking in the night is hunger. At 8 months there should be no real need for a feed at 10pm if a baby is eating three well balanced meals in the day, as well as having full breast feeds.

If your son has become used to coming into your bed at night it may well take some sleep training to get him more used to sleeping on his own. His need to feed in the night which could well be for comfort but also because he is hungry, due to the small amount of solids received by day. This could be causing a vicious circle as he is then not really hungry at 8.30am to have a proper breakfast.

If your son is eating mainly commercially prepared food from jars this may also be affecting his ability to sleep through the night. The commercially prepared food often has a high content of water, starches and fillers. Many have lower protein content than a similar recipe cooked at home. Using jars on occasions is fine but introducing some home-cooked food into his diet may well help him. By 8 months he needs 2ozs of protein daily, as well 2-3 portions of carbohydrates, and at least 2 servings of fruit and vegetables.

Take a look at The Complete Weaning Guide for easy and balanced recipes you could begin to make at home for your son. He may find the flavour and texture of home-made food quite difficult to get used to. Offer him a spoonful of a home- cooked recipe, such as chicken casserole, mixed in with a similar savoury jar meal. Gradually increase the amount of home-cooked food and decrease the amount of commercial food until he is accepting the fresher flavours and textures.

The meal given at 12pm/12.30pm should be protein based. Protein absorption into the body can be lessened by up to 50% if offered along with milk. Once your son has begun to take enough solids at this time of day begin to decrease the amount of milk he is given. Offer him a small amount of milk first and then his solids. He may still need another small feed at the end until he is taking enough protein-rich food. This milk feed is then completely dropped and water is offered after at least half of his solids has been taken.

Weaning him off his night feeds should help his appetite by day. Use the core night method where one by one each feed is dropped. This will cause less distress for both you and your son. Feed your son as you normally do at 10pm. Providing you are confident that you have a good milk supply at this time of day, and he takes a good feed, he should not need another feed at his next waking. Offer him cooled boiled water or well diluted juice. It may take him a while to settle back to sleep as he is used to sleeping with you as well as snacking in the night. You need to be consistent and persistent in the way you deal with this. It will probably take him several nights for him to learn how to resettle himself back to sleep. The best way to help him to do this is to settle him down in his cot, reassure him and then leave. If he begins to cry, leave him only a few minutes if the cries are escalating. If it is just a sleepy moaning cry leave him about 5-10 minutes to see if he is able to settle himself again. Your son needs to learn how to fall asleep without using your bed or the breast as a prop. This may involve some crying but it should never be allowed to become excessive or lengthy. If he is distressed then go back and reassure him. If you can do this without picking him up from his cot it will help him become more used to falling asleep alone. Stroke his head and use your voice to quieten him, but try not to stay too long with him. Leave the room again. Leave him another few minutes and, if he continues to cry, go back in to reassure him again. You may have to repeat this quite a few times the first night before he settles to sleep. If he wakes again in the night then you offer him a feed as he may be genuinely hungry by now. This method is establishing his “core night” so he gradually lengthens the time between feeds rather than dropping all nights feeds in one go. Look at page 148 of The Contented Little Baby Book where this is described. It also appears in The Complete Sleep Guide, page 42.

If he still wakes the next night and is not able to settle himself after a drink of water, begin to very gradually lengthen the time you leave him to settle before going to reassure him, but only by another 5-10 minutes or so. Your son will learn how to settle better, especially once his nutritional needs are being fully met in the day. It is then a question of waking from habit rather then genuine hunger.

Until you have got your son to be taking around 5-6 cubes of food at lunch time and at least 4 cubes at tea time, he may well need one night feed.

Once your son is feeding less in the night he will probably be ready to have a bigger breakfast, such as a whole weetabix with some fruit puree and then fingers of toast offered to him to encourage him to feed himself. This is an important part of a baby’s development. If you always offer a small amount of finger food at each meal time he will begin to pick it up and feed himself. It can be a good way to get a baby interested in the food he is eating.

Gina has some case studies which could help you. On the website is David, which shows how a combination of night feeds and commercial food in the day resulted in a poor sleeper. Emily; The Contented Book of Weaning, page 61, and Thomas; The Complete Sleep Guide, page 123, also deal with similar problems.