Sleeping FAQ: 6-9 months – Settling/Sleep Associations

Since a recent illness my 8.5mth daughter has started to wake several times in the evenings and takes a while to settle

For a week my 8.5mth daughter was very sick with urine track infection. Loss of appetite, fever for five days, vomiting though nose and mouth, convulsing when temperature spiked. At her worst, she spent almost three solid days in my arms. After 10 days her appetite returned, she no longer had a fever and her urine sample was all clear. Since then she wakes 1 to 3 times during the time slot 8.30pm-10.30pm, cries, is not hungry, doesn’t need a nappy change but I have to resettle her back to sleep. Sometimes this can take up to 30minutes in which she cries almost the whole time. After the 10.30pm wake up she will then sleep until we wake her at 7am in the morning. Her room temperature is constant, there is no light coming into her room and no strange noises.

What is causing her wake up? How can we stop it? Up until she got sick she was like clock work, going to sleep at 7pm and would not wake up unless it was like 4am, never before has she woken before 10.30pm.

My daughter takes 6ozs formula at 7.30am followed by ½ weetabix, 1oz formula, 2 tablespoons of fruit.
10.30am ½ oz water, 11.45am 8-10 tablespoons of protein meal, 2 tablespoons yoghurt and 1 tablespoon banana.
3.00pm, 2-4ozs formula.
5.00pm, 8-10 tablespoons of a carbohydrate meal, 3 tablespoons yoghurt, ¼ piece of bread and butter with spread
6.30pm, 6ozs formula. She weighs 10kilos [22lbs]

My daughter naps at 9-9.45am and 12.30-2.00pm.

It can take a while for a baby to get back into her old routine after being ill. As your daughter spent a lot of time being held by you when she was so unwell she may have come to associate this with settling back to sleep when she stirs in the evenings.

When your daughter first stirs, leave her about 10minutes to see if she will re settle herself, then go in and reassure her with your voice. Leave the room again for a short period of time, unless she is very upset, and go in once more to reassure her. As you are trying to break the association your daughter has developed, of being held by you with settling back to sleep, try not to take her from her cot. You may have to use the gradual withdrawal method if she does get very worked up when she wakes. This is described on page 49 in The Complete Sleep Guide. The method involves the parent moving further and further away from the cot so the baby learns to settle back to sleep alone but does not get too distraught because she has been left on her own.

Now that she is 8.5mths and you are waking her at 7am, begin to move on your daughter´s daytime naps and see if this stops her waking in the evenings. There are two ways you can structure the daytime sleep of a baby of this age. Gina explains this fully in the Complete Sleep Guide, Chapter 4, and also in The Contented Little Baby Book, page 180 and page 186.

The morning nap begins to both decrease and move on in the second part of the first year. Since you are waking your daughter at 7am you may like to leave her to sleep on at this time so she then will not need a morning nap at all. Having cut this nap right out due to a later morning start you may find your daughter is not able to get through to 12.30pm for her lunchtime nap, or does not eat well at lunchtime through tiredness. If this is so, then try bringing her lunchtime forward to 11.30am and putting her down at 12.15pm. She may sleep a full two hours.

If you decide to continue to wake your daughter at 7am then begin to push the morning nap on and shorten it. Move it forward by 5minutes every other day, until she is going down at 9.30am, and make it 20-30 minutes in length. This should have the effect of pushing on the lunchtime nap to nearer 1pm and your daughter may then sleep until 2.30/3pm.

Since being ill your daughter may be very tired when going down at 7pm. If you are aware of this put her to bed around 6.40/6.45pm and see if she chats for a short while before settling herself to sleep. Once she begins to sleep through in the evenings gradually move her bedtime back to 7pm.