Sleeping FAQ: 9-12 months – Night Waking

My 11mth daughter has begun to wake at night. I am not really sure why or what I should do to stop it

My daughter has slept through from 10pm untill6.30-7am since 9 weeks old. She then slept well after dropping the 10pm feed. During the day she also slept well although not always for 2.5 or 2 hrs recommended. She had gastro -enteritis in September followed by a bad cold. Her daytime sleep continued to be alright but at night time we had to help her. Since then she wakes erratically in the night, eg 3.30am for 1.5hrs or 11.30pm for 2 hrs. We cannot settle her despite controlled crying, feeding, medicine, water, cuddles etc. Since going to nursery, two months ago, her daytime sleep has not been so good. She will not sleep in the morning and has about an hour at 12.30pm although she has had less and more! She does not show tiredness until too late and she fights sleep. I have looked at all the subjects on the site and in the books and feel that this is a combination of too many subjects for me to make sense of it. I want to try and sort this out before it gets any worse. I can’t understand why she won’t settle in the night on the nights she wakes. She has woken the last 2 nights but before that slept through for a fortnight.

My daughter eats three meals a day. She has a fairly small breakfast taking around 2 dessertspoons of cereal, followed by toast.

She takes about 8-10 tablespoons of a protein meal at lunchtime and the same amount of a vegetarian tea followed by yoghurt or a fruit pudding. At teatime she can be irritable if tired but will eat well in the end. She drinks 8ozs of formula at 6.45pm and is settled at 7pm.

It can be difficult trying to work out why your daughter has begun to wake for a length of time in the night, especially as she has been ill for a while. Eliminating all the reasons may take some trial and error on your part.

Being overtired is often a reason for restless or interrupted sleep. As well as being awake in the night your daughter is waking by 6.30am. Since starting at nursery your daughter’s daytime sleep has lessened quite a bit. She is probably quite mobile now and has the added stimulation of being at nursery four days a week. These two factors mean she is probably falling straight into an exhausted sleep at 7pm. Even if you feel she is not showing signs of being tired earlier, move her bedtime back towards 6.30/6.40pm. She may spend 15 minutes chatting to herself before falling asleep but this preferable to going down exhausted.

On the days when she is not at nursery make sure you build quiet times into her day to make up for dropped morning nap. At this age a baby is constantly moving, pulling up on the furniture, crawling or cruising around. They need short spells when they are resting in between all this activity. You may be able to put her into her cot to play quietly for 15-20 minutes around 9.30am whilst you tidy up nearby. If this is not an option consider going out for a short walk at this time. Again, your daughter will be resting whilst in her buggy or pram. If she does rest during the morning you may be able to push her lunchtime nap on to nearer 1pm. At this age the lunchtime nap may move nearer to 1-3pm which can also help her be less tired by teatime. Moving her nap at nursery may not be an option but try it when she is at home. It may result in her settling longer for this nap.

Again in the afternoon a short walk can give her a much needed rest, especially if she has been up since 1.30pm. On nursery days she will be tired coming home at 5pm and having her tea. Give her an earlier bath which is quiet and calm, to help her be settled in her cot by no later than 6.30pm.

If you feel that her night waking is now a habit left over from her illness you will need to deal with it in a consistent way. If she wakes and chats to herself, showing no signs of distress then leave her to re-settle herself. If she cries when she wakes then go in to her within 10 minutes. If she is standing in her cot lay her back down and use the same few words to her each night, “Lie down. It’s night time, time for sleeping.” Depending how distressed she is you may or may not be able to leave her. If she gets very worked up then it would better to use the method of gradual withdrawal. Gina describes this method in her Complete Sleep Guide, page 49. Reassuring your baby with your voice, but gradually moving away from her cot for longer and longer periods, means she will get used to settling herself again at this time. It will take several nights for this to be effective. You need to be consistent with whatever method you try and stay with it so your daughter does not end up becoming confused. If she needs to learn how to settle herself again it may involve some crying but this can be kept to the minimum if you reassure her with your voice in the same way every time she wakes at night. Make sure your partner knows what words you use so he can deal with the situation in exactly the same way if he goes in to check her.

If she does not already have a comforter of some kind find a small, soft toy which you tuck in beside her every night. This may reassure her and make it more likely that she is able to settle alone should she wake in the night.

Your daughter’s food and milk intake seem fine for her age which again leads back to overtiredness rather than hunger being the probable reason for this waking. Depending how mobile your baby is at this time she may be waking because of muscle spasms in her legs. If she is cruising around the furniture a great deal, or taking her first steps, she may be disturbed in her sleep. This will pass as she becomes more agile and adept at walking. Again, building quiet times into her day will give her short breaks of rest. It can be difficult to sometimes stop a baby who is determined to keep moving.

Keeping a diary of her food intake, length of daytime naps and general comments as to how she has spent her day, may help you pinpoint the reason why this waking has occurred again after two weeks of your baby sleeping through the night. If the waking is irregular then it could be due to something she has eaten, or what she has done the previous day. Looking for any recurring pattern may help you work out the reason why, although tiredness does appear to be the most likely cause.