I know there are a lot of questions about infant sleeping problems. This one might be a duplicate but so far the suggestions I've tried haven't worked and I'm looking for some other thoughts.

My baby started sleeping through the night sometime before 3 months. I put him to bed around 7:00pm and he sleeps till around 6:30am. However, starting about 3 weeks ago, he started waking up really early (around 3:30-4:00am). If I feed him, he'll go back to sleep until around 6:00 or 6:30am. Here are some of the reasons I've thought of that this might have started (though now it might just be habit for him?).

  • Daylight savings time - A couple of days before the time changed, he started waking up at 5am and I suspect that the time change might not have helped. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what to do about this.
  • Teething - His 2nd tooth erupted during this time period. I thought he might be waking up because it hurt but I didn't notice any difference between the nights I gave him Tylenol and the nights I didn't.
  • Hunger - He still isn't eating solids very well. I'm wondering if he's getting hungry in the middle of the night.
  • Naps too short - he takes really short naps, around 1/2 hr. However, he's been doing this ever since he started sleeping through the night. Nothing has changed so I don't know why it would suddenly start being a problem for him.

What I've tried:

  • Letting him cry it out - I've only let him cry about 1/2 hr before I give up. I'm not sure I can handle more than that. These aren't dissatisfied little mutters, it's full out screaming.
  • Feeding him - if he's hungry, this seems the obvious solution and it does get him back to sleep. However, I'm concerned that this will become an unhealthy habit and he just started to reduce the amount of formula he'll take during the day which worries me.
  • Changing bed time - I've tried putting him to bed a 1/2 hr earlier at 6:30pm and he does seem ready for bed then. However, the only thing that changed is he started waking up earlier in the middle of the night. He is definitely ready to go to bed around that time so I'm very dubious about trying to put him down later.
  • General cuddling - No amount of cuddling/rocking will put him back to sleep. So far, the only thing I've found to make him sleep again is eating.

I did talk to his pediatrician and he didn't seem to have any helpful hints. I also have checked out Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and have skimmed it but haven't had a chance to really read it yet. Is this a just a phase? I'm really more worried about setting bad habits (like eating at night instead of day) than losing sleep.

asked 20 Nov '09, 14:50

Kiesa's gravatar image

Kiesa ♦
accept rate: 26%


How old is your baby/

(20 Nov '09, 15:38) Phil Seller

He'll be 8 months next week.

(20 Nov '09, 16:02) Kiesa ♦

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is a GREAT book, I would reccommend reading it front to back! :)

(19 Feb '10, 14:50) DazedandConfused

@DazedandConfused Yeah, I've been pretty impressed with this book. However, I can't figure out why they don't have it in audio format. In Nov I just skimmed it because anytime I didn't have to do something, I was sleeping. I have it checked out again and plan to do a more thorough review.

(19 Feb '10, 15:02) Kiesa ♦

I read your question through a couple of times just not to miss any details.

It is my opinion that your little one wakes up because he is hungry, I say this because he seems to wake up around the same time, and when you feed him, he seems happy enough to go back to sleep.

Sleeping from 19.00 till the next morning 06.30 am is about 11 and a half hours, and thats an awfully long time to be with out food for a growing baby, and considering that he is not too keen on his solids, then the amount of feed he is getting during the day may not be enough for him anymore.

How much feed does he have during the day and when does he have his last feed? Maybe you could squeeze in an extra feed during the day somehow? if not while you work on solving the solids issue, it could be a temporary solution to give him a half bottle feed at around 23.00-23.30 so he does not wake up at 03.30-04.00.

I only recommend this during this transitional period while you are trying to increase his solids intake, as a temporary measure.


answered 20 Nov '09, 17:29

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accept rate: 19%


He eats every 3 hrs and has anywhere from 6-8 oz at that time. I feed him right before putting him to bed (though he's awake when I put him in the crib). Thanks for the suggestions! I think I just won't stress about feeding him at night and reevaluate once we get solids working better.

(20 Nov '09, 17:54) Kiesa ♦

Feeding him more often during the day seemed to work. I went from every 3 hrs to every 2 hrs. At first, every 2 hrs seemed too often to me but it appears to have fixed his night time sleeping problems. He still wakes up but he now usually goes back to sleep on his own without any intervention from me.

(02 Dec '09, 15:50) Kiesa ♦

@Kiesa That's great to hear!

(02 Dec '09, 19:36) Emi

I have gone through this a couple of times with my son (now 22 months). I think you are dealing with a couple of things.

Babies have sleep cycles just like we do. It is possible that in a low point in one of your son's sleep cycles he is waking up a little more and, just like us, his brain turns on and he has trouble getting back to sleep. Of course, he isn't thinking about the office or his to-do list for the day, he starts thinking about hunger and missing mommy.

Certainly feeding him in the middle of the night and putting him back down is a solution. (But not one I personally am fond of). Feeding him more during the day, specifically in the evenings, may also help.

The most successful thing I have found is letting him cry it out and put himself back to sleep. It may take more than a half hour. I understand the heartache, believe me! With my son, it has never lasted more than 45 minutes to an hour, and battling it out for a week usually is enough. After a few days to a week of this, he goes back down in minutes, or sleeps through the night without waking at all.

I imply that I have done this alot...let me explain. It seems that whenever he cuts a new tooth, or gets sick, or has a major routine change (ie. daylight savings, dietary change) he starts waking up in the middle of the night again. At this point, 2 nights of crying is all it has taken to get him back into the swing of things.

I feel your frustration and the heartache of listening to him cry (scream)...really. Turn off the monitor. Go downstairs. Watch TV. You really are helping him self-sooth more by letting him cry it out for just a few nights. And you are his mom. You know the difference between a cry that means he really needs something and the cry you can let him work out.

Good luck!


answered 21 Nov '09, 15:59

JJsMama's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 19 Feb '10, 14:21

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Rich Seller

Hi and welcome to moms4mom. Great answer, and thanks for sharing your experience. When you say, "Babies have sleep cycles just like we do," it looks like you have read about "sleep cycles" and children somewhere. Do you remember where you may have read it, for reference? If possible, we like to see links or notes about further reading you may have on the subject. Please see http://moms4mom.com/back-it-up to see where we're coming from. Thanks!

(21 Nov '09, 18:53) Scott ♦♦

We've had this same experience...2 nights and it's back to normal.

(21 Nov '09, 21:49) Sabrina

Check out this article on Infant Sleep Cycles. Thanks for asking!


(23 Nov '09, 12:46) JJsMama

We're experiencing the same thing with our 8-month-old. He was sleeping great for a while then suddenly, not so much.

For us, I think it is clear that he is suffering from separation anxiety for a couple of reasons:

  • like your child, ours was sleeping great for a while
  • our son has recently started to eat less. He freaked us out last weekend by going nearly 6 hours between morning bottles. He's still eating the same 8 ounces of formula before bed though, and he sometimes leaves a little left in the bottle - telling me, its not hunger in our case.
  • he recently started crying in exactly the same start/stop/start manner when in his car seat at night as he does when he needs night time attention

My advice is to try and offer your baby more food and see what happens. If they do not eat, leave some in the bottle/jar, and sleep does not improve then you may be in the separation anxiety phase at which point, my question here may be of value.

Otherwise, you just have a hungry kid on your hands.

Hope it works out for you and let me know what works please.


answered 20 Nov '09, 19:55

Rob%20Allen's gravatar image

Rob Allen
accept rate: 12%

It may be connected to his age - he's at just the right age for separation anxiety.

He may be having a growth/developmental spurt, which would require him to eat more. Although, apparently, they are not particularly common at 8 months. You could try giving him more food during the day if he's interested, although, in my experience, babies under one get most of their nutrients from their milk.


answered 20 Nov '09, 18:32

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Meg Stephenson
accept rate: 7%

Thanks for that link on growth spurts.

(20 Nov '09, 19:02) Kiesa ♦

I would like to emphasize that babies have also many other needs than hunger. Even older babies have a strong need for security and closeness (esp. if not co-sleeping with parents) and may wake up just to ensure that someone is nearby. According to e.g. anthropologist Meredith Small, this is a natural and evolutionary pattern - it has been crucial to the survival of babies that they do not "accept" that they are left alone.

As a mother of three I have personally learned that during the first year there are many different periods regarding sleep. Sometimes the baby sleeps better, then learns some new skills and the sleep becomes more difficult again. It is not a linear process of things "proceeding" but rather a cycle where everything seems to go back and forth.

It is also good to keep in mind that "crying-it-out" method has a lots of problems and is not a good thing for a developing baby. From here:

"There is no doubt that repeated lack of responsiveness to a baby's cries - even for a five minutes at a time - is potentially damaging for the baby's mental health. Babies who are left to cry it out alone may fail to develop a basic sense of trust or an understanding of themselves as a causal agent, possibly leading to feelings of powerlessness, low self esteem, and chronoc anxiety later in life. The cry-it-out approach undermines the very basis of secure attachment, which requires prompt responsiveness and sensitive attunement during the first year after birth".

For more gentle ways of getting a baby back to sleep, I would recommend Elizabeth Pantley's excellent book "The No-Cry Sleep Solution".


answered 22 Feb '10, 20:02

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Asked: 20 Nov '09, 14:50

Seen: 8,986 times

Last updated: 22 Feb '10, 20:02