5.5 month old awake every hour at night

by Emily
(Westchester, NY)

Question: Hi. Since we returned from a 3 week trip abroad (7 hour time difference) my ds has been waking every 1-2 hours at night. It's been 5 weeks since we've been home with no change. Prior to this he slept from 7/7:30 to between 2 and 4 am. Then not again until 7/7:30 am. He soothes himself to sleep for 3 naps a day (down between 9-10; 12-1/1:30; and then again around 4pm for a short 30-45 min). After he gives me the tired signal, I either nurse or place him his crib drowsy and he falls asleep on his own within 5 or 10 minutes- no fussing. He does this at nighttime too. The difference is he wakes up at night now every 1-2 hours.

I consulted a lactation consultant- who suggested that I might have a decreased supply during the day. I've increased my supply by pumping and offering him 2 sides each feed. This has not changed his behavior at night. He still is waking to feed.

This week, I've added solids once a day. I give him a little cereal at around 6pm. This has not changed behavior.

He seems to be teething, but has had these signs for 2 months. He seems to be on the verge of crawling- but cannot imagine this would cause such a disruption. I'm absolutely exhausted and quite honestly am dreading going to bed tonight (ds still in cosleeper next to my bed).

Thank you.

Heidi’s Answer: Hi Emily,

That is indeed exhausting, and I know it feels especially tough since you had such good sleep going on before the trip. Self soothing so well at this age is something to treasure and I am very happy to hear he does that, also now, that is really a good thing. His regular nap and night time schedule sounds great too.

Yes, teething and motor skill development can be very disruptive but I am rather thinking of his sleep patterns being upset since the travelling, so I’d work on guiding those back on track first.

About the extra milk supply, yes that can be (part of) the cause and it may take a while before you actually see the results at night. Other than offering two breasts: do also make sure he ‘empties’ the first breast well before moving on to the second one – to ensure he gets enough of the more nutritious hind milk. You could also introduce an extra feeding in the late afternoon/early evening, whenever suits your schedules. This may prove more efficient (and easier) than the pumping. But I’m sure the lactation specialist also mentioned this.

To reduce the amount of night awakenings, I’m thinking of two options right now. Choose one of them to start with, and stick to it (2-3 weeks for the non-feeding-awakenings option, 1 week for the changing-bedtime option). Try the other one only if you’ve given it enough time, I wouldn’t mix them up.

Option 1 "Non-feeding awakenings": we’ll work on reducing the amount of milk intake. 2 or 3 night feedings should suffice right now. The rest of the awakenings should become non-feeding awakenings and those are best removed one by one:

Start by choosing one awakening where you will not feed: for example pick the third awakening. At that one, do anything to soothe him back to sleep, but do not nurse. Maybe stretching out your hand to him in the cosleeper, or else pick him up, walk, rock, sing, maybe offer a sip of water if necessary. Keep it all dull and quiet of course. Ideally you will have your partner or another family member or carer tend to him, that is often easier since they do not have the milk at hand. Stick to this for a week or so.

Then pick another awakening to become a non-feeding one. Consistently avoid nursing for several days before adding another non-feeding awakening, and so on – but like I said, at this age I would leave at least 2 awakenings where you do nurse.

Option 2 "Changing bedtime": The other thing you can try is to change his night time bedtime. Shift it to half an hour earlier or later, whichever is more practical. This can be a very simple effective way to change a sleep pattern. But give it at least a week before giving up.

All the while, do relieve his teething pain with any of the teething remedies you find suitable. With regards to the crawling, there’s nothing you can do of course, except for giving him a lot of opportunity to practice and to praise him enthusiastically :).

Do let me know how it is going,
Good luck!


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