9 week old wakes up after half an hour

by Nik - Answer by Heidi Holvoet, PhD
(New Zealand)


My 9 week old son has been a great regular sleeper until last week. The routine he was following was - morning nap 45mins (8.45am); lunchtime sleep 2 1/2 hours (11.30am); afternoon nap 30 minutes (4.15pm); bathed and fed and in bed by 7pm. I would then wake him for a feed at 10pm he would be back in bed by 11pm then wake once in the night for a feed and then wake up between 6-7am. He always settled himself well at all sleeps.

His daytime sleeps and during the night are still fine - the problem is at his 7pm sleep. We bath and feed him (he is breastfed) and put him down at about 6.30pm. He seems dowsy and is quiet (I'm assuming asleep) for about half an hour, but then wakes up and cannot settle himself back to sleep. He eventually gets really worked up and doesn't sleep until I feed him again (somewhere between 8 - 9pm) then he settles himself and goes to sleep for the night. He seems really sleepy in the morning so his morning nap is now an hour and a half (8.15am). What could be stopping him from getting into his 7pm sleep? We half tried the shhh and pat technique, playing white noise, letting him cry, getting him up, feeding him, not feeding him - we've run out of ideas!

Heidi's Answer:

Hi Nik,

First of all congratulations with your baby boy! It sounds like you are doing really well and he is good at settling himself to sleep alone most of the times, taking regular naps and waking up just once a night at this age, which is something to cherish.

I'm not saying this to make your problem sound little, but to remind you that the schedule you set up and the skills he has (settling, sleeping long stretches) are so good to have and we want to make sure he keeps those skills.

He could loose some of these skills by letting him cry or making too many changes which can make him feel less confident and less secure about sleep.

So my suggestions to you now are:

- Continue to do as you are doing as much as possible. It is OK to have that nap a bit longer in the morning for now but try to leave the rest as is.

- From the info you give, my first guess is that he is simply hungry. Either he is too tired at the 6.30pm feed to drink enough or he is having a growth spurt and simply needs a bit more.

To handle this: try one of the three following, whichever appeals to you most:

1. Starting this feed half an hour earlier and make sure he drinks enough (making sure he also gets to the thicker milk later on in a feed, so rather one full breast than two quick half ones, and two full breasts if he'll have them).

2. Or you can keep the same time but add an extra feeding in late afternoon.

3. If this does not work practically, then keep things as they are, but feed him straight away once he starts to fuss soon after the start of the 7pm sleep.

(If you let him cry here first, he will associate crying-comforting-feeding, whereas if you do not let him cry, but simply feed him because he is hungry, he will have the correct association)

- Also check for these: does he usually burp after feeding but doesn't at this feeding because he is too tired? Does he have a wet or dirty diaper during or after that fussing? Is he having a cold or something else bothering him? Is there more light or noise in his room than usual (neighbours, street activity, ...)? Are you in a hurry at that time (if you are anxious to get him down that may transfer to him)? Have you tried being near his room, making some noise so he knows you are there? Does he have a night light?

Right now it is really important to stick to the very good routine you have built so far. Therefore, try one of the three strategies above for a week or so and see what happens.

Get back to me if you see no improvement, we will then take it from there.

Good luck!

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Mom in NYC with same problem
by: Kate

Hi, I've got exactly the same issue. I recognize your schedule as the one from Gina Ford's Contented Little Baby book, which we have also implemented with much success. However, while our 9-week old daughter goes to sleep now right on schedule, she has started waking herself inexplicably up after 30 minutes. I check her diaper (sometimes wet, but not always), change her if needed, and then I can usually nurse her back to sleep. It works, but takes time, and is basically a complete re-do of our entire bedtime routine. annoying. I don't think it's that she's hungry... She takes a full 5 oz before bed (expressed breastmilk), burps well, and then when she wakes up later, she seems to be more interested in the breast for comfort, not feeding. I hope it's just a passing phase...

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