My 10 month old is up all night!

by Katrina
(Morristown, TN, USA)

Question: When my baby girl was about 7 months she got sick and ever since then her sleep has been crazy. She gets up every 1 to 2 hours all night long and all she wants to do is play. She will scream for hours until we go get her. She is used to going to sleep with a bottle but i have no idea how to break her. We live with the in-laws so her screaming all night is not an option, plus her crib is in our room because she does not have her own room yet. I have tried keeping her up during the day and only letting her have 2 naps but she just cries all the time cause she is so tired she don't want to play she don't want to be held, she just wants to sleep all day. I am so tired and don't know what else to do!

Heidi's Answer: Dear Katrina, I am sorry to hear you've been having such a hard time the last couple of months.

First of all, have you had a recent medical check-up to make sure she is completely recovered? Or could she still have some discomfort left? Or maybe she has started teething?

Have you noticed any baby separation anxiety signs during the day?

Indeed, skipping naps is bound to make her overtired, which will again not help with sleeping at night. But of course, she does not sleep a lot at night, which explains why she wants to sleep all day, so both issues reinforce each other. So I will advise to gently reduce the amount of sleep during the day.

But first: what is different about her sleeping environment during the day and during the night? Maybe that difference holds the key to why she keeps waking at night, but does sleep during the day. I suppose she's then alone in the room (which you cannot mimmic at night because she's in your room) but what else? Background noises that calm her? Higher or lower temperature in the room? Different sleep wear, covers, bed/crib? Does she always have a wet diaper when she wakes at night, something that doesn't bother her for the shorter stretches during the day? Go over every little difference and see if you can do the same at night: sometimes it is a little thing that keeps a baby waking up frequently.

Then, to reduce the amount of sleep during the day: I would start with letting her have 3 naps: regular ones so always at the same time. But do not let her sleep for more than 2-2,5 hours (exact depending on what is a 'normal' nap for her around that time, just don't go for very long or very short).

Choose, or keep, a fixed bedtime at night. At best it should not be too late. A typical schedule at around 10 months old can be:

7-7.30pm night time bedtime (night starts)

6.30-7am morning awakening (day starts)
9am nap
noon nap
3pm nap

Times will vary according to your own schedule and your baby's of course, but just an indication. Choosing the night time bedtime not later than this will be important to help with her nights.

Make sure you have a simple, recognisable bedtime routine in place, and do it at each nap time and at night time bedtime.

Then to reduce her night time awakenings further:

1. To 'break her' you will need to go gradually. You want her to learn settling herself, without the bottle. Use my gentle self soothing techniques. If she doesn't already self soothe at naps, start working on this at naptimes first. Then later also at the night time bedtime. Once these are self soothe moments, your nights will already start to look completely different too.

2. When she wakes in the middle of the night, don't wait until she screams but go to her when she fusses and you know she won't be able to self soothe. Do not switch on the light, do not interact except for telling her "it's night time sweetie, go to sleep" (or similar, but always the same). It's unclear to me if you offer her a bottle at each of the night awakenings.

If you did offer a bottle each time up to now: keep doing it but:
- with each bottle, work on the self soothing method. When she dozes off, remove the bottle (tip her chin up straight away to keep her from waking and wanting to continue). Hold her a bit longer before putting her down, but work on putting her down earlier and earlier (less and less deeply asleep).
- gradually reduce the amount of milk you offer. If she drinks a lot: use less formula than usual for the same amount of water (so you make a lighter and lighter milk) until she just drinks (a sip of) water.

If you did not offer a bottle each time up to now: don't start giving one:
- offer a sip of water if that helps
- soothe her to sleep (rocking, holding, ...) but again, work with the self soothing method to eventually help her go back to sleep alone.

All of this will not happen over night, as I'm sure you know. But with patience, and doing all of this consistently, you can really change those nights for the better in a couple of weeks.

Let me know (comment below) how this all sounds, and send extra information (e.g. difference between day and night, how she wakes at night, does she want to feed, ...) so I can follow-up.

Good luck,
Take care,

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