My 4 1/2 month old baby sleeps poorly after ear infections and tubes

by Mandy

Question: My 4 1/2 month old has been plagued with ear infections and just got tubes, since then has not been comfortable sleeping. He is a normal happy baby. But since he has been sick he's has grown increasingly fussy. Thinking the operation of the tubes would help we went ahead with the procedure. However it's just as bad.

He used to sleep through the night and now wakes up 4 times a night. The way he wakes up is so sad. He will be dead asleep and then all of sudden scream out bloody murder with his eyes still closed. He almost seems confused. It takes me about 30 minutes to comfort him. I'm just scared that there is something else wrong that we are missing. It kills me to see him cry like this!! Please help!

Heidi's Answer: Hi Mandy, I'm sorry to hear about the ear infections and the poor sleep now. And I totally hear you about how bad it feels to see him cry like that, it can be quite terrifying.

Of those 4 times a night when he wakes, do you feed him at some?

Is he also uncomfortable during the day? Do you think he's in pain?

Have you checked with your doctor or pediatrician? Not because I necessarily think there is something wrong with him, but just to make absolutely sure all is well with the tubes, there's no infection and no other illness going on. That is to be on the safe side.

On the other hand, what you describe sounds very much like night terrors, have you read about them? Your son is very very young to have them, but it's not impossible.

In any case, the first thing to try is to wait a minute or two before going to him. He may simply cry in his sleep, and you may be accidentally wake him up completely by going to him straight away. Don't wait too long, or he will get upset for sure.

Otherwise, if you haven't already, for a few nights: time when he wakes up and cries like that so you know more or less when it happens. Then, about 5-10 minutes before he'll probably wake and cry, go to him. Be very quiet and gentle, stroke his fore head, place your hand on his tummy, place your hands by his shoulders, ... which ever you know is best to comfort him. That way you may be able to avoid his waking and crying. Do the same at the other timed awakenings.

This will probably not work the first time, or the first nights. But keep doing this for at least a week and you may be able to help him.

(As you'll notice on the night terrors page I linked you to, another technique is to go in a bit before he wakes, and wake him up rather than comfort him to sleep asleep as I mention here. The reason for this difference is that your son is so very young. That's why I prefer this softer method first.)

What can also help overall is a shift in his sleep schedule, in particular his night time bedtime. If you can, shift it to a half hour earlier (or later if he goes very early already). Say if he goes at 7pm now, shift to 6.30pm. If he goes at 6pm now, shift to 6.30pm ...

And of course, do make sure to have a regular daily sleep schedule overall, with probably 2 or 3 naps, at regular times during the day.

Good luck,

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