My 8 month old has troubles falling asleep

by Lisa - Answer by Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Question: I tried sleep training him at 3 months and got him to sleep in his crib. At about 6 months, he started sleeping throughout the night.

Once he gets to sleep, he's fine, but it usually takes him 30-90 minutes to get to sleep each nap and at bedtime each day. For the past week, he's been sick, but this has been going on for the past month or so.

It used to be only every few days, but now it's every time we put him down, even to change his diaper - he screams like he's scared. What can we do?

Heidi's Answer:

Hi Lisa,

After reading your message, I am thinking of a number of possible causes.

The first one is separation anxiety, since you mention that he screams as if he is scared. A baby with separation anxiety is afraid that you will never come back again once you leave the room. That is obviously a good reason for him to cry and scream when you put him down.

It’s not always easy to recognise and pin down sleep problems due to separation anxiety. Most likely you would also notice it during the day, in how he reacts when you leave the room where he is playing, or when you want to leave him in another person’s arms for a even a few moments.

Check my baby separation anxiety page for help with recognising and tips to help your baby overcome his fears. The key will be to reassure him that you are there for him, all the while acting confidently and being consistent with his sleep schedule, bedtime routine, the way you put him to bed, …

Other possibilities are more physical in nature.

You mention he has been sick only the past week, and had the sleeping problems already before that, but it may have been simmering already.

You write that he also screams when put down for a diaper change, and I suppose also when you just put him down on his back to play? It could be a simple thing like a blocked nose which makes him feel uneasy when put down. Or he may be having a digestion issue that makes him uncomfortable when put down shortly after a meal.

Lifting up the top of his crib slightly may provide some relief in thise cases. But of course, in case you hadn't already, it would be best to have this checked out by your doctor.

He could also have a problem with some bones or misplaced vertebrae in his spine. That could have started after a bump, a fall, or a 'wrong' movement he made. An osteopath, specialised to work with babies, can do wonders at this level.

Best wishes,

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