My 9 month old still wakes up 5 or more times a night!

by Erin - Answer by Heidi Holvoet, PhD


When I first had Layla she was 6 weeks early and I was unable to breast feed. The post partum nurses told me to wake her every two hours to feed her. So I did this, right up until her two month Dr's appointment, when our family Dr. told me that she was healthy and there was no need to do that.

Since then, Layla continues to wake up every three hours during the night. She goes to bed between 7 and 9 (whenever she seems tired). Since she was little my husband and I have been feeding her a full bottle before bed while she falls asleep in our arms, and then we put her in her crib.

Her first stretch of sleep is usually about three hours and that is the longest. After that she wakes about every hour, two hours if I'm lucky, to feed.

She is now nine months old, weighs 16 pounds and I believe she is a very healthy little girl. She has been drinking Iron fortified formula since she was born, and at 5 1/2 months she began eating solids. She now eats three meals a day as well as four 6 oz bottles (one of those being during the night).

When she does wake at night, I take her out of her crib, let her drink some of her bottle, give her her soother and wait until she is asleep to put her back in her crib. I know that all these bad habits are my own doing, but I don't know how to break them!

The last few nights I have been so exhausted that I have been letting her cry herself back to sleep a few times in the night, and this works, but then at around 4 in the morning she is wide awake! I go back to work in three months and can not be waking up every hour during the night.
We have the bathroom fan on during the night as white noise.

Layla usually naps twice during the day. Once in the morning for however long she sleeps, and then once in the late afternoon.

Please help, I don't know what to do to help her sleep!


Heidi's Answer:

Hi Erin,

First of all, don’t feel bad about the "bad habits" you feel you’ve installed. You did well feeding her so regularly the first two months, the proof is the healthy little girl you have, who seems to be eating well and doing very well overall!

I don’t know how long she cries for, when you say you let her cry herself to sleep a couple of times the past few nights. If it is one, or a couple of minutes, and closer to fussing than to screaming, it could be simply her way of finding her way back to sleep again. You could then keep doing this for a few more nights and see if it becomes less.

If she cries for a long time though, or screams and gets really upset, that becomes crying it out and I don’t know if that is something you want. Let me know if you want to discuss that.

But luckily there are other, gentler, ways.

To start with, I suggest you try to fix the bedtime a bit more. Between 7 and 9 pm is quite a difference. A more fixed bedtime will help her settle her sleep patterns and give better nights. I would go for the earliest, so 7-7.30pm seems right. Keeps naptimes regular too.

From there, you can reduce the number of night awakenings in two steps: 1. reduce the amount of food she gets and then 2. move on towards self soothing.

1. Reduce the amount of food

From your message it is clear that she feeds sufficiently during the day. So it is OK to reduce the amount of food at night now. She’s just used to it now, and that can give her an actual hunger feeling, even if she doesn’t really need it.

To avoid going from some milk to none at all in one go, start with diluting the formula for the night bottle(s). So, less formula for the same amount of water. Gradually dilute more and more until you give just sips of water. There’s a very good chance she’ll wake less often by then. If not, you move towards giving no water, only soothing her.

Taking turns with your partner also helps: not only do you get more rest but it simply helps break the habit if it's not always the same person going in.

This whole process can take a couple of weeks, but you will probably see the first changes within the a week.

(I describe this technique - that must be used very cautiously - in full detail in No-Tears Sleeping Through the Night.)

2. Encourage self soothing

The gentlest way to help her with self soothing is to gradually move from putting her down asleep to more and more drowsy. Check the self soothing page for extra tips or read "No-Tears Self Soothing" for complete guidance, from setting the stage right to implementing the best-suited technique.

So again, please do not worry about that so-called bad habits. You’ve given her security and are there for her when she needs it. And from here, with the effective method above, you can work on changing it for the better.

Good luck!

Comments for My 9 month old still wakes up 5 or more times a night!

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Thank you
by: Ercklebaby

Dear Heidi,

Thank you for sharing this post. I am going through this exact same situation except that I breastfeed and that the baby stopped taking formula a few months ago. However, I will start to give her warm water in a sippy cup with some supplemental nursing in order to give her less food at night. I have been successful in letting her soothe herself to sleep at naptime. I know that she is going through a lot - solids, sitting up, exploring toys, teething, oral/aural skills, and I have recently started elimination communication (which has worked so far) so she has needed me more, but her father and I are supremely exhausted by her constant waking. I appreciate your advice.


9 month old middle of the night feedings
by: Henrietta

My 9 almost 10 month old Son Joseph does the same thing. He has breakfast less than an hour after he wakes up, he used to take 2 naps a day but now he's down to one around 2-4. When he wakes up I feed him his lunch &after he just plays all day & roam around, then a snack then dinner. After dinner he plays a bit then I give him a bath & sometimes he goes to sleep after but he wants to play again. He goes to sleep after 10 most of the time then he wakes up from 1 to 3 hours after he falls asleep,he wakes up at least 3 to 5 times a night. He is a breastfed baby & I feel bad if I let him cry, I tried leaving him be but he rolls around, try sitting up & makes his way toward my breast. It's really hard & I thought by this age he shout be asleep during the night? I'll try a few other methods I'm just so confused on if I'm doing it right or not enough

7 months old awakes every 2-3 hours for a feeding..
by: Anonymous

I have a 7 month old little boy who hates to sleep...He eats solid food the last few months now..After eating him three meals a day he will drink a 6-8oz bottle between 7-8pm and when he falls asleep in my arms I put him in his crib...But two hours later he is awake looking for another bottle...This goes on all night long and around 5-7am he is up for the morning...I dont know what to do..I tryed to let him cry abit but after so long he stands in his crib and gets worse...So I have to get him one..I even tryed to put more water than milk in it...What can I do...The restless nights are unreal..We both need or sleep...I try my hardest to do what I can for him but I need to solve this problem and get him to sleep through the night or even long than usuall....Please help....

************* NOTE BY Heidi-BabySleepAdvice:

Thank you for your comment. However, please start a new topic so your question can get the personal attention it deserves. I will be happy to advise you further soon. Kindly, Heidi

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