Recent sleep disturbance (8 month old)

by Rebecca Cunningham - Answer by Heidi Holvoet, PhD
(Winfield, Kansas)

Question: My 8 month old has been sleeping through the nite since 2-3 months of age. In the last 5 days she has been waking up shortly after she falls asleep at nite crying.

My husband and I stay up with her and try to put her back to sleep. When she falls asleep again, she may wake up again shortly. This is very uncharacteristic of her.

We have a great bedtime routine that includes cereal/fruit/vegetable, bath, bottle, and bed established for quite some time. This worked very well until a few days ago (Friday).

I have considered she may be teething as she got a stuffy nose Saturday. She is chewing on things, but no teeth yet. She takes pretty good naps at daycare and is wore out when she gets home.

Nothing has really changed in routine so I don't know where this is coming from. Any suggestions?

Heidi's Answer:

Dear Rebecca,

First of all, I think you are doing a wonderful job, both your little girl to be sleeping through so nicely so far, and you and your husband to cater to her needs and help her with sleeping now when it is a bit more difficult.

Whichever the cause, my first advice to you now is to indeed give her the extra help she needs but at the same time make sure to keep up the good habits. Definitely stick to the routine you have. Be confident and consistent towards her when she wakes: you are there to help her, but always stay in her room, with dim lights, and interact as little as possible.

You want to make it clear to her that bedtime is bedtime. This will help avoid getting into bad habits by the time the sleep disturbance cause is over.

And then yes, it could definitely be teething as you mention. The fact that you see no teeth yet doesn’t really matter. It can take (many!) months of dribbling, red cheeks, painful gums and lots of chewing before the first (or next) tooth arrives. Other specific signs of teething to look out for: has she lost appetite? Does she also appear uncomfortable at times during the day? Is she cranky more than usual? Check signs of teething for a complete list of symptoms.

Another possibility is that her developing sleep patterns are causing this sleep disturbance. That would mean, in spite of her routine/schedule not having changed, a slightly adapted schedule might fit her better now. The fact that she is worn out when she comes home from day care might actually point into this direction.

A simple thing that often works very well here, is to change her night bedtime by say half an hour earlier. All depends of course if this works out practically for you but it can really help switch her back to better nights. If you cannot manage earlier, you can try 15-30 minutes later. Stick to this new bedtime for a good week or so and there's a good chance you will see a change.

Have you noticed any difference between nights following a day care day and nights following a stay at home day?

Other than this, let me know if you recognize any of the baby separation anxiety symptoms. This is quite a typical age for this and easily disturbs sleep too.

With further feedback from you (simply post a comment below), I will be happy to advise from there. All the best in the mean time,


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