Thursday, July 29, 2010

Helping children sleep through the night

Question:  How do I get my 9 months old to sleep through the night? I'm tired of waking up with him in the middle of the night 2-3 times. He eats a ton of solid food before bed, goes to sleep and wakes up every single night at 3 am or so. Why? He eats a bottle when he wakes up but IDK why he's hungry bc he eats so much before bed.

Answer:  There are a lot of reasons why a child of this age might wake up.  Based on the information given here are the things that come to mind.
1. He is wet and he feels uncomfortable when he is wet so no matter how hard he tries he can't adjust.  Is he wet and needs to be changed?  Monitor the intake of fluids and food to see if the timing could be adjusted.  Infants have very few ways they can communicate and crying is their only choice.  He is trying to tell you something.
2.  Constipation - are things flowing smoothly through his system?  This can be a reason children are waking at this age because as foods travel through their system the last part can cause discomfort.
3.  People permanance - think of object permanance - but with the focus on people, namely you.  If he has reached the cognitive level that he knows you are out there somewhere and has learned that you come if called then it is reinforcing.  The best way to find out if this is part of the issues is if he immediately calms down when you enter the room (meaning his problems are solved because you are there).  This means that he has gotten used to you helping him to sooth himself.  That is a good thing but it also can be causing the problem.

If he is not good at self soothing then the place to start is during the day time.  When he cries during the day provide a stuffed animal or toy, but don't pick him up.  Distract him, but don't take away his ability to be in control of his own situation.  See how he does.  Children who have parents who are "rescusing" them a lot in situations they can or should be able to manage expect and want to always be rescued.  This is a tough balancing act because what builds attachment and the development of trust is the meeting of physical and emotional needs.

Follow up questions I would ask:
1.  Is he fully awake when you go into the room?
2.  Is he wet or need changing?
3.  How quickly does he settle down?
4.  Is rubbing him back enough or does it take holding him?
5.  How relaxing is the room environment (is there soft music playing in the background, gentle soft lighting, etc.)
6.  What is his temperament like?  Easy going, slow to warm up, rejecting, etc.


  1. I had a friend who's pediatrician told her when she asked a similar question, "If Vanna White came into my room with milk and cookies every night, I'd eat them." :)

  2. I am LAUGHING at Kim's comment!!! Go Vanna!
    You are so smart, Duane! Don't you think you should be on TV doing Kid-info-mertials? Just imagine all the good you could do!!!

    Love, J

  3. Thanks for your blogs. I always like reading them. Very interesting. And happy birthday yesterday!

  4. So what do you do about the constipation then? Emma is having a horrible time. She has a dr appt but not til the 3rd. :( Its so sad. She is waking up because of it too.