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Sleep problems in a 7 month old

We have a delightful 7 month old who is a terrible night time sleeper, much unlike his big brother. We do everything the experts suggest: plenty of day time stimulation, he is eating nutritious solids and drinking expressed milk or nursing 5 times a day, he has a consistent bed time routine (bath, books, snuggle time, last feeding). He manages to put himself to sleep relatively well and stay asleep for 4-6 hours and then for the remainder of the night he wakes frequently.
The first time up is around midnight and he usually has a dirty diaper, so we change him and slip him back into bed but he never sleeps longer than 1.5-2 hours after that point. When he wakes he isn't unhappy, but very loudly baby babbles and screams. If you ask me if this eventually puts him back to sleep - sometimes it does. But within 30 minutes everyone in the house, including the dogs, are awake. We are all grumpy and irritated so I nurse him because I know its an easy way to get him back to sleep, but he still wakes back up. When we go him he smiles and is irresistible! :) 
Any suggestions?? Is is possible that he doesn't need sleep or that this wont resolve? We are exhausted and frustrated.

In many instances I recommend “crying it out”, but in this case I cannot. I’m surprised your son is still having stools at night (I’m assuming dirty diaper = stool).

I do not usually find children stooling at night beyond 2 months old. Night time stooling can be a sign he does not understand the difference between night and day. You might try some dietary modifications to see if you can influence his stooling pattern. Try bananas in the evening to slow him down or other fruits/juices earlier in the day to clear him out.

I’m happy to hear you are using a bedtime routine and that he is able to settle him self down to sleep. It is normal for children his age to begin adult type sleep patterns and begin to wake every 4 hours. Given time (and lack of dirty diapers) he should learn to settle himself back down.
Do your best to eliminate or reduce the amount of feeding at night. The more he eats at night the more he depend on those calories and night time feedings. Try reduced volume or even water (up to 6 ounces)

His first stretch of 4 to 6 hours is not bad, but it awfully early in the evening. Try to get him outside in the evenings and push back his bedtime.

Things that may help:
- Dietary changes to affect his stooling patterns
- Decrease night time feeding
- Later bedtime by getting him outside in the evenings

This is a tough situation, work together make decisions during the daytime and hang in there.

Written January 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician

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