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7 month old not sleeping

7 month old not sleeping

Our 7 month old has never slept through the night. We have established a bedtime routine and we put him down awake at night. He only sleeps about 3 hours and then is up every hour and a half for the rest of the night. I feel like we have tried everything except letting him cry the entire night. When he wakes up the first time, should we
go to him and put his paci in his mouth or do we not check on him and just let him cry himself back to sleep? If he continues waking after that, do we just keep letting him cry? He normally nurses one time around 5am. He nurses every four hours and gets baby food in the morning and evening. He sleeps in his crib and we've been doing this new routine (every four hours) for about 3 months. He is working on getting his fourth tooth and that is my only hesitation to letting him cry. I don't want to let him cry if he is truly in pain from his teeth.

I assume that he is a well grown seven-month-old and that he is getting plenty of breast milk. If you are worried about his growth take him to his doctor.

What you are doing right:

1.) Continue to keep the daytime bright and stimulating and nighttime dark and boring. At night, minimize your interactions - don’t talk to him. Nighttime should be all business. A “here, eat and go back to bed” attitude. We want complete contrast during the day - Talk to him and play with him. Get him outside. Go for walks or let him watch other children play at a play ground.

2.) I’m pleased that you have a set bedtime routine for your son. At seven months our bedtime routine would be dim lights, feed, bathe, dress, 5 minute reefed, pacifier and down.

3.) I’m also pleased to hear you have spaced out his feeding to every four hours. Children that eat frequently during the day tend to wake a night to eat frequently.

4.) I’m impressed that you are able to put him down awake after your bedtime routine.

Defining our goal:

When trying to teach children to sleep through the night we start by working toward a consistent six hour stretch. This stretch must be “feeding-free” and I’d prefer without intervention. Once children sleep six to eight hours consistently, they will slowly develop longer sleep stretches as they grow and become more physical active.

As I’m sure you read on my crying it out pages, I am not against crying it out, but I’m not sure that is what he needs. Crying it out is an old school technique best used to teach children to fall asleep on their own. It sounds like your son already settles himself down to sleep after his bedtime routine. You can cry it out in the middle of the night, but usually that is not needed.

Crying it out and teething

I agree you can’t cry it out if you think your son is in pain. While, I do think that teething causes pain for some 7-month-olds, I highly doubt he has been having teething pain for 3 months. Teething is not exclusive to nighttime. Does he seemed to be in pain all day? Have you tried giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen? Has he seen his pediatrician to check for other causes of pain?

What I’d try:

1.) Try giving him acetaminophen or ibuprofen prior to bedtime for a few nights. If he suddenly sleeps better it than it is a “pain” issue. If he does not sleep any better than this is simply a bad sleep habit. Often children initially wake secondary to illness or pain and this gradually becomes a bad habit.

2.) Take him to his doctor. It is best to have your doctor check him for other causes of pain. This could be teething, but it could also be GERD or an ear infection.

3.) Once your pediatrician has “cleared” him, then you can confidently return to sleep training. The most important part of sleep training is consistency. When he wakes in the middle of the night, you must have a defined plan. Why don’t you try check on him in increasing intervals. When he wakes initially go to him after 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes and so forth. These interactions should be quick, minimize eye contact, offer a pacifier and reposition him. Continue this until either he falls back to sleep or it has been 6 hours since his last feeding. Given time he will soon be sleeping all night.


Written April 2014 by
Gregory Gordon MD, Orlando Pediatrician






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