My daughter normally goes down for the night around 7.30pm. After that she sleeps soundly (with a feed at 10pm) until 3-4am, where she'll grizzle a few times but go back to sleep without needing to be taken out of the cot. Then she'll wake up fully between 6am and 7am.

A few nights ago this changed. She will still go to sleep relatively easily, but will wake up every few hours, including before her 10pm feed, crying like a wounded polar bear. Our usual soothing techniques don't seem to work, and sometimes she cries herself fully awake.

Around 4am we snap and take her into our bed to see if that soothes her more, but last night she just lay in bed babbling and playing. It took 90 minutes to get her back to sleep and she still woke up around 6.30am.

What could cause this behaviour? I'd suspect teething but then why was she so seemingly happy when she woke up at 4am? Shouldn't she be either tired or still crying from the teething? Why does she behave like this at night but be relatively happy during the day? What can we do to help her sleep more?


She's now 9mo, and this behaviour has recently got a lot worse. We started using controlled crying to great success, and she now goes down to sleep at 7.30pm with great ease. However the middle-of-the-night crying is still occuring, except now with more force than ever. She screams extremely loudly and violently, but I'm pretty sure she's not in pain. She has been doing this for almost two weeks and still doesn't have any teeth, so it's probably not teething, and she still does the tell-tale pause in crying that signals she's just looking for our attention.

Comforting her in the cot does not work, she doesn't stop crying and she rejects her dummy. Picking her up does stop her crying. Taking her into our bed stops her crying, but she doesn't go to sleep, instead play-fighting or crawling around the bed, which keeps us awake as much as the screaming.

We have been trying to do controlled crying in the same manner as we did for her bedtime, but it's harder because we can't stop her crying while leaving her in the cot. The longest we've left it is two hours of solid crying, but then our tiredness and guilt about the neighbours makes us give in.

Any more help/support appreciated.


4 Answers 4


I'd simply say it was part of a changing pattern; before she probably didn't realise that she can get you in the room and then into your bed - but now she does. We found a similar pattern with our eldest and next one down; one we gave into, the other we ignored. My wife found it really hard to ignore her, wanting to pick up up out of her crib, but we found after about a week or so, it stopped as soon as it started.

I'd suspect she was trying it on, if I am being honest. If it is your first child, I'd venture it was nigh on impossible to ignore; I know I found it really hard. I used to sing a song to my eldest every night to get her to sleep, she soon realised that it would be smart to hold my fingers whilst I sang, so once I had finished, she would have to be sound asleep before she noticed I had stopped holding her finger; she used to keep me in there for hours sometimes. I think kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

  • lol that's cute. I'm all for trying controlled crying, but don't want to do it if she's actually teething. I guess there's no way to really know either way unless teeth start appearing.
    – tenpn
    May 17, 2011 at 15:12
  • 2
    When ours started teething, they'd, literally, be chewing everything they could get their hands on and would be making a lot more dribble than normal. But yes, they're smarter than you give them marks enough for!
    – Hairy
    May 17, 2011 at 16:09
  • 1
    The chewing everything is a good sign, but not all teethers do this. Plus the teeth can be moving around and not near the gums yet causing discomfort and it could be months before a tooth appears. Other signs to watch for include prolific drooling, irritability throughout the day, pulling at their ears, slightly elevated temperature (by say, a degree to a degree and a half) and a runny nose. Of course many of these things can be a sign of illness too. Nov 24, 2012 at 15:41

While teething is absolutely a possibility as are a number of things (including just a developmental change or difficulty with self-soothing), I wanted to throw this one in the mix. Apparently, this answer is rarely the solution, but when it is the solution things change very quickly.

My sister had the same problem and wondered if it was a problem with his milk because they supplement with formula and she had trouble with milk when she was a baby. The pediatrician swore up and down that wasn't likely. While talking with Mom and Dad she learned the same pattern existed for herself as a baby and the minute they switched her to acidophilus based milk formula she slept peacefully (and so did they). My sister switched her son and the problem was remedied within 48 hours!!

Two hours crying without giving up and going back to sleep - based on the reading I've done and little experience I've had with it myself - signifies something is going on beyond just wanting your attention. I'd say for the sake your sanity AND the health of all three of you, it might be worth a try to change her milk if you are using anything other than breast milk at this time. If it doesn't solve the problem or at least improve the problem after three days passing, you know it isn't a digestive problem with her milk and can go back to what you are already using having ruled this possibility out.

Good luck!

  • I agree, 2 hours seems a bit extreme and sounds like something else is at play. Nov 24, 2012 at 16:39

Six months is the age when babies realize that they can influence you. If you give them attention the minute they start crying in the middle of the night, they quickly learn -- once past the six-months mark -- that this is a pattern, and they will use it.

One technique is to wait at least five minutes before going over. It of course depends on the cry; you must learn to distinguish real sorrow from acted sorrow. If they periodically pause in-between cries, that is a signal that they are acting -- because they are trying to hear whether you are getting up.

  • 1
    We've been doing that with her at night ever since we started controlled crying at 6mo, but the only thing that stops her crying is picking her up.
    – tenpn
    Jul 19, 2011 at 13:14
  • Does she pause inbetween cries?
    – Roy Dictus
    Jul 20, 2011 at 9:31
  • 1
    As I said in the op, yes she does.
    – tenpn
    Jul 26, 2011 at 10:44

We're on baby number three and we have seen each of our kids change their sleeping habits around 6 months. We also see that our 7 month old daughter has two different sleeping based, which is completely based upon the time that she gets up.

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