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Our baby boy is 9 months old. We have had sleeping issues with him since the very beginning. He has been with us in our room since he was born, and normally he starts sleeping in his bed but around 1am he wakes up and we bring him to our bed.

We decided breastfeeding was necessary but a couple of weeks ago we decided to end it after baby was waking up about 15 times during the night to have the breast. The situation got better ever since as he's no longer looking for a breast, but still he's waking up about 5 times during the night. Last night we woke up at 4:30 am and there was no way to make him sleep again. Only after 2 hours of struggling he went back to sleep but woke up again after an hour.

This is a brief description of Leo's schedule:

  • Going to sleep at about 8:30-9:00 right after a bath and a bottle (210ml with cereal). Wakes up 3 to 6 times a night. Till about 2am it's quite easy to put him back to sleep, even without taking him out of the bed. After 2am he usually moves to our bed, we sometimes put him back in his bed after making him sleep again.
  • Wakes up at 6:30-7:30, always different.
  • Gets his first bottle as soon as he wakes up (150ml with cereal).
  • Then plays till around 10-11 am (Depends on how he slept the night), gets some fruits, bread with butter and cookies in the meantime.
  • 10:30 second bottle (150ml just formula).
  • Naps for 30 - 45 min in his bed (needs to be nursed), if taken in the arms the moment he starts waking up, he can sleep for another hour in his mama's arms. He gets his yogurt at about 1pm. 2 pm bottle (150ml just milk).
  • If he slept for about 1,5-2 h first nap, he will than go to sleep at around 4:30-5pm and sleep for 30-45 min (same pattern), if the first nap was short he will nap 2 more times 45 min each (at around 2 and 5pm).
  • He almost does not eat veggies and meat, very seldom. He gets more cookies in the afternoon, and some substantial food from our dinner plates if he wants (not always).
  • He drinks at around 30ml of water per day.
  • Generally he plays and moves around a lot.
  • I try to take him out every day for at least an hour, he also often naps in the stroller with the fresh air.

The situation has come to an extreme point where we are desperate and we need to really seek for help. Today in a fair for expats we saw someone who provides counseling services in this type of situations, and I was wondering if this was true or all gibberish. We also thought that if it were true, then we could actually get advice on sites like this one, so I'm wondering if someone here can give us a few tips to try. We thought to try putting him in a separate bedroom starting tonight, but we're afraid we will have to bring him back after hearing him freaking out because he doesn't find his parents.

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First off, what you are describing is very normal behavior and lots and lots of parents are experiencing the same. That’s why there are so many sleep experts and books. Everyone wants the magic fairy dust to make their baby sleep. I found this blog post quite helpful, as it covers all aspects, from sleep deprivation to self-soothing. You basically have two options.

Sleep training

The essence is, that the baby learns to fall asleep on its own. No carrying, no cuddling, no breast-feeding, no rocking. The theory behind it is, that babies (like us adults) wake up at night to check if everything is fine. If they fell asleep nursing, they will be alarmed to find the breast gone when they wake up. Its akin to us falling asleep in bed and waking up on the lawn. Very alarming. So after your bedtime routine (always the same) you put the sleepy baby to bed, while it is still awake. This usually involves some crying, because babies don’t like things that are different (again very normal and understandable). At this point there are many ways to go on. The Ferber method or CIO is quite popular. Kim West seems to propose staying with your child. That’s what we did: Singing and talking to the baby, making clear that the bed is not an alarming place to be. But don’t deceive yourself. There will be crying. It is for you to decide, if your baby is ready and if it is really worth it.

Doing nothing

Many babies sleep with their parents in close contact and maybe even nurse a gazillion times at night. Many parents are fine with it. Google Attachment Parenting. Every child will leave their parents bed at some point. At around 15-18 months, when your toddler starts understanding words, you can talk to them about sleeping in their bed. When they are about 3 years old, they go through a phase of wanting to be independent. It may not seem like it, but it is all just a phase.

(By the way. My rule of thumb is that after 4:30 nothing matters anymore. At that point the baby or toddler have slept enough and do not easily go back to sleep. They are allowed to come to our bed and I cross my fingers for at least 1 more hour of sleep.)

  • My daughter was a particular attention hound for sleeping. Eventually I convinced my wife to not go into the room, not check on her, and just leave her be for a night. My daughter kept crying, to the point where she threw up. We did not clean it up until she was up and out of bed the next morning (she was old enough that we weren't worried about choking hazard. A bit extreme, but she quickly adjusted to sleeping without the drama after that. Never had a problem with them being in the bed when they got bigger and made that journey, though. – PoloHoleSet Nov 10 '16 at 15:33
  • @AndrewMattson - Good heavens! Well, I guess all's well that ends well.... – aparente001 Nov 11 '16 at 4:53
  • @aparente001 - It was not pretty or pleasant, I doubt we'd have held out if my daughter had proved to be as stubborn as she is now. – PoloHoleSet Nov 11 '16 at 14:20
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Possible sources of help for you:

  • this forum (but we would need more information, such as daytime nap schedule, recent milestones such as crawling, standing up, daytime activity level, temperament, etc.)

  • your baby's doctor

  • breastfeeding support group in your area

I didn't understand "We decided breastfeeding was necessary." It would be helpful to know what the patter was before you made that decision.

It is generally possible to night-wean a breastfed baby at 9 months. However, it generally won't work if baby can smell Mama. The other parent and baby need to sleep in a separate room from Mama during this process.

The gentle way to night-wean is to remove one feeding at a time. For example, suppose baby is in the habit of nursing at 11 pm, 2 am and 4 am. You would pick either the 2 am or the 4 am nursing to eliminate first. Suppose it's the one at 2 am. Here's how you would do it. Mama would nurse at 11 and put baby to bed in the room where Papa is happily snoring. Then she'd go to bed in the room where she's going to sleep. Baby wakes up at 2, cries for Mama (who is using ear plugs and white noise). Papa sings and walks and baby goes back to sleep. When baby wakes up at 4, Papa delivers baby to Mama and goes back to bed in the other room.

If baby's weight is good and he is eating and nursing well during the day and evening, it should be possible to go from 11 pm to 6 am without nursing at 9 months. The night-weaning process can take up to two weeks but usually is quicker than that. Papa will need afternoon naps until the process is complete.

Once the process is complete baby will be able to sleep in the same room with both parents again (if those are the sleeping arrangements you prefer).

Sources: La Leche League books and meetings; books by William and Martha Sears, personal experience.


So let's see if I've understood your update. 9 mo old baby sleeps either two or three daytime naps. First nap mid-morning, short, but sometimes you stretch it longer. If first nap is short, he has two more naps, otherwise second nap is at about 5 pm. Doesn't like meat or vegetables. Baby was partially weaned a couple of weeks ago because he was driving you guys nuts with crazy frequent nighttime nursing.

Well, one possible explanation is that your baby is not neurotypical and not a good sleeper. Hard to tell at this distance!

Let's assume otherwise. Here are some suggestions (which you are free to ignore). Obviously these are just ideas to try.

  1. Make sure baby only naps twice in one day. Aim for the afternoon nap to be the major nap, i.e. don't stretch the morning nap. However, feel free to do the stretching out thing in the afternoon. (In approximately 3 months you will probably want to guide baby to sleep only one nap per day, in the afternoon, see Dr Spock's Baby and Child Care.)

  2. Reduce the bottles. (At this point it might be difficult to go off bottles entirely cold turkey.)

  3. Don't put any cereal in the bottles.

  4. Eliminate the cookies. Reduce the bread. Make plenty of other foods available. Sneak homemade purée of cooked chicken or soft tofu into some other food that baby likes (perhaps puréed cooked carrots?). I was struck with the limited repertoire of foods your baby is experimenting with. Besides all the obvious reasons to try to expand his repertoire, another good reason is to prevent allergies from developing later.

  5. I hope baby is in a high chair playing with food during meal times, for example, peas, small pieces of foods, to have fun with, whether they go into his mouth or not.

  6. Go to bed early with baby (in the evening).

  7. Go ahead and night-wean him now. We were inspired to do this by our La Leche League leader who had done it with her babies, and we tried it ourselves with baby #2. I'm not saying all babies can handle this (our #1 wouldn't have been able to, he was EXTREMELY needy), but I think most can. Now that I've read your description I think that it might be worthwhile to go ahead and do this less gradually than what I described above. This would be Papa's job. It's not easy. Lots of walking and singing and crying. It really can't be in the same room with Mama. The process could take from 3 days to a week, probably.

(The alternative to this is for Mama to learn to nurse lying down dozing. It helps for her to lie on her side, with a cylindrical pillow stuffed at her back so she can stay propped on her side, but completely relaxed. Now this works great for some mothers but not for everybody. Many mothers are just not able to sleep properly with the fiddling and the breast stimulation.)

  1. If there is any concern about milk supply, Mama can increase her milk supply by using a supplementer (either Medela or Lact-aid, we used Lact-aid personally, but I understand Medela is quite similar). In fact, by taking this approach you could in principle eliminate the bottles entirely if you wanted to go that route.

Note, if you want to try him out with sleeping in another room, either now or later on but are feeling anxious that he might cry too much and work himself into a state before you are awake enough to go to the other room, use a baby monitor, for your own peace of mind. That way you can respond pretty promptly but he's still getting the hang of sleeping somewhere else. That method is used by many people, although I will say that we did not take this approach at our house. We felt that it was a lot less hard on us to help baby during the night if he was close by. Our bed was on a low futon platform, and baby was sleeping on a thin crib mattress on the floor right next to the big bed. Well, that's just us, you don't have to do it that way.

I will explain about the naps. If there's too much daytime napping, it's hard to have a proper "night". On the other hand, if baby doesn't nap, and gets overtired, life is hell!

I would try very hard not to allow a nap to begin later than 4 pm. A 5 pm nap is going to be very confusing.

So, those are my ideas, feel free to comment or ask a question; I look forward to the next update.

  • Thanks for your reply. We realized fixing our issue won't be easy at all, so we bought the following book: The Good Night, Sleep Tight WORKBOOK. I am hoping that the material in this book can teach us how to handle this particular situation, though I'm not very optimistic. Do you think this will help? Are you familiar with this book? – aaragon Nov 7 '16 at 8:16
  • @aaragon - I wasn't familiar with this author, but I took a look at Amazon's reader reviews. It looks as though the method book she wrote might be more helpful than the workbook. If I understood her basic method correctly, you start out sitting next to the child while he's falling asleep, and night by night back off foot by foot. I have done this with my children, but when they were somewhat older, not at 9 months. Mine would have gotten hysterical at that age. // If you could answer the questions I posed in the Answer, I think I could say something more useful. – aparente001 Nov 7 '16 at 8:37
  • Cutting out 1 feeding doesn't seem to work if the feeding schedule is unstable. 15 feedings in one night were unlikely to be consistently timed. – Myles Nov 7 '16 at 16:25
  • @Myles - 15 feedings per night for a baby of this age is just nuts. But it's difficult to say much about this without knowing the daytime feeding pattern and activities. // The take-home message: when baby can smell Mama, it is torture to say "No nursing!" – aparente001 Nov 8 '16 at 0:08
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    These are some very important tips. Especially on nutrition. About the napping: Two naps a day is usually enough for a 9-month old, but every child is different. Sometimes it is not easy to just eliminate a nap. If your baby is cranky for the rest of the day, go back to your previous routine. – Mary-Sue Nov 11 '16 at 8:30
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Could be feeding related. My daughter wakes up in the middle of the night if she is hungry. We give her milk and she goes back to sleep fine.

Make sure your son is well fed before he goes to sleep. Try giving him milk just before he sleeps and whenever he wakes up crying, try giving him milk again. Also perhaps use full cream milk, it is dense energy source and filling for kids. Hope that helps.

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