I am a sleep deprived mum of a 9 1/2 month old boy. He's otherwise a smiley, healthy and seems to be on the top percentile for both weight and height for his age. So he doesn't seem to be sleep deprived, grumpy and starving or obese.

He is also completely breastfed- fresh from the tap, not through choice but he simply refuses the bottle (which is another issue) but my plan is to wean him in 3-4 months. He also doesn't take the pacifier... he objects to anything artificial in his mouth and we have tried many things (except for starving him until he takes the bottle) and now we have simply given up. He's eating solid alright and basically enjoy eating, he has also cut his day feeds drastically.

Nighttime however is becoming more and more of a nightmare. He was never a good sleeper and I made the rookie mistake of letting him sleep on the breast. I never managed the put him down awake thing that everyone else seems to be able to do. We also co-sleep so that I wouldn't die from all the multiple wakings.

Recently things have gotten from bad to worse. He goes to sleep fairly easily but wakes up every hour up to midnight or 1 am, then he wakes up every 2 hours until he wakes up for the day between 0600 to 0630. He goes to bad between 1830 to 1930 depending on when he wakes up from his last nap but typically he is out by 1900. Then the hourly waking starts.

I have searched the Internet and it seems the sleep association is to blame, as he falls asleep on the breast he needs it to get back to sleep again. He can't connect the sleep cycles himself. These sounds most likely the most plausible reason, but what can I do about it save cry-it-out?? I think he also have a second sleep association- which is being close to me. Sometimes (but rarely) he does get off the breast and wiggles himself to sleep but usually stuck against me.

The reason why I would like to leave CIO until there are no options left are because:

  1. He wails and get more upset the longer he cries. He doesn't calm down easily once he starts.

  2. He started crawling and few days later crusing and now he can go from furniture to furniture and climb down from the sofa, things actually started to worsen a month ago when he started turning in his sleep and got on all fours at night and started crying but he wasn't mobile until 2 weeks ago.

  3. He is teething. His 3 teeth broke through in a week and one more on the way. I started giving him ibuprofen yesterday and he seemed to have slept better; will do it again tonight.

  4. His separation anxiety seems to be getting worse. He was always clingy but now he wails when I leave the room and crawls to chase after me. He also clutches to be tightly after every feed.

So with so much going on, I really don't want to make it harder for him.. but at the same time things are getting worse on the home front as dear husband is blaming me for fostering his bad habits, inhibiting his ability to be independent and basically being the reason why he can smooth himself to sleep.

What can I do to improve the situation? Should I wait it out, cry it out?

  • We have a similar situation with our 6 months old. He can crawl and letting him cry when he wakes up means he turns around puts his head up or even sit. It seems unrealistic that like this he would calm himself down again. Yesterday we managed with 1 hour effort to put him to sleep 'on his own' by means of holding a hand on his chest and shhishing while he is lying on his back. He still woke after 1 hour, crawling crying. Maybe hand an shh are still to much sleep association, but without he simply wont stop moving at all. Nov 4, 2017 at 8:29

3 Answers 3


Well there are a number of things.

Separation anxiety getting worse is normal, developmentally appropriate & something you just have to pass through. The age where you might see more improvement with that is past 18 months. All children have it to some degree, and some are much more than others. I saw no difference in the children that had me back at work at 6 weeks & the one I was home for, in that regard, despite being "used to" me leaving daily. It's a normal healthy part of early childhood. It's hard, but it will pass on it's own.

Frequent waking can be a cycle, but it also is associated with oral ties, lip & tongue as well as things like silent reflux. A child's sleep cycle isn't like an adult, it's actually 45mins, so when a child wakes hourly, chances are they have become fully alert after a single sleep cycle.

I noticed you said you permitted the baby to sleep on the breast. One way to help you is to work on trying to get baby to fall asleep at naps & at the first bed sleep, unlatched. I know it's work. I have been through it. If you are persistent, and just unlatch them while awake & shush, pat, walk, bounce, rock, etc, they will fall asleep. If you can consistently get the baby to finally accept unlatching before sleep, you do generally see them waking you less at night. All babies & children rouse. Adults do as well. It's normal. We roll over, change positions, etc. So you simply are aiming to get the baby to a place where he is more likely to get back to sleep without rousing you to do so. For me, I have always found getting them to unlatch before they dose off, is most helpful there.

And if baby is going through milestones, developmental leaps, growth spurts & teeth, it's also just going to sometimes be stormy. It helps to remind yourself how fast the 9 months has gone. It will help you remember that this will pass faster than it seems too. It feels long in the moment, but then you can't believe it & they are talking & running around & you made it through after all.

So The separation anxiety is normal stuff & expect that it will intensify going forward: http://www.parenting.com/article/separation-anxiety-age-by-age

If you have ever been told your baby has a tie or suspected it, you may want to have that relooked at. http://www.drghaheri.com/blog/2014/2/20/a-babys-weight-gain-is-not-the-only-marker-of-successful-breastfeeding

You might want to check into getting the "wonder weeks" app. It pretty accurately will tell you when to developmentally expect certain behaviors. It's not 100% but will give you a better idea of when your baby is most apt to being crabbier, wake more, etc. This blog sort of explains about the book & app. http://www.weebeedreaming.com/my-blog/wonder-weeks-and-sleep

And if you are interested, there is a sleep consultant that doesn't do CIO that I have heard rave reviews on & I know her through a mom group, and she has given me very sound input. I know there is a section on nap help on her site that is free. http://childrenssleepconsultant.com/

And mostly, hang in there. I found that least few months before they hit a year hard. There are a lot of things at play. It's a tough age. It's wonderful in a lot of ways too, but the developmentally things happening, growth spurts, teeth, they combine to also challenge you at a time when you have hoped this whole thing was going to start getting easier. It will. It then just gets harder in new ways though. But sleep will get better & with more sleep, then all of life seems more manageable. And be nice to yourself whenever you can. Take long baths or just a 15 minute walk alone, or any other way you can squeeze in some breathing space. That too helps to make it more manageable & something I insist that I do for myself every single day. The only time I don't might be during illness. I will walk out even if the baby is screaming about it, because I always put them with someone loving & kind & just take that time to clear my head & have 15 minutes to be alone with my thoughts & listen to the wind.

  • Thanks threetimes, your post is very comforting. Some friends told me the same thing, most say at 2 the babies will sleep through the night or when you night wean.. dear husband however think 9 months is already more than enough.. 1 year absolutely the limit and 2 years ridiculous.. he is French and overwhelming people just let their kids CIO to sleep, to wean, to play by themselves.. the whole concept spoiling your child is still strong and my MIL keeps saying our boy is already too capricious and I should learn to let go and just let him be.. couldn't explain the concept of separation anx
    – hamisu
    Jul 4, 2017 at 14:42
  • (Cont) I tried also bouncing instead of nursing but I could get pass day 3.. he sleep in 10 min tops when bounced on a yoga ball.. but afterwards I am awake like a energizer bunny and can't go back to sleep.. so I tried the unlatching.. sometimes it works and he wiggles himself to sleep sometimes not.. when he protest I give him the breast back.. I have been at it for 3 weeks.. more misses than hits but it got rid of multiple wakings 10/15 min after he sleeps that last for the first 2-3 hours before he goes for 1-2 hour blocks.. from your feedback I will keep it up. I was feeling de motivated
    – hamisu
    Jul 4, 2017 at 14:48
  • (Cont) never hard of tounge or lip tie!! Gosh.. will check it out.. that's for the sleep coach recommendations too.. I will check it out..
    – hamisu
    Jul 4, 2017 at 14:49
  • I am sorry you are being given a tough time. I told my MIL early on that if I didn't ask her opinion, it meant I didn't want it. I told my mom the same thing. I try very hard to also not give my ideas unless asked. Being a mom is hard enough without people thinking that you are making your own issues. Every baby is different & no one knows your baby better than you. You will sort it out & until then give yourself grace. I am sure you are doing a great job.
    – threetimes
    Jul 5, 2017 at 1:10

At this stage, you may want to start by deliberately putting him down in his own room a few minutes early, and gradually increasing the time he is left alone there. Use a timer so you don't"give in early. Once he has developed the trust that being on his own is not a permanent thing, he will start to fall asleep naturally (especially if you make it a point to tire him late in the day and do something relaxing just before bedtime.

Studies are fairly definitive that kids sleep better when they are not disturbed by the much noisier adults around them. Most "poor sleepers" in a cosleeping situation are actually being woken first by adult noises, then in turn they wake the parent. Take away the adult noises and suddenly they become good sleepers, to the relief of the sleep deprived mother.

(Edit) it is also important that he learns that he can't simply get attention every time by crying. You may end up buying a pair of earplugs and letting him cry it out, then going in to him after he stops crying.

  • 1
    Recommendations from the AAP call for infants to share their parents' bedroom for at least the first six months and, optimally, for the first year of life, based on the latest evidence for prevention of SIDS. But 9.5 months seems a good compromise, though going from cosleeping to ones own room seems pretty drastic. Jul 2, 2017 at 13:40
  • Things got much easier for us when we stopped listening to the AAP, started listening to other parents and grandparents . Our kids actually started out in their own rooms, the day they came home from the hospital. With mama recovering from c sections, it was necessary for her rest, and there was no point to changing that once we were in the pattern.
    – pojo-guy
    Jul 2, 2017 at 17:44
  • 1
    That's fine, you're free of course to do what you think is best. I just commented to let readers know the literature shows that the incidence of SIDS is lowest in babies who sleep in their parents' rooms for up to the first year of life. That's why the AAP recommends the practice. Jul 2, 2017 at 19:25
  • thanks for the replies.. pojo-guy, dear husband said exactly the same things as you did.. hence the little one was banished to his room 2 months ago. My thoughts were similar to anongoodnurse, not because of AAP but simply because it felt drastic.. esp when he has been sleeping next to me since he was born.. so as a compromise, I told dear hubs that I will sleep with him for a week so that he's not feeling alone.. I am still in his room, and he's sleeping on my mattress as I type. Hubs thinks that I must accept to let him cry and by attending to his every cry is just making him capricious.
    – hamisu
    Jul 2, 2017 at 21:10
  • (Cont) I just want to see if anyone else had success using any other methods other than letting him cry.. I don't think noise is really a big issue for this baby at least.. between the time he goes to bed to when I join him.. he wakes up far more frequently than when I am next to him.. he sleeps better and is in much deeper sleep when I am there. I can even change his diapers without waking him up.. :(
    – hamisu
    Jul 2, 2017 at 21:16

This might be an odd perspective to hear, but my first thought when I hear about this situation is to worry about the baby's teeth.

I used to work in a pediatric dental office, and the most difficult situations we had to deal with were young kids who were frequent night-nursers. They would usually come in somewhere between 1 year and 18 months with their front baby teeth so rotten that they all had to be pulled out, which is a much bigger deal with a kid that young than it is for older kids for two reasons: 1) the older kids can usually deal with getting their teeth pulled in the dental office, while the babies have to have general anesthesia at the hospital in order to be still enough and not freaked out, and 2) the baby teeth hold the space for the adult teeth to grow in to, and without them (especially for a long period of time) the likelihood of needing braces goes way up. I would strongly recommend wiping baby's gums and new teeth with a soft damp washcloth right after his bed time feeding, and then not nursing until he wakes up in the morning unless you absolutely have to.

As far as whether it's ok to let him cry it out, I'll tell you what my pediatrician told us (which by the way was VERY hard for me to stick to- I wanted to go to my son so badly, and was sure there would be some kind of abandonment issue from me leaving him to cry): she said that once baby is over 10lbs, he should be just fine overnight without additional feeding, and that at 6 months baby had gotten enough of a sense of security from sleeping with mom that it was safe to let him cry it out. And she said "it will be much harder for you than it will be for him." She said he might cry the whole night the first night, but that the second night he'd probably only cry for an hour or two, and the third night maybe 15 minutes. And that was basically exactly how it went.

My experience? It was HORRIBLE for me. But it was great for my son's sleep cycle in the long run: he's basically been sleeping through the night ever since then (with the exception of bad dreams sometimes), AND he has had a perfectly regular nap schedule (2-5pm every day) until the last two months when he's started sometimes skipping naps - he is now 3. Also, no abandonment issues. He's perfectly confident being left with other family or friends or babysitters, or at daycares or schools, because he knows I'll always come back. I would say the only downside to CIO is that you have to endure listening to your child scream for a couple of nights. Of course, you don't want to do it TOO early, but I think you would be safe at this point :)

I forgot to add that the pediatrician recommended that if baby was screaming for too long (I don't remember the exact length of time) that it was fine to go into the room and remind the baby that I was there, talk calmly to him, and remind him it was time to sleep - but not to pick him up! Or if I absolutely had to pick him up, to put him back down in his own bed and go back to my room afterwards (but she strongly recommended against picking him up - it was more just a remind-baby-that-mom-is-still-there thing).

  • Thanks MAA! It's a good perspective which I was also concerned about and I made an appointment with my dentist for the little devil last week when the teeth started sprouting like crazy.. I live in Germany though and my slot is in 10 weeks.. sigh.. after your inside, I will start cleaning now rather than wait.. he starts day care too in August.. so many things are happening.. and maybe CIO is really the only way forward.. what technique did you use for both night sleep and naps? Would you mind sharing? Thanks!! :)
    – hamisu
    Jul 3, 2017 at 1:23
  • You're welcome! I never would have thought so much about children's dental care if I hadn't had that job- really glad I did! My technique for both was partly to dictate what worked for me and partly to watch for what kind of cycle he was on. I picked 8pm bed time, and had a very strict pre-bed routine with him - nursing, teeth, (book if he could pay attention), lie him down with a stuffed toy and his special blanket, turn off the lights, sing a couple of songs, and then leave. We would leave the door open a crack. Deciding on nap times meant watching him to see when he got sleepy
    – MAA
    Jul 3, 2017 at 2:31
  • For 2 days or so, then sticking to that schedule - when he was really little he would nap twice, once at 11 and once at 2. Around when he turned 2 he transitioned to one long nap at 2 in the afternoon. It was hard to get him on the nap schedule, but because I watched him to see when he was tired he usually would actually sleep, which helped. After a month or so it became an expectation for him and he's just gone with it (until he was ready to go down to just one nap). I've found I can move his nap by about an hour in either direction without it disrupting his routine if I need to for
    – MAA
    Jul 3, 2017 at 2:38
  • Scheduling purposes. We have a nap time routine too, and I guess it's pretty similar to pre-bed - it's different now he's older because part of it is we use the potty :) I guess the most important thing is to have a routine that takes care of baby's needs + stories/songs, and to do it the same way at the same time every time.
    – MAA
    Jul 3, 2017 at 2:40
  • When we were first doing CIO, and I couldn't take his crying anymore, I would go stand outside his door, and just say, "mama is here baby, and everything is ok. But it's time to lie down and go to sleep." Sometimes it calmed him down and some times it made him scream louder, but it seemed like it was always reassuring and his reaction was more about whether he thought he could get me to come in or not. Just a note though- make sure he can't climb out of your crib!
    – MAA
    Jul 3, 2017 at 2:53

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