We've got a boy who is nearly a year old. He's woken practically every night. He is breastfed, and is currently eating solids very well. Down to a couple of breastfeeds a day really.

However, he still wakes up during the night. He'll get up and whimper for a while, without settling himself. After a while he will start crying and screaming. We've tried toughing it out but he will keep going - even after nearly an hour - unless we intervene.

I'm reasonably sure he's using breastfeeding at night for comfort. My wife doesn't work, I do, and due to various other reasons we sleep apart. As such, and as he's breastfed, she has all of this to deal with.

We are going to try this weekend where I go in though and try to comfort him without the obvious "oh I'm going to get milk out of this" to see if that helps. Here's hoping. I could use some water and see if he realises that it's not worth it.

Our first son was formula-fed, and I did the lion's share of the work at night with that, and he started sleeping through in good order. In this case however I haven't been able to (which has led to me feeling pretty damn useless).

Normal daytime routine is:

  • Wake up any time from 6:30 to 8am
  • Breakfast soon after (cereal, raisin toast)
  • Nap normally 10-ish for 60-90 minutes
  • Lunch 12 to 1 - various solid food, depending on what parents are having, or food from pouches if out
  • Nap 2:30-ish for 60-90 minutes
  • Dinner 5:30 - varous solid food
  • Bath, breastfeed and bed starting 7:30 (generally breastfeeding lasts 30 minutes)

Water is offered at every mealtime and throughout day, quick snacks between meals too.

Last night he woke at 1am, just having a bit of a whinge, which eventually became crying and screaming at 1:50. My wife breastfed until 2:30 and put him down, but he stayed awake moving around and generally whimpering until 3:10.

Is there anything obvious I'm missing?

  • Well, when I took him he woke at 1:20 and then seemed to doze off. 5 minutes later did the same. Continued until about 1:50 when I went in. That set him off screaming. Held him, comforted him, eventually he had some water. Got him back down at 2:30. He woke up again 10 minutes later so I went back in. At about 3:15 my wife came in and breastfed him. Since then he's woken up between 3 and 5 each morning, except this morning when he woke at 12:20, 1am, 1:30, and 3:30. He didn't get back to sleep until 4:20. I get that controlled crying is bad but we're at a loss as to what to do.
    – user25730
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 23:43

1 Answer 1


TL/DR: Many 1 year olds just are not ready to sleep through. Rather than trying to fix something that is not broken, try to accept how it is and find ways coping with it.

Last night he woke at 1am, just having a bit of a whinge, which eventually became crying and screaming at 1:50.


We've tried toughing it out but he will keep going - even after nearly an hour - unless we intervene.

A 1 year old depends on his/her parents very much. Basically they can't fulfill any of their needs by themselves. By toughing it "out" you deprive your child of one of its very basic needs: Safety. It's quite normal for a child to wake up to assure themselves that their parents are still present to protect them from sabre-tooth tigers and the like. While you know that there are no sabre-tooth tigers around, your 1 year old does not. Hence waking at night is still normal for a 1 year old. Furthermore, even though do not believe it's true, it's still possilbe that they are hungry.

Cry-it-out works only because the child will at some point suffer from such a severe stress level that its brain switches to a basal survival mode. Finally it will be that exhausted that it will sleep, but at a high price. Middlemiss et al. (2012) showed that children that were exposed to cry-it-out had a higher stress level (cortisol) even after the program was finished and they finally slept without crying. Programs like cry-it-out were originally invented for parents that are so overstressed that they would harm the child otherwise, not for parents convenience because they falsely assume that a 1 year old has to sleep through.

Hence in my opinion you framed the question the wrong way. You are the parent and the wellbeing of your child should be your first order in your role as a parent. Don't let them tell you that taking care that your child feels safe at night is spoiling, it isn't. I'd suggest that you think about the following questions:

  1. Are my expectation of my childs behavior reasonable? and
  2. What can I do to reduce my own stress level?

While I cannot help you about the former, there are practical approaches for the latter. You could try to switch to formula for your second child too. There are very convenient ready-to-use servings which can ease some of the stress. At night just rip up the package, pour it into a feeding bottle and feed. This really helped us very much. Prior we had to stand up, mix the powder with warm water, cool it, feed. Way more stress. I also found that co-sleeping reduces the stress for me (actually we did not try to do otherwise back then, but now when my daughter wants to sleep in her own room, it's way more stress for me when she wakes up at night). I appreciate (can you really use this work that way?) that not everything may be possible for you, but, for the sake of your childs wellbeing, be creative. Make up ways, that reduces the stress for all of you, I'm sure you can.

  • Yes! I completely agree. At 1 y/o, he might just wake up. Maybe this is over in some days or weeks and it might also come back some weeks later.
    – maze
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 19:28

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