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My 9-month old son has developed a new and frightening habit.

When he is about to fall asleep for the night, or when he is being comforted to fall asleep after waking up at night, he will suddenly start to cry, kick, and fuss all at once, and quickly work himself up into a very panicked fit of crying and kicking/squirming.

This doesn't seem to happen for any particular reason - but it usually occurs after he has been up for awhile and both my wife and I have tried multiple ways to get him to fall asleep. Thus far it's only happened twice, but I'm worried about it becoming a pattern.

Typically he'll go to bed at around 8 AM, wake up between then and 2 AM, need a bottle at around 3-4 AM, then wake for the day between 6:30 AM and 7:30 AM. This so far has happened once after his 3-4 AM feeding, and then tonight as he was up a little longer due to taking a late nap.

Is there any particular reason for a nearly-asleep 9-month old baby to suddenly start to cry and fuss just as they're about to fall asleep? And, is there anything we can do to prevent it?

Edit: To be clear, this occurs as we are trying to get the baby to sleep, and as they start to get very tired and drift off in our arms.

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    I honestly don’t think it happening twice constitutes a “ new and frightening habit”. Sometimes babies are a little fussy when trying to get them to sleep. Might be he had one of those jolts people can get when dozing off.
    – AsheraH
    Jun 14, 2022 at 4:25
  • @AsheraH After a few nights of trying to get him to sleep, I think you might be right - that or him just getting overtired.
    – Zibbobz
    Jun 14, 2022 at 13:28

2 Answers 2

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I've had to do some trial and error, but I think I've figured out what's going on.

It's a combination of the following things:

  • First, check and change his diaper. If he's got a heavy wet diaper before doing any of these things, none of them are going to help him sleep.
  • There's a narrow space of time in which my son is willing to sleep. Too early and he'll just try to crawl his way out of my arms. Too late and he'll be cranky and fussy and refuse to sleep until completely exhausted.
  • Be conscience of your own attitude and posture. I've noticed he's starting to take note of my own attitude and expressions lately, so when rocking and comforting him, even if I'm frustrated that he hasn't gotten to sleep yet, I have to take control of my emotions and give him a comfortable place to fall asleep.
  • A bottle of warm formula at night helps him settle down - so I'm trying to make sure to time his feedings close enough to his bedtime so that a bottle will accompany his rest.
  • Following the above, if he hasn't had a bottle in 5 hours, even at night, he usually won't go to bed without having one.

Taking this plan into account, I've managed to get him back to falling asleep without getting extremely fussy.

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    Good job, Dad, and thanks for the answer!
    – anongoodnurse
    Jun 13, 2022 at 18:54
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    Children have their little habits/preferences/routines, and it is often a matter of finding a correct approach... the problem is that by the time you find it, their preferences might have already changed or will change soon - because they grow up ;) Good luck. Jun 15, 2022 at 7:51
  • @RogerVadim One other thing I've found is that, sometimes, nothing Dad does will do - because what the baby really wants is Mom.
    – Zibbobz
    Jun 15, 2022 at 12:43
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    Also true... though they are usually perfectly fine with their dad, if the mom is not around. Jun 15, 2022 at 12:45
  • @RogerVadim Also true - but relevant to the question, it wasn't so true last night, and my baby really just wanted to be held and fed and comforted by his mother, rather than me. Which is fine - but just something I should keep in mind.
    – Zibbobz
    Jun 15, 2022 at 12:57
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Night terrors is a possibility, although not common at such early age. I recommend reading a bit about these, as they are different from nightmares - notably, they occur in the deep phase of the sleep cycle, and waking the child is not recommended. They typically stop crying after 10-15 minutes. Overall, these are believed to affect/scare the parents more than the child.

If it starts happening systematically, it is of course wise to discuss it with your family doctor or other qualified specialist.

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  • This doesn't sound at all like night terrors - those appear after a period of being asleep, during the arousal period, not while falling asleep.
    – Joe
    Jun 10, 2022 at 17:08
  • @Joe it is hard to judge from the OP, whether the baby is already asleep or not. I think it is a possibility - I am not making a definitive diagnosis. Jun 10, 2022 at 18:32
  • When he is about to fall asleep for the night... he will suddenly seems pretty clear to me.
    – Joe
    Jun 10, 2022 at 19:31
  • @Joe you are taking it out of context. Anyhow, you are entitled to your own opinion. Jun 10, 2022 at 19:56
  • @Joe No they're right - this happened once at night, but he woke up and then started to fall asleep and then started to cry and kick before he fell back asleep. I'm not sure how long it takes a baby to fall into deep sleep, but pretty much each time he had this, he had only just fallen asleep.
    – Zibbobz
    Jun 10, 2022 at 21:20

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