57 answers

6 Month Old Screaming/screetching for Hours at Night

I'm not quite sure where to begin, except to say that I'm very tired and distressed about my 6 month-old's apparent sleep problem. He is our second child and I now know how very easy my older son was, since by 6 months he was sleeping 11 hours at night without a problem. This baby, however, has been quite different. Let's see... about two months ago, we were on a pretty good schedule of going to bed at 7pm, breast feeding at 12midnight and then again at 5am. This seemed to last about 2 weeks when he started teething. He began waking every 3 or 4 hours. I didn't go to him every time, but somehow, I started nursing him 3 times a night although he wasn't really hungry. His two bottom teeth came in and I knew he was no longer distressed, but we had a waking problem. I guess I should say that I really do believe that babies need to learn how to put themselves back to sleep by themselves. I hate the term "cry it out" but, I guess that's what it is. I think babies need to learn this skill and I also know that with this little guy, he would cry just as much (if not more) if I were holding him or trying to comfort him, so we've tried to allow him to cry and learn how to go back to sleep. However, he is a very intense crier! He screams and screetches and will carry on for sometimes up to two hours. It's unbearable. I'm frustrated that he doesn't seem to be learning after so many nights. We've talked with or doc and have tried many things, including giving him Prilosec (maybe it's silent acid reflux?), rice cereal and formula (maybe he's hungry?), motrin (more teeth?), a luvie (he sometimes holds it), diaper changes (he gets really upset!), heat up, heat down, etc. He is able to fall asleep calmly in the day, sometimes with a few minutes crying, but at night he just cannot seem to settle down. We've tried total extinction-- not going to him at all and we kept it up for 6 nights, but it didn't get any better and I couldn't handle it. So, now I'm trying to feed him once a night, when he wakes after 12 midnight and not again till after 6am, but like last night, he woke at 9:45, after going to bed at 6:15 and screamed for an hour, then I went to check on him and he became even more upset and screamed for another hour. When he finally fell asleep around midnight, he woke again around 1am and I went to feed him. He didn't really seem that hungry. I put him back in bed calm and awake, he talked briefly and went to sleep, then he woke around 4:45 and cried (not too intensely) till about 5:30, when I went to feed him. I put him back in bed awake and he talked for about an hour then cried a little and went to sleep. So, I know he can fall asleep alone, I just can't explain these frequent night wakings and intense screaming and screetching sessions. It's really taking it's toll on my husband and me. Amazingly, our 2 1/2 year old, sleeps right through it all! So, I do know good sleep is possible, but I'm just weary of this and I feel that by 6 months, he should be sleeping better. His day time sleep is OK, we just can't get anything consistent since his nighttime and morning wakings are so inconsistent. It's made it very hard for me to get things done out of the house and do things for my older boy because we're always trying to get good naps in, hoping that will help his night time sleep (and because he really needs naps).

Any suggestions, encouragement, commiseration would be appreciated! Thanks.

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Wow! That was our life just 6 months ago to the "T". I mean other than the breastfeeding part of it that is what our life was like. Our son (second child) was waking up between 3-7 times a night screaming this awful scream and would not sooth for the most part until fed/picked up etc. Well Our son Did (he is over it now at a year) have "Silent Acid Reflux" we had him initially on Zantac but got switched to Prevacid! At 7 months we finally broke we couldn't take it anymore and our Ped sent up to Children's to get him fitted for a sleep wedge (Wow! that was a change!!!) he went from waking up to 6 times at night to waking up only one to maybe two times. He is now off the wedge and off the meds and sleeping through the night from 8pm to 7am! We have the wedge still if you want to try it out we would be more then willing to let you have it! It is not just a store bought wedge it is a little bit higher and they get strapped in.

2 moms found this helpful

A. although I understand "wanting to teach him", he is only 6 months old and this little guy has years ahead to learn how to sleep by himself. He is a baby, right now he seeks comfort and if he does not feel comfortable, he will not sleep. All babies are different even sibilings. As I deal with this with my daughter, 7 months, I tend to get up when she cries, rock her in my arms for 5 minutes, she is not learning yet to sleep on her own, but she is learning to count on me and she is comfortalbe enough to sleep the rest of the night. Maybe he needs a little more baby time.. And as most mothers will agree, the first baby gets much more attention smiply because motherhood is so new.
Also it sounds like when you do give him a little more attention he seems to sleep a little better. Maybe I am old fashioned, I just think sometimes us parents try to push our kids too hard.

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you have received lots of advice here so I will make this short. My son was a sleeper from 3 months on and my daughter (11 months) was not. So, it was frustrating and exhausting dealing with this same scenario. She didn't scream the house down but I agree with a lot of this advice. When she woke up, I breastfed her and rocked her back to sleep. My philosophy is that if they are crying, there is a reason. Mostly comfort, hungry, too hot, too cold etc. She woke up 3-4 times a night until she was 9 months. Despite peoples warnings, my exhaustion (working full time) and the thought that this would cause a bad habit I still fed her and rocked her back to sleep. My husband used to also walk around with her laying in his arms- 5 laps around the couch and she was out. Moral of the story is- it will hopefully be short lived- once she got on solids and started crawling she was well fed and tired so she has been sleeping ever since. Lower your expectations of the day and hopefully a feed and a rock will get this kiddo back to bed. I always felt 10-30 minutes was better than letting her cry and she deserved my attention. With this being our last child I also relished this time as funny as that sounds because I get very little snuggle time now. My son is almost 4 and I can't believe how fast it has gone. Parenting has many levels of sacrifice and for me sleep was it with her. It was very difficult at times mananging my son as well but I knew that would be short lived too. I don't think that you will spoil this one and as hard as it is it will probably be only a bit longer. You need to take naps during the day when the kids nap and go to bed early until he wakes up again. I know this is hard but at this point it's about survival. I managed on this working full time with two kids and it was hard but we made it through. She sleeps like an angel now. I am a total high functioning person and it was hard for me to crawl into bed when there was so much to do, but I did it and it helped. good luck. :)

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I am so sorry to hear that you're having such a hard time with this, I can tell you love your children so much and really want the best for your whole family. My advice is simple: sleep with him, nurse him when he wakes up. Babies eventually learn to meet their own needs (such as falling asleep on their own) by first having their needs met. Nursing three or four or five or more times a night is not at all out of the ordinary for a six-month-old. You will all get a lot more sleep this way, and he will grow up knowing that you are there for him, his needs will be met, and the world is a safe place, which will make a huge difference for him for the rest of his life. It is actually a good sign that he screams so much, that he is letting you know what he needs, rather than giving up in despair as many babies do (and then the parents think that it was a good thing to let them cry it out, since it apparently "worked" - but at a huge cost in trauma to the child, which will affect his ability to trust for the rest of his life). If you think your bed isn't big enough for the three or four of you, another option would be a cosleeper arrangement (we just had mattresses on the floor so it was simple), so you can nurse him to sleep in his bed and then just roll over into yours (and be willing to welcome him into bed with you at some point during the night or early morning for more nursing and sleeping). I slept with both of my babies for three or four years, nursing them as often as they needed (which was less and less as they got older, down to maybe bedtime, middle of the night, early morning nursings) and eventual weaning (at 2 and 4 years). They of course eventually learned how to fall asleep on their own, when they were developmentally ready and because their needs had always been met. Also, if you sleep with your baby, your and his sleep cycles will begin to align or entrain, so that it's no big deal to roll over and nurse since you will be waking up anyway. (All adults sleep and wake all night in approximately 90-minute cycles, most of us just aren't usually aware of them because we fall back asleep easily). Both of my children have grown into happy, secure, independent, loving adults and have babies of their own now, whom they sleep with and nurse during the night. Dr. William Sears has a number of good books, including one specifically on nighttime parenting. It sounds like your first child was easier for you in this aspect, which led you to think your second child was having a "sleep problem" but it's not so, he's just different, his own unique self. Please trust you instincts and don't let him cry - babies cry for a good reason, to express their needs, and meeting your baby's needs right away (when he first expresses them, before it turns into a full-blown cry) is the best way to help him learn to meet his own needs as he grows and is developmentally able to do so. Other good resources are Attachment Parenting International and the La Leche League. Wishing you well!

1 mom found this helpful

Oh boy can I relate to where you are at right now!!! I have a 26 month old son and a 6 month old daughter. We did the the "cry it out" method with my son and he took to it really quickly. My daughter, on the other hand is a different story. I've tried it with her and she will go way longer than I am comfortable with. She was having a hard time with naps for awhile, but she has seem to work herself into a good 2 nap a day schedule. She fusses for a few minutes but goes right to sleep and sleeps for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. She has gotten it the routine of waking up every 2-3 hours at night. I'm with you, I think it's really important to find a good balance between taking care of your baby and totally sacrificing yourself and your needs. We as Mamas need sleep to be able to take good care of our kids, especially when you have more than one.

Just this week I have decided that enough is enough and I need to come up with a plan and stick to it. I picked up the book "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer" by Tracy Hogg at my local library. I just skimmed over most of if, but focused in on her chapters on sleep. I like most of her ideas. She also believes in letting babies lean to self sooth, but has a much more gentle method than "crying it out" . The basic principle of it is, you respond to your baby EVERY time they cry. Go in pick them up, calm them down, and then lay them back down NOT crying if they start crying again you pick them right back up, but only hold them until they calm down. You do this AS MANY times as it takes, and each night it will be less times, and eventually they will stop waking up. She also suggests, for older babies that have been nursing several times a night, to pick them up and let them suck on a pacifier or a bottle of water instead of offering a feeding, as a gentle transition to no feedings at all. The goal here is tho not get them dependent on the pacifier, but only to use it as a transitional tool.

Last night was my first night trying this with my daughter. I have been trying to keep her on a good schedule during the day and try to get her to bed by 7:00pm. She slept form 7:00-10:00 and I fed her one last time for the night. Then she sleep solid until 2:00 (4 hours is a LONG stretch for her....LOL) I went in and picked her up and tried to offer her a pacifier or water (she has NEVER taken a pacifier before) but she wanted NOTHING to do with it. So I continued to pick her up and lay her down, at first it wasn't so bad. She didn't seem to mind much, but she would start to fuss when I laid her down. Then as time went on she was not liking it AT ALL. I decided to try the pacifier again and after some coaxing she took it and sucked away. I held her for quite some time while she sucked on the pacifier. It took a few more times of laying her down and giving her the pacifier to get her to stop fussing. BUT after a mere 53 times and 2 hours, she went to sleep : ) Then she slept from 4-6:30 and I fed her. Then she went back down until 9:00.

Last night was a bit rough and I almost gave in several times. Not to mention I had milk running down my shirt from holding a crying baby...LOL. I am hoping that tonight will be a little better and that we are on our way to some good sleep. I liked this method because it is a good middle of the road. You are not just leaving them there to scream and scream, but you are not letting them control things either. You are giving them the comfort they need while teaching them how to sleep.

Some people will say that we are cruel for letting our babies fuss and cry, and for not feeding them whenever they want. Since becoming a mom I have learned that being a mom is a REALLY hard job, and most moms are really doing the VERY best they can. I try to be really understanding of how other moms do things. Just because I feel that one way is right or works for me, does not mean that I should force that onto others. After all, being a mom is hard enough.....us mamas need to stick together : )

1 mom found this helpful


My first thought after reading your post was to wonder what kind of nighttime routine you have for your little guy. My daughter has the worst ear-piercing scream imaginable. When she screams it can give instant headaches and/or set my inner ears to vibrating, talk about uncomfortable.

My suggestion is to set up a very consistent bed time routine. That really seems to have helped us. Here is our routine:

5pm is dinner time
6pm bath (if needed) and jammies
7pm bottle of warm milk then off to bed

Sometimes she gets to cuddle on me if she's being really still and seems to need the extra Mommy Time. If we forget to give her the bottle she will scream/screech for hours. Or, she'll only want to be held, fall asleep as soon as she's picked up only to scream all over again as soon as you move anywhere near the crib.

Hope this helps,

1 mom found this helpful

Sounds like my firtborn. He started waking up screaming, doubled over in pain when he was 3 weeks old. He also always wanted to be held. Turns out he was/is allergic to milk. As soon as I cut all milk out of my diet (breastfed exclusively) he could sleep. Ahhhh.

Child #2 did the same at 3 weeks -- screaming, "scrunching", hurting. Eliminated milk and he still screamed. Pediatrician said to eliminate all milk "products" -- whey, casein, etc. THAT worked. But the "scrunchies" came back with baby cereal. Turns out he's also allergic to soy.

Child #3 did same at 3 weeks. This girl is allergic to milk, almonds, rice, yellow 5, and I'm not sure what else.

Allergy symptoms include: gastro-intestinal distress ("tummy aches"), eczema/rashes, "allergy ring" around anus (this one seems to have been my most concrete indicator), generally feeling "not well".

Also, child #1 is very easily over-stimulated. One hour of TV during the day as an infant (even up to 2 years old) would make him cranky, fussy, "colicy" and hard to deal with in the evening/night.

Best thing I found to get all of us the rest we needed was to co-sleep. Then none of us have to fully wake up to get what we need. Co-slept with each one until around 2 years old.

Also, Child #1 (now 11) has always been "hi-need" (even nurses in hospital mentioned it!) -- craves touches, cried if down more than 10 minutes. The Baby Sling was a life saver! I could hold him and still have my hands free. He loved that thing!! Worked even at 3 years old -- he had to take turns with his little brother. ;)

Hang in there. You are not alone! Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

1 mom found this helpful

Well, you have a completely different parenting style than I do. Please take what you can from my post, and if there is anything you feel is totally wrong, just let it go. I understand that there are many parenting styles out there and here is what has worked for me. I have 8 children ranging from 16 years old to 14 months old.

We have always used the family bed for infants. (For those who want to share a bed without really sharing a bed, there are side-cribs that attach to the parents' beds.) We started with a crib close to our bed with our oldest, but soon she was sleeping with us. They just sleep better. Hearing mom's breathing helps regulate baby's breathing and sleep patterns. During teething, I am already there to offer quick comfort with a hand on baby's back, or a quick latch-on until baby drops back to sleep. I barely need to wake up... just enough to make whatever adjustments baby needs.

I believe that babies need that extra comfort from mom or dad to feel safe and cared for. I understand that some parents don't agree with me, but my kids have all grown up just fine with a good sense of self-esteem and independence. I attribute that in part to them knowing from the beginning that we were there to meet their needs at all times.

That being said, many parents do use crying it out and putting baby in a separate room to sleep from birth successfully. I can only comment from my own experience and what has worked for us. I try to put myself in baby's place. If I could not do anything to help myself in a situation, whether that was because I was in pain, or afraid, or hungry, what would I do? After awhile I would probably cry out in frustration that no one is coming to help me with this problem. A six month old doesn't reason like we do. They're still amazed that if we hold up a blanket in front of our face we're gone, and when we drop the blanket, we reappear.

Of course, if you asked someone else the same question, they may say that they would develop their own system of self-reliance. So, YMMV. Ultimately, we all must make decisions we can live with. If you can't live with the screaming at night, maybe you might be willing to try something different. We all make lots of compromises as we develop as a parent. While our kids grow, we grow too.

I hope that helps at least a little bit. Sending sleepy thoughts to your baby!

1 mom found this helpful

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