My 6 Month Old Is Wanting to Play in the Middle of the Night.

Updated on August 08, 2008
N.T. asks from Strykersville, NY
10 answers

My 6 month old has never been a good sleeper during the night. During the day he will take 2 or 3 two hour naps. But at night he is up every 2 to 3 hours. Last night he was up every hour and a half. During the day he goes to sleep by himself with a little bit of fussing and wakes up happy and playing in his crib. But at night, he will not go to sleep on his own. He has to nurse. It doesn't seem as though he is nursing to eat. Just to soothe. He screams if I try to soothe him with his pacifier or lay him down while he is awake. I really don't want to let him scream it out. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I can do to help him? I've tried keeping him up during the day but it doesn't make him sleep any better at night. It just makes him cranky all day.

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answers from New York on

Hi N.,
Which is he doing when he wakes up - playing or soothing? They are not the same. At six months, not all babies can self soothe. It's not unusual for a 6 month old to nurse to sleep, or back to sleep. When my son was an infant, he did wake frequently through the first year, and what I discovered was that he wouldn't always cry. I really wanted to have him by my bed in the cosleeper, but the second he made noise, I was awake. I realized that he didn't always need to nurse, and that once I moved him out of the room, while I would never let him cry, sometimes he would just fuss a bit, and I was fine with that.
I suggest that when meeting a baby's needs of feeding or soothing or diapering during the night, to simply meet those needs without a lot of interaction, try to avoid much eye contact, don't talk to or sing to or play with your baby. Let him know that while his needs will be met, that he won't be getting any extra attention at that time.
Remember that your baby does not know it's the middle of the night and that it's not a time that you don't want to be available. They don't understand that you have certain hours of the day where you're "on call" and others where you won't be
Good luck



answers from New York on

Hi N.,
I read the book "The No Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley and found it to be helpful. My son didn't need to nurse to fall asleep, but I do remember that the book had a section on how to get your baby to sleep without nursing. The important thing to remember is that it takes one of two things to get your baby to sleep at night: crying or time. This book isn't a quick fix, but it seems to work for a lot of people, if you are willing to put the time in. My son is teething again and I am desperate for a good night's sleep! I feel your pain - best of luck to you!



answers from New York on

My suggestion comes straight from The Baby Whisperer. We got a lot of amazing advice from her books, and website. If you choose to buy it, I'd go for Baby Whisperer solves all your problems. LOL, don't we wish!! But, it's geared to all different ages, rather than just tiny newborns. Okay, so, the advice...

At 6 months, my daughter's routine was 2 naps 1.5-2 hours each and 1 cat nap around 5pm for 30-45 minutes. Here's why...1) you want to get adequate sleep during the day so your baby is happy, can emotionally cope, and so it will sleep well at night and not be so overtired that it produces too much cortisone and adrenaline, thus keeping it up and restless when he/she does sleep and waking frequently. So, put your baby down for his regular naps. But, think about waking him earlier. I'd start off at 15 minute increments. So, after 2 hours and 45 minutes, wake him up. The next day or 2 days later 15 minutes earlier. You can try going straight for waking him after 2 hours, but if he's not really go with the flow, he might be really upset by the drastic change. You'll have to be the judge. Then, lay him down for a rest around 5pm for just a tiny cat nap. It will refresh him for his dinner, bath, breastfeeding, etc. But, wont wake him so much that he wont sleep.

As for putting him down at night...start a really solid routine. Do EXACTLY the same thing every single night. It may be different from what he's used to, and that is why he'll cry because he's saying hey this is different and strange!! But, he'll get used to it, and you'll reassure him that this new way is okay. For his age, it'll take him 3-5 nights to get used to it. It could be a rocky week, but better a rocky few days than endless wake-ups, right? My suggestion is to go ahead and nurse him, if you want. If you're over it, then don't do it. But, nurse him or rock him or whatever soothing technique you'll use. When his little eyes droop, or he starts to stare off, gently put him in his crib and keep your hands on him so he feels your pressure and warmth. But, the last thing he'll see before he sleeps is his crib and he's awake...barely, but awake. As he gets used to that, you can put him in more and more awake and he'll fall off to sleep by himself. If he cries when you put him in, it's okay. He's just communicating with you. Soothe him, tell him it's okay, sshhh and pat or rub and keep doing it until he calms down. The key to it is being consistent with him. Do the SAME thing. If one night you give in and pick him up and nurse him to sleep and the next night you don't, you'll confuse him.

As for middle of the night, obviously he "can" sleep through the night. I personally, do not believe in cry it out. I think it breaks trust. But, I do believe in teaching skills. He needs to learn how to soothe himself. So, for one, during the day for his naps, hand him his paci instead of putting it in. Let him do it. Let him learn how to hold it and use it. Two, maybe get him a lovie or small blankey, something to hold onto and rub between his fingers. It's very soothing for many babies. You're teaching him to use other things besides you to soothe himself. You can offer it to him when he cries during the day too. So, when he cries at night, listen first. If he's really wailing, go in rub him, tell him he's just tired, try not to make eye contact because you want to send the message that this isn't social hour. But, soothe him. As soon as he stops crying, leave the room. Just keep doing that. But, hold off a little longer each time. If he's not wailing, and just fussing or talking to himself, don't go it. Let him try to work it out on his own, because that is basically what he's doing and by you not rushing in, you're saying okay give it a try, you can do it.

Anyhow, I hope that helps! Good luck!!



answers from New York on

I feel for you because I went through the same thing at the same age, and also didn't believe in letting him cry it out... but I came to the conclusion after a long, hard, sleepless battle that you have to - and it worked.

First make sure he's eating enough during the day - try increasing his intake either with solids or breastmilk, whatever you think is right. Also make sure it's not a teething issue... at this age that could also be waking him up although it doesn't sound like it.

He's old enough now to have you trained and know that's what he's doing, so you need to turn the tables and TEACH him to sleep. Make up your mind that bed time is bed time and he's supposed to be asleep at night. When he wakes up make sure nothing serious is going on and as long as there's not DON'T PICK HIM UP. You can sing to him, pat him, whatever it takes... but when it's time to sleep there's no fun and games and certainly no eating (unless you really think he's starving and then feed him more during the day).

It's hard. I had to stop even going in my son's room because when he saw me it made it even worse. It took a week and then he got the idea. He occassionally wakes up now, but we're all about business and it's not a big production anymore. I check on him, give him what he needs if necessary, and then leave the room quickly and he'll settle himself down within 20 minutes or so. Knock on wood!!!!!!!

Don't decrease his naps. Sleep makes sleep. If he gets overtired, he won't sleep more at night.

Good luck - this will pass, but you have to be tougher than you want to be. And when you feel bad for letting him cry, just think of the alternative - do you really think picking him up and nursing him is the best option? No. Nightime is for sleeping. He'll get the idea - trust me.



answers from Rochester on

Great that you are nursing your son! Breastmilk doesn't last very long in his system, though. He's growing, and using it up even faster.

Don't skip the naps.

When my son woke wanting to play, I would try to soothe him, but I would not play with him. The lights stay off, the music stays on, and I lay there surrounded by pillows so he wouldn't go far if I dozed off. I closed my eyes, and I let him see I was going to sleep. It wouldn't take long, he would roll around and get his bearings on a comfortable spot, and crash. I only whispered during this time, if I needed to say anything at all. I also hummed a lullaby, Brahms is his favorite, and would eventually be whispering it, and every other or every third note.

Side note, what was cute was that HE would whisper, too. My husband wants/ed no part of waking in the middle of the night, and so I was careful to either nurse him back to sleep or keep him quiet. So when my son decided to whisper back, it was hard not to laugh!

Good Luck,



answers from Syracuse on

Hi N., I had this problem too with my daughter who is almost 6 months. My son who's 19 months was a great sleeper at first but eventually we had to let him cry to help him learn to soothe himself. I have had fabulous results with Weissbluth's book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child." My daughter is very playful so here's what I learned and do, that works:

When she wakes up in the night, I first wait to see if she's really awake. 5 minutes or so. Then I go in to nurse her (she's sleeping in her own room in a crib now - this was her choice, I started it when she stopped sleeping well in our room at around 10 weeks). I don't look her in the eyes, I don't speak, I don't turn on any lights. If she stops nursing to catch my eye (this is so annoying because it's cute!), then I put a blanket over her head so she is enveloped and can get back into a sleep state. I let her nurse (no more than 10 minutes) while I sit in the rocker, and then I put her back down and leave.

Sleep begets sleep so don't deprive your son of naps. In fact, the better he naps, the better he will sleep during the night. 2 weeks ago, we decided it was time for our daughter to learn to soothe herself. We now put her down at 6pm and let her cry. The first night she cried, enraged, for 38 minutes. She has not cried since and is sleeping much better (only up once or twice instead of every 1.5-2 hours). She sleeps until 6 or 7 a.m. and is a much happier baby now.

Personally I'm not a fan of waking a nursing sleeping baby up, but I have a good friend that did that and it worked for her. The other option, so you're still nursing AND putting down your son while awake, is to nurse before you begin the rest of the bedtime routine.

Weissbluth's book was the FOURTH book I read on sleep and the first one that worked for us. Our son had 8 ear infections in 3.5 months when he was little and we ended up with a monster sleep problem on our hands when he finally got tubes at 10 months. Weissbluth does not advocate a specific method, but he presents many methods and their pros/cons. His main point is that a happy family is a well-rested family and we need to teach our children to soothe themselves. I truly believe this, having had two babies really close together.

I could go on and on about sleep. It's my personal obsession!

By the way, it's really hard to let him cry. Really hard. Even if it's right for you and him (which it may not be). Our son cried for almost 1.5 hours the first time we did it, but after 3 nights, he's never ever cried himself to sleep again, and he ASKS to go to bed by 6pm every night.



answers from New York on

The nap schedule you have him on during the day is a normal schedule for his age. 2 naps is what he should be on at this point. At night time I would no longer allow him to fall asleep while nursing. He needs to learn the difference between eating and sleeping. Once he starts to fall asleep while nursing, stop and wake him. Then when he's done eating, give him the binky and rock him. Once he starts to get drowsy, put him in the crib. As he gets more and more use to this routine put him in the crib more and more awake. Eventually he do the same as he does for his naps.



answers from Albany on

Oh Boy! The first thing that has to change is his napping schedule. Try this for three days and see if it changes. First feed at 6am. Wake him if you have to. Keep him up, give him a snack of cereal an hour and a half after first feed(730), then a nap two hours after first feed.(800)
Next feed at 1000, lunch 1130, nap 1200, next feed at 2pm, snack 330, nap 4pm for just an hour, no more or none at all. Then last feed around 630. Maybe try to give one ounch of formula after nursing at night to see if he needs a little more. It will accomplish two things, you arent the last thing he has before bed, and he may need the extra. If he cries, let it go no more than 10 minutes, go up and talk to him, soothe him but not too much touching or stimulus. A good kiss and some i love yous are good! then wait another ten, etc repeat if necessary. just don't go more than ten. (unless the cry begins to wane then wait a little more)i would set the timer on my stove and turn the monitor off or else i would go nuts but i had the timer to say turn the monitor back on and check.
The major piece of this is the three days. it takes that to turn them around. It will be okay!!



answers from Utica on

I think your baby has day and night mixed up. When he naps in the daytime keep all the lights on and the radio, TV or whatever to keep him awake. At night when he goes to sleep, darken the room totally.



answers from Albany on

My 2 year old son was a terrible sleeper. Didn't sleep at night for more than 2 or 3 hours a stretch until he was around 5 months or so. I also nursed and it was only the boob that would put him back to sleep. Out of desperation from sleep deprivation, my husband took over at night. I knew my son wasn't eating in the middle of the night, only comfort nursing, so I felt it was okay to limit the amount I gave him the breast at night. My husband never let him cry more than a minute or two, but consistently went in his room, patted him and shushed him, but did NOT take him out of the crib. My husband would keep going in every few minutes and soothe him as best he could, walk out and close the door. There was really only one bad night. My son got the hang of it pretty quickly. He wasn't so interested in being awake at night if he wasn't getting the breast. I really needed to prepare myself. I knew it would be painful to hear him cry for me and not go to him. But I felt my husband deserved the chance to be a soother for our son, and I knew that my son wasn't crying alone in his room- that his father was with him. I don't know if you're married or have a partner, but if you do, you may want to try this. After doing this for only about 2 nights, he started sleeping for 2 six hour stretches. I was able to start going to him again, only once a night. We are also fans of the Weissbluth book called Healthy Sleep HAbits, HAppy Child mentioned by others. Hope this helps-


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