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Used to Sleep, Doesn't Now

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Sleep > Used to Sleep, Doesn't Now



5 month old suddenly hysterical at bedtime

March 2007

We had an easy time sleep-training our 5-month-old son at 3 months. For the last 2 months, he's gone to sleep at night beautifully: after his story and a kiss, we'd put him in his crib and leave, and he went to sleep happily without making a peep. But this week, he's suddenly become hysterical when we try to put him to bed. He's always been somewhat cranky towards the end of the day, but now he's extremely so - he thrashes around and arches his back, and goes from laughing to tears in an instant. When he sees the crib, he starts shrieking, and if we put him in it and leave, he immediately starts crying hysterically. (When we were sleep training, we only let him fuss to sleep, never full-out cry.) We can only get him to sleep by walking him until he's completely asleep, and he seems to sleep restlessly for the first few hours, crying often and needing a pacifier. (That's new too - he never used to stir until after midnight.)

We're baffled, and would like some insight as to what's going on. I suspect it might be teething, but could it be something else? So far we've tried moving up his bedtime as early at 6pm and giving him Baby Tylenol before bedtime, with no success. I'd appreciate any insights and advice from people who have experienced this - feel free to email me. Thanks so much! Kristine


Don't worry, it will pass you only have to be patient and let him cry. I remember those days when at about 6-7 months my son after being nearly perfect when going to bed started crying and screaming. He would stand up in his crib and cry until someone came in and picked him up and rocked him to sleep. It went on for two weeks until one night I let him cry but went to check on him first every 5 min, then every 10, 15, 20 and about an hour and half later he was asleep. Three-four days later he stopped crying completely and except for the occasional cranky night, he has been going to bed without any problem ever since (he is 14 months now). I dreaded letting him crying it out, but it really worked. He had an episode after being sick when he did it for about a week in the middle of the night and the same method did not fail me again. I think the pacifier helped as well, so now we have to figure out how to get rid of it, but I am not really worried about it. The most important thing is to check on him, and talk to him and repeat that it is time to go to bed, tell him that you are there and that he shouldn't worry, give him a soft toy or a blanket, whatever works. I am not sure how much he understood, but it was probably some consolation and now going to bed for him is a lot of fun and he loves playing in his crib. I hope you get over this period quickly, it really is not as difficult as it sounds. Bistra
Babie's sleeping patterns change. Our daughter was sleeping beautifully, and then at 5 months, completely changed and stopped sleeping throught the night. I think it's just par for the course. In a month or two (or three or whatever) it will change again. I don't like the CIO method, myself, but then, I'm baffled by people putting their babies down to sleep in separate beds in separate rooms. It seems so obvious that helpless little babies want and need to be near their parents (we don't see mamals in the wild putting their infants in separate dens/nests/hidy-holes/whatever). But that's just me - I'm not saying that to make you ''wrong'' or ''bad.'' I just wonder... would it make a difference for him to be with you? Maybe that's what he needs, and that's why holding him and rocking him is what's getting him to sleep right now. He knows what he needs, and perhaps what he needs is you! It seems only natural to me! :) Love sleeping with my baby

15-week-old used to sleep, doesn't now

March 2004

My 3.5 month old baby had been, I think, a pretty average sleeper, gradually going longer & longer at night until, at 12 weeks, he was regularly sleeping about 6-8 hrs at a stretch. He did still go to bed on the late side (around 9), but was starting to get into a pretty regular nap pattern during the day, and generally seemed pretty well rested. Suddenly, about a week ago, he started sleeping much less, waking every 1-2 hours at night. At first I thought he might be hungry, but feeding him didn't make any difference -- he'd be up again in an hour. If anything, the situation's getting worse -- we were up every 45 minutes last night. His naps have also become much shorter. It really seems as though he's just trying to get our attention - - when I come into the room and pick him up, he instantly stops crying, but starts again as soon as I put him down. Not surprisingly, he seems exhausted now, but doesn't seem ill or anything. One other development is that we had been swaddling him, but he now wriggles out of the blankets very quickly -- I'm not sure if that's at all related, and I don't know if it makes sense to persist in attempting to swaddle or if I should just give up on it. Anyway, I'm at my wit's end. I'm totally ready to Ferberize, but I don't know if he's old enough for that to work. I'm really not interested in the family bed -- sleeping in his crib had been working very well for us until just recently. I don't want to traumatize him by trying sleep training too early. On the other hand, I don't feel like the current situation is too good for him either, and it's certainly not good for me. Please help! sleepy mom


Sounds like a growth spurt to me. Go ahead and nurse him every time he wakes and give it another week or so. (You will almost certainly get more sleep if you bring him into your bed for the duration. Remember that nothing you do right now is permanent. But of course if you can't or don't want to co-sleep ever, that's your choice.) Most likely he'll revert to something more like his former pattern soon. (He is definitely too young to attempt Ferberizing. I am pretty sure that Ferber's book recommends starting no earlier than 6 months old, and most reputable sleep training experts say 4 to 6 months at the earliest.) I would also suggest you continue swaddling and, if anything, wrap him more tightly. He may be waking himself up with too much flailing around, and if you can swaddle him tightly enough that he can't wiggle out, he'll sleep longer. anon
I know it's easy advice to give and hard to take but give it a little time, it may be a growth spurt or some developmental change that is waking him up and it might pass on its own. From my experience, unfortunately nighttime sleep doesn't always get better with age and they can go from sleeping well to not well for a number of reasons (developmental changes, teething, sickness, etc). I do think he might be a little young to Ferberize but in the end that's a personal choice and you should go with your gut (if you are sure he's not hungry, sick , needing for some other reason, etc.) In the meantime, you might try to stop swaddling him, maybe he wants to be able to move around. You also mentioned a late bedtime - maybe try putting him down earlier, like by 7 so he isn't overtired and thus sleeping restlessly. Good luck, it might seem horrible now but I'm sure it will pass! anon
I personally think 15 weeks is too young to ferberize and I would also recommend going a different route....read the book ''The Baby Whisperer...How to Calm, Connect & Communicate with your Baby'' by Tracy Hogg. But what really struck me is that your child might be in pain. He may be young for teething but that sounds like it could be....try some tylenol before he goes to sleep. It won't hurt him even if he doesn't need it. Secondly, I doubt the swaddling has anything to do with anything. Most babies give this up even earlier. Swaddling is a transitional thing between the womb and the real world. Good luck. anon
We had the same problem at 4.5 months-a great sleeper that seemed to ''regress'' and started waking all the time. Unfortunately Ferber does not recommend sleep training until 5- 6 months, so you should probably wait to do that. I really recommend reading his whole book before embarking on any sleep training. For now, I would say to do everything you already have been doing-make sure baby is getting enough calories, check cleeping conditions, check for teething or ear infection. We did eventually do Ferber at 5 months and new we are back to excellent sleep, so there is light at the end of the tunnel! Rebecca
He's definately too young to do the crying out method, it will just make it worse as he needs security at this age. It is more important that you get him to sleep as he needs it for his brain and physical growth. My strong suggestion is to buy a swing - it works miracles and can gently soothe a baby to sleep. We bought the Fisher Price one as it's the only one that can swing side-to-side in a ''craddle'' rock in addition to front to back. We only used it in the side-to-side swing mode as that more closely imitates the motion they experienced in the womb and seemed to relax him the most. I also remember reading in ''What's going on in there'' which is that book about baby's brain development, that studies indicate that this motion can have very positive effects.

At first I was afraid I would rely on the swing instead of just dealing w/ my baby, but I soon saw that as long as I was aware of this, I was only using it when it was time for him to sleep and other methods of getting him to sleep didn't work. Sometimes it was the only thing that would soothe him if he was crying. We would also use it during dinner so I could actually eat and he would be content to swing and watch us eat. anon


I feel your sleep deprived pain! Our little guy was a master at busting out of swaddling and we even went for 7 days straight of him waking every 45 min. to an hour day and night when he was about 15-16 weeks old...I truly thought I was going insane. Here's what worked for us: by chance our neighbor loaned us a sleep positioner (those odd looking adjustable fabric things with two rounded ends) kinda looks like a cross between a floatie device and a bandage.... anyway we started using that and after he's swaddled (without his legs wrapped in because that's how he would loosen it all since he was getting bigger than the blanket)we'd wegde him in on his back and the positioner sides would hold his arms and more importantly the slack from the blanket so he couldn't bust out anymore...that easily added more than a few hours to his sleeping periods...he's always been super active and we really believe that his arm movements were his biggest sleep disturbance...he was swaddled until about 5 and a half months and then we moved on to a Halo...now he sleeps really well... During that one insane sleepless week he was also switched to formula for a few days as per my pediatrician's suggestion because she told me, ''we'll you're not getting enough rest in order to produce the good stuff really well and it's very possible that he's having a growth spurt and you can't keep up at this pace. Give him formula for 3 days and write down how much he takes and when and then maybe we can figure out if he's really hungry or grazing...and all of this should impact his sleeping''

oh yeah and she did tell me that not to feel to horrible about not being able to be a high fuctioning dairy (!)because ''we're just trying to solve the problem so that everyone is happier'' and we all definitley were after getting much needed rest!!

*obviously you should check with your Dr. on this *

Out of desperation before I talked my Dr. I had really considered sleep training as early as you did but was really worried that it'd do more harm than good...my Dr. thought it was too early too so we tried what she suggested along our swaddling business and it worked out really well...now he's a 7-7 sleeper at night and has 2 2 hour naps a day at 10 months! and of course we all feel like a real people again!

good luck hope this helps stess


12-week-old used to sleep, doesn't now

HELP! I need advice. I have a 12 week old baby girl who was very good at sleeping through the night until a few weeks ago. She is now very restless in her sleep. She moves all around,kicks and makes loud noices. But, she doesn't cry too much in her sleep. Needless to say it all keeps waking me up off and on all night long. I have tried to make sure she was full before going to bed. I have tried giving her a warm bath with the baby wash to calm babies. I have even tried playing with her until she just drops. But, nothing is working. She does sleep in the bed with me and i will be trying to get her to sleep in the crib in the next two weeks. Any ideas?
My daughter is almost five months and slept in the bed with us until about six weeks when she got a little too active. Then we moved her over to an Arms Reach co-sleeper, which has worked out really well (about $150 at Babies R Us in Pleasanton, a little more at local stores). The only draw back is the co-sleeper makes it harder for me to get out of bed - a real hassle in the early weeks of postpartum recovery, but no big deal now. My daughter is still very active some nights, but I can sleep through more (not all) of it now that she's about 12 inches away. She still spends some time in bed with us (say, after a 6 a.m. feeding until we get up), which is very cozy. Or sometimes we both doze off after a feeding and I wake up later and move her back to the co-sleeper. A few other tips if the baby is active, it will kick off it's covers and might get cold. Sleeping sacks or pile jumpers end up working better than blankets. I keep a small flashlight by the bed. when I wake up and hear her fussing I can now see whether she's actually awake and perhaps hungry, or just sleeping loudly. Finally, sleeping through the night is not something babies achieve and stick with. Of about a dozen new mothers I know, all have had their babies sleep through the night, only to stop later. Good luck!
My son was also a pretty good sleeper until he was about 3 months old. Then he started moving, fussing, whining, grunting and such in his sleep. I was so concerned that he wasn't getting a good quality of sleep at night that I did everything I could to insure that he slept well during the day. He also sleeps in the bed with me and wakes me up constantly. Finally I talked to his doctor who said that some babies are 'active sleepers' and not to worry about it if he seems alert instead of lethargic during the day. I think what your daughter is experiencing is common. I do have advice for you Move her not only to her own crib but also out of your room as soon as possible. You'll sleep better.
If the process is so quick, you might get a lot more sleep if you just have the baby sleep in bed with you or on a bed attached to yours. Then you won't have to get up, and he may get the comfort he needs from just sensing or physically feeling you there. On the other hand, you have to want to have the baby with you. Our two year old sleeps with us and we love it. Inbal
The reasons we all have questions about baby sleep is that most babies/small children do not sleep by themselves through the night. There are dozens of approaches, some of which work for some children. What I've found most useful is to accept that I'm going to be woken up during the night. It does get better; at four, my daughter rarely wakes during the night. I think the family bed idea, or a crib in the parent's room also has advantages because at least you don't have to go so far to comfort your child. Good luck!
I'm sure you will get many postings on this, since it's such a common problem. Most babies cycle up into a lighter sleep several times during the night, and if they haven't learned to put themselves back to sleep, they'll count on you to do it. What I did with my son was to train myself to wait a little longer each night before going in -- I say train myself, because I think sleep training is often more about training the mom than the kid. If you breastfed, you learned to jump up as soon as the baby wakes, and it takes a little while to unlearn that habit. But even if it means losing some sleep in the short term, it's worth it! So, try just waiting a few minutes before going in, and see if your baby settles down on his own and goes back to sleep. Tell yourself you'll wait two minutes, then go in. Then try waiting five minutes. I always felt that I wanted my son to know I was there if he needed me, but I found that by rushing to his side I was often there when he DIDN'T need me too. If you give them a little time, babies can learn pretty fast to put themselves back to sleep -- sometimes when they seem to be awake and fussing, they're not even fully awake. Part of your problem seems to be a pacifier problem -- if he needs the pacifier to go back to sleep it's an extra challenge. I got rid of the pacifier early on because I was tired of getting up in the night to put it back in my son's mouth, but if you don't want to wean him off the pacifier you might want to put some extra ones in the bed so it's easier for him to find one to put in his mouth himself.

10 month old used to sleep, doesn't now

December 2002

I have an almost 10 month old who has always been a terrific sleeper, all I've ever had to do was put him in the crib and he'd play with his toys for a few minutes, then pull his blanket up over his head and pass out. Lately, however, I think he's in the stage where he's realizing that stuff still goes on in the world while he sleeps and he doesn't want to miss any of it! So every nap and every bedtime has become an ordeal. I always make sure he's sleepy before I even consider putting him down, he's on a pretty regular schedule, and we have a little mini routine at naptime and a longer routine at bedtime, but as soon as I start angling his body towards the crib, he realizes what's going on and starts objecting. The only way he'll actually fall asleep is if I leave the room and let him cry himself to sleep, which just BREAKS my heart, but if he knows I'm in the room there's no way he'll even consider sleeping. I was just wondering 1. how long will this stage last? and 2. what are some ways folks have dealt with this one? Jill


I wonder if your 10 month old is having a negative association with the crib now that he is being left to cry it out. I would suggest shifting approaches a bit, perhaps playing with him while he is in his crib, to make it a fun and safe place for him to be. Or, perhaps holding him until he is almost asleep and then putting him down. You can gradually put him down earlier and earlier until he falls asleep on his own in the crib. Or, sit in his room as he falls asleep. I know this all must sound like you would be taking steps backward, but I have found that a gradual approach works really well with my son. Kid's needs change and it doisn't mean that if you give him what he needs to fall asleep now that he will always need it in the future. Good luck!

One-year-old can no longer fall asleep

From: Heather

One-year-old can no longer fall asleep

I have a question about sleeping through the night. My son is now 11 months old and wakes every night between 2 and 5 times. From the time he was 6 weeks until he was 6 months, he slept 10 to 12 hours a night, with no interruptions. Then we moved to California from Georgia, and nighttime peace ended for our family. That was, of course, 5 months ago, and I figured it was a big change, so we'd put up with it for a while. Then came teething, another nighttime horror. And now I think we've been so tolerant we've created a monster. I can't keep sleeping on the couch with my son...my back is killing me. I can't bring him into bed with me (though I'd like to) because he wiggles so much it drives his father crazy. And even though we switch off every night, John (my fiance) and I are both exhausted. We're at the end of our rope. But we don't want to take the cry it out approach. It doesn't work for any of us....we all end up hysterical. We're big proponents of the attachment parenting method (Dr. William Sears' Baby Book). Unfortunately the sleep tips in that haven't helped much. So, does anyone have any advice? I need to find a way to convince my son to sleep (I *know* he can do it)and sleep ALONE. We'll try (almost) anything. Thanks in advance.
My one-year-old daughter has been sleeping through the night since she was 10 weeks old. We have been blessed and lucky and very spoiled by this. Ever since she has been able to stand, however, she will no longer go to sleep on her own. In other words, we used to be able to put her down when she was drowsy and she would drift off. She will no longer do this. She instantly stands in her crib, rattles the side of it, and cries and cries. The real problem with this is that if she cries for more than 5 minutes (literally), she vomits. So in spite of trying a few times to let her cry it out, while going in to comfort her every few minutes or so, it has always ended in disaster with her vomiting, and our having to turn on the lights, clean her up, clean her bed up, clean the floor up. It's really a mess, and I can't see how any of this is supposed to help her learn how to go to sleep on her own again. I understand about having her cry it out, but really, I don't see how her getting so upset and physically overwrought that she vomits helps anything. I should say that she sleeps through the night when she falls asleep in our arms, so it's not that she's waking in the middle of the night. It's just a problem going to sleep on her own (which I know is a big problem in the long run). If she does wake in the middle of the night during a light sleep period, she generally will gurgle and sing and entertain herself and fall back asleep. Only if she is teething or ill will she actually wake up and cry and need us and that happens rarely. Thank you for any advice you can give. We meet with her pediatrician next week for her one-year checkup/vaccinations and certainly will be talking to her about it, but in the meantime I was hoping to get additional advice from you more experienced parents out there. Thanks so much.
From: Laurel

We just "Ferberized" our 5 month old last weekend. I, too, like the tenets of attachment parenting. Our baby slept with us in our bed since birth. However, a little over a month ago, he started waking up every two hours to nurse. Not only were we parents (or, rather, me) not getting enough sleep, neither was the baby. He developed bags under his eyes, was grumpy, groggy, took catnaps practically all day long. He would fall asleep nursing, but when I put him down he'd wake up and cry. So we did what I thought we'd never do -- we let him "cry it out." The first night was horrible, but he slept for 7 hours straight, which was the longest he'd ever gone. The second night was better, and the next two nights were even better. Tonight he fell asleep after 5 minutes of fussing. I think the family bed is a wonderful thing if it works for all involved, but it clearly wasn't in our case. Doing the "cry it out" approach cold-turkey is a very drastic move, so if you have the patience, you might want to try establishing a solid bedtime routine, getting your baby to attach to a "transitional object," and easing him into a crib that way. However, I don't think you'll be able to do it without some crying (both you and your son). If you don't want to do that, consider buying a futon mattress, place it next to your bed, and lie down with him until he falls asleep, then move yourself into the adult bed. Take turns with your fiance. Good luck.


From: Ellen

When my son was about a year old he was in the habit of waking up at 4am. This lasted for months and was very difficult. The solution turned out to be the same thing that precipitated your issue. We took a weekend trip to LA to visit family, driving. I had been prepared for a worse problem with sleeping; but was delighted with the result. Getting him out of the habit of waking up so early was difficult, I realize now (!), because of his temperament. He is both very 'regular' and 'persistent' by temperament. My older son was much less 'regular' in his habits, and, therefore, more difficult to put to sleep; but, easier to change his patterns through gradual changes, without having to let him cry it out.


From: Heather

I'm the mom who originally wrote about my son who used to sleep and doesn't now. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. We started on the Ferber plan last night, and while it was really difficult, we did manage to get through it without cracking. Right now my son is asleep on the floor (he didn't manage a nap this morning and is exhausted). So, thanks all. My rope is getting longer by the minute. :)


1-year-old stopped sleeping when she started standing

My one-year-old daughter has been sleeping through the night since she was 10 weeks old. We have been blessed and lucky and very spoiled by this. Ever since she has been able to stand, however, she will no longer go to sleep on her own. In other words, we used to be able to put her down when she was drowsy and she would drift off. She will no longer do this. She instantly stands in her crib, rattles the side of it, and cries and cries. The real problem with this is that if she cries for more than 5 minutes (literally), she vomits. So in spite of trying a few times to let her cry it out, while going in to comfort her every few minutes or so, it has always ended in disaster with her vomiting, and our having to turn on the lights, clean her up, clean her bed up, clean the floor up. It's really a mess, and I can't see how any of this is supposed to help her learn how to go to sleep on her own again. I understand about having her cry it out, but really, I don't see how her getting so upset and physically overwrought that she vomits helps anything. I should say that she sleeps through the night when she falls asleep in our arms, so it's not that she's waking in the middle of the night. It's just a problem going to sleep on her own (which I know is a big problem in the long run). If she does wake in the middle of the night during a light sleep period, she generally will gurgle and sing and entertain herself and fall back asleep. Only if she is teething or ill will she actually wake up and cry and need us and that happens rarely. Thank you for any advice you can give. We meet with her pediatrician next week for her one-year checkup/vaccinations and certainly will be talking to her about it, but in the meantime I was hoping to get additional advice from you more experienced parents out there. Thanks so much.
The solution and interpretation depends on which experts you look to! While many advocate the approach that babies and toddlers must learn fall asleep on their own (which of course is nice for the parents), to some do. not. William and Martha Sears (authors of The BABY BOOK), for example, argue that getting a baby to sleep is simply part of nighttime parenting, and that getting a child to fall asleep contentedly in your arms contributes to healthy attachment and positive associations with sleep. Because our culture values independence so much, the majority of baby experts focus on the child learning to get themsleves to sleep on their own. But Sears and Sears make the interesting point that the so-called epidemic of sleep problems and depression seemed to occur only after it the cry it out methods became popular. (There may or may not be a causative element but it is an interesting point!) In terms of your daughter's developmental stage, it makes sense that as she learns to stand she realizes she is independent which is exciting but also scary, so she needs the extra reassurance that being with you as she falls asleep brings. Since she is still sleeping through the night, maybe you should just not worry about her new falling asleep needs. You could see it as is as an opportunity to be close to her--she's not a baby for much longer! Good luck!!
I am not a "more experienced parent," since my daughter is younger than your son (7 months), but I thought I'd share with you something that I read recently: Meg Zweiback, in the Parents' Press, said that she thinks holding, rocking, and/or nursing a child to sleep is a *good* thing, contrary to what everyone usually says about putting a child down while s/he's still awake, crying it out, etc. It's a wonderful, loving time that encourages bonding and, apparently, babies who are comforted to sleep tend to sleep through the night earlier and more consistently than those who are not. Perhaps I'm just rationalizing my own behavior (I nurse my baby to sleep; she's a great sleeper and does comfort herself back to sleep during the middle of the night), but I found this to be helpful. Good luck.
It is funny that you sent this email because we just went through the same thing. My daughter had also been an excellent sleeper from three months. She is now one year and figured out about 6 weeks ago how to sit up/move around/ stand up in her crib. It was hard because we didn't think she knew how to lay back down in her crib, so we were constantly going in to lay her back down. So we ended up rocking her to bed every night. Then things got more and more difficult and it seemed like she kept pushing the envelope - it would take longer to get her to sleep, she would start waking up in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep. We finally went back to Ferber (going in every 15 minutes) because we felt like we had to make her understand that standing/ sitting up had consequences (we weren't going to rescue her every two minutes). She actually vomited one night while she was standing up. The next night she fell asleep on her own and is now laying herself down in her crib and going to sleep again! (this happened three days ago - again! (this happened three days ago - I wish I had tried Ferber again sonner). I think her new independence as well as separation anxiety were part of the problem. It sounds like your daughter is so upset, it might be both as well. I would recommend staying tough and putting a plastic sheet on the floor, so it is not so messy - it is hard to know what else to do because ultimately they have to learn how to fall asleep on their own again, even with their new found 'power'. It sounds very upsetting for you - I was very distraught about the whole thing. Good luck!
If your son is 18-26 months, he may be experiencing separation anxiety. We had a very similar situation with our toddler who went to sleep without complaint from six months until a little after his second birthday. The anxiety did not manifest itself in any way during the day, only at night. For about six weeks, we set up a sleeping bag next to his bed and my husband and I took turns sleeping with him. When the anxiety period was over (we could tell from the quality of his crying when put to bed), we reduced our stay. He's now doing great.
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