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What would you make of this nighttime behavior?

663 Views 16 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  jackson'smama
if this has been discussed her before, i apologize, but i searched and couldn't find any help...
for what seems like forever, my ds (17mos) has been what dh and i have characterized as "not the greatest sleeper". he nurses to sleep around 8 (we've tinkered with the bedtime making it both earlier and later with no results). he sleeps solid until his first nightwaking. this may be 2 hours or it may be 6 hours. usually, it's about 3 or 4. at his first nightwaking (he sleeps with us), i nurse him back to sleep. after that, he seems to wake about every 45 min to 1 hour. sometimes, he'll go 2 hours, but it's rare.
the weird thing is that he doesn't always seem to be "awake" - he sits up and whimpers/cries, but he doesn't open his eyes. i've tried to ignore it thinking he's still asleep. on occasion, he will flop over and return to sleep after about 30 seconds. usually though, it will escalate until i lie him back down and nurse him.
i can't figure out what he's doing when he's "waking up". is he really waking? he doesn't seem to be having night terrors, but what do i know? he just seems really fretful and restless.
i can't understand why his first block of sleep is so deep but the rest of the night is so light. how can i help him achieve deeper sleep after that first nightwaking?
there seems to be no real change to his pattern regardless of illness/teething/daytime activities/bedtime routine/bedtime/food/growth spurts/age/etc....that's what leads me to think it's just his funky sleep pattern. but how can i help him? he seems happy in the day, and he's growing well, but i can't help but think this is not good sleep.
anybody have a clue what might be going on? i appreciate any advice you can offer.
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Your DS sounds very much like mine, who is 14 months. He does almost the exact same things. I have always just put it down to him waking slightly in the night like we all do, but being unable to put himself back to sleep without nursing, and therefore has to root around and cry out for me. I may be wrong of course (and he does have tummy troubles too which complicates things). Could the same be true in your son's case?
Is there any indication that he might have a food sensitivity (dairy is fairly notorious)? Almost all the children we know who have food issues have had sleep issues/restlessness...Just throwing that out there---or it could just be *normal* for him

Hope you get some helpful suggestions!
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17 mos. Teething molars. Big, huge, nasty teeth all the way in the back with a whole lot of points that come up and then there's still gum that needs to get out of the way and man do they hurt. A lot. Even if you can't see them yet, they're coming. And if one or two have come in already, remember, there are more. Four in all.


Maybe not relevant to your situation, but maybe it is. With each of mine, when the molars started nudging to get out, sleep got ... disturbed. All in the general area of 14 to 18 months. When we dealt with the teething, sleep was much less disturbing.

Something to consider, maybe ...

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thanks everyone!
merpk: how did you deal with teething? we've tried tylenol and hylands teething tablets. neither have had an effect on the sleep. any tips? i can't see any new teeth coming, but like you said, i know they're trying just because we're at that age.

in terms of food, he doesn't consume that much dairy. he does probably have a serving of cheese daily and yogurt a couple of times a week. no milk. i know a little can do alot, but he was this way before he started consuming dairy products. it's just worse now than we he was younger and couldn't sit up in bed asleep, for example.

all in all, it seems weird that his first segment of sleep can be so solid but the remainder of the night is so screwy. we've put him in his crib thinking that when we come to bed it's just too much for him (space loss, heat, noise, movement). the problem is i'm a little too lax and i bring him to bed upon the firstnightwaking and never return him to the crib. we love having him with us and i'll admit, i fall back asleep. you'd think that the knowledge of the fact that he'll wake me in 45 minutes would be enough to get me to put him back in his crib to see if it helps, but....
it's hard at 3am to get out of a warm bed, as you all know!

thanks again!
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In my search for help with my DS 8 month's sleep situation one consultant ( ) said among other things that big chunk of solid sleep followed by frequent waking the rest of the night is classic over-tired child sleeping pattern - they are so wacked out that they just go into a dead sleep but as soon as they are past that exhaustion then the typical over-tired-so-sleep-badly thing kicks in for the rest of the night - making a cycle of the whole issue. My thought is that could also be why he is half-waking when he wakes - too tired to wake properly, too scratchy to stay all the way asleep. IF this is relevant to your child ( and it may not be, it's just a thought) then maybe could help to address the daytime naps and see if that isn't maybe the key link in the cycle to change things.

Whatever happens I wish you lots and lots of luck. I know what its like to keep searching for answers and solutions - we are still at it too (and that's not my boy's pattern by the way), which is why I am reading all these threads...
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wow - that's interesting - and nice to hear. i think there could be something to that. he's never been a great napper, but he does usually get at least one if not 2 naps per day. they used to be short (30 min) but now they are usually at least an hour (sometimes, they are 20 min other times they are 2 hours - it's weird).
i really need to work on naps more i guess and see if it helps.
thanks again!
I too would re-think his naptime routine and see if he can get a few more quality naps in.

As far as the teething pain/restlessness issues I would try viburcol. It is a homeopathic that I actually discovered through an ad in Mothering Mag. It has been an absolute lifesaver with my DC and it isn't horribly expensive.
thanks! i'll check out the viburcol.
today, we're trying to stay home as much as possible to work on better napping. we usually do well for the am nap, but here lately, the afternoon one is starting later (which is bad, i know) because we are out and about in the afternoon at the best nap time. duh!
thanks again mamas for your tips and thoughts! i really appreciate it!
I tend to agree with Boongirl - this has been the case with my dd who is now 3+ - she really relied on nursing and cuddling to get back to sleep and was a frequent night waker - just her personality I think, nothing really 'wrong' just how she was. Now that she no longer nurses during the night she has learned to go back to sleep (mostly) on her own - I think it is just a skill that she did not need to have before because I was always around for her to rely on .................
i believe that he is used to nursing to sleep and back to sleep. i've thought about trying to "break" this association, but have never had the heart or the energy for it. truth be told though, i do wish that he could sleep longer stretches. and if he could just wake up (or slightly, whatever it is that he's actually doing) and root around and start nursing, i'd be fine with it. but he sits up which requires me to then sit up and lie him down to position him for nursing. it makes me think there's a little more to it.
i understand the nursing to sleep issue. what i can't wrap my brain around is the waking so frequently to begin with (especially after the solid couple of hours that tend to preceed it). why does he sleep so solid for awhile and then get funky on me? i'm not trying to sound stupid here, but i just wonder why it happens. i guess i have to chalk it up to "that's just him"? it makes me question my choices alot even though my heart tells me we're OK.
thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to read my post and to those who've responded
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I just had to respond because I've posted similarly on this forum. My 15 mo dd is exactly like your ds. goes to sleep between 7 and 8, sleeps for about 4 hours, when we go to bed and she wakes we bring her in be and she's up AT LEAST every hour and I have to nurse her to get her settled again. But I can't sleep and she's up so often nursing that my nipples get sore. So most nights my husband rocks her and puts her back in her crib. She sleeps slightly longer in there but still no longer than 1.5 hours or so. You can view what we plan to do about it in my other posts.

She recently switched to 1 nap but this has been going on for months. And I really don't think that she's overtired. She too doesn't eat dairy much, just some yogurt a couple times a week. I can tell when she's teething or just doesn't feel good. Those are the nights when she won't let me or dh put her down.

But I 100% think it's just her inability to put herself to sleep.
Hi! My son does the same thing. He is 19 mos old. A normal night he goes to bed by 7:00, wakes 2 to 3 hours later and I nurse him down. He then wakes almost hourly and he nurses back to sleep. My son also sits up when he wakes, so I have to lay him back down. If you find something to get your little one to sleep longer....please share!
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well, i'll definitely post success if i have any!
so far this week, we've battled bedtime - which is a new thing for us. usually, he goes to sleep pretty well nursing. since the beginning of the week, he's nursed until almost asleep, then he ends up opening his eyes, smiling, and biting the heck out of me. he then proceeds to get up and want to play. i've had conflict over how to handle this. dh agreed to go with the play notion, and they were upstairs until at least 10 doing what sounded like bowling! i'm here with ds alone tonight and he is currently playing alone in his play room (which is a large area within our office where he plays and also naps as there is a mattress for play/sleep in there) by the light of the computer. i got up, said biting nursies when you bite mama. he's content to play alone apparently. he's only napped once today - early afternoon. i CANNOT figure this boy out. i can't find anything that affects his sleep. it's like this is his way that he is wired to go about and there is no changing it. i just keep reminding myself that time is short and i'll look back on even this with fondness!
take care all...please somebody give us an answer
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I've been a constant "lurker" on these threads but had to post because my dd (13 months) is exactly the same! Unfortunately I don't have much advice or help, but wanted to say that she also sleeps a solid stretch and then wakes around every 2-3 hrs, sits up and cries until I lay her down and nurse her. I've tried laying her down and laying with her, rocking and patting her and she just gets MAD and then is awake for a long time crying. I've decided that we both get more sleep if I just nurse her back to sleep every time. But I would love to be getting more sleep and I think she would too! She takes good naps (just moved to one 2-3 hr nap) during the day but always seems to wake up tired.

One thing that we did do that changed the night wakings from every hour to every 2-3 was put our mattress on the floor and a futon mattress next to it. DD sleeps on the futon mattress which is lower than ours. For her it seems that having her own space to roll around at night helped her to sleep a little longer. But they're all so different!

I'd love to hear from all of you what's helped!
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I'm just relieved to read that there are other children out there who are JUST LIKE my ds. Jackson's night routine sounds just like ours. DS goes through his nurse/get sleepy/wanna play routine probably 50% of the time. Sometimes he's so wiped out he falls right to sleep, other times, he has to play for a while before letting himself drift off. He has not been a good sleeper or napper from day one, so I believe this is a personality thing. Some days he will take two beautiful 2-hour naps during the day and still wake up every hour after midnight. I've finally accepted the situation and since we're dedicated to co-sleeping and extended nursing, acceptance has helped me deal with the lack of sleep. Good luck to all you tired, night waking nursing mamas!!
well, if nothing else, it helps to hear others are in the same boat! i too have just tried to accept it but it's hard. i am truly committed to nursing until he's ready to wean and dh and i are both committed to cosleeping. we just want to do what's best for him and i feel like i'm doing something wrong by not being able to help him get his best sleep.
hang in there everybody!
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