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Pediatrics/9 month old sleep regression


Dear Dr Olson,
Through accidental parenting (nursing last thing before bedtime, which apparently made him too drowsy as he went into the crib) my baby boy was waking and crying 6-8 times per night until we sleep-trained him (holding his hand as he cried at night wakings for two nights) at 7 months old.  He then slept at least 11 hours straight through the night for the next two months, settling himself in the cot for every nap and at bedtime.  He is now 9 months old and sits up as soon as I lay him in the cot.  He will then play for over an hour if I were to let him (getting overtired and then of course having short naps), so I go in and lay him down.  This causes him to scream and I then have to pat his bottom to calm him and he then sends himself to sleep.  He also sits up during the night 90 mins after falling asleep and doesn't lie down.  The past three nights he has also woken at 2.30am and screamed hysterically for 90 mins as I pat his bottom in the cot. Last night I got him out of the cot after 45mins crying and gave him a sip of water, gave him his soft toy and put him back. He settled himself, only to wake crying 1 hour later.
We have followed a strict bedtime routine since he was 4 months old and he is always asleep by 7pm. I realise he must be suffering the 9 month sleep regression, but I am worried my going in to him and helping lay him down will make him dependent upon my presence for him falling asleep.  I can't bear to let him sit crying in the corner of his cot alone though, and he bangs his head a lot if he sits there.  Do you have any advice on how to deal with this regression and how long it might go on for? He has slept so brilliantly for the past 2 months, I can't believe we are back to these night wakings again.

Hi, Liz,

I love the name "Wolverhampton".  About as English as one can get!

I would go back to the basics.  He apparently is associating you with the last waking memory before sleep, rather than associating the bed with sleep.  You will have to do the comfort/drowsy thing before bed and then, when drowsy and not asleep fully, put him gently into bed, say good night, and leave.  He will probably fuss, scream, head bang (this won't hurt him in any permanent sense), and then will go eventually to sleep.  It will probably take a couple days to get back to this routine.  You're his mother, so he will love you in the morning!

Wish I had a better way for you to do this, but I don't.

Good luck, Dr. Olson


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David Olson, MD


I would be happy to attempt to answer any questions about general pediatric topics, either medical issues or behavioral issues. This would include all the various questions one receives in a busy pediatric practice. I`m a board certified pediatrician in northern Michigan and have been in practice for over 15 years. I enjoy the teaching role I have in our practice and would enjoy the opportunity to help others with their pediatric problems.

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