At the relatively tender age of seven months, your baby already has a history of sleeping through the night. From where we sit, that is overwhelmingly encouraging information. It means your baby has been able to soothe himself back to sleep successfully, which is the key to long stretches of sleep. And if he’s done it before, he can very likely do it again. It’s true that this skill, like any, can be forgotten. But with some help from you, the chances are better that your baby will pass through the phase he’s going through, and go back to sleeping for longer periods of time.
Babies do stop sleeping all the way through for any number of reasons and at varying ages and stages. He could be growing and getting hungry. He could be teething. It might be agitation from newly acquired abilities, a hint of separation anxiety or the result of some changes taking place during the day. We can’t predict whether this will be a long stage or a short one. But we do encourage you to think about sleep as a fluid thing. Too often baby sleep patterns are described in very black and white terms when the reality is often a muddle of good nights and bad when seen over time. Even babies who have slept well consistently have rough patches. If you can avoid worrying about the holy grail of “sleeping through the night” (will he or won’t he?) you’ll probably have an easier time riding through this particular one. He will sleep again, we promise. When, we cannot say. But here are a couple of ideas that might help:
1) If you are putting him to bed for naps and at the beginning of the night while awake, continue to do so (thus preserving the basic self-soothing skill set).
2) If you think this is about hunger, you can try making sure he gets plenty to eat at the end of the day, whether that’s milk or solids or both. You can also consider a “dream feed” right before you go to bed. The idea behind this is that you go in and feed the baby, quickly and quietly, while trying to avoid waking him up any more than necessary to allow him to drink. A dream feed can be just the ticket for some babies, who seem to stay basically asleep throughout and power through to the a.m. But others don’t do so well and actually learn to wake up more frequently when they’re awakened during a normally long stretch. You can always just try it. Afew attempts aren’t going to have a negative effect if it doesn’t work out.
3) Separation anxiety is very common at this age. Watching your baby during the day might help you see if this is the culprit. You can try introducing a comfort object, which can sometimes suffice when the real comfort object (you) is down the hall trying to sleep.
4) If you get fed up, you can try sleep training. This is a loaded and complex topic, and you can read a ton about it on Babble and elsewhere. Your son seems to already have demonstrated some of the skills training aims to teach. This might make for an easier time (i.e., less crying). Then again, it might not. Keep in mind too that if separation anxiety is what’s behind his wakeups, a cold turkey cry-it-out technique could actually exacerbate the situation.
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