My baby stopped sleeping through the night …

Hi Mamas,
I read through your other post about sleeping through the night, but I think we have a little tweak on the situation.  Our 9 month old was basically sleeping through the night.  Some nights he’d wake up maybe 1 or 2 times for just a few minutes, but we wouldn’t even have to go into the room as he would put himself back to sleep.
Now about a month later he is waking up 2, 3, sometimes 4 times a night crying loudly, sometimes screaming.  Dad recently went back to work after being home for almost a month taking care of the baby.  How much could his going back to work impact how little man sleeps at night?  If it is the reason, how long will it take for him to get back to his old routine?
What should we do if he needs to be “retrained”?  We are not comfortable with the crying it out method: are there methods that don’t involve letting him cry, even for 10 minutes?  Right now we’re doing “dream feedings”, giving him 1-2 ounces and soothing him back to sleep.  We got him to sleep through the night the first time by weaning him from these dream feedings.  What do you think of this “method”?  Thank you!
Sally Sleepless
Dear Sally,
This is a great question about a situation that commonly arises as the first birthday approaches. There are several reasons why your little guy may have gone backwards in the sleep department, but it’s unlikely that Dad going back to work has caused the disruption. I know the timing looks suspicious, and clearly something has changed, but there are some other possibilities to consider first.
The #1 culprit when kiddos stop sleeping through the night is teething. Does he seem to be chewing on everything and drooling actively? Chances are his front choppers are working their way through and this may be waking him. The second likely possibility is a growth or activity spurt leading to an empty belly during the night. This is common at his age, since he’s probably crawling up a storm and may be starting to cruise and even walk. He might need more fuel for these new active skills.  If this is the problem, offering a sizable “top off” meal with solids plus formula right before bed should help .
If either of these ring a bell for you here is a possible strategy: add a dose of Tylenol at bedtime for teething pain (make sure the dose is appropriate for his weight; the range is on the bottle), top him off, and put him to bed. Avoid rocking or feeding him to sleep — he needs the opportunity to do it himself.
If neither of these reasons seem likely to you, and the fixes fall flat, try the gradual weaning method that worked before. I never argue with success.
The most important thing about any sleep training method is consistency. Stick with a plan for 5-7 days before switching tactics. The “training” part is the key. He’s learning (or re-learning) something new and that can be bumpy at the beginning.
Remember, self-soothing to sleep is an important skill for children that provides  a sense of mastery, not to mention much-needed rest for the entire family. Whatever method works, you’re teaching him to take care of himself.
Sweet dreams!
~ The Mamas
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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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