Reader Mailbag Mysterious Night Waking – EP 16

February 1, 2017 |  by  |  6-9 Months, night sleep, Podcast, Q&A

What do you do when you can’t find the energy to put together a fresh new podcast? ANSWER LISTENER QUESTIONS! Thanks to everybody who sent in questions, which were all thoughtful and interesting. I only tackled 5 today but keep sending in those emails because given the way I’ve been feeling there will be a lot of Q&A podcasts happening in the near future.

Listener Questions

  • Joanna asks why her 7 month old still wakes up demanding to eat constantly all night even though she’s done all the right things?
  • Sheryl asks why her daughter goes to bed independently but absolutely refuses to go back into the crib (demands to co-sleep) after waking in the middle of the night!
  • Mei-Ki has a 6 month old who hates bottles but loves nursing frequently at night – HELP!
  • Sam is wondering how the circadian rhythm influences nap sleep vs. wake times.
  • Kristin chimes in with an older kid sleep issue, specifically how to get her 6 year old to stop waking up at 4:30 AM.

Further Reading

Why Night Weaning Isn’t Working
How Sleep Works
What to Do When Big Kids Wake Up Too Early
How to Have Family Meetings
Why Focus on Positive Reinforcement

If you have questions for future episodes email us at If you have comments or questions on this podcast feel free to share them below!

Keep on keeping on everybody!


  1. Loved this podcast, thank you! I’m wondering if you can clarify one thing: When you talk about night weaning after decreasing the length of the feed with first waking you say to “move down the pike that way, 1st feeding, 2nd feeding, 3rd feeding”. Can you please clarify what this would look like? I’m not clear at what point we stop decreasing the first feed and start working on decreasing the 2nd feed.

    I have an 11 month old that gets gold stars for sleep hygiene but has always still woken at least 2 times per night (usually at 11 and 3) and is lately also waking for the day at 5 am. I plan to start night weaning as you described tonight. Thanks again!

    • Fully wean feeding #1 before moving on to #2. So if you had say an 11 PM and 3 AM feeding, you leave 3 AM alone until you’re done with 11. Sometimes being done with 1 the second feeding moves around – that’s fine. Don’t get hung up on the time – remember your kiddo doesn’t know what time it is! So the 3 AM becomes a 2 AM who cares?

      If you suspect you have a BOOB BABY you could also consider using bottles for night weaning because bottles are typically easier to let go of then the boob. Hope that helps – good luck!

  2. Alex,
    I’m not sure how to not associate feedings with sleeping? She has an 8 pm bedtime. When I feed my 4 month old daughter before bed , I go to her room,lights dim, ,change diaper, put on her sleep sack, nurse her, she falls asleep in my arms then rock her , sing to her & I put her to bed. She sleeps a good 10 hours waking usually once for a feeding. I never put her to bed at night awake.
    Do I need to change what I’m doing? Or wait until she’s older? If this is working now should I change it?

    How exactly do I feed her a half an hour before bedtime? She usually falls asleep while feeding?

    Do I go to her room lights on feed her at 7:30 then dim the lights change diaper, put on sleep sack then rock & sing to her. Put her to bed while still awake.

    Suppose she falls asleep as I’m feeding her. Now she has no Jammie’s on and a dirty diaper. Or is so cranky & upset while I change her diaper.

    • It’s working now because she’s still little. Have you read this?

      Right now feeding her to sleep is AWESOME because she’s sleeping 10 hours. You’ll know it’s no longer awesome when instead of sleeping 10 hours she wakes 4X to eat. You don’t need to fix this TODAY but be mindful that eventually something will need to change. Will it be easier to change later? Eh…who knows. Generally earlier is better but it’s not a “must” until it’s a problem.

      • Thank you Alexis for the advice! I started to read this the other night. I’m going to finish reading it.
        What’s your opinion on feeding her when she wakes during the overnight? She goes to bed at 8 wakes up 6:30-7 am. Usually wakes for a feeding 2-3 am, should I try to eliminate that feeding? If yes, how should I go about doing it?
        Thanks again for your help! I find this confusing!!

        • Honestly I wouldn’t bother with the 2-3 feeding. You can try but eh – she’s 4 months. It’s pretty typical.

          Here’s my advice – read the article I linked. It’s a 3 part series. Read all three parts. It answers your questions – promise!

  3. I cannot wait to listen to this. When I sleep-trained my first, he immediately went down to one night feed and I successfully reduced that to 0 around 10 or 11 months by diluting the bottle as you describe. My second is sleep trained for bedtime but WILL NOT stay down. These kids! Insisting on being unique individuals and stuff! 😉

    • THANK GOD kids are unique individuals. Although if they weren’t my book would be more like a brochure and I could have gotten it finished years ago, so there’s that 😉

      Good luck!

  4. Hi Alexis! Great podcast, can’t wait for the book!

    I am a nursing mom, and was lucky enough that my baby dropped night feedings on her own (after sleep training using SLIP). I often refer your articles/podcasts to other tired nursing mom friends, and their biggest concern is ALWAYS “what if baby is truly hungry?” (In regards to the night weaning protocol).

    I loved your analogy of the Carmel cupcake! It sounds like you surmise… more often than not, if night weaning isn’t working after 8mos, it’s likely one of the following: A comfort thing…an issue of not accumulating enough daytime calories…or a scheduling issue (or…maybe a trifecta of all 3).

    It seems most pediatrician’s offer the advice that baby shouldn’t need to eat at night after 6mos. Yet, several of the IBCLC’s I’ve worked with suggest night feedings are common & necessary until 1yr. (I blindly followed that advice for my first 2kids, and dealt with multiple night waking until we switched over to whole milk at one year).

    Do you have any thoughts /suggestions/ experiences to share to make them feel better that it’s not true hunger? The top argument is you can’t quantify ounces while nursing, and breastmilk metabolizes faster.

    Thanks in advance!

    • I guess it all starts from asking – what is true hunger?

      If you eat at the same time every day your body will generally be hungry at that time. If I eat a sandwich at midnight for a week I’ll start feeling hungry at midnight.

      The whole “gradual weaning ” approach says let’s eat slightly less every night across X nights so that when we get down to say, TWO bites of sandwich, we can skip the whole sandwich the NEXT night and we can feel confident nobody is starving because “that one bite of sandwich.”

      If you get down to one bite of sandwich and are getting huge resistance (rare but happens) likely there is something NOT hunger causing issues.

      Sidenote: Also there are two separate issues. Pediatricians say – developmentally they can fast X hours by Y age and they’re totally right. But if you’re used to eating say FIVE sandwiches a night and you are told “no more sandwiches” all at once, you’ll have a child who is actually hungry even if developmentally they can certainly fast that long or longer without issue.

      I’m rambling. There you go;)

  5. I had just read your “Why Night Weaning Isn’t Working” article a week or so ago and tried some of your suggestions with no success so I was interested to hear what you had to say – Baby pie is 8 months old and I’ve always done his last feed right before bed (last step in bed time routine), but he’s awake when we put him down. I’ve had to do this because if I try to feed him earlier – he just straight up refuses. I tried to do that one night and then put him down without feeding during the bedtime routine – there was much crying and EVEN more wake ups to eat (probably because he didn’t get enough to eat before bed…). Then I tried “sleep-training” through the first wake-up because it was pretty early (9-10 pm after a 6pm bedtime) and there was full on SCREECHING for half an hour with me trying to calm him without feeding on and off…eventually I ended up just feeding him. Then I tried your suggestion of weaning a minute a night off of feeds – this went great the first few nights – we were down from 10 minutes at the first feed to 5 minutes BUT then he just started waking up 3x to eat instead of 2x haha babies are funny aren’t they? As others have mentioned I’m a breastfeeding mom and it’s hard for me to know if he’s getting enough during the day. Baby pie is also a SUPER mobile baby for 8 months – he’s been crawling since 5 months and is already pulling himself to standing and trying to walk. So he doesn’t want to eat during the day and gets pissy with me when I try to feed him more frequently (I’ve read some moms have success feeding every hour in the hours before bedtime HA I usually get a smack in the face when I try that). I’ve read that babies can have a sleep regression as they start waking up and trying to stand in crib (which he is doing…) so I wasn’t sure if I should be trying to just get him back to sleep or feed him. The other thing your podcast brought up was the schedule! Cause that’s a super problem for us right now because he’s fluctuating between 2 and 3 naps. So he SEEMS to sleep for longer periods/eat less on 2 nap days vs 3 nap days, but with the 3 nap days to honor the “nap gap” we’d end up with like a 5 pm bedtime if we were trying to force a 2 nap day. Anyhow maybe this isn’t super coherent, but I guess I’m trying to figure out what to try. So I guess it’s 1) Is he actually hungry and in which case I should try the decreasing by a minute again and maybe take it more slowly? 2) Is it “learning to stand-up” sleep regression and I should just help him back to sleep? 3) Or is it naps being a mess causing nights to be funky? oh and other thing that COULD be the problem 4) I have been nursing him back to sleep at night wakings – when I first was sleep training I would make sure he was always awake before I put him down after night feeds, but once he got down to 2 feeds and was only waking twice to feed (which at that time was reasonable for his age) I didn’t fight for him to be awake when I put him down – do you think that perhaps in combination with decreasing by a minute with feeds I should also make sure he’s awake when I put him down after feeds? Hopefully that makes sense and I’m not asking something you’ve already covered! And really thanks a million for everything you’ve put into this site – it’s really wonderful 🙂

    • “I tried to do that one night and then put him down without feeding during the bedtime routine – there was much crying ”

      This right here is a HUGE CLUE. He has a food/nurse=sleep association. This wasn’t “I’m starving” this is “you took away my sleep association and now I don’t know how to fall asleep without it.” This is further confirmed by the crying LATER in the night.

      He’s 8 months old. Put a gap between feeding and bedtime. No food prior to midnight. Also not sure his schedule but a 6 PM bedtime is pretty early. IT could be that a slightly later bedtime will help (definitely NOT 5). Good luck!

      • Ugh. I was hoping this wasn’t the answer, but that’s mostly because I wanted to be done with the sleep-training related crying. Booh! We’ll give it a go though, thanks! I think the 6 pm bedtime is okish – he’s up at 6am, 1st nap 8:30am (60-70 min), second nap around 12:40 pm (~90-110 min) then bedtime at 6 pm. The last gap is closer to 4 hours which is still tough for him, but if I put him down for a 3rd nap it’d be at or after 5pm and the times I’ve tried that he’s slept >45 min and I end up having to wake him up. And then to give another 3 hr gap leads to a much later bedtime then desired. And usually even when we do later bedtimes he still wakes up at 6am. It’s not our preference, but it works for him so we’re sticking with it for now.

  6. ☺️☺️

  7. Thank you for acknowledging your “ennui” – lol!

  8. I guess my almost 8 month old really loves his caramel cupcakes! It started with me feeling bad for him while teething, and now I’ve created a monster! I sent Daddy in there to soothe him (since he doesn’t have lactating boobies) but it just isn’t good enough for baby boy!

    I do have a question, does dropping that last catnap affect night time sleep at first? It seems that now that he’s started to consolidate his day-time sleep, we’ve begun having the largest amount of wake-ups.

    • Maybe? I would lean towards having a longer stretch of wake time prior to bedtime to make sure he’s not waking up because he’s not TIRED enough. And also to ensure that boob is FULLY removed from bedtime. Because “daddy isn’t good enough” could be a caramel cupcake issue. OR it could be a hint that there is a lingering sleep association. Good luck!

  9. Hi Alex,
    My daughter just turned 6 months today. I feed her a jar of fruit or vegetables between 7 and 7:30, bathe her, read her a book and give her a bottle between 8-8:30. I put her down right after that. I did the CIO method about a month ago and now she falls asleep within 5 minutes after I put her down. However, she still wakes up 1-2 times a night, sometimes she will eat 5 ounces and sometimes she will eat an ounce. She doesn’t take a pacifier so that isn’t an option. She eats and goes right back to sleep, the whole thing takes 10 minutes but I really want her to learn to sleep through the night. I’m nervous to do CIO in middle of the night because I don’t want her to fully wake up and be to upset to go back to sleep. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do? TIA!

    • Hi Robyn,

      Well my website is FULL of suggestions for what to do. As a starting point I would put a bigger gap between that bottle and her going into the crib. Maybe bottle, bath, books, bed. Then gradually wean off the bottles. Good luck!

  10. Alexis!! Love you and your site. I’m begging for some clarity on an important issue (dealing with the fundamentals of your approach – “Baby back into crib, awake!”). We fell into all kinds of bad habits with my 6.5 month-old boy, following a major trip from California back to Copenhagen where we live. So we decided to employ your SLIP plan (I won’t call it CIO either), with total extinction (though using it is down the line). BECAUSE, we had to confront that he is a total Boob baby and eats/nibbles all night long. (He’s a big baby, 98% for height/weight). So night-weaning must come first. We have managed to get him (although this is still fragile) to sleep at night at 8pm awake, without nursing. And for most naps, though he is not a great napper. But at night, he wakes up around every 2 hours to “eat”; and it continues all darn night long. Around 4am, we bring him back to bed with us (a mistake, I know). His crib is right next to our bed, on the side of my husband. When I feed him in the night, he just nibbles for a short bit (5-10 min) before falling back to sleep. Question: AM I SUPPOSED TO KEEP HIM AWAKE, AND PUT HIM BACK INTO HIS CRIB – in the middle of the night AWAKE still, or can he be asleep? How do I keep him awake in the middle of the night, when he’s truly only comfort-nibbling about half of the time that he cries for milk in the night? I don’t think he’s that hungry – he is eating plenty during the day – but he truly just likes the boob and wants mommy to be his pacifier. Can you please help, I’m exhausted?! Thanks a bajillion for the important work you’re doing – Cammy in Copenhagen

    • I’m not sure what is fragile about him going to bed independently AT bedtime. But honestly this part is ESSENTIAL so ideally it’s…NOT fragile? IT’s rock solid, no sucking or eating NEAR to sleep, 100% awake, in the crib, fini.

      Then I wouldn’t feed him 2 hours post bedtime. You know he doesn’t NEED to eat then and early feeds can reset the sleep association you’re trying to break free of AT bedtime. So start there – no fragile bedtime and no food prior to midnight. See where that takes you (hopefully AWAY from your current role as human pacifier!)

  11. Hi Alexis,
    Thanks so much for your latest podcast. The question from Sheryl about co-sleeping is hugely relevant in our lives right now. Our son who turned 9 months today is doing brilliantly falling asleep on his own after only minimal fuss/crying at 7pm after a great routine, no pacifier, no feeding etc, but he wakes around 10pm and refuses to settle unless we bring him into our bed where he sleeps happily for the rest of the night with only one 4oz feed around 3 or 4am. The cosleeping has become a bad habit and I listened eagerly to your advice to Sheryl but was hoping you might have some advice about how to navigate the process of no longer inviting him into our bed. He clearly loves it but we are sleeping really poorly with him wriggling about. We’ve tried letting him cry when he wakes at 10pm but it has taken over an hour each time before he gives in and falls back asleep in his cot…only to start up crying again around midnight at which point I’ve given in and brought him in to our bed. I’m confused as to why he can settle himself at 7pm, but not thereafter.
    Do you have any magic advice about the best way to tackle this and get him sleeping in his own bed?
    Thanks hugely.

    • That feels like a bedtime issue. Is cuddling/rocking/ETC part of the routine? I know it feels hard but whatever a kiddo MUST have later in the night is generally a symptom of a sleep association issue AT bedtime so that activity has to be REMOVED from bedtime. Another issue is – what is his wake time prior to bedtime? If he’s not tired enough he may struggle to fall BACK to sleep at 10 PM. So I would make sure he’s:
      – 100% awake at bedtime
      – remove cuddling/snuggling from the routine
      – possibly push bedtime LATER
      – stop inviting him into your bed

  12. THANK YOU for this podcast! I have found direct answers to all of hubby’s concerns about our little 10-month-old boob addict, and I can’t wait to share. 😉
    I hope you overcome the ennui soon, because I am soooo excited about your book! It’s gonna be awesome, I promise!!!! I hope it makes you loads and loads of money so you can hire housekeepers and a personal chef, leaving you plenty of time to spend energy on fun stuff. <3

    • From your mouth to God’s ears 😉 But seriously, am super focused on getting the book out (it’s stunningly complicated, I had NO IDEA WHEN I STARTED) but I hope it doesn’t disappoint 😉

  13. When you say, “when kids get older, you can move to a more by the clock schedule” (in terms of napping), what age would you say is average for this? Is is closer to 6-9 months when they are down to 2 naps?

  14. Hi Alexis
    Love listening to podcasts but I still cannot solve my problem. My LO is 9.5 months. This is an issue for months. We started independent sleep around 3.5 months old..98% sleep at home in crib & down awake. Do last 2 months I Basically get crap naps after about 5 days of trying a new schedule and then this impacts nighttime. I have not tried a specific bedtime because this would mean baby is up for over 4 hours at night. I thought if I could nail down first WT then trouble shoot the rest. I’ve tried all sorts of WT combos but after about 5 good to fabulous (depending on schedule) days it falls apart. I nurse about 20 minutes before bed and sometimes once at night after midnight. Any other night wakings we let her cry (15-30 min before she falls back to sleep). I’m comfortable she is not hungry except a 1-3am feed. Last week the perfect schedule resulted in no night wakings (not even to eat) and great naps, etc etc. Then day 6 & 7 crap naps resulting in early bedtime and now I am changing WTS again. In the past I’ve stuck it out for a couple weeks w no improvement but every time I change WTS I’ll get a good 3-5 days. I’ve done 2.5, 2.75, 3, and 3.25 for first WT with the same results. This seems odd and think it must be the schedule as a whole or just the way she ticks?? Help please!? How do I try locking in bedtime w crap naps? We do 7a wake up and 2 naps a day for 3 months now.

    • you may have already ironed this out, but here goes briefly: your baby is at a fine age for you to just lock in bedtime. commit. the Alexis philosophy is that bedtime can be adjusted 15-30 min for skipped or short naps, but otherwise you should just have the same bedtime no matter the nap.
      in my experience, since my kids were crappy daycare nappers, i could adjust bedtime 1 hr earlier and it didn’t make a difference in wake time (or minimally).
      but overall, i think that your method of changing everything every few days is backfiring on you. stick to something, anything, that is giving your kid ample pre-bedtime wake time (4+hrs at this age) and then leave it. don’t mess with it again until you are down to 1 nap, which will happen in a few months.

  15. So when LO wakes in the middle of the night, how long do you give him to muck around before going in to feed? My 6 mo LO is going to bed independently, but since we started putting him down awake, he’s added another night feeding between 10-11 at night. So he went from sleeping from 6:30 PM-1 AM, and then one other feed around 4:30, to waking to nurse at 10, 1, and 4. 🙁 How long should we let him try to go back to sleep on his own, or are we stuck doing the gradual night weaning process for this feeding? I just wasn’t sure if we should wait for a bit and see if he can go back to sleep on his own, or if once he’s up and decides he wants a caramel cupcake, we have to go and gradually wean him off the cupcake. Thanks!

    • Hi mel! Could it be that he’s going thru a growth spurt? I believe there is one at 6 months. Also, how much time apart is the last feeding and actual bedtime? If it’s too close together, he may still have a suck = sleep association, and that could be why he’s waking up. Another thing to consider- how long is he awake prior to bedtime? If he’s taking a 3rd nap, it could be that he’s not awake long enough before bedtime, and maybe bedtime could be pushed a little later maybe 7 or 730? Good luck!

      • Hi sam, thanks for the reply! It could be a growth spurt, you’re totally right. I try for at least 20 minutes between last feeding and bedtime, although he’s usually fussy at that last feeding, so sometimes have trouble getting it in. I will work tonight to separate it even more. He’s usually awake 3 hours at least before bed – usually during the day, he gets to about 2.5 hours and gets tired. We usually play with him when we get home from work for about 60-90 minutes, then as soon as he starts showing some tired signs, we start our bedtime routine of PJs/diaper/massage, nurse, story, song, bed.

        For example, yesterday, he was up from 2:45 – 6:30. DH gave him a bottle at 6:10, then he went down in crib at 6:35. He woke at 10:30 to nurse, then 3, then 5:30. Ugh. And that was better than usual that he went that stretch from 10:30 to 3. I’m just confused on why he has added this late evening feed when before he was going at least a 5-6 hour stretch after we put him down.

  16. I have a JUST 8 month old who has got me frazzled. She’s catnapping in the day and not sleeping well at night and wants breastfeeding to go back to sleep despite going down at bedtime on her own and at naptimes (although sometimes nap times are a little bit of a struggle for her to get off).

    She’s my third child so has to slot into the school run in the morning and afternoon so her naps looks like 1)about 9am (for about 30 minutes) 2) 12pm (for another 30 minutes 3) about 4pm (for similar time). I know the last nap could do with being ealier but i have to leave the house for the school run at 3 and not back till 4 so it’s a juggle.

    She then wakes 3/4 times a night and needs feeding back to sleep. Ive tried reducing her feeds unsuccessfully so far. If we try and settle her with ‘shh’ she just gets frantic until we feed her.

    Help! So tired!

  17. can you post to the FB group? you’d get good crow-sourcing there.
    my responses will require your response so i can’t guarantee we’ll iron this out here, but …. how far in advance of bedtime is that last feeding? is she going down *awake* and getting herself to sleep, and NOT going down drowsy? (i.e., no rocking to nearly asleep after feeding?) it smells like a sleep association but i could be wrong. (also if last nap ends 4:30 then bedtime should be 8/8:30, which is fine)

  18. Hi Alexis,
    Thank you so much for your blog and podcast, I’ve gotten so much excellent advice and encouragement as I’m struggling with my spirited 3month old. My question is related to night weaning, but I need to wean her off nighttime soothing. She goes down at 9pm, but after midnight she wakes every couple of hours whimpering and tossing her (swaddled) body around. If I don’t pick her up, the whimpers turn into cries and once she is awake it takes significant soothing/walking/bouncing to get her back to sleep. If I do pick her up, she quickly settles (but if I put her down too soon, she starts whimpering again). So I’m now waking up every two hours to hold her for 1/2 an hour (and for two of those wakings, 1:30 and 5, she generally fusses until I nurse her), barely getting sleep in between. Did I mention that I am the only one who is even successful at soothing her in this way at night? My mother and sister valiantly stepped in to help for a couple of nights each with the non-nursing soothing, and both ended up sheepishly knocking on my door with a wailing baby every night they tried.

    We had had a problem with napping (she will go down drowsy and fall asleep in her bassinet, but always wakes up after 35-50 minutes and then cannot be put back to sleep without significant bouncing and holding, and would frequently spend the rest of her nap in my lap) but based on your advice I started using the swing for naptime and its going great (to the point where I have to wake her–is that normal? should I be letting her stay down if naps go past the 1.5 hours of my schedule? I’ve been letting her go to 2 hours for one nap). I’m just nervous it is exacerbating the nighttime wakings. I think she is too little to try letting her cry it out, but I’m at my wit’s end. I’m not sure what to do when the only thing that seems to help is picking her up. Oh I should mention that she also frequently fights bedtime and her cat nap at the end of the day pretty hard and will scream when we swaddle and start bedtime routine. Thank you so much! Just basically wondering what my options are if I don’t want to pick her up when she fusses at night, but I want her to stay asleep! Thank you so much!

    • As an update–the swing method for naps only worked for a day and a half! For the last 2 days she wails the second I get near the swing, and only gets more and more distressed (i.e. inconsolable wailing) the longer she is in it if I put her in awake/drowsy/almost asleep. So I’m back to having a bad napper and a bad nighttime sleeper.

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