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Q&A: I'm having trouble getting my nine month old to sleep at night--she wakes up often to eat.

Dr. Christine Wood, M.D


Q I' m having trouble with getting my 9 month old to sleep through the night, or for even 1 or 2 hours straight. She drinks about 8-9 oz of formula, burps, then falls asleep shortly after. In 1-2 hours, she's awake again for another bottle. HELP!

A I will assume that she is a healthy weight and eats normally during the day. It sounds like she has a crutch to help her fall asleep, and that is the bottle. Babies at this age do not need to eat through the night. Every time she goes through a light sleep cycle, she awakens and requires the bottle to go to sleep.

I would first make sure your bedtime routine does not also include giving her the bottle until she falls fast asleep. You can give her the bottle until she relaxes, and then she needs to go in the crib to fall asleep. If she cries, I would leave, and then check back on her in 5 minutes, if she is still crying. I would continue this checking every 5 or 10 minutes, to reassure her that you are still around, until she falls asleep. It may take up to an hour the first night!

At the same time, you may start the same routine for her middle of the night wakings. Don't even go in until after at least 5 minutes, and then check and reassure every 5 to 10 minutes, but don't give her the bottle. Again, some babies are very persistent, and may cry up to an hour. The next night, wait 10 minutes before you go in, and start the same routine. The crying time should decrease every night, if you stick with it.

I find that most babies will end up sleeping through the night within a week. Now, a variation of this, if this seems just too difficult - try cutting down on the amount of milk you give her by half every night. You will still need to go to the crying routine once you get the volume of milk down and decide to stop the bottle. It is important to start doing this sleep training now. It only gets more difficult as they get older, and the milk in the bottle at night increases their risk of getting dental cavities.

Good Luck

Christine Wood, MD

Click here to Ask Dr. Christine Wood questions about your baby's health

Dr. Christine Wood is a practicing pediatrician in Southern California. She attended the University of Detroit for her undergraduate degree in chemistry and received her medical degree from the University of Michigan. She completed her pediatric residency at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. She was Chief Resident there and then worked in the emergency room at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. After three years doing pediatric emergency room medicine she went into private practice. She received her lactation educator certification from the University of California, San Diego.

She is the author of "How to Get Kids to Eat Great and Love It," a book that addresses the issues of why and how to feed kids healthy. The book also covers information about environmental threats and the role of nutritional supplementation for children. She lives in Southern California with her husband and son.

Christine is also the cofounder of Call Your a website designed to give concerned parents with non-emergency medical questions, solid, no-nonsense information that can give them information in deciding when to call the doctor and some home treatment advice. You can visit her website at

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Guest Sep 17, 2016 04:07:01 AM ET

Hi, I'm a grandfather and I have no idea what to do. I did so much better with my 3 children when I was home. I was in the military and deployed all over the world. I had a firmer hand back then, not to say that I hit them because I didn't. My wife would have killed me. My granddaughter has my number, and to make matters worse she calls me da da, that's when I melt right in front of her. The way she cries kills me, it sounds like she's going to throw up and sometimes she does. I'm desperate and at the end of my rope. Any ideas? Mike

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Rozlyn Aug 20, 2011 11:20:23 AM ET

Hi my baby girl is just over 12mths old n hasnt slept through the nite since she was born what she does is cries while she is asleep i have tried just giving her dummie bk nothing i have tried rocking her in my arms, tried just patting her on the back but nothing the only thing that i have found that works is giving her a bottle n she takes 2 sips then she is bk to sleep again then 1hr lately awake again n this goes on till 5am n thats a good nite a bad is when she wakes every 10-30 mins Please Help me

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jan Jul 20, 2011 01:03:10 AM ET

My granddaughter is 10 months old and has never slept thur the night.she only eats about 4 oz of formula but every 2 to 3 hrs. She was under wt. for awhile but she has caught up some. She is being given table and baby food. I don't see her eating that much. I suggested adding rice cereal to her first bottle of the night and increase the size of the bottle. any suggestions

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lesie Jan 31, 2011 06:15:21 AM ET

I'm a baby nurse for twins at night. With my 12yrs experience of being a night nurse for training babies to sleep, is that you must start training them to take less feed as long as they are over 7lbs. The earlier you wean babies off of getting up for bottles every 3hrs, the better it is for parents. I did it to all my twin babies, and parents are very happy with the results. Babies end up sleeping through the night when you stop giving then the formula every three hrs. When the fuss I give them the pacifier and they go back to sleep, they fuss a bit, but when you keep on doing it they will get accustom and will not wake up until the time you set for them to have a bottle. This takes patience and consistency for it to work, you will love the results. The key idea is to start them from six weeks, make sure that their weight is good, and get started as early as you can. Good luck to all, some people might think this is too harsh, but this method is only for those who are willing to go through with the process.

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annabelle Nov 20, 2010 03:52:45 PM ET

My 14 month old boy that wakes up over 5 times a night for a bottle feed how can i get him to stop doing this me and my partner are really over tired at dis stage has anyone else any suggestions on how to get him sleep threw please thank you...

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Francesca Balloch Jul 31, 2010 12:37:18 PM ET

My 8 and a half month old baby boy Joshua has been waking up through the night for months now, even when we got passed the feeding through the night stage He seems to only want held when he wakes up screaming and the longer you leave him crying the worse it gets, he only just awakens more and its more difficult to get him to settle. He went from sleeping through 10 hours straight at 2 months to being a constant waker at 3 months...tried everything, hubby and I are like zombies and worse still I go back to work in 7 weeks...need this sorted before then!! Any help??

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mary ann Jul 30, 2010 08:09:47 PM ET

My daughter is 9 months old. She will not fall asleep in her crib, she will not fall asleep by her self. she will not fall asleep until me and my husband go to bed. she will not sleep unless she is between us and all the lights are off, even then she fights it the whole time. when she finally falls asleep i lay her in the crib, but she will only sleep in there for two hours and then she cries and she wants her bottle. i just want her to sleep during the night and to sleep in the crib all by herself without having to fall asleep in bed with us!

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Michelle Jun 9, 2010 08:13:47 PM ET

Why would you let your child cry? I am not talking about letting them fuss for 5 minutes or so, but a full fledged crying episode needs to be met with immediate comfort to your child.

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Tamara Feb 17, 2010 07:36:00 PM ET

Hello, I have tried the night weaning with my 9 month old for 10 days but it didn't work. the poor thing would cry for 3 hours and more! it was heart aching... After 10 consecutive night of endless crying, I was advised by friends that she might not be ready yet to give up the night feed. but now she's eating once in the middle of the night and another time in the early morning (before that she used to eat every couple of hours). Also in regards to sleep training; I have tried the cry-it out method, but she also kept crying for more than an hour... how much time should i let her cry? please help!

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Brianna Jan 3, 2010 06:46:44 PM ET

I have a nine month old who wakes up at least four times a night and eats eight ounces of formula three out of those four times. I try to let him cry it out but it is so hard. I havent really stuck with it yet but now that I know it can cause cavities I feel i have too.

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