August 31, 2010 8:29 am


I’ve heard of the four-month sleep regression, but is it normal for a five-month-old to forget how to eat at night when they wake up hungry? Wesley used to start snuffling to himself to wake me up, I’d give him a boob, and he’d eat and go right back to sleep. I’d often fall asleep before he was done.

Lately, he wakes up and wails until I give him a boob, but instead of trying to eat he starts YELLING. Angry, frustrated yelling, writhing around, etc. Either that or he’ll mouth the boob a bit but not make any kind of effort to latch/suckle and then start yelling. A few nights ago, I had to get up and sit on the edge of the bed and nurse him in the cradle hold every. single. time he woke up. This is a baby who was pleased as punch to nurse side-lying every night for MONTHS and now seems to have forgotten everything he ever knew about nighttime feedings.

Sometimes what ends up working is if I let him have his pacifier for a few seconds, and while he has the sucking rhythm down I quickly swipe out the binky and give him a boob. But it isn’t foolproof. Once, offering the other boob worked; once, we had to specifically wash the nipple shield for that feeding (you’re supposed to wash them after every feeding but hell if I am getting out of bed multiple times a night to wash it – a quick wipe generally suffices); one night we had to thaw some milk and give him a bottle, TWICE, instead of merely breastfeeding him. And then this morning he refused to eat at all. I took him to daycare (arriving at 7:45am) when he hadn’t eaten since 4:15am and he typically likes to eat every two hours, if he even makes it that far.

I don’t know what’s going on. He’s CLEARLY hungry and looking for food; his nursing position is the same when he’s side-lying as when he’s cradle-held; he’ll often stop crying to take a pacifier for a few minutes, but after he realizes it’s not giving him food he starts crying again. He eats perfectly fine during the day (either from me or from the bottle).

Consequently, I am getting less sleep now than I did when he was a newborn. This is a problem. I don’t mind that he wakes up during the night to nurse; I mind that when he wakes up, instead of quietly eating his food and going back to sleep, he yells and screams and makes a fuss until I rouse myself completely and sit up and hold him on my lap to eat, staying awake the whole time.

Is this teething? Demon possession? Sleep regression due to milestones? Ear infection? Do I have a crazy baby?


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  • the grumbles says:

    hmmmm, that IS mysterious.

    i know the mid-night-wake-up-all-confused thing, jude does it too. but normally after a few minutes of rolling around in circles aimlessly crying for boob if i help him find it he’ll latch right on, that’s the part with wesley that’s confusing.

    have you tried doing some stuff to snap him out of his mid-sleep haze? turning on the light or picking him up in the air and then putting him back down? something to reset his brain? just throwing ideas out there.

    could be sleep regression, could be teething, the teething thing lasts FOR-EV-AR omg. but the cradle-hold thing seems to help?

    i’d avoid giving him a bottle. i would be afraid he’d get used to it and there’s no way i’m waking up to make a bottle in the middle of the night, kid. (just my perspective)

  • Erin says:

    My guess was teething. I know Cody started getting teeth around that age (I’ve heard it’s kind of early for babies though). I know a lot of times I’ll nurse him and I know he’s not hungry, he just likes being soothed. Sometimes he decides that is not soothing enough and screams, kind of like what it sounds like Wesley is doing, so I’ll rub his gums and rock him.

    It’s kind of hard to tell with babies exactly what the problem is, especially when you are tired at night. As long as they know you love them and are trying to help, they will be just fine. I hope you figure out what is causing him problems because I’m sure you miss the sleep and happy baby attitudes.

  • Meggan says:

    It’s totally weird. It seems like trying to get him to wake up just makes him angrier. Daniel changed his diaper last night in the middle of one of these crying fits (just in case that was the issue) and it nearly sent him into hysterics. Sitting him up sometimes makes him stop crying for a moment or two while he reorients himself but then he realizes he’s STILL not getting food and yells.

    One time he cried so much my milk finally let down but he still wouldn’t latch, so I squeezed some of the milk from the shield into his mouth and then he latched on fine. Does he just need instant gratification and gets mad when food doesn’t just appear in his mouth? Argh.

    Teething was the only thing I could think of that made sense. Maybe it’s worse for him at nighttime?

    I just feel bad because we’re in an apartment and I KNOW other people can hear him, and he’s been so great at nighttime up until now. I don’t want our neighbors to hate me! (Or him!)

  • Melissa says:

    My first thought was teething, too. We started the nightmare around 3.5 months and one thing we notice every time a new tooth is about to pop up is that Andrew doesn’t want to eat at all. That and his sleep patterns get completely messed up. It’s funny I write this now because this is exactly what we’re going through today. Andrew’s been a complete handful. Doesn’t want to eat or sleep, just keeps crying and wants to be held. I’m completely wiped out because of it.

    At 5 months, I wouldn’t be surprised if little Wesley was about to go through the same thing. Poor guy. Hopefully you figure out what the problem is and can help him feel better.

  • Hev says:

    Have you changed your diet? Remember what you eat will change the taste of your milk. But honest, I would guess that his teeth are getting ready to show up. You might try putting a cold wet washcloth in his mouth & see if that helps him calm down. That is what my mother says she did at night. Though you have to watch to make sure he won’t choke. Otherwise they make rings & toys that you can put in the fridge or freezer to help with the pain.

    I know I don’t have a baby & my child came to me at 4yrs old, but I am just making suggestions that my mom is giving me to you. I do care & am just trying to help, Meggan. ^^

  • Meggan says:

    No diet changes; I basically eat the same things every day so no surprises there. I had thought of that, but he’s fine once he’s actually getting milk – it’s trying to get him to latch and suckle that’s the trouble.

    Based on all your feedback I’m starting to think teething might be the cause. Poor little dude. I hear Hyland’s Teething Tablets are helpful as well?

  • Meagan says:

    I would give my right arm to Hyland’s Roan loves, LOVES them when his teeth are hurting. I shake the bottle and he instantly looks relieved. It seems like his teeth are always about to break through his gums, but, alas, none have yet. Good luck with the little Wesley man!

  • Jem says:

    I’m going to go against the grain here and disagree with teething. I’m wondering if he’s showing bottle-preference. You said it yourself, it’s as if he wants instant gratification.

    In my experience (7 teeth and counting), when a tooth is coming through Izz either a) nurses continuously or b) doesn’t nurse much at all & is off her food. I know every baby differs (obviously) but it’s not logical that teething would cause fussing at the breast but not at the bottle.

    I’m going to my LLL meeting today (aarrrgh should be ready by now), I will ask advice from the wise long term breastfeeders :D

  • Jem says:

    I have thoughts from my LLL leader! Will email you shortly :)

  • Meggan says:

    Just in case it is weird that my response is in another post, I’ll put it here too:

    THANK YOU!!! You were all very helpful. I am pretty sure I can see two tiny teeth coming in now that weren’t visible before, so *ding ding ding* teething seems to have been the answer. He is still occasionally sad at feedings but NOTHING like what he was doing before, so we seem to be past the worst of it for now. I heart the internet.