Sleep – Baby Won’t Sleep? Maybe there’s a Medical Reason

As a House Call Pediatrician and a Sleep Consultant, I see many infants and children who have trouble sleeping through the night. Often times, there is an issue with the routine, or nighttime feedings, which can often be corrected with some simple instructions and a consistent routine. However, if your baby is not sleeping well due to a medical issue, diagnosis and treatment are crucial to restful sleep for everyone in your family.

There is a significant percentage of infants and children who have trouble sleeping through the night due to a medical issue that has gone undiagnosed. The most frequent being acid reflux, and milk intolerance

Acid reflux usually presents in the first 4-6 months of life and can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms include:

  • Arching during feeds
  • Spitting up during or after feeds (does NOT always happen with reflux)
  • Frequent lip smacking
  • Congestion
  • Crankiness when flat on back, always wanting to be upright

Reflux is treated by thickening the formula, changing the position while breastfeeding, and with acid blocking medications.

Milk Intolerance (also known as Milk Protein Allergy)

  • Frequent Spitting up
  • Fussiness
  • Loose stools
  • Blood or mucus in stools

Milk intolerance is common and is usually outgrown by a child’s first birthday. It is an intolerance to cow’s milk protein in formula, but can also be seen in breastfed infants as a result of the milk protein in the moms diet passing into the breast milk. Milk intolerance is treated with a hypoallergenic formula or diet restriction in the mother.

If your baby is not sleeping through the night, you should first speak to a doctor or health care professional to discuss if there is a medical issue that is preventing your little one’s slumber. No amount of sleep training will work if your child is uncomfortable from a medical issue that requires treatment.

The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Should you have a specific medical question regarding your child, please consult your child’s doctor directly.

–Dr Kulich is a Board Certified Pediatrician who makes House Calls in the New York Metro area, and provides sleep consultations in the comfort of your own home. For more information, please visit