(Hadley Hooper for The Washington Post)

Although my son’s cold left two weeks ago, his teeth still seem to hurt even with Tylenol and numbing gels. Why is he this fussy? Our son eats three meals a day and drinks four bottles of formula, so I don’t think he is hungry. We keep the house at 70 degrees, so I don’t think he’s cold, even though his pajamas are light and his diapers get wet in the night.

I’ve thought of giving him something to comfort him, but the only thing he really loves are our soft throw pillows. He dives into them face first, however, so they might not be safe.

We let our son cry it out one night, but we won’t do that again. His screams escalated in 10 minutes and when I patted his back to calm him down, he got hysterical. Our nerves can’t take those shrieks again!

AYour little boy doesn’t need a soft pillow to comfort him; he has you and his dad.

You are his anchors, and you always have been. He depended on you to find out why he had those feeding issues when he was a baby, and you did. Now he’s counting on you to find out why he is fussy — and you can. Children always have a reason for being unhappy.

He probably has a molar coming in, which usually hurts more than a front tooth, so cuddles are what he needs most.

Other problems have other cures. Even though your son talks, you can’t expect him to tell you that his shoes are too tight or his clothes are too thin until he’s about 8 years old. To find out whether your child wakes up because he’s cold, dress him in something warmer tonight and see whether that makes him sleep better.

Or he may have a feeding issue that’s expressed in a whole new way. A child who wakes up at night could be allergic to a food or an inhalant, so write down everything he eats for a week and record his behavior, too. An allergy can affect the central nervous system as well as the gut, the lungs or the sinuses.

Gluten could also be the culprit. If your son is like many other lactose-intolerant children, his gut may not have enough of the protein that processes gluten. If that’s the case, you’ll have to cut wheat and other grains from his diet, which will be a bother, but it’s easier than comforting him all night long.

Processed foods, including cereals and cakes, also could be upsetting your child. To test this possibility, try cutting dyes and preservatives out of your son’s diet for five to six days to see if he acts better. Even if he can tolerate additives, you may give them up anyway, once you find out that pure foods are cheaper, more nutritious and more filling than processed foods — and that they taste better, too. Read “Bebe Gourmet” by Jenny Carenco and Jean Lalau Keraly to find some great, time-saving ways to cook and freeze natural foods.

Once you find out why your son is waking up every night, he won’t be so clingy and you won’t have to focus on him so much. Your son is the center of your universe, but he doesn’t have to know it.

QOur little boy walks and talks, but he can’t fall asleep on his own, even though he’s 11 months old and his bedtime ritual is calm and consistent.

Every night we change his cloth diaper, put him in his jammies and a thin cotton sleep sack, and then I snuggle up and read one or two short stories to him. After that we dim the lights, put on soft music and I rock my son until he takes his bottle. I’ve always done this, as my son had feeding issues for the first six months of his life. We saw many doctors because he wouldn’t nurse, and he seldom accepted the bottle unless he was drowsy or asleep. But we started giving him a low-lactose formula and he would be completely asleep by the time he had finished his bottle.

He began sleeping from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. at 7 months, but teething and a minor cold made him get very fussy a few weeks ago. One of us had to rock him back to sleep five times a night, and when he wouldn’t fall asleep we would lay down in the recliner with him so we could get some sleep ourselves.


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