5 month old waking constantly at night!

5 month old waking constantly at night!

by Amanda
(Alberta, Canada)

Question: I'm so glad I found this site!!! I've been looking everywhere for something that can help me and my baby sleep more!
My son is just shy of 5 months and has, for about the last month and a half been waking up a lot at night. He usually sleeps quite well for the first 4-5hours of the night but after the first waking can be up every 1 - 3 hours.

He wakes at different times every morning. Usually between 6 and 7 and is not on a nap schedule because I find that he is still in the stage where he gets sleepy 2 hours after waking. Because he wakes up at different times and his naps can last anywhere from 30min to 2 hours depending on the day, he always seems to be sleeping at different times.

I try to have him in bed by 7pm but, again, if his last nap was longer or shorter than normal bedtime could be anywhere from 6:00 to 7:30. (On most days he has 4 short naps. I have tried to extend them with no luck).

I am also finding it really hard to coordinate feedings with sleeping. He still eats every 3 hours during the day but because bedtime is so inconsistent I sometimes put him to bed without eating at night because he is not hungry at the time that he gets sleepy. Example: Today he was ready for bed at 6pm but because he just ate at 4:30 he was not interested in eating before bed. Is there something I am missing?

I should also mention that he is unable to fall asleep with out a pacifier. I do put him in his crib drowsy but if the pacifier falls out before he falls completely asleep he wakes right up. Once he is in a deep sleep he does not suck on his pacifier and it usually falls out or I will pull it out.

Heidi's Answer: Dear Amanda, no there is not something you are missing: on the contrary you are doing well and I really like how you are sensitive to your son's needs, like his being sleepy after 2 hours awake time.

This is a bit of a transition age between not quite fit for a schedule, and doing well with a schedule. 6 months is usually when baby sleep patterns quiet down. That's when it becomes easier to find a decent schedule with naps and feedings.

Right now, I will not suggest you try and enforce a full schedule. His 4-5 hour stretch in the beginning of the night is actually quite good and his going down to sleep as you describe is good too. We do not want to throw these good things over board by putting him on a completely inflexible schedule now.

I advise you to focus on the naps first, trying to extend those and go to 3 naps per day. That, and time as he moves towards 6 months old, will help regulate the sleeping and feeding times.

To help make the naps longer, try the following:

- Go for a long stroller walk or put him in a good baby sling for a longer time, or even a car drive if he sleeps well in the car. Maybe it's a good idea to schedule a daily 'morning walk'? Try to have this walk at a more or less regular time, say 9 or 10am?

Being on the move it's often easier to stay asleep for longer so ... if you can spend a 1 or preferably 1,5 hour walking, or maybe shopping, or with the sling just going about at home that could work great. Even just a week of doing this consistently can be enough to get him to do the same regular 1,5 hour nap in his own crib.

- If you cannot have or do not want the walk, or at other nap times: go to him after half an hour of sleep. Be very quiet so as not to wake him. Place your hand on his tummy, or hold both his shoulders, or stroke his forehead, or other ... whichever you know comforts him best or maybe what you do when you put him down. If he keeps on sleeping, leave the room. Do the same half an hour later. And so on.

- At the times when he only took a 30 minute nap, remember to put him down a little later next time, when he's sleepier.

This third option may be the most important one for you: be extra attentive to his sleepy signals. Maybe write them down, together with how long he slept afterwards. You might learn that sometimes he's not as tired as you thought ...

I'm not saying this because you are not reading his signals correctly, but because you are clearly sensitive to his needs I know you can focus on this and put it to good use.

Don't stress too much about these nap techniques, keep it relaxed: gently guide him, but also give him time to grow into longer awake times and more regularity.

If you feel like you've tried all of this, and really urgently need some more regularity you can start with regulating the late afternoons and evenings like this:

Set a strict night time bedtime, say 7pm. That means a feed at 6.30pm and the previous one at about 3.30pm. You would then wake him from a nap or keep him awake, whichever is necessary to 'make' these feeding times.

It's not my first advice, but if you read this and think "hey that could work" because you find it doable to set those two feedings at fixed times: then it's my second best advice :)

You don't need to fix more than these two. Start with these, the rest will follow gradually.

Good luck, I would love to know which option you go for and how it turns out.

One more thing, as I mentioned, the way he's going to sleep sounds quite good actually. He does need the pacifier, but can do without once he's asleep: great! And you're putting him down drowsy ... even if he does sometimes wake when the pacifier falls out, it is a good way to go for now. So I do advise you to keep doing this: putting down drowsy, with pacifier, and then pull it out later on when you know you can.

Take care,
Heidi

Comments for 5 month old waking constantly at night!

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Thank you!
by: Anonymous

Thank you Heidi!
Because I LOVE going for walks and it is finally warm enough here to actually get out and enjoy the spring weather, I will definitely start going for a scheduled walk everyday. Should I set the walk time for 9 am even if he woke at 6 or 6:30. He would normally only stay awake for 1.5 to 2 hours after waking? I am always VERY worried about having an overtired baby.

Thanks again!
Amanda

Walks
by: Heidi

Hi Amanda,

Glad you like the idea of the walk, it's indeed splendid especially in nice weather.

Yes the idea is to make it a regular nap. You are very right to try and avoid over-tiredness.

But this is early in the day and you are going for a walk which will make it easier for him to sleep, even if he is a bit tired. So this is a good chance to work towards this regular time.

So yes, aim for 9am, whichever his morning wake time. This will help towards the rest of the day. But be flexible too, and start at 8.30am if you see it's really getting too bad.

Good luck!
Heidi

night feeding
by: polly

My son could be this child. My question is after the 4/5 hours sleep at the beginning of the night how should I settle him? He would take some bottle every time if you let him. Mostly I'm trying to pat him to sleep so I'm not lifting him. I feel like I'm getting more stressed because I don't know what I'm doing. My daughter slept slept 12 hours at at 10 weeks.
Thanks for any help.
Polly

When waking frequently
by: Heidi-BabySleepAdvice

Hi Polly,

If you manage to settle him as you are with just patting and no lifting, that is fine. If you can keep that up (and make sure you have all the basics of bedtime routine, regular schedule etc.) in place, she should go on sleeping for longer stretches.

Otherwise, have a look at the hourly wakings section: http://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/waking-up-hourly.html

That will help you discover which are the right things to do, depending on what is happening exactly.

All the best,
Heidi

Feeling Overwhelmed!
by: Jessica

I nearly could have written this description about my 5 month old. The main difference is that we are struggling with the "putting down drowsy but awake." We had a little success following your "gradually put down sooner" prior to 4 months (I've read 3 of your books), but once 4 months hit, we've been waking nearly every hour all night long. Lately we've been trying a tip we read in your books - putting a hand on her as she starts to stir (she flops like a fish out of water better her sleep cycles). It sometimes works at night, but never for naps. :( I'm unsure if the flopping is because of gas (I've eliminated dairy, peanuts, and most caffeine from my diet; we do tummy massages regularly; she's taking a probiotic; we use gas drops), being uncomfortable, or something else. We are also pretty sure she's teething right now.

We're just so tired and overwhelmed :( I'm terrified of getting stuck in a bad cycle/pattern/habit.

Thanks for reading.

sleep at 4-6 months
by: Heidi-BabySleepAdvice

Hi Jessica,

Thank you for your comment.

Yes this is often a difficult time: with the 4 months sleep dip and then combined with teething, sleep troubles are never far away.

The self-soothing practice and catch-before-waking techniques you have been using are still valid and important to continue using, but you will now also need to look into relieving as much of the discomfort as possible, as well as have strong foundations (reliable routines and schedules) to support those. The fact also that the catch-before-waking is less successful at naps may point towards a need of schedule change for naps: timing often plays a huge role there.

Let me refer you to the 4-months-dip info (link below) to start with and then please browse the 1-6 month old pages as well as the frequent waking pages: you will find more possible causes and remedies, as well as techniques to help you along.

http://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/1-6months-page2.html#The_4_months_sleep_dip

Good luck! Heidi

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