My 4 month old has started waking up every hour
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My 4 month old has started waking up every hour

by Narelle
(Australia)

Heidi's Tip: If your baby is also waking up every hour, do visit the how to avoid hourly wakings article for help in your own current sitation. The advice on this page is specific for Narelle and her little boy.

Question: Hi, My little boy is going to be 4 months old this week and for some reason he has started waking up every hour from midnight till morning. He's only been doing this for about a week and I have no idea why.

He goes to bed at between 7.00 - 8.00 every night and has a dream feed at approx. 10.00. He used to wake up between 2.30 - 3.30 for a feed and then sleep till morning, around 6.30 which was fine.

When he wakes up I just have to pop his dummy in and he goes straight back to sleep so I'm not up for a long time but it still means I'm awake every hour! I still feed him when he wakes up at 2.30.

As far as I can tell he's not teething or having a growth spurt because he doesn't want a feed each time. Is it because of the dummy? Is he relying on it to go back to sleep each time?

Heidi's Answer:

Hi Narelle,

I don't know if this will surprise you or not, but it happens very (!) often that babies who have been sleeping good nights before, stop doing that around 4 months. A lot is happening right now - as at so many ages of in early baby-hood of course ... but this is a typical time when sleep gets disturbed.

Along the lines of what so often happens I can reassure you straight away that it does get better in a couple of weeks. The main thing for you to do now is to take care to stick well to all the good habits you clearly had installed (regular bedtime, short feeds, quiet nights, ... any routine you had). Not giving up on those is the best guarantee things go back to normal as quickly as possible.

A few of the 4 months baby milestones right now:

- Baby's digestive system has much matured. Although it is not entirely 'ready' yet (hence the advice to not start solids until 6 months old), it is quite close. Physically, his stomach has become bigger meaning that he can cope with less frequent, larger feeds than before.

This may explain why he is not asking for a feed each time he wakes at night. But his total intake will be rising so that may be something to look into: try to increase his total amount of milk a bit.

Do not stuff him before bed or during the late night feeds though: spread it across the day. If you breastfeed, be extra vigilant to have him 'empty' the first breast, and offer the second one each time as well.

- Physically he is, amongst other things, preparing to get ready to sit independently ... that coincides with a lot of muscle strengthening and therefore practicing plus it requires a lot of mental coordination too ... another ingredient for a sleep disturbing developmental step.

Not much you do here but applaud every effort he's making while offering enough rest moments too (for example not constantly giving him tummy time if he's not really into it).

Then there is the dummy of course which may play too. It is a fact that if he has it to go to sleep, he will be expecting it when he wakes. You have two options here:

Option 1: Stick to the dummy all night: this means you may for now have to go and put his dummy back each awakening. Meanwhile, have him play with it during the day to 'practice' putting it back in himself.

Then find a short ribbon to securely attach the dummy to his sleeping bag or pyjama’s (short ribbon to make sure he cannot get strangled in it, tightly secured so it doesn't wander off). There are ready-made solutions on the market, similar to the Sleepytot which can be a real life saver.

Whichever way, if you manage to keep the dummy within his reach even when it falls out of his mouth, he may learn to put it back all alone. Then he can go back to sleep without your help.

Option 2) Try to wean the dummy for night awakenings. When you go to him when he wakes at night, do not give him the dummy but try to soothe him back to sleep without it: by patting, or simply stroking his fore head, placing your hand on his tummy.

Have you tried this? If he gets upset and starts crying then of course you may not look forward to trying this. But if his reaction is reasonable, this may be a great trick to avoid his dependence on the dummy.

That said, I would advise you not to offer a feed at each awakening. Stick to the ones you had so far, and try to avoid adding extra feeds. Adding one is no problem, if you feel he needs it, but no more if at all possible.

Hope this helps,
Take care,
Heidi

Comments for My 4 month old has started waking up every hour

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Thank you!
by: Narelle

Hi Heidi,

Thank you very much for your response but it turned out that only lasted for a few days so we're back to only waking up only once or twice a night which is great!

Now I have another problem though. He doesn't want to drink his milk. He's formula fed and I follow the amounts on the container. He's currently having 180ml per feed but at 4 months, which he just turned, it's meant to go up to 210ml. I can't even get him to drink all the 180ml though. So I've tried cutting out the night feed, which he's coping very well with, he isn't asking for it at all and lasting till morning for his first feed. The morning feed is the hardest though, he barely drinks half of it before turning away. I try really hard to get him to drink more but he's not interested, even after drinking nothing all night. The other feeds are better but he's still struggling to drink the full feed. He's a big boy, almost 8 kgs now so I would have thought he'd want to feed but he doesn't. He feeds every 4 hours and has 4 feeds of 180ml and then for his dream feed I only give him 90ml.

This has only started happening in the last 1-2 weeks, he used to be a very good drinker. Should I try and push his feeds out to 4.5 hours?

Thanks again for your help.
Narelle

On demand
by: Heidi

Hi Narelle,

Good to hear the nights got better that quickly again, well done!

The n°1 rule of thumb when it comes to food (also at later ages) is not to force it. To start with it is nearly impossible, plus it doesn't make much sense.

Recommended amounts are always averages and it is absolutely normal if your baby takes a bit less than the average for a while. He may drink more than recommended in a few weeks again.

Referring to the changes he's going through I mentioned: he can now be without food for a bit longer (hence easier to skip a night feed) but is also learning to make it clear to you when he is full.

The fact that he is a big boy can also just show that he has a buffer ...

Or he may be teething after all, that can also reduce the appetite for a while (have you felt his mouth for any tooth cutting through?). Check the teethiing remedies in the "Sleep Disturbers" section for details.

All this said, it is important that you keep an eye on him: if you have any doubts about his health, i.e. if he is less active than usual during the day, crankier, easily looses interest in things, looses weight, ... do not hesitate to have him checked by the doctor.

But other than that, do relax, and trust him on telling you how much he needs.

Best wishes,
Heidi


Thanks!
by: Narelle

Thanks again Heidi, much appreciated. He's still sleeping very well at night without any feeds and is a bit better with his feeds, drinking all of what is recommended.

His cheeks are a bit red and he's really chomping on his fingers (not sucking) so I have a very strong feeling it might be his teeth. Nothing coming through yet but I can see white bits under his gums so they might just be moving around a bit.

Thanks again for the advice :)

Teething ...
by: Heidi

Good news for the nights and feedings ...

and yes, definitely sounds like a first tooth there :) Good thing his nights stay well in spite of it, something to cherish.

Good luck!
Heidi

4 month old suddenly awake
by: becky

Hello

my son is four months old and from six weeks old he used to sleep from 8pm till 5am without any feed (he just never woke up)

but the past few weeks hes been a nightmare at bedtime. getting him to sleep initally is never really a problem, he goes to sleep between half 7 and eight, his bedtime routine hasnt changed...bath, bottle, story then bed but by 11pm hes awake crying and every hour seems to be waking.

he does like his dummy and only really has it for sleep times, in the day if he whinges hes easily distracted. ive tried to find ways of keepin the dummy in his mouth at night but all have failed ... i think the main reason he wakes is because he realises he doesnt have it, put it back in and he goes straight back off but then back in same boat when it drops out an hour later.....ive tried weanin him off it and it just did not work no matter wht i did he would scream.

if having the dummy helps him sleeps i dont mind him havin it id rather him get the sleep he needs but is there anythin i can do to stop it falling out or ways to teach him to but it back in himself

any help would be great, thanks

xxx

Play games
by: Heidi

Hi Becky,

For the dummy, please do check "Option 1" in my advice to the original post on this page.

There is no way to keep it in his mouth, but you can try to keep it near him and teach him how to put it in himself.

To teach him to put in the dummy by himself: have lots of play and practice sessions during the day.

Make it fun and interesting for him and praise him whenever he makes an effort, and even more if he succeeds.

Use a short ribbon or a Sleepytot-like prop to keep it near him.

An extra tip: try shifting his bedtime to half an hour earlier. This often helps getting into a better sleep pattern and sleep better again.

Good luck, take care,
Heidi

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