Why does my baby wake up every hour?
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Why does my baby wake up every hour?

by Raquel
(California )

Heidi's Tip: If your baby wakes every hour too, see the overview article on how to remedy hourly wakings. It will give you more complete pointers that will help in YOUR specific situation, not just Rachel's one below.

Question: My 5 1/2 month old daughter wakes up every hour. Even during her day naps. If I time it just right during her day naps and pick her up right when she opens her eyes, I can get her to fall asleep within 5 minutes.

When she goes down at night at 7-7:30 she will usually sleep for 2+ hours and then it's every hour to 1 1/2 hours for the entire night.
She doesn't know how to fall asleep on her own.

Why does she wake up every hour though? Is there something I can do to change it or will she outgrow this?

She's been doing this since she was 3 1/2-4 months old.

I appreciate your help.
Thank you

Heidi’s Answer:

Hi Raquel,

There is most probably a simple, physical cause for your daughter’s hourly waking. Until about at least 6 months old, babies sleep very lightly. They sleep in cycles of about 50-60 minutes. In each of those, baby will sleep lightly the first part, and then a bit deeper (but not very) after that.

At the end of each cycle, she will wake up, drowsily. Some will go back to sleep as if nothing happened, others will go from drowsy to completely awake. And this is very probably what happens to your daughter. It 'fits well' with her - as you mention - not knowing how to fall asleep on her own.

Growing up, sleep becomes deeper and the cycles become longer (about 90 minutes for bigger children, and adults). There are always a number of stages of sleep and this half waking up between two cycles. The ability to remain soothed and continue sleeping is what allows us to sleep through.

So yes, she will outgrow it eventually (she’s nearing the magical 6 months when sleep very often quiets down as it becomes deeper), but luckily you can also help her make longer stretches sooner.

Here are the action points I would like to suggest:

1. Starting during the naps, but definitely also at night when you can. Timing very carefully, go into her room a little while before she wakes up. Without picking her up, gently stroke her belly, or just place your hand on it. Softly talk to her or make a shush sound, whichever feels right.

The idea is to help her through the drowsy-wake-up stage without actually waking up. It will probably not work from the first time, you may need to do it tens of times before it does. If she wakes up anyway, do as usual to help her back to sleep. Then try again next time.

A top tip to help you at naps is to have her nap while you walk her in a baby sling or in a stroller. While moving, she will more easily go to the next cycle without waking fully. Doing this for a while will help her get used to taking longer naps. Once that works you can gently transition back towards her crib.

For the next week, do only this. If nothing changes, then continue with the next points below, but keep doing this one.

2. Change her schedule. If at all possible in your own daily routine, shift her bedtime to 6.30pm (alternatively move to 8-8.30pm). You don’t mention when and how often she naps, but change those too, keeping your and her needs in mind of course. These changes are a very simple way to help shuffle her sleep patterns. (For detailed help with arranging a well-fitting nap schedule you may find my No-Tears Naps e-book helpful).

3. Guide her towards self soothing. This is so much easier said than done, the classic advice of 'put her down awake' simply does not work for most babies. But you can help her.

I suppose you put her down asleep now. You probably know how long you need to rock or hold her before you can 'safely' put her down. Keep doing this, but put her down a minute or so earlier for a few days. Then two minutes, five, … until she goes down drowsy rather than fully asleep. Don’t rush it, spread it over several weeks. Read on for further self soothing tips.

Besides these, also check for hidden disturbers like too much or too little light, too much noises or too silent. If there are loud noises she can hear from her room, see if you can avoid those noises. To hide them, but also if there is absolute silence, have a fan on or similar to have some background sounds (white noise).

Consult my No-Tears Sleeping Through the Night guide for a thorough step-by-step approach.

Do not hesitate to let me know how you get on – just post a comment below – so we can follow up from there.

Good luck!
Kindly,
Heidi

*** Update: see how this baby girl is doing now:
My 13 month old has been waking up at 4AM for the day - HELP!

Comments for Why does my baby wake up every hour?

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Waking up every 3 hours
by: Anonymous

Hi Heidi,
Thank you so much for your help. So I've tried your suggestions expect the bed time. I was able to extend her nap time on a few occasions but it's not consistent.
I was also able to put her in the crib drowsy and help her fall asleep by rubbing her back. But only worked three times.
This tells me there's hope but I must be doing something wrong.
She's been waking up at night every 3 hours or so.
When she wakes up all she wants is 2-5 minutes of comfort nursing and she's asleep again.
It's not too bad but it's still exhausting, specially when she decides to be up for the day at 5am. Then I noticed she's lethargic as well.
What do you think I'm doing wrong?
She's been eating solids for a month and I know it's not hunger. It can't be a growth spurt because she's barely nursing.
She never liked the pecifier and at this point I'm not introducing one. She'll be 7 months in 5 days.
Thank you so much for your help.
Raquel

Keep going! ... and reduce night nursing
by: Heidi

Hi Raquel,

What you did was actually very good: you managed to extend a few naps, got her to soothe from drowsy and went from her waking up every hour, to every 3 hours each night.

I know it may not seem enough for you right now, as it is of course still exhausting, but it IS a good step ahead.

For naps, if she still wakes up after an hour each time, do continue with the plan as above. Even if you do not have the energy to do it each time, do it whenever you can.

Also do not give up on the putting down drowsy, also there your patience will be rewarded. (But if you feel it is really pointless, you may also give it a rest for two weeks, then try again.)

Then for the night awakenings. Since you are convinced that it is pure comfort nursing, you may want to avoid getting into that habit. She may not need the food, but may actually get a hunger feeling out of habit, and then keep on waking for it (and for the comfort).

To gently wean, start with not nursing every other awakening.

So, first awakening: go to her to comfort, pat, rock, hold, sing ... to help her to sleep without nursing (if possible do the putting-down-drowsy here too).

Second awakening: comfort nurse her. Third awakening: help her soothe without nursing. And so on. This works even better if your partner can do the non-nursing ones (not smelling you, may make it easier for her to settle without the nursing). This usually quickly reduces the amount of night awakenings. Once this is established, you can reduce further.

Changing the schedule as I suggested in my first answer is also still a good option (see if you can find any, even slight, change that still suits your own schedule), that may help with the early awaking too.

Good luck,
Heidi


Still waking up at night
by: Raquel

Hi Heidi,
Me again...
Her naps got better until this week (teething). Thank you for your advice.
She continues to wake up a lot at night (even when not teething). I've been trying to see if there's a pattern and it seems she wakes up every 3 hours or so.
It's not always at the same time every night. It depends on what time she wakes up from the first time she goes down.
She goes down at 6:30pm. When she wakes up I nurse her but I wonder if it's more for soothing. If I don't nurse her she fusses and stays up and at 3AM in the morning it's easier to just give in.
So my question is: if a baby is waking up every 3 hours is it hunger or habit?

I did change her bed time to 6:30 per your suggestion and she actually just sort of led me that way. It was easy. She's napping twice a day (she dropped the third nap without any issues) once in the morning about 2-2.5 hours from her wake time and then one early afternoon about 3 hours from her last wake time.

She gets so upset if I don't come in to comfort nurse her. My husband is not able to comfort her, she just cries until she sees me. I hate having her cry for me. Do you think this will end once I stop breastfeeding her?

By the way, I think what you do here is brilliant! Thank you so much.
Raquel

Between hunger and habit
by: Heidi

Hi Raquel,

Great to hear about the naps: two naps of 2-3 hours each, that is just super! And yes again, the teething can come in and mess that up a bit (or a lot) :( ? but if you keep up the regularity and good habits she will easily go back to good napping once teething quiets down again.

About the nights and your question ?if a baby is waking up every 3 hours is it hunger or habit??: the line between hunger and habit is often quite thin at this age. If she?s feeding regularly during the day and developing normally overall, there is usually no absolute necessity to feed.

That means it is most probably a habit. One that has developed out of necessity at first and/or comfort nursing later on (difficulty self soothing, separation anxiety, teething,?). And that is not necessarily a bad thing: catering to your baby at night, whether it is because she needs feeding or because she needs your presence is not all that different. But it is your personal decision whether you go along in that or not.

And the habit of comfort nursing can in turn make her truly hungry again during the night (same for us if we have a snack at midnight each night, we?ll quickly have a hunger feeling at that time).

Right now, my very personal advice would be to indulge for a little while more, i.e. nursing her at night when you can?t avoid it easily. The teething may make it harder for her to soothe without you, or she may just need your comfort period. For now the both of you will probably get the most sleep if you continue the breastfeeding.


In a few weeks then, start again with trying to wean one night feeding at a time as we discussed before. All the time, do work on the self soothing whenever you can, it is clearly paying off already, and will grow and help you both further.

What you also will want to do in the mean time is to try and reduce the amount of milk she gets: only offer one breast of course and unlatch as soon as possible. Or you may try just a sip of water and then hugging for comfort. That all to reduce the true hunger feeling.

Thank you so much for your compliment about my work with the site, it?s kind words like yours that make it even more enjoyable!

My baby wakes every 3 hours as well!!!
by: Anonymous

Hi, reading the above story sounds exactly like my life at the moment. I have been struggling to get my 9 month old to sleep longer than 3 hours at a time for months now. I have tried everything! The point you made about cutting every other night feed out grabbed my attention but would patting or hugging her make her have a new habit instead? I will give it a go tho, anything is worth a try!! Just wondering as well if the baby mentioned ended up sleeping longer than 3 hours - may give me hope!! :) it's really frustrating to have a baby not sleep through the night when every other baby I know does! Thanks, Kat

Do give it a try
by: Heidi

Hi Kat,

First of all, don't think too much about other babies, and especially please don't let their 'alleged' good sleeping frustrate you. Many parents are reluctant to share the true amount of sleep their babies get, it 'looks better' to say you have a good sleeper.

What counts is your own baby - and it's a good thing you are working to improve things. Please do have a detailed look at the above self soothing tips.

The patting and rocking is a transition help to wean from the nursing. When comfort nursing has set in, baby often develops a true hunger feeling - just out of habit. The patting and rocking helps her go back to sleep without nursing.

The next step - which is usually automatic - will be that she won't wake up at those times because she lost the hunger feeling.

About how the baby is doing now: the baby does indeed sleep longer stretches now; You can read a recent post by Raquel here: http://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/my-13-month-old-has-been-waking-up-at-4am-for-the-day-help.html - 'only' an early morning wake-up remains ...

Good luck, take care,
Heidi

My story is the same as Raquel´s
by: Anonymous

Hello,

I was surprised to see someone else´s story the same as mine. My baby wakes up every 1 or 1.5 hour at night since she was 3 months old. The first 3 months of her life she was sleeping from 7.30 pm to 1 or 2 pm without waking up and after every 2 hours. As soon she has turned 3 months old she started to wake up very often. Now she is 9 months old and I do not know what to do. The same as Raquel, no dummy, breastfeeding, I try not to nurse at night but she protests and cries. For the last 2 months she also refuses to be spoon fed, I try to give her finger foods like fruits but she does need cereals too.
one thing I know if I don´t pick my baby at night she starts to cry and she would not go back to sleep until I comfort her.

Thank you Heidi for all the advises I have reading but not tried yet...

baby Comes first.
by: Anonymous

Just let the baby be. Sleep comes naturally.

Baby SLEEP!
by: Anonymous

Just have to say THANK YOU. We've been struggling with my daughter's sleep habits. They were fantastic from the beginning. We really were very lucky. Then about half way through her 5th month she started waking up more and more. She won't sleep without nursing (although we're REALLY working on that too but ups and downs). So each time, I was nursing her back to sleep. But your advice about cutting down the amount of food makes so much sense.
Ultimately, I've read article after article, gotten tonnes of (if often not wanted) advice from others, and my head was spinning from the contradictions of it all.
I had finally decided we would do the best we could, and what my husband and I had come up with was actually what you suggested.
It has been working (minus last night where there was a gas issue and she went back to being awake every 2 hours). I have a feeling we're getting into teething shortly. Fingers Crossed!
Thanks again!!

Glad to hear!
by: Heidi - BabySleepAdvice

Hi there,

How lovely to hear that you've found a good way to help your good sleeper sleep well again. I know it feels double extra tough when you're not used to poor nights at first and then it starts ... and yes gas and teething may come around to bother you and her, but it sounds like you are ready to get through those times well!

Thank you for your kind words about my advice on here, I thoroughly appreciate the feedback.

All the best,
Kindly,
Heidi

Baby wakes up everyday at 2:30 and 3:30
by: Ranjeetha

Hello Heidi,

My son is following a similar pattern. He use to wake up every 1 to 1.5 hour after 3 months. Till 3 months he was a very good sleeper. I tried with patience and now he sleeps 3 to 4 hours at first. He normally goes to bed by 8 or 9. after that he wakes up by 12:30 or 1. Then on, he never sleeps for a long stretch. He wakes up at 2:30, then 3:30 then 5 or 5:15 and then sleeps till 6 to 6:30. Till ystr, i use to feed him at 2:30 and then rock him at 3:30. when I rocked and put him back. 5 min after that he use to wake up. And this continued till 4:30 and sometimes 5. And finally I give up, feed him at 5 and then he sleeps till 6 or 6:30 and then up. Last night i did not feed him at 2:30, instead rocked. but then I had to rock till 3:30 and then feed him. so he slept till 5 and then feeding and slept till 6:30. i have been trying since 2 weeks and its continuing. he will be fully asleep on my lap. when i put him down, he sleeps for 5 minutes and then he wakes up. I dont know what is wrong here. His naps are not a problem. He sleeps well. Also, we have opted for co-sleeping. His Crib is joined to our bed. So he sleeps beside me. But i try to maintain a distance. after feeding, i move a little away from him. Any suggestion here?

BTW, your site is great. I did go through few posts and implemented them. It really helped.

Sleepless in South Carolina
by: Alexandra

Hello Heidi,

what Ranjeetha described is the exact same problem we are having with our little girl (5.5 months).
She used to sleep really well (from 9pm-6am, then i nursed her and she went back to sleep till 8am) in a cosleeper in our bedroom until she turned about 3.5 months. Then we moved her to her crib in her bedroom. That's when the problems started.
We put her down at 9pm, then she sleeps till midnight or maybe 1am but then she wakes up crying every hour. We pick her up and rock her back to sleep. When we think she is sound asleep we put her down very gently (sometimes we hold her for 30-45 minutes) but most of the time she wakes up as soon as she touches the mattress and we have to pick her up again and hold her... I nurse her between 4-5am and after that it's usually easier to put her down in the crib but she still wakes up every hour :-(
We do have a sound machine that we turn on and sometimes i wait to go in there or just pat her butt and she'll go back to sleep but mostly she doesn't.
Most people i talk to suggest to just let her cry and she will eventually go back to sleep. I don't believe in that and i know that our stubborn little girl can cry for a really long time, i don't think i could do that to her.
Do you think she does that because she wants us to hold her all the time? That is my theory :-)
What do you think we should do?
Thanks!
Alexandra

my baby wakes up at night as well
by: Revi

Dear Heidi,

Reading all of these comments, is sort of a relief for me since I know I'm not alone with this.

My baby is almost 7 months old and I do know he's teething (he has two bottom front teeth already). Sometimes I give him the teething gel but it doesn't help for long. So he used to sleep like 5-6 hours straight whenever I nursed him to sleep for the night. Ever since he turned 6 months old, he woke up more often. At first, he woke up every like 2 hours. I put him to sleep now earlier since he gets sleepy early (around 7:30pm). I give him a full feed and then he falls asleep.

He falls asleep on my arms and many times when I have to put him in his crib, he wakes up and cries again so I have to nurse him again so he'd fall asleep. Anyway, so at night he wakes up around 2 hours after I first put him to sleep. My husband tried to help.. so he managed to put him back to sleep, but then he woke up like 15 minutes later! so I just fed him again and again. After that 2 hour wake, he then sleeps for like 4 hours and then wakes up and sleeps for like 2 hours again.

How can I put him back to his usual schedule sleeping for 6 hours?
I'll try again not to nurse him everytime he wakes up, but it's difficult and it takes longer to put him back to sleep especially when he cries non stop. He eats solids once a day (I have him puree vegetable). And during the day I breastfeed him like every 2 hours. Also, during the day he takes like 2-3 naps.. and sleeps sometimes an hour or just 30 minutes. It's difficult to put him in his crib since he falls asleep when I feed him and then wakes up in his crib.

thanks for your help

PLEASE READ before commenting!
by: Heidi - BabySleepAdvice

Dear reader,

If you are looking for advice by me (Heidi, sleep parenting advisor and author of this site):

PLEASE POST A NEW QUESTION HERE: http://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/parenting-advice.html#C2Question.

This comment section is too limited for me to be able to give appropriate advice. Only if you post a full new question, will I be able offer a decent reply.

If you have advice or tips of your own to help with the topic on this page, you are of course more than welcome to add that at as a comment here!

Many thanks,
Kind regards,
Heidi

5 Month Old Wakes-up Frequently
by: SleeplessinToronto

Wow so glad to find this site! I've read the comments and like the others, feel relieved in a sense to know that this issue is more common then I thought because yes I too hear from some of my friends how their babies "sleep through the night" and I'm like yeah whatever lol...
My son goes down around 7-7:30pm although if he hasn't napped well in the afternoon I put him down around 6pm to make up for the lost sleep.
He isn't and hasn't ever been a good napper from the get go I might add.
He's a very alert baby and likes being up. His doctor tells me not to worry as he is healthy and all that stuff and that he will sleep when he's ready but I don't subscribe to that completely.
Also, while he eats relatively well,I believe that I helped turn him into a "snacker" vs. an eater because he eats for like 5-10 minutes sometimes through-out the day and only really eats in a focused way when he's really hungery and hasn't eaten in hours.
I think that this is all to do with one another.
I try to get him to nap longer but I'm lucky if I can get an hour out of him. When he wakes up smiling I figure he's ok even with so little nap time. I guess I think that his daytime habits have turned into his nighttime habits.
I'm exhausted for the amount of times i get up and am at a point now where I can't relax enough and go into a deep sleep anymore because I am so used to getting up!
My husband tries to soothe him at night but it doesn't work that well, he wants me.
Also I wonder if he falls asleep so quickly at the breast before bedtime is because he's so exhausted.
Generally his pattern is asleep really quick at 7:30 pm, awake by 11pm & fed because he cries for it, sleep until close to 2am & fed and lately after this feeding he's up every hour or so.
I also find that when he eats so much at night when he wakes up around 7am he's not all that hungery.
I read all this stuff on baby sleeping habits and am at my wits end because I know it's not realistic to be consistent every single night, but yet want to find some sound advice.
Sorry if I sound scattered as I'm so tired!

5month old baby girl wakes every 30 mins day or night
by: rachael

hi there

I have been reading your posts and comments and it sounds so much like my baby,she used to sleep quite well in the day and night but for the last month she is waking all the time at night and I can't work out why,is it teeth or habit?she goes down at 7/7:30 and is in bed til the sme time the followin am but wakes so frequently!if you lut her dummy in she goes back to sleep then wakes again when its fallen out!!help please xx

NOTE BY Heidi-BabySleepAdvice:

Thank you for your comment. However, please start a new topic so your question can get the personal attention it deserves. I will be happy to advise you further soon. Kindly, Heidi

Help me!
by: Cass

My baby is the worst sleeper. He's 5 and a half months old and since day one wouldn't nap. During the day I force him to take naps but can only get him down for about half an hour at a time, and he'll only take about 3 naps a day. At night he goes down about 7pm and will sleep a good stretch from 7-10/11. And from then on he will not sleep in his crib. I've brought him to bed with me out of pure exhaustion and even then he is waking up hourly. I'm so tired, what's his problem? I need a miracle

NOTE BY Heidi-BabySleepAdvice:

Thank you for your comment. However, please start a new topic so your question can get the personal attention it deserves. I will be happy to advise you further soon. Kindly, Heidi

Night waking nearly every hour
by: Monika

Hi my son is 4months and so far his sleeping was 1-2wakings for feed sometimes he even made it through from 8-6am. But in the last month he is waking up nearly every hour and i am just so exhausted and even angry with myself what am I doing wrong? Before he would nap 3x a day 30-45min where he would fall asleep in my arms then I would put him into his cot. But now I am trying to teach him to fall asleep by himself in cot so will put him in drowsy-sometimes it works but sometimes he would scream and get into hysterics attacks so I have to calm him down then try again later. He has bedtime routine and sleeps from 8pm but wakes up every hour so I would just cuddle him and put him down drowsy but sometimes I would cuddle him to sleep as he gets too laud and we have 2 neighbours to worry about. I give him bottle once or twice depending on how awake he is. But usually just wants 5 min cuddle and he sleeps for another hour. This is getting really hard now and I just can't carry on like this but just don't know what to do. Shall I let him cry for few minutes how can I get him to sleep? Please HELP. Thank you in advance.

NOTE BY Heidi-BabySleepAdvice:

Thank you for your comment. However, please start a new topic so your question can get the personal attention it deserves. I will be happy to advise you further soon. Kindly, Heidi

Help 9 month old wont sleep
by: Exhausted

Hi,

My baby is turning 9 months old this week, and I am exhausted!

He wakes every 2 hours for breast feeding in the night, and sometimes is wide awake wanting to play at 3 in the morning, and after been kicked/ having my hair pulled I end up getting up. (he sleeps in our bed).

I have been trying his own bed (9-12) and he wakes every hour crying, and it takes ages to settle him.

He is a poor daytime feeder with solids (I guess because he is full from the night). He will do an hours morning and afternoon nap in his pushchair. (I usually have to walk him to get him to sleep).

I have been told to let him cry, but I am not happy letting him get upset.

Please help...


*********** NOTE BY Heidi-BabySleepAdvice:

Thank you for your comment. However, please start a new topic so your question can get the personal attention it deserves. I will be happy to advise you further soon. Kindly, Heidi

Tried all the
by: Amy

So, our 8-m-o daytime angel becomes possessed at night. Since two months we put him, on his back in his crib. Never nursed him to sleep, down while drowsy but awake at 8 p.m.
For months he slept until midnight for a bottle and then was up at 2, 4 and 5:30 for the day as he has a poop ever day like a clock. Naps at 9 a.m. And 2 p.m. About 1.5 hours each.
For the past three months, his nights have been diissolving into midnight, 1, 2:30,3, 4 a.m up and now it is every hour between bed and wake. Our response has always been put the pacifier back in, leave lights off, no talking and only picking up when ALL else failed.
Last night he awoke about every 45 minutes until my husband took him into bed at 3 a.m. And then he slept until 6 a.m. He will not sleep next to me (pulls my hair and tries to keep me up). He didn't want to cosleep and we still don't want to this second time around. Thoughts?
Btw it's not teething and he now fights you when you try to put the pacifier in, but sucks quietly once target is reached.


************* NOTE BY Heidi-BabySleepAdvice:

Thank you for your comment. However, please start a new topic so your question can get the personal attention it deserves. I will be happy to advise you further soon. Kindly, Heidi

well done heidi
by: Anonymous

hi heidi,just wanted to let u know that you are doing an excellent job.MY bb is almost 6 months and he is the worst sleeper of all the babies mentioned but for now i'm writing anything about it coz i'm trying to follow all the advises u ve offered. hoping for some change.
i've been reading alot abt bb sleep but i believe all of them are quite STUBBORN,i would call dem but urs r practical and realistic.
one last thing to all the moms to thank god if ur bb sleeps fr 3 hours even once per nite coz mine doesent.
Thanx heidi once again i'm workin on ur tips. will get back to u if required with my da details.

urgrnt need of an advice
by: amy

hii heidi,i m de one who posted da well done comment.
I need an urgent advice frm u.i want to try da ferber method with my 6 month old but i cant try it coz i live with my in laws but these days my mom in law has gone for vacations so i can give it a try but still for day time naps only.i wanted to know if that can help my bb to sleep on his own at nits also.
I need a reply soon coz i my mom in law will b bak soon.
THANXXXXX

Hi Amy,

I do not advocate the Ferber method so I can not advise you in this. On this site you will find efficient no-tears advice to improve sleep, so without crying it out. Hit the '6-12 months' button above to start browsing and explore the alternatives to Ferber if you want. If you do decide to do it, please inform yourself well so you know exactly what to do and what to expect.

Kindly,
Heidi

check with your doctor
by: Anonymous

My 7 month old has been doing the same thing since she was about 4 months it ended up be reflux she wasn't spitting up but the acid was only bothering her at night when she was laying flat

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