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.

You'll find full guidance inside the Overcome Frequent Waking program and let me start with a few suggestions here.

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,

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!

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!

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.

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: https://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,

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.


Good luck! Heidi

5 mth old - keeps waking up
by: Lisa

I was just after some advice please I’m a first time Mum and my daughter was a perfect sleeper and eater. She started rolling at 3&1/2 months and as soon as that happened in combination with starting solids at 4 mths she wakes like every few hrs. Her last feed is at 8pm her routine is bath, feed, bed and she sleeps from 8 she will wake screaming at 9 but I put the dummy back in and she goes straight back to sleep. She then wakes again at 11.30, 3.30 then 6.00 during the night she’s not waking for food as I offer and she doesn’t want it - I put the dummy back in her mouth and she goes back to sleep. She isn’t cold coz I check her chest & she’s warm so is this normal is there something I’m missing or can try?
Feeds at 6am, 9am, 1pm, 5pm & 8pm for milk first and she has solids 9-1&5
She also has a nap for 30-1hr 3 times a day with her last nap at about 4pm
Any advise you could give would be great coz I’m exhausted, my husband works away so I’m looking after her 24/7... thanks

Dummies and more
by: Heidi - BabySleepAdvice

Hi Lisa, and welcome here!

One simple thing you can do is play dummy games regularly during the day - in which your baby learns to find, pick up and put in the dummy herself. Add to that putting a dozen or so dummies in the crib so she can more easily find one when waking at night. It might take a little while for her to learn and get used to this but it is for many a very powerful way to increase that independence during the night.

For further help with the frequent waking, have a look at the dedicated section here https://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/waking-up-hourly.html

and for the complete action plan including support by me, consider my Overcome Frequent Waking guide: https://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/overcome-frequent-waking.html

I hope that helps!

Hang in there, I know this is a rough time, but we'll get there!

Kindly, Heidi

5 month old keeps waking up
by: Isabella

Most of the comments here could be written about our LO. Would love your perspective our LO just tuned 5 month last week. He was rocked to sleep until 4.5 months but for last couple of weeks we are putting him drowsy but awake. He manages to sleep during naps and night ( sometimes with pacifier sometimes without) but his naps are always 30-45’ long and he can’t connect sleep cycles. This results to 4-5 naps because he is tired. He is eating well and lots of tummy time but we can’t follow ‘regular’ wake windows since he is getting tired faster. And at night he rarely sleeps more than 2 hours. We try to calm him down on his crib. Any advice on what to do and have him sleep for longer stretches? We are in the north east and it’s cold so we can’t take him for many walks (he can sleep in the stroller 1-1.5 hours but not an option for next couple of months) if he has long stretches at night we wouldn’t mind the short day naps. Thank you!

Reply to Isabella
by: Heidi-BabySleepAdvice

Hi Isabella and welcome here! I 100% hear you and it's a difficult challenge. I do hope the above suggestions will have started helping.

Know that single sleep cycle naps are physiologically still the norm at this age, and taking longer naps will get easier in the next couple of weeks. That means you may have an easier time (and better results ultimately) by going with his more frequent naps for a little while longer. Doesn't mean you can't emply all the suggestions to help extend the naps, just know that it may take a little longer before they'll work. Of course other causes may be making it harder for your little boy to stay asleep, also at night so for that I will refer you as in the previous comments, have a look at the dedicated section here https://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/waking-up-hourly.html

and for the complete action plan including support by me, consider my Overcome Frequent Waking guide: https://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/overcome-frequent-waking.html

Take care, best of luck! x Heidi

Was sleeping through the night now waking 1/2 hourly
by: Anonymous

[QUESTION by Anonymous]: My daughter is 5 months old next week
The last couple of months she has been a great sleeper, sleeping from 10-12pm and waking between 8-10am..
suddenly she is now waking every couple
Of hours on a night.

She is always fed to sleep as this was working in the past and sleeping all night.
She naps during the day on walks/when held after a feed but doesn’t have a schedule just when she’s tired.

She appears to be teething but doesn’t appear to be the cause of night waking.

Any advice greatly appreciated

[HEIDI's ANSWER]: Hi there, yes there are usually several causes contributing to these kinds of wakings, happening around this age. Definitely start at this overview of common causes for frequent waking: https://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/waking-up-hourly.html
Best of luck! Heidi

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