My 4 month old baby used to sleep through the night and now wakes every hour!

by Anouck
(Ontario, Canada)

Heidi's Tip: If your baby also wakes every hour now, have a look at the overview article about avoiding frequent night wakings. It will give you more ideas to help with sleeping through in your particular situation, not just Anouck's one below.

Question: My 4 month old had been sleeping great up until about 3 weeks ago. She used to sleep at least 6 hours at a stretch (from 7pm to 1am) then I'd breast feed her and she'd go back to sleep for a couple hours, wake once more and sleep for another hour or 2.

Some nights she's even slept for 10 hours straight and then feed and sleep for another hour or so. Then suddenly she started waking up every hour!!! And has been doing this for about 3 weeks now.

Every now and then she'll do a 4 hour stretch, but never at the same time - sometimes she'll go from 7pm to 11pm and then is up every hour the rest of the night, other times we put her down at 7 she wakes every hour until midnight and then sleeps until 4am....We haven't changed anything, so have no idea why she would go from sleeping long stretched to this.

Thought it was a growth spurt at first, but it's been over 3 weeks now and she doesn't want to eat each time she wakes. Thought it was teething, but don't see anything on her gums....PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!

Heidi's Answer: Hi Anouck,

It may console you a bit that suddenly waking up frequently after having slept through well is very (!) typical around 4 months old. But I know (also from personal experience) how shocking it feels after these very good sleep times.

Baby takes a few major developmental steps now, both physically and mentally and that easily results in growth spurt and poor sleep phases. There's a lot going on in that little body and brain right now, so much that it is no surprise that sleep is disturbed.

The good news is that, since she has been sleeping so well before, you have very good chances to get that back.

A growth spurt as you suspected has most probably played in the beginning. And feeding her extra was indeed the right thing to do. This may have evolved into waking up a little out of habit but also out of discomfort (due to the developmental phase, usually a combination of factors).

Therefore, the very first step will be to avoid any discomfort and disturbing external factors:

- make sure she's not too hot, not too cold: a well adapted sleeping bag should keep her at a constant temperature

- check her diaper size, especially if she often wakes up with a wet diaper, maybe she needs the next size, or a better absorbing one

- check again for any signs of teething. The first symptoms can be very subtle but occur before you can spot anything on her gums

- has anything changed in her environment? Maybe new neighbors who are noisier? More street noise? More or less light in her room?

- any stress in your household (such as a move or another major event coming up?)

Then, stick to the good habits of the bedtime routine you had and always keep your interventions when she wakes at night as boring and short as possible. Stay in her room, don't switch on any extra light, ...

With regards to feeding at night: to avoid feeding every time but also avoid debating whether you'd feed or not at every awakening: set a sort of schedule for night feedings. Not based on time, but based on when her last feeding was. So for example decide to feed if if has been 4 hours or longer since the last feed. Otherwise, you don't feed. Of course give it enough flexibility (do feed after 3,5 hours, ...).

At the other awakenings:

- first of all, when she wakes up, wait a few moments before going to her. She may simply fuss a bit in her (half-)sleep and go back to sleep by herself. Go to her before she gets upset.

- ideally, your partner goes to her at these awakenings. That will avoid your daughter expecting to be able to nurse

- help her back to sleep as quickly as possible: ideally in the same way as when your first put her down (unless if you then nurse her to sleep, in this case pat, hold or rock her to sleep if necessary, always in the same way). She's a bit young but you can start experimenting with the gentle self soothing method.

Besides all this, you may do a small experiment with her bedtime. Shift it to half an hour earlier or later (whichever feels best to you: if she's very tired at 7pm, put her down at 6.30pm. If she's tired at all, go to 7.30pm) and see what happens.

For more complete and detailed guidance (must-have basics, wake up causes and efficient sleep-through techniques) see my No-Tears Sleeping Through the Night guide.

Re-evaluate her nap times too: keep them at regular times but shift them if you feel it can suit better with regards to her tiredness. Both at naps and at night: at all cost you want to avoid over-tiredness: the earliest sleepy signals like staring and losing interest in activities, are the best signs to get started to put her to bed.

Good luck, take care,

Comments for My 4 month old baby used to sleep through the night and now wakes every hour!

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Similar situation
by: Anonymous

My baby is going through the exact same thing. Its going on three weeks now so hoping this ends soon and she goes back to her good sleeping habits

by: Clarabell

the exact same thing has happened to us. so it is good to hear it isn't just my baby and it is 'normal'. hope we get back to our good sleeping routine soon. funny how 3 weeks feels like months after having a good sleeping baby. i have to keep reminding myself it is only a few weeks. my baby has started having really bad tummy ache and wind at these waking up times though. i think it is from the acid in the extra saliva from teething. so if anyone has any advice on that would be happy to hear it :)

5 months old sudden change in sleep pattern and fussy when put in basket
by: Mazzy B

My 5 month old daughter was in a routine of sleeping at 2 and a half months from 10.30pm to about 4.30 and then after a feed 5.30am - 9am. Since she had her jab (3) she fell very ill with very high temp n extremely bad cough. Her temperature has gone but her cough remains which causes her to vomit n the poor thing can't even spit up her phlegm(sorry for too mch info). She has become so fussy everytime i put her in her basket but will sleep when she is with me in bed and feeds more often, I hardly sleep and my body aches as I am up more then every hour feeding, rocking and trying to get her to sleep in basket. I am worried she will get use to this. She sleeps in the morning for a couple of hours in her basket so i try to catch up on some sleep then which is difficult once i'm up dropping son off to school, my husband goes to work at 5.30am so don't like letting him get disturbed with crying. Don't know why she has changed and how long it will last :(

Not alone
by: Anonymous

So glad to hear I am not alone. Our sweet boy was sleeping through the night at 5 weeks and for the past two weeks he has been waking up 4-5 times and having trouble falling back to sleep. I thought for sure I had done something to create this even though everything about our routine and enviornent was the same. I now understans that he body and mind are going through so much and this too, shall pass. We will stay consistent and soothe him when we can.

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