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?
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
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