Our 15 week old wakes up every hour now.

(Irvine, CA)

Top tip: If your baby also wakes up every hour or otherwise very frequently, start at the avoiding hourly wakings page for an overview of possible causes and solutions for your own situation.

Question: Hi, Our 15 week old baby boy just started waking up at night a lot more than usual. We follow our usual bedtime routine and put him in his crib around 7pm, pat him for a few min and he would fall asleep in 15 - 20 min. He used to go to bed by 7 or 7:30pm and then sleep till 12:30 or 1am then wake up to feed (b/f or bottle) and then go right back to bed for another 3 hours or so. However, about 7 days ago he started waking up a lot more often, he wakes up between 8 and 8:30pm, we rock him back to sleep and then he wakes up every hour or two after that but falls back asleep relatively easily. Last night he had a full night wakening he woke up at 2:30am, had some milk but would no go back to sleep, we took turns rocking him and try to get him to sleep but he just wouldn't sleep but he wasn't crying either. Then at 3:30am or so we were both tired and just decided to bring him to bed with us. We put him between us, he was fine playing with his hands and stuff and then after 15 - 20 min just drifted off to sleep on his own and then woke up around 5:30am to feed and fell back asleep till 6:45am.

I'm not sure what has caused his sleeping pattern to change. We went to visit some family a couple of weeks ago for about 10 days, where he was sleeping with us in our bed, maybe that's what caused the problem.

Naps are getting be be an issue too. First I'm not sure when to put him for a nap, do I just see when he looks tired or do I put him for a nap at about hour and half after he wakes up from one. This is all getting very confusing and frustrating, I know we need to make a change but not sure what to and any advice would be very helpful.

Heidi's Answer:

Hi there,

I quite understand that these times are confusing and frustrating, not to mention the sleep deprivation you must both be experiencing.

The good news is that nothing truly alarming is happening and that there is a very good chance things will go back to normal soon.

Your 10 day break where he slept in your bed, may indeed have triggered a change in his sleep, but it is most probably not the only reason. In fact, it may be helping you now to get at least some sleep...

Around 4 months is a very typical time to see these sudden sleep troubles in a baby who slept nicely before. Some of the key baby milestones are underway now: an important change in his digestive system (preparing to be able to take in more at a time, and be longer without feeding) as well as key motor skills (preparing to sit and roll over).

And then there's the increasing possibility of first teeth on their way ... all of these good reasons for lesser nights.

The first thing to do right now is to stick to the good sleep habits you had: keep the same bedtime routine, bed times, short and boring feedings/interventions when he wakes in the night, ... This will help him go back to sleeping like before as soon as possible.

About having him sleep in your bed: there is no huge problem taking him between you on a real bad night so that everyone gets at least some sleep. There is enough time in the next weeks/months to get him used to his crib again. Always be very careful though to make sure he is safe (cannot be covered under the sheets, fall out of bed, end up underneath you, ... and never cosleep when you or your partner have drunk alcohol (even a little bit), taken medication (even a simple pain killer) or are extremely tired.)

However, it is a good idea to decide for yourselves whether you want to cosleep on a regular basis or not. If you decide yes, and both feel comfortable about this, then this can be your way to keep sleep optimal right now. When you feel the time is right, in a couple of weeks or months, you can then transition him to his crib again.

If you decide not to cosleep, then you will want to make sure that is clear for your baby too. Then you will consistently put him in his crib and not take him in bed with you. Of course, you are all human, so exceptions are not unthinkable: if on a really bad night, you're desperate, do take him in bed, and then start the good habits again from the next night.

In both cases (cosleeping or not) it is good to set up a plan for feeding: how often will you feed and at which awakenings? That will avoid you making hasty decisions in the middle of the night and confusing your son by sometimes feeding, sometimes not, sometimes a small feed, ... From what you write I would suggest to feed when he wakes around 11pm to midnight and possible a second one around 3-4am but adapt to what feels best. At the other awakenings, keep lights dim and interaction low (boring!), always gently reminding him to go back to sleep.

Pat if necessary, walk and rock if necessary, but if he does not cry, why not try to leave him be? He is safe in his crib, and might just entertain himself for a while, and then gently drift off to sleep again. This will prove a great help towards self soothing.

About naps: ideally you will put him down for a nap "when he's tired but before he gets overtired" but that's not always clear to know of course. The best thing is to look for early sleepy signs: staring rather than focusing on something, losing interest in playing or interacting with you, rubbing eyes, yawning, ... Once he gets uncomfortable or cranky, it is actually 'too late' and he should have been sleeping by then.

But not all babies show these early sleepy signs clearly and then a timed schedule can help. As you mention, yes you could time about 1,5-2 hours since his previous nap. Let me refer you to the 1-4 months sleep schedule and sleep schedule to one year pages for more details about a regular schedule.

Good luck, let me know,

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Thanks for the advise, and update
by: Irvine, CA

Hi Heidi,
Thanks for your advice and I'm glad to know that there's nothing alarming with our situation. We have had some luck in the last few days. one night he woke up as usual to feed and wasn't falling back to sleep but not crying either so we just left him in his crib (his crib is out bedroom) and he fell asleep on his own in a few min. Since then we've been trying to let him fall asleep on his own every night had he's been doing pretty good with it, I'd say 80% of the times he's able to go to sleep on his own. We haven't had to take him to sleep with us in quite a few days now. We just bring him to our bed to b/f at night and most of the times he's up when we put him back in his crib, sometimes he does fall asleep feeding but we put him back anyways. He's gone back to waking up twice (maybe three times some nights) once 2 hours after falling asleep and then 3 - 4 hours later and he falls back asleep quickly too.

Naps are still a problem. We have a nap schedule down and it seems to be working as far as him falling asleep, he's usually asleep in 15min or so from when we put him down. He does need to be patted and sung to to fall asleep though. I've timed him for over a week now and he consistently wakes up 30 min later. If I'm quick and quiet and pick him up and rock him he does fall back asleep for another hour or more but that seems to not be working anymore either in the last day or so. He does fall back to sleep but he wakes right up when I put him down and if he doesn't then he wakes up in 15 - 20min and then doesn't fall back asleep again. Is there anything I can do to extend his naps or will that just come with time? Is there anything that I should not be doing, like rocking him, etc?

Thanks again for your help.

Well done, and longer naps
by: Heidi


That's good news about the nights: less awakenings and good self soothing most of the time, well done!

To help extend the naps try this: go to him before he wakes. So, don't wait until he starts waking after 30 minutes, but go to him after 20-25 minutes.

Be very quiet, pat him or simply place your hand on his belly, or other, whichever makes him feel comfortable. The idea is to get him to the next sleep cycle without waking up completely.

If this starts working (you may need to try several times or more), and you get to the next 30 minutes, you can do the same thing for the next round. But there's a good chance he will quickly pick up sleeping longer, and take 1,5-2 hour naps.

If this absolutely does not work, you can consider taking him out for long walks in the stroller or in the sling. By making sure he's on the move (and therefore wakes less easily) he'll less likely wake up and get used to longer naps. Once that habit is set, he will also be able to nap for longer in his crib.

About what you should or should not be doing: please do not worry, you are doing absolutely fine. From what you write, I see a very good balance between catering to your son's needs, while taking good care of keeping up the good sleep habits. So my only further advice there would be: allow yourself to be more confident, trust your instincts, you are doing really well!

Kind regards,

How long to go between last nap and night
by: Irvine, CA

Hi Heidi,

We took out LO for his 4 month doctor's visit and the doctor asked about his bedtime, I told her that he's usually asleep by 7 or 7:30pm. The doctor said that's too early and asked about his last nap, I said about 3pm. She said that one of the reasons he wakes up at night is because he needs to up for 6 hours after he wakes up from his last nap and before he goes down for the night. That sounds like a long time for him to go without sleeping. What do you think?

The doctor suggested that if he wakes up at 7am his first nap should be around 10 am (we usually do 8:30 or 9am) and the next one should be at 2pm (we do 12pm and then another at 3pm) and each nap should be about an hour or so and bedtime at 9pm. She said that will help him sleep though the night. She also suggested feeding him his daily amount of milk completely in the daytime, all 30oz between wake-up and bedtime.

Any advice and suggestion on this would be great. Thanks again.

Different approaches
by: Heidi


As with so many parenting topics, different doctors and counsellors have different approaches, no right or wrong, just different.

From what you write, your doctor clearly has what we would call the more 'classical' approach, in which stricter, general rules are used to fit the babies in, rather than follow the child's leads.

Today, many paediatricians and sleep researchers agree that regular sleep during the day helps with night time sleep, even if the last nap is only several hours (say 3-4 hours) before the night starts. Worse, an overtired baby wil have troubles settling, and sleep more restlessly. 6 hours without sleep for a 4 month old is quite long indeed. You then have a good chance to have an overtired baby at bedtime.

A not-too-late bedtime such as the 7-7.30pm you have is also thought to be better for most babies than later ones, giving them a good onset to the night.

And most babies simply sleep better at a nap time chosen according to when they feel tired, rather than a general fixed sleep schedule.

Four months is indeed a time when most feeding can be taken during the day, but for various reasons many (most!) babies still require one or two night feedings - this also prevents stuffing their stomachs before the night, which brings on healthier sleep.

All of these thoughts are part of the child-lead approach and are based on modern research. But an important factor remains that every baby is unique, and so is his family:

Some babies thrive on a strict parent-lead schedule. Others will be brilliant sleepers, only if left to lead the way to when and where to sleep.

In any case, for you, I think the main thing is to go with what feels best for you and your son.

What you were doing so far, sounded really good to me: paying attention to his needs, while guiding him determinedly. If you decide to stick to this, then keep night time bedtime as is (in my experience this is a very good bedtime to have), keep the night feedings as is and work with the naps as we discussed above. After another month or two, three, he will either gradually stop feeding at night automatically or you will be able to gently wean by reducing the amount.

Or, if your doctor's advice appeals more right now, and you think your son will fit better into that type of schedule, then by all means give that option a try.

Good luck!

Your advice sounds more intuitive
by: Irvine, CA

Hi Heidi,
Thanks for getting back to me. The doctor's advice might work for some babies but to me it sounds like a long time to keep him up and doesn't sound like he'd get enough sleep either. I am going to stick with what we were doing before for some more time before changing things too much. The only thing I've changed in the last couple of days are his naps. I've moved his morning nap from 8:30 - 9 to 9:30 or 10am and then his afternoon nap to 2:30pm (took him from 3 naps to 2). He seems to be doing good with the first nap but the second one is still a problem but hopefully over the next few days he'll get the hang of that one too. Thanks again for your help and I'll post an update in a couple of weeks.


Sounds good!
by: Heidi

Sounds good, looking forward to hearing how it goes!

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