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.
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, Kindly, Heidi
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