Sudden sleep change in my 3.5 month old

by Jen Naegelkraemer
(Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

Question: Hello, I am a first time mom and thoroughly enjoying my new parenting life with my son! Chase is a little over 3.5 months old and i have been exclusively breastfeeding him, with few problems. He initially was quite a good sleeper, consistently going 6-8 hours between feedings by about 1.5 months of age (meaning he would wake up once during the night for a quick feed and going back to sleep until about 9am). This continued until he was about 2.5 months old. Then we noticed a shift, his bedtime of 10-11pm didn't change, however he started to wake for a night feed at 4am and 7am, eventually wanting to wake up for the day at 8-8:30am. This trend continued for approx. 2 weeks until a new trend started... He now has been waking up 3hrs after his last feeding before bed, then again every 1.5-2hrs until morning. When ever he wakes in the middle of the night I feed him for about 5 minutes until falls asleep.

Since he's been born he's been sleeping in our room in a bassinet. We use a foam sleep positioner and swaddle him. Generally the bedtime routine includes a bath (which he likes), diaper change, putting on his pjs, swaddling him, then he feeds. He usually gets very sleepy or falls asleep during his last feeding. We then take him to bed, rocking if necessary, and put him in the bassinet. We shut off the lights, other than a night light, and shut the door. If he wakes up either myself or my husband goes in, picks him up and quietly soothes him and rocks him back to sleep, repeating the process.

Through the day he generally goes 2.5-3 hrs between feedings and often has a nap 1-1.5 hrs after eating. He is a relatively happy baby but occasionally has gas issues which make him uncomfortable. I try to burp him both during feedings and after feedings.

Hopefully you might have some suggestions or insight how to help Chase sleep for longer periods of time through the night as he did a month or so ago. Any help is appreciated!

Best wishes,

Heidi's Answer:

Dear Jen,

First of all congratulations with your first baby and for clearly doing such a great job at this first parenting experience!

It will not solve your problem but it may be good to know that this is quite a common 'pattern' we see with babies. Sleeping very well in the first months, and then there is some retrogression around 3-4 months old ... Often it starts with a growth and development spurt, when they simply need extra food, and start waking up more often again, which parents shouldn't hesitate to tend to.

This is absolutely fine and most of these babies go back to sleeping well again within a few weeks. But it is also a time where you need to be alert to avoid him getting in to the habit of feeding, rather than out of need.

First of all, please read my page on baby sleep positioners: they are disadvised because they are not safe.

Swaddling correctly is fine, but I do recommend to wean that gently early on. For now, keep the swaddling though, but start weaning (by gradually loosening) once his sleeping has gone back to normal.

For his sleeping issues now:

- Your bedtime routine is very good. But, he may be too drowsy already to get a satisfying feed. Do make sure that you keep urging him (like tickling his feet to gently wake him back up if he dozes off) to get him to take a full feed. Do offer both sides, but only offer the second breast if he has emptied the first one 'completely'. You want him to get to the hind milk because it is more nutritious and he needs that.

So encourage him to drink well from the first breast. Then have him burp in between, and then start the second breast. And again try for him to have as much as possible. Even if he fell asleep, hold him upright again so he may burp (in his sleep). (Not having burped may wake him up at night too).

- When he wakes at night, after 3 or more hours of sleep: feed him. I do advise to feed him for longer than 5 minutes. He may be hungry but too tired to drink a lot so fall asleep again. But not having had enough, he may wake after 1-2 hours again. So why not invest in a good feed (gently keeping him awake enough to feed a bit longer) to keep him going.

Of course, I am talking about gently encouraging. Never force him to feed more than he wants, only help him stay awake long enough to take what he needs.

What will also help with sleeping through the night is if you can spread some extra food intake during the day, or even add an extra 'snack' in late afternoon.

- If he has a had good night feed, and still wakes up after 1 or 2 hours, do as you have been doing now: soothe him back to sleep when necessary. It will be most efficient if your husband does this.

Since you mention he has gas problems sometimes during the day:

For some moms and babies, gas problems easily disappear if mom leaves out dairy products. To see if that could help for you, leave out dairy products for a good week. If you feel things improve, you might want to keep doing this for a good while. See the baby gas for more ideas.

Burping frequently is definitely a good idea anyhow, and of course also during day feeds you do want him to get to the hind milk of the first breast before offering the second. Let me know (just post a comment below) if you are unsure about this, we can then nail it down further. Mention also if you have seen changes in his growth and weight gain the past few weeks.


Comments for Sudden sleep change in my 3.5 month old

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Thank you for your advice!
by: Jen Naegelkraemer

Hi Heidi,

Thank you for your quick response and advice. I hadn't realized the concerns with using a sleep positioner and assumed it was a good idea should the can't roll over and not be able breath. Also, thank you for your advice to wean him off of the swaddling... I was questioning swaddling at this age, and had switched to a stretchy 'sleeping bag' type swaddle cloth, which gives him a lot more freedom to move his arms and legs, but I will start to wean him off of that too. We actually tried a sleep sack a month or so ago, but it didn't work very well given its size in the bassinet. We are going to switch to his crib next week and will try that again. I still am concerned with him flipping over and some how not being able to breath, but perhaps the sleep sack is enough of a deterrent?

Also, since I asked the question, Chase seems to have returned to his previous sleep pattern - usually sealing twice in the night, after 4-5 hrs and then again after 3 hrs. So it must have been some sort of developmental / growth spurt!

I liked your suggestion for myself to refrain from dairy to help with his gas. The gas continues to be an issue and I try to burp him often both during feeding and after feeding until he had a good burp or toot! He does usyally swirm a little whole feeding if needs to burp. I wanted to mention that I now only feed on one breast at each feeding. Early on I would switch, but he became much more efficient and now feeds 15-25 min on one side at each feeding. He has continued to gain weight well and somewhat consistently feeds every 2-3 hrs through the day. If he does fall asleep while feeding, I try to feed again on the same side in hopes that he will get the hind milk.

I will keep you posted on any changes in sleep pattern and feeding over the next few weeks!

Thanks again, Jen

Sounds good
by: Heidi

Hi Jen,

Sounds good all, and thank you for your kind reply and update. And it will be great indeed to hear how it goes in the next weeks.

Good idea to start using the sleeping bag when switching to the crib. Yes, those sleeping bags are usually enough to keep them on their backs.

Until they are strong enough to roll over anyway of course, but that usually means they are also strong enough to lift their head to breathe when necessary. But of course, you do want to supervise closely to monitor how he does with that.

Sounds good to keep nursing on one side. Do move on to the second if he has 'emptied' the first one well and you feel he wants more (can happen at a next growth spurt ... but you'll notice). And let's see what the dairy-diet does.

Take care,

Austin the fusser..
by: Anonymous

Hello ladies. I am so thankful to have found this post as my Austin, at 3.5 months, is having a similar sleep change. He has also been SUPER fussy! He, since 2 months old, has slept through the night from 7:30-3:30, and then back to sleep until a feeding at 6:30, and every 3 hours through the day thereafter. He since has been cluster feeding, waking in the night several times, etc. I feel like he is also teething, though I can't exactly see or feel any teeth in there. He doesn't really give me much of a chance to feel for them though as he gets very upset. My LC also said that at this time, they tend to 'boob strike'... and fight the breast, pushing away from it. I have to give him a binky to calm down a bit and try again. It's going to be a long couple of weeks!

Still not sleeping at 3.5 months
by: Colleen

We're still having sleep problems with my daughter, now 3.5 months. At first she had so many tummy issues, I breast feed and also we supplement with formula... went through about 6 different ones until we started using Soy and her stomach was SO much better. She was going poop regulary for the first time and not screaming in pain as she was on cows milk. But, sleeping is still a huge problem. I nurse her before bed and she sleeps for about 4 hours, then, she wakes up and she is up every 1-2 hours for the rest of the night. We have to turn the vaccume on to calm her down... she has a big problem settling herself in the crib and wants to be picked up it seems every time she opens her eyes. I just can't understand how she is not SO tired (I am) and want to sleep for a long period of time through... I've read everything and talked to so many people and we're now trying to let her cry it out a bit before picking her up, then putting her right back down, etc. (trying it all//) but still having sleepless nights because by the time I get her back down around 3am, I have anxiety so it takes me a while to get to sleep, then by the time I do fall asleep she is crying again. She is not in pain because of her milk/gas I dont think , that was the problem before, this time I think its more a soothing issue (she wont take a pacifier). Has this happend to anyone, will she grow out of this, any suggestions on what to do? Also, when she eats she never eats more than 4oz at a time (rarely she will do 5oz) from what I read some babies are eating around 7 -8oz and maybe thats why she is up all the time, but, at night when I feed her she only eats about 2 oz and falls back asleep so she cant be so hungry. (plus I cant force her to eat more). thanks for your help!

************* NOTE BY Heidi-BabySleepAdvice:

Dear Colleen. Thank you for your comment. Your daughter's 4 hour sleep stretch is not bad at this age. After that it is fine if you help her with settling. That may give you all more sleep right now. With time she will also sleep more restfully in the second part of the night and you will be able to use the self soothing techniques successfully ( You may also find the white noise page ( helpful, since you mention the vacuum. If you would prefer more detailed help, it will be best to start a new topic so I can advise you personally in full. Kindly, Heidi

Sleep regression?
by: Helen AC

To follow on from the above string. My baby is bottle fed. She has been sleeping through the night from 7pm to 6am since about 8 weeks old. She is now 15 weeks and has started waking at 3am and is very hard to settle. I'm afraid to give her a bottle to get her back to sleep easier in case she goes backwards with her excellent sleeping. However, obviously I don't want to not feed her if this is a growth spurt and she needs an extra feed. I'm a first time mum and have been so lucky that she has fallen into her own pattern of 7oz feeds every 4 hours. Please help- should o give her a bottle when she wakes or not? She does eventually settle if I don't feed her but it takes about an hour of crying (her and me). If I do feed her she goes back down easier. Thank you in advance.

4 months dip
by: Heidi-BabySleepAdvice

Hi Helen,

Yes definitely sounds like the growth spurt linked with the 4 months sleep dip. It was a good idea trying to avoid feeding her at that waking but if it involves that much crying it, you risk creating worse habits (negative associations, needing you nearby, fear of being alone) than what you fear will happen if you feed her. But if you feel better with that option, you can continue.

Either way (whether you feed at the waking or not) it will be super important to carefully increase her food intake throughout the day to help your little girl cope with the growth spurt and get the nutrients she needs. Just be extra careful not to over-feed, especially not right before bed.

You will find a little more on this topic here:

Good luck!

3.5 month old sleep regression ??
by: AJ

Glad I found this page. It helps to know there are other babies going through the same thing but I don't know what to do to improve it !!
My LO was a fairly decent night sleeper , usually waking twice at night to feed. But over the last week, he seems to be waking so much more frequently 5-6 times a night. He often settles without a feed so I know it's not really hunger. He also doesn't seem to want a feed more often or more during the day so I'm ruling out a growth spurt (?).
Am at my wits end because I'm just so tried. He's on a good daily routine feeding every 3 hrs or so and napping for 45 mins - 2 hrs between his feeds. His last nap is sometimes a bit too close to bt (5.30-6.00) for a bt of 7-7.30 but I just can't keep him awake beyond 5.30 without him getting very cranky on these days.
We've already cut dairy for the past couple of weeks. It seems to be helping with eczema etc
But clearly no major impact on night wakings!
Any other suggestions ?! Or do I just need to bide time and wait for this to pass ?

A few ideas
by: Heidi - BabySleepAdvice

Hi AJ, thank you for your comment and welcome here!

Yes at this age it is still very common to see changes like that, i.e. very different nights suddenly, even if there are no clear signs of a growth spurt or so. Do read up on the 4 month dip as I call it ( in case you recognize other symptoms and also so you are prepared for when it happens.

Well done for taking action on the dairy and good to hear it is helping with the eczema. Definitely important to keep a close eye on that and see if other foods may also be playing.

Have you had a chance to look at the frequent waking articles? You will find a list of 12 common causes and their remedies which you may find helpful in a next step:

All of that said, while you are doing well with regular naps and bedtime, there may be a small shift in what he needs as optimal sleep schedule that is causing what you experience. You likely won't have to make big or drastic changes, but keep a close eye on your little boy's behavior and sleepy signs throughout the day. That can help you make small tweaks to get him back on track again. Keeping the Sleepy Signs Log for a few days can help you with that:

I hope that helps, good luck AJ!
Kindly, Heidi

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