4-month baby waking up 5 times at night. Any advice or experiences?

My 4-month baby has recently got into the pattern of waking up 4 to 5 times at night driving me and my partner slowly but steadily to insanity. We also have mid-night arguments of how we should do it. Meanwhile we have friends claiming their babies (same age) sleep non-stop for 8 hours but most do not seem to follow any specific technique.

She seems to be upset about 1. being hungry which is expected as I am breastfeeding and she is quite young and 2. about colic pains which she should have grown out of by now (according to the books that is). We have tried gripe water massage and moving her legs as well as a sleeping pattern of bathing her, turning down the lights etc. We are not sure if we need to be patient and wait for her to grow a bigger stomach etc or do something about it.

I am not a fan of controlled crying and she does seem to have associated feeding with sleeping. Anybody has any similar experiences? I would love to hear advice from parents who have had this...

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26 Replies

  • Am sorry to hear this, my little one is 15wks and is a good overnight sleeper but not so great day napper, saying that he's asleep on me now but that's normal, boob, comfort & warmth!

    4-5 times a night is alot at her age :-(

    I too am EBF...what time are you putting her to bed? How's she feeding during day/eve? Is she getting cold? Hot? Need bum doing?

    Is this concurrent with vaccination? Teething? Growth Spurt? Do you think?

    Technically colic should be behind you but they are all different. Is she going regularly? Windy? Any reflux? X

  • Hi, Thanks for the reply.

    I think it might be associated with her tummy or the feeding or both really... She has a dirty nappy during the first night feed around 8pm and that empties her tummy, so lost of gas and struggling with her feet after that but I can't say she is constipated.

    She has had vaccination and growth spurts and I associated with this at the time (she had a big lump with puss on her arm due to the BCG but that is now gone and she never had any fever) but now it's just continues past those... I have tried almost everything. I too believe its a bit late for colic and that is why we are at wits end.

    I have tried cutting the one cup of coffee I was having per day and giving her some formula to top-up the breastfeeding only before bedtime. This keeps her sleeping from 9:30 to 2:00 am roughly but settling for sleep is not easy. Sometimes she would wake up crying 4-5 times from 9:30 - 10:00 before settling for a longer sleep. After 1:30 a marathon of waking feeding and sleeping begins until 7:30 in the morning.

    We just feel that this cant be normal as she is not having enough sleep either and strangely enough she is a very happy baby during daytime...

  • I can understand how frustrating this must be for you. My eve routine usually consists of PJ's +- bath at 7pm, then I do a feed, he might cluster for a while, I then take him to bedroom for a quiet feed around 9pm and hope to get him down for night around 9.30ish. Sometimes it takes me a while to get him settled as he often wakes again when I lie him down, if he cries then I usually suspect some wind so I pick him up, stop the crying, wind and down again, he slept until 6 this morning & I didn't get him down again until 7.30-9am. Over Xmas he slept an epic 10 and 11 hours straight as he had very full days and clearly found it exhausting and napped a lot in day whilst in car etc. He regressed to picking up a night feed at 3.30am when he had his 12 week vaccinations but soon dropped that one after about 3-4 nights.

    I am BF only, no formula feeds. Have you expressed milk before? If so does it have a good fat layer when settled?

    I drink decaf too ;-)

  • My expressed milk is just enough to cover her daily needs so not much for extra at nights but we do give her some formula at 20:00 ish.

    I broke my decaf regime today. Caffeinated coffee as the previous night was rough and the last in a long row... :-(

  • I was thinking more about the make up of your milk. I ask as a girl at the baby café I go to said her milk was like water when she was expressing so literally all fore milk and no fat rich hind. Is she gaining weight ok?

  • I have observed my milk during extraction and it seems normal i.e. runny and watery at first and getting thicker and more solid-white towards the end. But it could be the case that she fills her stomach with the fore milk and then loses our on the last bits and gets hungry again quickly. However I am not too sure whether she gets what's left in the next feed...

  • That sounds good then, how have last few nights been? Do you feed to empty breast before putting on the other?

  • Hi I don't personally have this problem. However, I know a couple of people have had a similar issue and with regards to the hunger, I know she is breast fed but one of my friends was breast feeding but tried one bottle of formula late night to top baby up and this encouraged her to sleep for longer periods....about 6 hours solidly if I remember rightly whereas she had been sleeping only a couple of hours at a time. Also I was a breastfed baby for a few months, but a hungry baby who needed feeding every two hours even at near 4 months so my mum bottle fed me in the end as I was so unhappy. Not saying you should do this as that was her choice and if you can carry on feeding that's great but just experiences I know of. Hope she starts sleeping through soon for you I really do x

  • We have been advised from friends and eventually tried the bottle which worked temporarily and only for the early part of the night. Would be interested to know how old is your baby and how many hours she/he sleeps overnight. Thank you!

  • My boy is 16 and a half weeks and is bottlefed, as I couldn't breast feed. He sleeps 9-10 hours a night, mostly from 10.30pm although he has been going to bed later at the mo with the upheaval of Christmas and guests, visits and stuff. He has been sleeping through the night starting with 6/7 hours most nights from about 6 weeks old x

  • Oh that's a shame. It seemed to work really well for my friend with her girl x

  • We are approximately the same age but nowhere near that amount of sleeping hours. Thanks anyway, who knows maybe its a phase we have to go through ( I hope)

  • It could very well be. When my son started to sleep through, it was sudden. One night he was up every few hours, the next he slept straight through. I thought it was a fluke but he carried on since...with a few glitches now and then naturally. I hope it is just a phase and she suddenly grows out of it xx

  • My son is 11 weeks old and I'm very much still learning with him. Quite often I find he has lots to eat in the evenings and finally drops off properly about 11pm. He'll generally then stay down until 3 or 4 am, sometimes later. His last feed of the day is in the bedroom with just the night light switched on.

    If he doesn't have the big feed, he won't stay down for that long.

    The temperature of the room also seems to make a big difference - if it gets too cold he wakes up more.

    Does she nap much in the day? I find that if my son misses his longer afternoon sleep then he won't sleep well at night (though you'd think it would be the other way round).

    Not really sure what else to suggest but I hope that things do get better for you soon - it won't last forever (even though it feels like it sometimes) xx

  • I haven't found a pattern in all these. We have experienced bad nights when she had too much sleep during the day and the opposite. We were also on the 'big feed before bedtime' routine until recently when she started looking upset from too much milk and not liking the feed of my husband - cried intensely all of a sudden. I haven't thought of the room temperature though - I'll try and observe this and see how it affects her

  • I ebf for the first 6 weeks and my lil man was just never happy really and would wake all hours for feeds comfort etc he's now 12 weeks old and bottle fed and goes down at 10-10.30pm until 7-8am so can't complain last 2 nights he has been in his own cot and not with us and he cries like crazy at first but as hard as it is I let him cry and he will eventually drop of to sleep, it's not easy and the neighbours must think I'm torturing him but I really want him to learn to settle him self as I said easier said than done but were getting there :) babies are all different and there's nothing worse than having your sleep taken away by a demanding baby I hope you find something helpful to get lo to sleep longer but it really is trial and error xx

  • Hiya

    Don't have many useful tips I'm afraid but just wanted to let you know ur not alone - my LO is 3 months & still waking every 2 hours for feeds at night. We've found that putting her to sleep in a grobag keeps her warm during nighttime feeds which at least makes her easier to settle back down so more sleep time between feeds. I had been thinking if she's still like this @ 4 months I would talk to my health visitor/GP about whether she might be ready for a little bit of solids.

  • the hvs will always say 6 months, if ur baby watches u eat and tries to grab food then yeh shes ready, my son whose 16 week has just started doin this so will start on food nxt week x

  • Hi,

    We have a grobag but I used to remove it during feeds to hold her closer to the breast. Maybe you are right about her body temperature so I will try this too. Thanks :-)

  • Hi, my baby is the same age and we have had exactly the same problem for 4 weeks now. I have started feeding her a bottle of formula at 7pm bedtime and she sleeps 5 hours but then wakes every hour until she decides it's getting up time at 5 am. I've recently been giving her a bottle of expressed milk at midnight in hope she'll sleep another long chunk but no luck so far. Am going to try formula at midnight and see what happens. I breast feed during the day but she's very distracted and pulls off before I think shes really finished the breast. Perhaps she's also got used to bottle and doesn't want to suck on the breast properly. I'm not sure. If I could get her to feed more heavily during the day it might help her to go longer at night but it's hard to do. Let me know how you get on!

  • Thank you all for your replies.

    I have now been to the doctor and he is of the opinion that she has reflux of the stomach fluids and that is the cause of her waking up crying and not settling easily at nights only while being generally happy during the day.

    I have tried Gaviscon Infant last night with her bottle of formula. The night has been a lot calmer and she managed to sleep through in 4hours intervals which is a lot better! She has been very calm and happy last night and I believe I have found the cause (so far at least).

    Not saying of course that all cases are the case but it might be worth looking at this direction too for babies with similar behaviour. According to this site it is very common in babies which have not developed the oesophagical valves as much as adults. I will a few more nights of trials with Gaviscon though to be sure.

    Link: patient.co.uk/search.asp?se...

  • I know how you feel, but my baby is nearly 8 months old, eats 3 meals of solids in the day, and still expects to breast feed on and off all night. HV said "fill her up with solids and she'll sleep all night" but it doesn't seem to make much difference. She goes down easily at 7.30ish every night but always wakes around when we go to bed (roughly 11pm) and then every 2-3 hours after that to breastfeed back to sleep until she gets up happy and wide awake at about 8am. I think we will have to do some sort of controlled crying, but like you I don't really want to. I won't be able to do this when I go to work though, and I know she doesn't really need so much milk now. Good luck x

  • I think for that age, when they do not need to feed so often its best to try a bottle of water instead of milk and that should help them reduce it bit by bit. A friend has done this and it worked. The baby initially spit it out and then stop waking up overall. I have also seen this advice on a NHS poster. I haven't got there yet but maybe its worth trying...

  • My mum said the same of my brother when he insisted on waking at 1.30am. She gave in a sip of water instead and stopped doing it (not sure how old he was but old enough to be sleeping through) this was 31 years ago too ;-)

  • Thank you, I'm ready to give it a go!

  • at this age they breast feed for comfort at night not for hunger,they want the cuddles of mummy its just a phase and some babies progress at a lower rate than others in sleeping through the night.I found when my baby was 4 months he wasnt interested in my breast milk and wanted solids and formula as it was a quicker fill for him then he slept a lot better from 7 pm then a bottle at 1 then at 7 pm.So i eventually got my sleep and so did he,stick with it they change alot.

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