25 answers

4 Month Old Who Just Doesn't Want to Sleep

Hi, I have a 4 month old son who sleeps for 45 minutes in the morning and about the same in the afternoon. He is exhausted by 7-8ish at night and I wake him at 10:30 to feed him (breastfeeding) and then he wakes again at 1 (which usually takes about 1 hour for him to go back to sleep..with lots of screaming). He wakes again between 4-5 ( I feed him) and he's back asleep in 20 minutes only to wake again 45 minutes later at which time we are up for the day. I thought infants his age were suppose to be sleeping anywhere from 10-12 hours straight. Why does he keep waking up during the night and how come he won't sleep during the day. What can I do to encourage him to sleep.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

So basically what was happening is that my breast milk production went down and he was just HUNRGY. My efforts to feed him 4 times between 6am and 3pm then, almost every hour between 3-7pm and again at 11pm to increase my production and make sure he was getting enough, didn't work. We had the 4 month check up and he was underweight and I started him on formula and now he is much much happier and he is sleeping longer durations (only waking once during the night, at which time I feed him). He is taking two 2 hour naps during the day, is put to bed at 7, wakes at 2, back to sleep until 5:30-6! Much better!!! Developmentally the Pedi said he is doing GREAT..very strong! Whew! Thanks to you all for taking the time to give your advise and share your experiences. I very much appreciate it.

Featured Answers

I was told never wake a sleeping baby. I would try to skip the 10:30 wake up and see if that makes a difference. He should be old enough to not have to be woken for food.

D. B

My advice.....don't wake him at 10:30 to feed him. He may sleep longer for you. I would also say just to create a routine for him. Routines help the child know what's coming....even infants.

More Answers

I was told never wake a sleeping baby. I would try to skip the 10:30 wake up and see if that makes a difference. He should be old enough to not have to be woken for food.

D. B

J.,
Good for you for breastfeeding and being so aware of your son's sleep cycles! It's a myth that babies should be sleeping through the night at this age. Some do, but it's rare and not the norm. Here's something to try- don't wake him for his 10:30 feeding. He will wake if he's hungry, and he'll sleep if he's tired. Remember- there are 3 things in his life he can control- his eating, his sleeping, and his pottying! All you can do is provide predictable routines for him, which gives him the chance to self-regulate. During the day, you can try a few different things- I find that my dd will actually sleep longer during the day if I play soft music than if I don't. She sleeps at night with the white noise of the fan, but even at 20 mo. she still wakes for night nursing. Maybe wearing him in a sling while he naps once during the day will help him sleep longer, too. That's the only thing that helped Maia to sleep. And the 12-14 hours a day of sleep for your baby isn't necessarily all at the same time. Blessings to you!
H.

Hi: I agree with some of the other moms, don't wake the baby up to feed him at 10:30. I had the same problem with my daughter. She never napped as an infant and only started napping once she started moving around. Don't get discouraged! Try to get into a regular routine of nursing and napping during the day. I ended up giving my daughter some cereal before bedtime and that really helped get her through the night. Talk to your doctor to see if that might be an option for you. Good luck!

Hi, my daughter is 6 1/2 months old and she went through a similat sleeping pattern at 4 months. Only she would sleep for 3 hours in the morning at daycare but not at home. I found that a schedule really helped my daughter. Babies their age can only stay up for about 3 hours. So, I put her down for a nap 3 hours after she woke up for the day, and I make her nap in her crib. She also used to always fall asleep eating, I also breastfeed, then I would transfer her to the crib. Her pediatrician told me to put her in her crib AWAKE. That way she isn't confused when she wakes up in a different place than she went to sleep. I found this helped tremendously at night. She still wakes up twice at night, at 11:30 and 3:30, but goes right back to sleep. When you get up with him at night make sure he gets a full feeding, even if you have to wake him up, which I know is HARD. But again, this helped with my daughter sleeping for a longer stretch. I hope this helps, please feel free to email me if I can be of anymore help. Good luck!

If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you can't expect him to sleep 10-12 hours between feedings. I would disregard any info or advice you get unless it relates to breastfed babies.

I see no problem with you waking him to feed at 10:30pm, I assume that is right before you go to bed. Otherwise his schedule sounds very normal to me for a breastfed baby. I have three children who were exclusively breastfed- breast milk is utilized more easily than formula and breastfed babies will feed more frequently than formula fed. Don't let that make you think that giving formula will make him sleep longer, or switch any of his feedings, breast milk is what's best and it's awesome that you are still nursing him. Pat yourself on the back for that, and maybe you can ask your husband for help with sleeping? Catch up on the weekends by napping or having him get up with your son in the morning so you can sleep in. You can also try putting him to bed earlier, there have been some recent studies that babies actually sleep more when you put them to bed earlier.

Good luck and peaceful sleeping!

Hi J., you must be exhausted!! I have 4 month old boy/girl twins..They are both sleeping from 8pm to 7am, but it took some work...my daughter did it on her own at 2 months. But my son took his own time. He would wake up every 3 hours still wanting to eat while she slept. So I started just putting a pacifier in his mouth instead of feeding him and rocked him back to sleep. Also, I never woke him to feed him. You may want to not wake him and just see how long he'll sleep. He also sounds over tired and may need more of a set schedule with naps during the day. I know thats hard with a 4 month old but I have them on a strict 3 hour schedule of feeding for an hour, activity for an hour than lay down in either swing or crib for quiet/nap time for an hour. Then it's feeding time again. The last feeding at 7pm I give them a bath then feed them and snuggle them in a quiet room and put them down to fall asleep. By doing this every night they know it's time to sleep. I hope some of this helps you, I know how hard it is to keep pulling all nighters...Also, breastfed babies tend to want to feed more. I breast fed only for 3 months. So that might be why also...Good Luck and hope you get some good advice.
-A.

hi there,

my daughter went thru a similar phase. From early on she was doing marathon naps from 12-4 and waking up once at night. Then by four months she was doing three 45 min naps (9am,12p,and3p) and she too was tired. I started putting her to bed earlier between 6 and 6.30 and she slept like a log. Also, she should be at the point where you dont have to wake her to breastfeed.

She is 10.5 months now and does two - 2hour naps. Keep in mind that their sleep patterns will change every now and then so try and go with it. I would suggest, however, reading Dr. Weisbluth's book, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child". It has done wonders for my daughter's sleep (and ours!) Good luck!

4 month olds dont usually sleep through the night. They are going through too many growth spurts. Do you nurse him between 7-8 at night? If you do, why are you waking him at 10:30? Maybe let him sleep and then he will wake on his own when he needs to be fed. Keep up with your daytime schedule and his naps might get longer. Advice is always so hard to give because every child is so different.

Hi J., It has been 6 years since my little one was 4 months old, but I don't believe that 10-12 hours straight is correct. Parents mag always gives a sleep chart to help you out. I believe 10 - 12 hours straight is for toddler, preschool and early elem aged kids. I could be very wrong, but I don't think so. I think his sleep patterns now are eratic because he's only 4 months old and needs to eat constantly (every 4 - 6 hours or so?). I hope that helps. Good luck -J.

Just some thoughts -

Are you sure he's eating enough? I'm a breastfeeder too, but if he's only getting enough to fill up his belly for a short period, he'll wake again soon because he's hungry. I don't know how you feel about trying a supplementary bottle (even of breastmilk - he might just be having a hard time eating enough at the breast). Also, is he sleeping on his back? Maybe try having him nap during the day on his tummy (so you can watch him, SIDS and all that). Both of my kids woke up routinely as soon as we put them on their back, but on their tummies they slept for hours. We finally got a breathing monitor for the second one and let him sleep on his tummy all the time and he's a great sleeper. Your little one might just have some reflux or something. If you're uncomfortable with that, you could try driving around with him or having him sleep in a swing. Finally, have you tried wearing him in a sling or carrier? If he naps during the day when you are holding him, he'll probably sleep better at night too. "Sleep begets sleep." It's frustrating to have to hold the baby all the time, but not as frustrating as being exhausted. All of these things aren't the "right" place for the baby to sleep, but I always figured that I wasn't a good mom at all if I was exhausted, and any reasonable parent choses her battles.

Good luck!

Hi J.,
Your little one doesn't know what to do about this either. All he knows is that he is awake, so he cries. If you are successfully breast feeding for the past 4 months and he is gaining weight, then the problem may be Mommy. Try out a new routine. Do it when you are ready to listen to some crying. First, make sure the crib is not in your room. Also, SHUT the door after you put him to bed. Maybe you should do this during the day or early evening, so you can check on him to be sure he hasn't exploded. Have a good play time with him with lots of exercise, maybe a bath too. then feed him and let him nurse until he drops off. Bring him to his crib, put him down, pat his back if he stirs, put the mobile on or the noise maker, leave the room and SHUT the door. When he wakes up in 20 minutes, you know he's not hungry, so give him his binky, or pat his back a few minutes and leave him there. It's alright if a baby cries, it tires them out. Let him go another 5 to 10 minutes (it'll seem like 2 hours) and if he's in a roar, pick him up and burp him a little, he could have a bubble, then back into the crib. Let him cry another ten minutes.
He's used to being carried around all day and doesn't understand why it's not happening now. Just make sure you don't cave and bring him back into your TV room. Keep him in his room and be "matter of fact". He can sense when you're tense and worried so MAKE yourself be calm. Talk calmly to him when you lay him down. He hears your voice and learns that you are not worried. He will soon learn that when you talk like that it means Mommy's in control, Mommy will decide...
It's definitely hard to do this. But it will only get worse. It's easier to get a 4 month old to stay in bed than a 2 year old.
Are you sure he doesn't "cat nap" in the swing or bouncy chair during the day?
Good luck J.. If you keep this routine up you will be surprised how quickly he will stop crying . First he's crying and boom! he's asleep!

I'm a Mother of 5 and a Grandma to 10.

Hi J.,
A few weeks ago I was right where you are now! My baby just turned 5 mo. but his sleep schedule was a lot like what you describe when he was 4 mo. (and up until a week ago or so)Only difference is that I am bottle feeding.

He is now basically sleeping through the night (6:30 PM to 5:30/6:00 AM) except he'll wake up once in the middle of the night and cry for a few seconds then go back to sleep. I'm hoping that drops away soon too.

Basically what you have to do is let him cry a little. I hated doing it and I know it sounds cruel but it works. My sister got me this book that is awesome. It says that by letting the baby cry you are allowing him to learn how to fall alseep unassisted.
Essentially it says:
1. Put the baby down drowsy but awake
2. let the baby cry till he falls asleep. He will cry less each time.
2. Put the baby down for the night early 5:30 - 7:30PM
3. Put the baby down for a nap after 2 hrs of wakefulness which means that when the baby wakes up in the am or after a nap they will be tired 1.5-2hrs. later and need another nap.
There's more to it if you want you can email me. The book is called Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child -sounds hokey, I know but it's actually really good.

I had really good luck with the book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. In it he talks about how babies sleep changes as they grow and how to help them LEARN how to sleep through the night. The book is a little more complicated than it needs to be but I found it totally worth it. In a nutshell, he would say that you should start by having an earlier bedtime for your baby (mine goes to bed between 6:30-7pm). Then, look for naps to occur around 9am-ish and 1pm-ish (by looking for sleep signals). Basically, you are trying to capitalize on when your baby naturally feels the most sleepy biologically to teach them how to nap and sleep. We had hell for a few weeks trying to figure it out but now (since we started when my daughter was 4.5 months) my 8 month old goes down for naps and bed without crying on most nights (and when she does cry it's only for a few minutes). A word of warning that this book does include some ignoring of crying which is hard but really helped my baby begin to learn how to fall asleep herself. Good luck!

My advice.....don't wake him at 10:30 to feed him. He may sleep longer for you. I would also say just to create a routine for him. Routines help the child know what's coming....even infants.

4 month olds don't typically 'sleep through the night'. Sleeping through the night at this stage I was told is about maybe 5 hours straight at best. MY daughter who is now 4 years old was a 'catnapper'. She would sleep 45 minutes and wake up for an hour sometimes 2. It was a hard first year but that was her norm. Eventually she started to sleep longer and she slept best when I fell asleep with her like in the Lazy-boy chair etc...
Best of luck.
E.

at four months you shouldnt have to wake him up to feed. he will wake when he is hungry. let him sleep. feed him before you put him down and then when he wakes for his next feeding-it may also be a comfort thing for him during the night. so maybe try a pacifier if he doesnt have one that may help him when he wakes in the middle of the night. try putting him for his nap in the day in a swing and shut the shades. at 4 months dont feel as if you need to still wake him every two hours to eat. heis bigger and he will tell you when he is hungry.

I would definately try to nurse before he goes to bed and let him wake up on his own. I think waking him could really be throwing him off. My son was not much of a sleeper either and he didn't sleep through the night till he was about 7 or 8 months old. It is really hard I know, but I think your first step might be to let him sleep through that 10:30 feeding and see what happens. Good luck!

Hi J.! First, you're not alone, many children regardless of age have trouble napping & sleeping. The main thing to remember is no 2 babies are alike. With that said, the 1st part of my advice is don't wake the baby to feed (even if you feel full of milk and need to). I suggest pumping at the 10pm time. I have two boys (4 yrs & 16 months) & I was given this advice for both my boys and by 3 months old they were both sleeping through the night. When you say "we are up for the day". Is your baby in day care or are you home with him? If you are home with him I would suggest letting him sleep in (even if you're awake). Again if you feel the need to breastfeed pump again. Having milk stored in the fridge or freezer for emergency feedings is a good idea & if you have bottles for your partner to help with one of the middle of the night/early morning feedings that's a little extra sleep for you. The second half of my advice is to nap when your son does even if you feel like you should be cleaning. Housekeeping can wait a little. Good luck & keep in mind it can take a couple of days for this new routine to catch on for you and your little guy.

Hi J.,

My twins were doing the same thing up until 3 months old and i was absolutely exhausted all the time. I read On Becoming Babywise which recommends a 3-4 hour schedule in which the baby eats, plays and sleeps during that time. We also started putting them in their cribs religiously during naptime (vs. letting them fall asleep wherever - i.e. in their swing, in their carseats etc). We also went to a cry-it-out method as well which was really tough for the first few days. But within 4 days, they were sleeping thru the night. We weened them off of the night feedings. They started sleeping from 10pm-7am right away and now sleep from 8pm-7am and have been for the past 2 months (they're now 6.5 months old). Teething is a killer so my daughter is up now at 1am and wants to play but we're going back to the CIO method. I realize this doesn't work for everyone and it's a somewhat controversial method. In my opinion, a little crying it out helps the baby to learn to self-soothe at night and makes them happier babies during the day. Please feel free to email me offline if you'd like to chat - ____@____.com luck!

S.

Hi - try getting him down within 2hrs of waking, then another a couple hours later & another late afternoon - total of three 45 min naps has worked for our 6month 45 minute napper! The more rested he is during the day, the less overtired & better our nights go. Also worked better - 7 pm bedtime. Having consistent naps in the crib (not car or stroller) has also made a world of difference. We're getting 7 to 7 (approx) with one feeding around 2AM. Good luck!!!

Hi J.! I can really sympathize with the lack of sleep!! My 8 month old just started sleeping through the night a couple of weeks ago! One thing that I found helpful when my son was little was 'wearing' him in a sling... he slept really well in that. Or in a Baby Bjorn. (But when he was 4 months he went through a similarly no fun napping pattern.) My other piece of advice is: Let sleeping babies sleep!!! If he's sleeping, he's probably not hungry and he'll wake up when he is. That might eliminate that 10:30 feed altogether. Have you tried cluster feeding at night to fill your baby up before bed? Good luck! :)

Well, babies don't read the books that say they should sleep a certain amount. My older guy was a 12-hour a day baby from birth, and down to 9 to 10 hours each night and no daytime naps by 3 mos!!!! It wasn't until he was a year old that somebody referred to the "three naps each day" that babies are supposed to take, so I feel your pain. He'll soon be 12 years old and still doesn't sleep much for his age, even though we make sure that he has a 10 hour stretch available to sleep.

I agree with the other mom that said that maybe you shouldn't wake him to feed him. If he's hungry, he will let you know. That means you will have to get up during the night, but he might get a few sleep cycles in before that and settle in better after. Then again, he might not.

It might also be a growth spurt thing. Growth spurts are difficult times. I swear their brains get rewired and grow when their bodies grow and that messes up their sleeping.

For my son, the only thing that led him to sleep more was when he started to crawl. It also helped to make sure that he had enough quiet nursing time so he would actually eat enough during the day to get him halfway through the night if I nursed him to sleep. Otherwise, the world was just too darn interesting for him to bother with that eating stuff ...

Good luck mom!

Welcome to life with an infant! I too thought my baby should be sleeping, at the very least, 6-7 hours straight by that age. Well, she is 13.5 months old now and she is STILL not a good sleeper. We have only recently begun getting her to sleep through the night (10-12 hours) on some nights but many nights she still wakes fairly frequently and has a hard time soothing herself back to sleep. I know this is probably not encouraging news but I wish someone had prepared me for the possibility that my sleepless nights could go on well into the second year. Unfortunately your son is still too young to try any sleep training methods on him (at least in my opinion). I wouldn't start that until he is at least 6 months and then take his lead. We found the Ferber method worked well for our daughter. Every child is different and for some sleep training could be too traumatic at 6 months. Although I often wonder if we had started earlier if we would not be in this situation now. I guess I don't have much concrete advice, just wanted to let you know that I feel your pain and fatigue! (I am also 6.5 months prego right now.) I would suggest not waking him ever for a feeding. I feel strongly that there is almost never a good reason to wake a sleeping baby. I know it is so hard and that you are so very tired but try to remember that it won't last forever, even if it does last longer than you imagined. Also, try and enlist the help of your partner if you can so that you can get an occasional unbroken section of sleep for a few hours. Best of luck to you!!

I wouldn't wake him up to feed him. Our daughter is almost 4 months and is sleeping 6-8 hours at night. I am also breastfeeding and if I can get in a really good feeding by 10 she will be out until 5:30 or 6. Have you tried putting him in a swing to help him sleep? I hope he gets some sleep soon! Good luck!

I would ask the peds about eating through the night but we had the same trouble with our now 7 month old son! He would only sleep with me! I stopped feeding in the middle of the night at 6 months and that helped a lot-it was almost routine by then so took some practice but eventually he got it and we let him cry for a but not scream but just cry a little and now he usually sleeps from 8 to 7ish! His doc really helped us though maybe yours has some good ideas?? Hope it helps!

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