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Thread: 4 month old frequently wakes and must nurse to sleep

  1. #1

    Default 4 month old frequently wakes and must nurse to sleep

    For the past 6 weeks or so, my 4 month old son has started waking more frequently in the night (every 1-2 hours). We are bedsharing and he must nurse to fall back to sleep. I've read that this could mean that he can't bridge sleep cycles, which involves falling back to sleep on his own (when he's not hungry) in between cycles. He also only takes short naps (30-45 minutes). In my tired state I've started to look into gentle ways to help him bridge the gap (I'm not into harsh sleep training methods). I've read that he must somehow be given the opportunity to learn he can fall asleep without nursing, or else his sleep pattern will remain the same indefinitely. How do people feel about this? Does anyone have any advice on how to help him "learn" this? Has anyone seen this phase pass? Is it too early (or too late) to do something about this? I've also tried moving him into a sidecar cosleeper, thinking maybe the very presence of my breasts might make him want to nurse at the slightest waking, but that hasn't seemed to help either. Could a nighttime routine that involves nursing to drowsiness, but putting him down somewhat awake, help? And for the record, I haven't found it easy to sleep while he's nursing in the side lying position...he usually latches on and off the breast and wants to stay attached forever in this position. Also, I don't have "sleeping through the night" as a goal in mind, just longer stretches of sleep (3-4 hours would be amazing) and nursing when needed. Any words of advice or support would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.
    Last edited by @llli*shoogie; April 25th, 2016 at 11:59 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: 4 month old frequently wakes and must nurse to sleep

    Could a nighttime routine that involves nursing to drowsiness, but putting him down somewhat awake, help?
    As far as I know, there is no hard evidence that this is helpful. On the other hand, it is so often suggested it may be helpful in some cases, and it would not hurt anything to try it. In my personal experience, however, doing this is not even possible at 4 months. My kids all needed to nurse into a deep sleep as babies. (Or be comforted into a deep sleep some other way.) As toddlers and preschoolers they tended to be much more willing/able to nurse "almost" to sleep and then fall into deeper sleep some (but not all) of the time.

    I am not sure where you are reading about sleep, but you may want to consider the source. "Sleep expert" , "certified sleep expert" , "Sleep specialist" etc. are all utterly meaningless "titles." Some of these folks have some type of medical field education or experience, but that in no way makes them experts on what is NORMAL when it comes to infant/child (or adult) sleep. "Bridging the gap" is not a term I have heard before, but certainly the idea that a baby must be taught to fall asleep unaided is an old and common refrain, and it originated with old fashioned sleep training. The problem with this idea is that the actual facts about normal infant sleep paint a different picture.

    I would suggest the book Sweet Sleep from LLL and also Kiss Me! by Carlos Gonzalez. The second is not only about sleep, but normal sleep cycles are explored and explained. But I also suggest that book because his exploration of how and why some very incorrect ideas developed about what is "normal" and what is a "problem" when it comes to child behavior is so fascinating and eye-opening.

    I personally would suggest figuring out ways to maximize your own overall sleep, because usually, such a shift in sleep pattern to more frequently wakeful at this age, and needing to be comforted back to sleep at this age, are entirely normal.


    To maximize your own sleep, here are a few ideas:
    Do you currently nap with your baby (or lie down with baby even if you do not sleep?) doing so often encourages a longer nap in baby, and a longer/more regular nap for baby might actually help with the night wakings too.
    Naps for you- do not have to be daily or long to help.
    Going to bed earlier
    Staying in bed later
    Having someone else take baby to comfort baby some other way for some of the night wakings so you can get a longer stretch of sleep, either after you nurse baby for a bit or instead of nursing.

    Make sure your space and routines are as sleep inducing as possible. For example:
    Don't change diapers at night unless needed (Even poop can stay in the diaper a few hours.)
    make sure baby is not overdressed. Your body probably keeps baby nice and warm.
    As little light at night as possible, darkening room for naps.
    Ambient or "white" noise
    Nap routine adjustments as needed
    Consider if the wakings are actually caused by discomfort- Any allergies possible? (environmental or food) or reflux maybe? Etc. and solve those issues if/as you can.
    Last edited by @llli*maddieb; April 25th, 2016 at 05:23 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: 4 month old frequently wakes and must nurse to sleep

    I've read that he must somehow be given the opportunity to learn he can fall asleep without nursing, or else his sleep pattern will remain the same indefinitely.

    If this was true, there would be many adults out there unable to get themselves to sleep without a boob in their mouth. When you think of it that way, it seems kind of silly, right? I wish these ideas about baby sleep patterns would just go away, since it causes unnecessary worry and frustration when a baby isn't "learning to sleep" the way the "experts" say they should. A child will learn to sleep on their own when they are ready, and it is okay if they need to nurse to sleep at this age. They only need us in this way for such a short time in their life, my philosophy is just to soak it all in before it's all over!
    First time working mom to Zachary, 11/20/2015

    , , &

  4. #4
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    Default Re: 4 month old frequently wakes and must nurse to sleep

    with the PPs. Increased night-waking at 4 months is really common and normal, and usually the best way to deal with it is to try to change your patterns, instead of trying to change the baby. You're a grown-up, you have self-control, your brain is capable of rational thought, which all means that you can change your habits when you want to change them. A 4 month-old baby... Not so much, right?!

    I would try napping when the baby naps during the day, going to bed when he goes to bed at night, and turning the clock to the wall. I know the first 2 suggestions sound limiting and the last one just sounds silly, but they really do help.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: 4 month old frequently wakes and must nurse to sleep

    Agree with all previous posters... And as silly as it sounds throw away he clock. Honestly, I cope much better waking 8-10 times a night (on a bad night) when I have no idea what time it is and actually find I'm more well rested. If I start looking and realising the time then I wake up more and become agitated. And definitely nap if you can, I know it's not always possible but a quick half hour or hour during the day while baby naps really helps. My lo went through hourly wake ups for about 4-6 weeks and I thought I was going mad. She's nearly 8 months now and we have been out of that for a few weeks, we still have bad nights (teeth) but on the whole we get 2-3 hour stretches once I'm in bed with her. Much more manageable.

    Mama to a little girl Sept 2015... EBF and BLS
    Baby wearing Mama and Dada
    Co-sleeping family and loving it
    Gentle and positive parenting

  6. #6

    Default Re: 4 month old frequently wakes and must nurse to sleep

    Thanks for all of your helpful advice and support mamas! I've been feeling like lots of the "sleep training" oriented advice I've been getting (or reading about on the internet) goes against my intuition, but it helps to have others echo those feelings. With people constantly asking me "Is he sleeping through the night yet?" or, "Have you considered sleep training?" I've started to doubt myself a bit. I've attempted to put him down "drowsy but awake" a few times to no avail, and it just feels sort of pointless and annoying to both of us! Part of my anxiety stems from the fact that I'll be returning to work in 3 weeks. I think I'll start going to bed earlier, even if it means skipping out on alone time with my husband for awhile. You are all right that this is such a short, special time -- I should savor it while I can. Hopefully he'll start sleeping for longer stretches soon. I've already read LLL's Sweet Sleep but look forward to checking out Kiss Me. Thanks all!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: 4 month old frequently wakes and must nurse to sleep

    Yeah I got myself all stressed about sleep training etc but it goes against what I feel is right. During the bad weeks hubby and I went to bed early with baby! We lay in the dark/low light and read/chatted before sleeping. Which was actually really nice, instead of sitting in front of tv tired and not really talking!

  8. #8

    Default Re: 4 month old frequently wakes and must nurse to sleep

    I'm in the same boat as you with my 6 month old. Since she was 4 months she has been waking every hour to two all night long, and will only settle back to sleep if I nurse her. It's been rough and I find myself constantly searching for a way to curb the wakings without a harsh method but have come to just accept that it's just a faze and someday I will forget how exhausted I was and miss the cuddles and how much she needed me. The last two nights she has given me a couple three hour stretches of sleep so fingers crossed this is the beginning of better sleep!

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