Is your 4 month old waking every 3 hours to feed at night? Learn what to do when your baby wakes up before feeding time from hunger or habit.
After 4 months of sleep deprivation, I wanted nothing more than to finally have a full night of sleep. Even waking up once would’ve been a welcome change.
But nope, my little guy was still waking up every few hours.
He was always high on the percentile range for weight gain, so I knew he was eating enough (whether during the day or at night). But with frequent night wakings, I was wiped out and wasn’t getting much sleep. And since I was breastfeeding, that meant I was the only one who could feed him every time he woke up.
When your 4 month old is waking every 3 hours to feed
Perhaps you can relate all too well. Four months later and your baby is still waking up every 2-3 hours on the dot to eat. Even then, he’ll only take a couple of ounces or feed for a few minutes at a time, no matter what you try. You’ve even tried feeding him solids or adding rice cereal to his bottles, but that hasn’t helped, either.
Or maybe he used to have longer stretches of sleep—a whopping eight hours before a middle of the night feed. But these days, he’s suddenly getting up wanting to eat every three hours (30 minutes at a time, no less). To top it off, you don’t know if he’s waking from hunger or habit. No wonder you feel so sleep-deprived.
I hear you, friend. It’s hard not to wonder whether something’s wrong when your 4 month old is still waking up so often to feed in the night time.
The 4 month stage is tricky, for sure. You wonder whether your baby still needs help falling asleep or if he can start learning to do so on his own. You’ve been sleep-deprived for far too long, and your patience is waning this far down the line.
Thankfully, you can get past this challenging stage. With a few tweaks and changes, you can stretch his sleep longer than three-hour increments. Take a look at these tips below on what helped me the most, and hopefully they’ll work for you, too:
1. Put your baby to sleep in a different room
Do you wake up at the slightest sound your baby makes? Are her cries imprinted in your mind that you think you hear her crying when she’s not?
As a first-time mom, I’d bolt upright in bed the minute I heard my little guy so much as stir. Any little noise and I would wake up and assume he was hungry for a feed.
But when I’d get up and check on him, he was still fast asleep. It turned out, he was making noises—loud ones, even—in the middle of his sleep. I woke up for no reason, and struggled to fall back asleep each time.
The worst was when he’d wake up because I had gotten up and made a ruckus. If I hadn’t heard his sounds or had let them be, he wouldn’t have been snapped out of his sleep and started crying.
If you’re in the same boat, one simple change you can make is to put your baby to sleep in a different room. You’re more likely to hear every little sound when she’s sleeping in the same room as you (yup, even with white noise on).
But by putting her to sleep in her own room, you’re less likely to wake and rile her up every time she makes a sound. Instead, she might fuss for a minute or so before soothing herself back to sleep. And if she really does wake up, she’ll let you know by crying.
And if you still want to keep an eye on her, you can use a baby monitor in the room, or leave your doors open. Either option can still tune you in to actual cries without picking up every tiny sound she makes.
2. Encourage your baby to fall asleep on their own
Your baby may be waking up every 3 hours because he has grown used to feeding to sleep. This is especially true if he has a bad habit of falling asleep during feedings before bedtime or naps. After all, sucking is a comforting feeling to him, so it’s understandable that he tends to snooze during a feed.
The problem though is that he has learned to fall asleep this way—and only this way. Now, any time he stirs at night, he fully wakes up needing to be fed to go back to sleep (even if he may not be hungry).
So, how can you encourage him to learn how to self soothe and break that sleep association?
- Try not to rock him to sleep. Or if you do, limit it to a few minutes so that you can still put him down in the crib awake.
- Move the last feeding to the start of the bedtime routine so he has less of a chance of falling asleep while eating.
- Don’t let him fall asleep while feeding. If you do want to keep the feeding at the end of the routine, keep him from falling asleep. You can tickle him, burp him over your shoulder, change positions, or talk to him.
- Avoid comfort nursing if possible. He might be sucking without actually swallowing anything as a way to fall asleep. Check that he’s actually drinking by looking to see if his throat is moving, and if you hear a swallowing, gulping sound. If need be, a pacifier can allow him to suck while he falls asleep.
- Consider following a sleep training method. Check with your pediatrician to see if he’s ready to sleep through the night (about 11-12 hours straight).
Free resource: Want to learn more about teaching him to self soothe? Join my newsletter and grab 5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing below—at no cost to you. As one parent said:
“Thank you so much for your material. It helped me a lot. My daughter sleeps by herself now on her bed without any fight.” -Johanna
3. Give a full feeding each time
Another reason not to feed your baby to sleep is that she may not be getting a full feed each time she eats. The less she eats at each feeding, the more likely she is to wake up hungry again, and the cycle continues.
If you’re breastfeeding, encourage her to empty at least one breast during each feeding. This also ensures that she gets both the fore milk and the hind milk each time. If she’s bottle-feeding, try to get her to take her usual amount of formula or expressed milk.
Should she start falling asleep, keep her awake as discussed above to encourage her to eat her full fill.
Similarly, try to get her to eat her full feeding not only at night, but during his wake time as well. The more calories she can consume in the daytime, the less often she might wake up at throughout the night. And lastly, you can offer a dream feed before you go to bed to top her off before you fall asleep.
4. Try waiting it out
It’s all too easy to compare how your baby is sleeping to others, don’t you think? You might belong to mom groups with kids born in the same month as yours. Or you may have other children who never woke up this frequently as far as you can recall.
Reading about other babies’ nighttime sleep can make you feel like yours should be doing the same thing.
But sometimes, there’s a benefit to waiting and going with the flow. He may not be there yet, even if other newborns are sleeping in longer stretches. He might prefer eating small but frequent meals, and that’s simply who he is.
These frequent wake ups and extra feedings could be due to a developmental milestone like learning a new skill. He could be going through a sleep regression, especially with growth spurts. And eventually, nighttime feedings might get less frequent when he eats solids at every meal.
Yes, you can definitely take action to get him to sleep longer. But at the same time, try not to stress, especially if you sense that this is a temporary stage. You might be adding more grief than if you can simply go with the flow.
Waking up every 3 hours because your baby wants to eat is no easy task, especially after all this time. Thankfully, you can try a few tricks to stretch her sleep and possibly even sleep through the night.
Start by putting her to sleep in a different room so that you’re not waking up after every little sound she makes and assume she’s hungry. Encourage her to practice falling asleep on her own, like keeping her awake during feedings and putting her down drowsy but awake.
Make sure she gets a full feeding each time so that she’s satisfied and more likely to sleep longer. And lastly, try to relax and see what happens—this could simply be a phase or regression that’ll pass soon enough.
No more sleep-deprivation, friend! Now you and your little one can get the sleep you both need.
Get more tips:
- 6 Steps to Dropping Night Feeds
- Best Baby Sleep Books for Exhausted Parents
- Why I Regret Rocking My Baby to Sleep
- How to Stop Comfort Nursing at Night
- When Your Baby Keeps Peeing Through the Diaper at Night
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