We all have heard it. My baby was sleeping great at night and now since they turned 4 months they are waking every hour. So what causes it? At about 3-4 months of age, your baby is moving from the newborn sleep cycle into a more mature sleep cycle and hitting some major developmental milestones.
These new sleep cycles last 60 -120 minutes during the night and continue into adulthood. At the end of every cycle, the baby will lighten in their sleep to a point of waking up. This is the body’s way of protecting the baby and its surroundings. We, as adults, often don’t realize that we wake up as we have become so good at putting ourselves back to sleep.
If your baby did not learn to put themselves to sleep in the newborn stage, this new sleep cycle can cause frequent waking every 60, 90, or 120 minutes. If your baby is rocked, fed, walked, or bounced to sleep, they will expect that in order to fall into the next sleep cycle. We often convince ourselves they must be hungry and having a growth spurt. When your baby gets used to these frequent nighttime feeds, they do not eat as well during the day, and then are up again all night. Maintain adequate feedings during the day – not at night. In more detail, continue offering feedings every 2.5-3.5 hours during the day according to your baby’s hunger cues to ensure we get all the calories necessary during the day. This allows for sleep during the night.
As your baby moves into their third and fourth month of life, they are becoming aware of the world around them. During the day, they start to notice the action around them. New sounds. New faces. New activities. New skills. Then at night when your baby wakes between these sleep cycles they want to explore those new sounds, skills, etc.
Recognize the change in sleep cycles at 3 to 4 months of age is bound to happen. Prepare yourself. It’s inevitable. When your baby awakens at the top of a natural sleep cycle, give him or her a few minutes to put itself back to sleep. Don’t intervene right away. Your baby and you will get through this!