My baby is four months old; he almost never naps for longer than half an hour, goes to bed when I do at 10pm, wakes three or four times in the night and starts his day at 5am! I’m exhausted and very jealous of friends who talk about three-hour naps and 7pm bedtimes. I’ve tried all sorts of things like making the bedroom warmer or cooler, different blankets and sleeping bags, extra formula at bedtime, lavender bubble bath, star projectors and cuddly toys that play soothing music, but nothing works. My Mum says I didn’t sleep very much as a baby either so I’m wondering if my son just doesn’t need as much sleep as other babies do, surely if he was tired, he would sleep more. Do you think he’s just a wakeful baby and this is all the sleep he needs?
Some babies do need a little bit less sleep than others, but I would expect a four-month-old to need somewhere between 13 and 16 hours of sleep a day, with about 11 or 12 of those at night and 3 to 5 hours as naps during the day. Waking once or twice during a 12-hour night is still normal at this age, especially for a breastfed baby, but some do sleep right through.
Your son is only managing a 7 hour night, with lots of waking’s, and although you don’t say how many naps he has I doubt he’s getting more than 9 or 10 hours of sleep each day. That’s a long way below the average so I’d be surprised if he’s getting what he needs.
The most likely problem is that he has some unwanted sleep associations. You mention that you’ve tried a baby light show and sound machine, do you also rock or feed your son to sleep? While those can be lovely bonding times it’s best to stop before he actually falls asleep. The problem is, if a baby falls asleep in your arms with lights and sounds on then when he stirs during the night he’ll expect to be in the same place. If he finds himself in his bed, in the dark and quiet, he’ll be surprised and call to you to restore the “bedtime” he’s expecting – by picking him up, feeding him and even turning the music and lights back on.
The solution is to teach your son to fall asleep in the same conditions that he will be in when he stirs during the night. That probably means falling asleep in his bed, without your help and in the dark and quiet. Then when he stirs, he’ll recognise where he is and go straight back to sleep, you probably won’t even know it’s happened.
I also think it’s very likely that your son is overtired. Just as you say you are exhausted; he probably is too! The funny thing about a baby being very tired is that it actually makes it harder for them to fall asleep and makes it more likely that they will wake during the night and early in the morning. It seems crazy that a very tired baby can’t sleep but it’s all to do with hormones. You may well find that as soon as your son learns how to sleep and is less tired, he automatically sleeps even more!
There are a few different methods of sleep coaching, ways to gently teach a baby how to fall asleep. It’s difficult to recommend one to you without more information but if you want to contact me here at The baby Guru , I’ll be happy to discuss it further.