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6 Month Old Waking Every 3 Hours

6 Month Old Waking Every 3 Hours

The Baby Sleep Problem

My daughter has started to wake every 3 hours. She use to wake only once about 3-4am. But then she got a cough and cold and then woke every time she had a coughing fit. Because of this the only way to settle her was to feed her and put her back to bed but now her cold is gone but she is still waking 3-4 times a night. I know she not really hungry so is it just a habit I have let her get into? She is 6 1/2 months old! I want her to go back to waking once or ideally sleep through. Dreams are free or are they???

More Information

Where does she sleep? In her cot in her room.

Tell me about your daytime routine – ie what times does she have feeds/solids/sleeps/bedtime?
She wakes usually about 7-8am. I get her up. She plays for an hour 9am. I feed her breastmilk then back to bed for 40 mins - 1 hour. Then up again play till 11.30 then veges and meat for lunch. 1pm feed, then bed for 1 hour or sleeps in pram if we go for a walk. More play then feed milk 4ish, then solids 4.30-5pm. Shower at 6pm then feed and bed by 7pm.

How do you settle her at sleep time and bedtime?
Feed her then put her to bed with her dummy.

What times does she wake in the night? Always about the same times?
Seems to wake every 3 hours. 10pm, 1am, 4am, 7am. I'm sure she can't be hungry but it settles her and she falls to sleep straight away sometimes in my arms

What happens when she wakes? Ie does he grizzle/cry/scream? Always fed when she wakes?
Have been feeding her because she was sick with the flu. But maybe in a habbit now? She crys when she wakes once or twice she screams.

Is she swaddled or in a sleeping bag? Is she still firmly wrapped when she wakes?
She sleeps in a sleep wrap but someties its a flight to get her blankets over her without her kicking them off

Does she move about in her cot? Kick off blankets? Bang her head on the end of the cot?
Kicks off blankets have wrapped them right under the cot but sometimes (not always) she gets them off. Put them back around her when she's asleep

Does she have any sleep cues, such as being fed to sleep, rocked, needs you there, music or mobile?
Fed to sleep, leave radio on (done this since she was born) but now trying a sleep CD

Does she use a dummy? Just to fall asleep or while she is asleep? How many times do you put it back in during the night?
She has a dummy to fall asleep mainly. Everytime she wakes up I have to put it back in her mouth. This use to put her back to sleep, but now she can cry with it in her mouth!

Does she have a blankie or special toy that she always has at sleep times?

How do you feel about leaving her to cry? Have you tried it, for how long and what happened?
Have tried letting her cry. Have left her for over a hour but ended up feeding her!! And then I was in tears!!

Our Recommended Sleep Solution

It sounds like the combination of several things has made her sleep worse – getting to the age where baby’ sleep cycles change (about 5 months), her cold and a continued association with feeding to sleep.

The key issue to address is breaking the association your baby has between feeding and falling asleep. This means she thinks she needs to feed to fall asleep. So when she stirs in the night, she thinks she needs to feed (just the sucking really) to fall back to sleep. Once she learns she can fall asleep without a feed, she will be able to resettle herself and sleep through the night again.

There are several key areas that may help you with this:

  • Routine

  • Sleeping bag & movement in the cot

  • Self-settling techniques

  • Positive sleep associations

awake 6 month old baby lying on back in navy and white stripe sleeping bag

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This is absolutely key to getting an older baby to sleep well. Babies of her age need to know what you expect and when you expect it. A good simple routine will also make your days much easier, as you can plan when to go out, know when to have her into bed, and ensures she is feeding/has solids at the times that are most helpful with sleeping. It will also ensure that you stop space out feeds from sleep times, which ensures you break the association.
I recommend the routines from the excellent book 'Save Our Sleep', as they work! The key difference for you is doing your feeds when your baby wakes up, rather than before she goes to bed. This will make the world of difference to her sleeping through the night, though obviously there will be some adjustment to how you settle her!

The 7pm bedtime is the most important time of the day for you to work on. Once you can get your baby to fall asleep at this time without feeding her to sleep or until drowsy, then she will be able to sleep through the night.

For a baby of her age, she should not need any feeds during the night. I would recommend however that until she is consistently sleeping through the night, you do a dreamfeed at about 10pm. This means a feed while she is asleep – get her gently out of bed, onto the breast, feed both sides, then back to bed still asleep. Don’t worry about nappy changes or burping. If she wakes during this feed, she needs to go back into bed awake. Doing this feed means you can rest assured she has had enough milk to last the night, then you can use the self settling techniques you choose (see below) to settle her for any waking in the night (which will quickly get less and then stop).

I recommend that you don’t do ‘top-ups’ before she goes into bed, either during the day or at bedtime. This just confuses her and reinforces the association she has between needing a feed to fall asleep. And with your 6.30pm feed, ensure that there is a decent gap between this feed and her going into bed. I suggest you gradually stretch this time out to at least 15 minutes of awake time – feed, /story or play cuddle/ then into sleeping bag & bed.

The routines change slightly every couple of months, so it is very handy to have the book. The book is excellent and also covers solving sleep problems.

Sleeping bag

Now that your baby is getting stronger and able to kick off her covers, I firmly recommend that you start using a baby sleeping bag. This is both a positive association for sleeping and ensures she stays warm all night. A sleeping bag means she is wearing her blankets, so she can’t kick them off. It also means she is less likely to move about in the cot.

Use it for all sleeps day and night, to reinforce the association. And always take it if you are traveling or need her to sleep in her pushchair when you are out.

Which sleeping bag to purchase depends on your budget, how long you want it to last for, and if you prefer natural fibres. I use a Woolbabe with my Tom, and last up to 2 years old. They can also be used in the pushchair, which can be so handy (as it tells baby you expect them to sleep when they are put into it).

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Positive sleep associations

You can start to build some positive associations for your baby, so when your baby sees/hears particular things, she knows it’s time to sleep (and stay asleep). It’s essential that anything you use for a sleep association will be there if she wakes in the night, which is the key difference from a sleep association with feeding (as this will always need you!).

The best ones are:

  • Sleep music –Try leaving your sleep CD on repeat quietly during the night. Over time you just turn the volume down slightly, so eventually you don’t use it.

  • Comfort blankie – something small, that can smell like mum, and baby can find/hold during the night. You can get her attached to it by holding it when you are feeding or sleeping a couple of nights with it under your top, then only give it to her at sleep times. Another option is a T-shirt or something else you have been wearing! This will be essential for you, as you will need to replace ‘you’ from the falling asleep equation. My favourites are Taggies and Huggacub.

  • Sleeping bags are also fabulous for sleep association – see above.

I would start to introduce your positive sleep associations either before or as you change your routine. Eg Feed your baby to drowsy, while in her new sleeping bag, listening to the CD and holding her comfort blankie. So she will start to associate those things with you and with sleeping. Then once you are ready you can start the self-settling plan and she will by then know the sleeping bag, music and blankie combo means SLEEP and she will have good feelings about them.

Self settling

It’s very unlikely that your baby is now going to give up the night feeds unless you decide that you are going to teach her to settle herself without a feed. This will mean she can put herself back to sleep after she stirs or wakes in the night, and go to sleep at bedtime without feeding to sleep or even feeding until drowsy.

The key is for you and your partner to decide on a plan of attack, and stick to it! You can’t confuse her by sometimes feeding her if she cries long enough or if it’s x number of hours since she was feed. It’s also really important to get your routine right and replace her feeding association with some positive associations, or the program will be harder and take longer.

At six months she is old enough now that you can use controlled crying or the Save Our Sleep approach with her, or the No Cry techniques are great if you prefer to not have crying and can be really consistent.

  • No Cry Sleep Solution – no cry, gentle techniques to get baby to self settle and sleep through the night. They generally take longer than ‘controlled crying techniques’, but have the advantage of no crying! This also includes a good technique for weaning off needing a feed to fall asleep and tips for ending night feeding.

  • The Sleepeasy Solution is a great DVD with handy solutions and a step by step guide as well as samples and guidelines..

  • Save Our Sleep also includes a self settling approach, which involves leaving your baby for 18 minutes (the time varies according to age), then return and pat baby until she goes to sleep.

You may also want to consider whether to continue using her dummy as a means to settle her. You could use it in the meantime as you change her routine and stop feeding her to sleep. Or you could get rid of it now, and teach her to self settle using one of the methods above. But if you find you are getting up to put the dummy back in several times a night after you have made all the changes above, then get of it!

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