Your Mini Cart

1 Year Old Waking at 4am

1 Year Old Waking at 4am

The toddler sleep problem:

My son turned one on the 14th October. He has never slept through the night, mostly because of reccurring ear infections/burst ear drums etc. He recently had grommets put in on the 20th October, and the week leading up to his surgery he started sleeping through from about 9pm until 5am (Mummy was very excited!). However since having the grommets he now wakes up 2-3 times a night. I don't feed him, just give him a quick cuddle then put him back to bed. I have a "no breastfeed before 5am" rule.

However, should he now be sleeping through at night for his age? Should I not cuddle him when he wakes up? Is he hungry still???


Further information:


Tell me about your daytime routine – i.e. what times does he have bottles/solids/sleeps/bedtime?

Breastfeed at around 5am, 8am, 1x bottle while I'm at work (4 hrs a day Mon-Fri), breastfeed around 2-3pm, 5-6pm and just before bed which at the moment is 8pm. He has only been having one daytime nap of about 1 - 2hrs.

Does he ever fall asleep while having his feeds/bottles, either in the day or at bedtime?

No, always awake when feeding and just has as much as he wants.

Does he use a dummy, either just to fall asleep or while he is asleep?

No, has never used a dummy.

What times does he wake in the night? Always about the same times?

The last 4 nights he has gotten up between 4-5am.

What happens when he wakes? I.e. does he grizzle/cry/scream? Is he fed when he wakes?

He cries. If it is before 4:30am ish I just give him a quick cuddle and put him straight back to bed, he settles straight away. If after 4:30 I feed him then put him back to bed.

How do you settle him at bedtime and during the night?

Feed him while reading a book to my daughter then have a little cuddle and put him to bed (awake), he does a very little grizzle for less than one minute then goes straight to sleep.

Is he swaddled or in a sleeping bag?

No, hasn't been swaddled since about 6 weeks old - kept getting out of it. I only read about the sleeping bags a couple of months ago.

Does he move about in his cot? Kick off blankets? Stand up? Bump his head on the end of the cot?

He used to move about lots (up and down the cot), but lately has been staying in the same direction, just moves around to the front & sides of cot. Occasionally kicks the blankets off. When he wakes he stands up. Yes, bumps his head on the cot most nights.

Does he have any sleep cues, e.g. fed to sleep, rocked, needs you there, mobile or music?

Dinner, bath, little play, book, breastfeed, little cuddle, bed. No mobile or music. Pat him a couple of times on his back then I leave him to sleep.

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

No, neither of the children have had pacifiers/special toys etc.

How do you feel about leaving him to cry? Have you tried it, for how long and what happened?

I did the 5, 10, 15 min cry thing. But because he settles so fast after a quick cuddle I was able to get back to bed quicker than doing the crying thing so stopped after 3-4 nights (he was about 6 months old at the time and waking every 1.5-2hrs).

What outcome are you looking for from a sleep program?

Hoping he might sleep from 7:30-8pm until 6:30-7am - not sure if it these times are realistic?? My daughter started sleeping through at 13 months but I understand all children are different, just hoping her sleep times weren't out of the ordinary and my son might do the same??

Any other relevant information?

Just not sure about starting something like the sleeping bag thing at his age (13 months yesterday) as he is quite active (walking since 9.5 months) and not sure he would like the restriction. But I'm not totally against trying it or anything else.



Our recommended toddler sleep solution:

At one year old you can certainly expect your toddler to sleep through the night. Given he can already settle himself at bedtime, I think a few simple changes will achieve this in quite a short time.

The areas to look at are:

  • Movement in the cot & Cold
  • Routine
  • Positive sleep associations

Movement in the cot & cold:

There are 2 main reasons that children who can self-settle don’t sleep through the night – movement in the cot and cold. It sounds like your toddler may be waking for both these reasons.

The reason I think he may be waking from cold is the timing of his waking – 4am. This is the coldest time in the night, and babies who wake at this time (particularly if they sleep until this time) are usually waking from the cold.

The easiest way to ensure he stays warm all night, even when he is moving round and kicking off covers, is with a toddler sleeping bag. This means he doesn’t need any blankets at all. You can choose between a polyester filled sleeping bag or a merino sleeping bag, either will work well to help with the 4am waking.

Resolving the standing and bumping his head is also really easy to fix, with the amazing Babe Sleeper. This sleeping bag is attached to the base sheet, and really helps a baby to stay in one place and go to sleep. Baby can sit or roll over, but not crawl round or stand up. When he stirs, he will not be able to stand up and wake himself right up. Being in a Babe Sleeper also makes it harder to kick off covers, but it isn’t warm like a sleeping bag is.

I have used the Babe Sleeper with my Tom since he was 5 months old, and since 9 months he has used it together with a warm sleeping bag. It’s a great combination, as I know he is warm, safe and can’t move round too much!

I had a customer recently who started using a Babe Sleeper with her 15 month old, after seeing it at the Parent & Child Show. He had never slept through the night before, and slept from the first night in the Babe Sleeper and every night since!

At 1 year your toddler is certainly not too old to introduce either a warm sleeping bag, Babe Sleeper or both. In either he will still have plenty of room to kick, can sit up or move round to find a comfy sleeping position.

This is absolutely key to getting an older baby to sleep well. Babies of his age need to know what you expect and when you expect it. An effective routine will also make your days much easier, as you can plan when to go out, know when to have him into bed, and ensures he is feeding/has solids at the times that are most helpful with sleeping.

I would certainly look at your routine, in particular the number of feeds he is still having and the timing of his day sleeps. While I think this is less important than keeping him warm and him standing/bumping his head, he is likely to be waking from the habits your routine has created.

In particular I think you need to stop feeding him at 4.30-5am. You need to decide when the day starts, and for a 1 year old your idea of 6.30am-7am is quite realistic. By continuing to feed him when he wakes in the night, he will continue to cry out for that. If you can ensure he is warm/not bumping his head etc, then expect him to resettle at 4.30/5am rather than feed him.

I would also look at going back to 2 sleeps and getting him into bed a bit earlier. Night-waking can also be caused by babies being over-tired, and it would pay to see if you can get some more sleep out of him!

I recommend you use the routines from Save Our Sleep, as I find them very effective for helping babies sleep better in the day and through the night. This would mean day sleeps at 9.30am and 1.30pm, and bedtime at 7pm. Feeds first thing in the morning, then after each sleep and at 6.30pm.

Positive sleep associations
I would work also work on building some positive sleep associations for your toddler, so when he sees/hears particular things, he knows it’s time to sleep (and stay asleep).

Sleeping bags are wonderful for sleep association. Plus I think a Comfort blankie is absolutely essential. I would take all other toys out of the cot. You can get him attached to one by getting it to smell like you (put it up your top for a few hours/overnight) or between you while you are feeding him. Then I recommend only letting him have it at sleep times.

Given how well he settles at bedtime, I think the above changes will get him sleeping through the night. The key will be to ensure that you are consistent in not feeding him during the night (feeding at 5am is still a night feed in his mind!). If he does wake even after all the changes above, you will need to choose a method to settle him that doesn’t involve a feed. The controlled crying idea you mention should work fine, or you could just leave him for a period of time and see what happens. For example decide you won’t go into him for 15 minutes and see if he can resettle in that time. Let me know if you need more information on settling techniques.