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As is common with 3-4 month olds, we've gone from a very good sleep schedule to more frequent wakes.

Depending on fussiness she will get to sleep between 630 and 730, and she used to sleep for 3-4 hours at a time. She would wake, eat, and fall immediately back to sleep. The process repeated until 7 or 8AM.

Now she has started waking every 1.5-2 hours. Light and noise conditions have not changed. She will eat (in smaller quantities!) and fall immediately back to sleep.

During the day, however, she does not demand to be fed this frequently.

I have only a few trial runs but I've tried soothing and rocking her to sleep (which puts her down for 15 minutes or so) before she cries again. This on/off repeats until we close in on the 3-hour mark.... upon which we've been feeding her and she falls back to sleep.

Is this comfort feeding?
Should we feed her at these wakes?

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2 Answers 2

Most babies have growth spurts at 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 9 months approximately. I don't think it's comfort feeding since, when you put her down without feeding her, she wakes up again a few minutes later. I'd be more inclined to believe that she's either gearing up for or in the middle of a growth spurt and she's legitimately hungry. Most growth spurts last for a few days to a week and each child handles them a little differently. My kids seem to suddenly start packing in the food a few days before I really notice their growth (it's like it happens overnight or something!), then they go back to their usual eating habits.

If you Google "3 month growth spurt, sleep" there's a TON of postings to Mommy Boards all over the internet about this exact thing. Baby is an amazing sleeper until suddenly they hit their 3-month growth spurt and Satan child comes out--waking all hours of the night, cranky and irritable from lack of sleep, eating all the time...the list goes on and on.

Hang in there! She'll probably be back to normal in a few days.

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As long as this pattern persists for a week or so then it is most likely the 3 month growth spurt. Continue to feed on demand until you are sure it's a problem.

However if it continues to persist then she is probably beginning to reverse cycle. This can happen because her primary caregiver has recently returned to work (common around this age) or because she got used to getting most of her calories during the night for other reasons. In that case you want to do what you can to stop reverse cycling unless it is acceptable to the parents and the baby still seems happy and well-rested.

To avoid reverse cycling first feed often during the day. My infant needed - genuinely needed - to eat every 1.5-2 hours during daylight hours. She seemed to live her first 7 or so months of life in a growth spurt as she shot up the growth charts. The fact that I fed her frequently on demand during the day enabled her to go longer stretches at night because she got most of her calories during the day. Sadly she did wake-up frequently and have many sleeping issues, but she did not demand to eat an excessive number of times during those wake-ups.

Beyond reverse cycling your daughter is now reaching the age where she can develop sleep associations. If she usually falls asleep eating when she reaches a partial wake-up she may not be able to fall back asleep without eating again. You can gently work to fix this association even at a young age using techniques such as the Pantley Pull-Off from The No-Cry Sleep Solution or pick-up/put-down from Secrets of the Baby Whisperer where you place your child in her sleeping location drowsy but awake and pick her up until calm and drowsy again when she cries, then replace her in her crib until she falls asleep on her own.

Again working on sleep associations and such is not necessary at this stage if this is simply a growth spurt and all returns to normal shortly. It is something to consider if frequent wake-ups continue as fragmented sleep is bad for both babies and parents.

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