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3 Month Old Waking At Night

Our 3 1/2 month old son was doing great sleeping through the night until recently.  He has a great daytime schedule of feeding every 4 hours, playtime and naps (about an hour and a half to two hours each).  He has a nighttime routine of bath, pj's and feeding before putting to him bed.  He was sleeping about 9-10 hours a night.
Now, he wakes up almost 4-6 times a night.  Most of the time when we check on him, he is on his side or belly and fussing.  He shows no signs of hunger or being wet/dirty.   We think what is happening is he is rolling over in his sleep and is not able to roll back.  He has always hated tummy time, so he can't stand to be on his belly.  We set him on his back again and he falls right to sleep, but then the cycle begins again within an hour or two.   We also have tried swaddling him, but he gets frustrated when swaddled for too long and we don't want him to become dependent on swaddling.  My husband and I are exhausted and discouraged because he was sleeping so well.
Do you have any recommendations?  Is there anything we can do or do we just have to wait until he is strong enough to turn back over himself or get used to being on his side/tummy?  Is this just a phase?
 follow up email prior to my response

I wanted to follow up to an email I sent last week.  We actually don't think the reason is him rolling over anymore.  He is decent at rolling over both ways during the day.  Therefore, we are at a loss as to why he is continually waking in the night.  Lately, when we check on him, he is on his back or his side, eyes closed and fussing.  He does not seem hungry.  We give him a pacifier and that calms him down and he falls back to sleep.  Problem is, either when the pacifier falls out or some other reason, he begins crying again anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour later. 
We are exhausted and he is more sleepy in the morning than he used to be.  We have tried swaddling him, but that doesn't seem to do anything.  We have tried letting him cry for a bit to see if he will fall back to sleep, but he just ends up wailing.  It seems he is crying out of habit.  Could he be teething?  Could it be his movements wake him?  What are your thoughts?

I’m sorry your son is no longer sleeping well. It appears you have done everything right so far.

Waking with rolling over is definitely a stage. Children who are appropriately placed on their backs for sleep tend to dislike “tummy time”. Before children develop the ability to roll well, rolling over leads to nighttime sleep loss. Correctly, you have returned to him back and allowed him to return to sleep.

His waking with rolling may have created a habit of nighttime waking. Do you have to feed him to get her back to sleep?

Many children begin crying after their pacifiers fall out. Children need to learn to sleep without their pacifiers. Try removing his pacifier after he falls alseep at the beginning of the night before you go to bed. You can give it back if he cries. Hopefully, he will learn to sleep some without his paci and the waking caused by paci falling out will end.

When you place your son in bed does he fall asleep on his own? At his age, most parents still rock or feed their children to sleep. Typically, children that are rocked or fed to sleep, sleep well until 6 to 9 months then the nighttime wakings begin. I wonder if your son is “a head of the curve” on this issue.

You may need to train him to fall asleep on his own at bedtime, so that he can put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night. Try placing him in bed before he is completely asleep. Go through your normal bedtime routine, but place him in bed groggy but still awake. Eventually, he will learn to fall asleep on his own and this may solve his wakings.

It is fine to try tylenol for teething. It is possible that he is cutting teeth, but unlikely. Teething children typically are fussy for 3 to 4 days, then act normally for a week and then return to fussing for 3 to 4 more days. His waking patterns does not seem to fit with teething.


Written July 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician


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 is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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