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Feeding between 4 and 5am

Updated: Jan 16, 2022

For babies 0-5 months old, it is perfectly normal for them to require a feed 4-6 hourly overnight. It should pose no issues at all and baby should drift off back to sleep.

For older babies, feeds between 4 and 5am can cause wakefulness and in some cases- no returning back to sleep! What the heck, why? If your baby is often fed to sleep you might be confused by this phenomenon.

Why can they be fed back to sleep so easily at 12am or even 2am, but a feed later in the morning ends in disaster?

Sleep pressure is low after baby has already slept 10 hours overnight. Melatonin is no longer being produced and cortisol is going to rise very soon to wake your baby up for the day. You've given them what they believe to be breakfast and now they are ready to party.

This can be especially true for babies who have recently been re-settled instead of fed at their earlier wakes. If they are re-settled for wakes prior to the 4am feed, they may take this later feed as a change in parental reaction. "Ah, Mum is acting differently and giving me a feed this time, it must be time to wake for the day".

Surely they are waking because they are starving?

Nope. If your baby is established on solids and is drinking 3-4 feeds throughout the day, chances are they aren’t hungry. Did you see my latest Instagram post on the various stages of sleep training? Early morning wakes and nap consolidation are the last two pieces of the puzzle. Baby finds it harder to settle at these two times. They have had ‘enough’ sleep and they would rather get up and play. Little do they know they haven’t had enough sleep and this would only be discovered after an hour or two of being awake. If you allow your baby to rise between 4 and 5:30am in the morning, chances are you are going to have one grumpy baby on your hands or you’ll offer them a longer morning nap to compensate which perpetuates a cycle of early rising.

So what should I do to settle my baby at this time?

Your response at this time will depend on your baby’s age, temperament and your parenting style. You may want to rock instead of feeding. Others may prefer to sit by their child until they fall asleep. A lot parents I work with will use spaced soothing to teach baby it is time for sleep.

Just as food can be stimulating at this time of the morning, so to can social interaction. Make these visits as boring as possible. Keep the lights off and be confident in your approach. The circadian rhythm is set to wake us up at 6:30 or 7am. Therefore if your baby is waking much earlier than this, they are likely to feel out of sync and a little bit jetlagged throughout the day if you allow them to rise earlier than this.

Remember just like all other life skills, babies look to us for guidance. If your baby is rising at 5am this doesn't mean they are naturally early risers. If so, they would be going to bed at 5pm, which I doubt is the case.

If the early feed is making your baby more alert than relaxed, re-settle for 3 days and watch the changes that take place. If your baby is feeding at 4am and then going straight back to sleep- perfect! If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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