The 3-Month-Old Witching Hours
We have a 3 month old baby and he is VERY fussy every day. He usually starts out pretty happy in the mornings and with each nap he wakes up more and more angry. This has been going on since about 6 weeks. Typically sleeps fairly well at night. He may wake up once or twice to eat. We have been putting him to sleep for the night at 9:00 pm and after about and hour he wakes up crying. A lot of the time I can get him back to sleep with a pacifier or by patting him. Other times it turns into a battle where he stiffens up and cries, which is our normal afternoon/evening routine.
He typically wakes up around 2 and 6 in the middle of the night to eat and goes back to sleep fairly easily. Wakes up around 9 for about an hour to eat and play a little. He can’t stay awake for more than an hour or hour and a half without getting fussy and needing to take a nap. His naps last about 45 minutes to an hour. We have the sound machine going and have the room fairly dark. I still swaddle him for naps and bedtime and with each nap he wakes up worse and becomes more inconsolable.
Just wondering what you think could be the issue and if there is anything I could try!
So I see two likely possibilities here: You have a scheduling issue so he’s getting overtired throughout the day, OR he has a digestive issue and the crankiness is building with each subsequent feeding because he’s gassy or reflux-y. Or it’s colic of unknown origin. You didn’t mention anything like excessive spit-up or passing a lot of gas, but you DID mention his body stiffening up, which is a verrrrrrry common sign of colic or other digestive discomfort. The timing of when the symptoms started also support that it’s probably a touch of colic.
Here’s a good sample sleep and feeding schedule for a 3 month old, although note that babies this young REALLY vary in their sleep/wake schedules. He doesn’t need a ton of “awake” time, and while you will likely start seeing more awake/alert time in the weeks ahead, for now it’s really okay to simply swaddle and put him down for a nap at the first sign that he’s tired. Even if he’s only been awake for an hour. Let him set HIS schedule for now. He gets fussy, yawns, rubs his eyes = instant nap. Don’t try to push him into some other set schedule because someone else’s 3 month old stays awake longer, or because some family member is bugging you with the assvice or complaints about “that baby is always asleep! why do you let him sleep so much?”
That said, I would highly encourage you to take your concerns about his increasing levels of distress and crying to your pediatrician. Definitely mention that he stiffens up and cries, particularly in the evening, and how he grows more inconsolable throughout the day. He might need medication for reflux, food allergy testing, a new formula (if you’re bottle feeding), elimination diet for you (if you’re breastfeeding)…or it could just be old-fashioned mystery colic without any obvious, underlying cause.
Here’s a good round-up of ways you can give him some relief, and I’m 100% sure our intrepid commenters will have LOADS of great advice for you. (Don’t let OP down, peeps!) I will say, if it IS colic, it sounds like it’s on the somewhat mild side, since he’s sleeping fairly well at night. (Some babies will basically just scream bloody murder for hours on end.) And thankfully, colic is generally outgrown by four months of age, so you’re almost there. But definitely talk to a real doctor about this in addition to us Internet People.Published March 25, 2016. Last updated October 29, 2017.