Having a baby that sleeps all the time seems like a dream, but it can be concerning if they're snoozing more than usual. There's plenty of reasons why babies sleep too much for a short period, from minor illnesses to developmental leaps.
For most new parents, a sleeping baby is the ultimate goal - after all, when else are you supposed to make time for self-care? But some parents find that their baby sleeps more than the average for their age range, and may even be sleeping too much.
Here, we'll take you through the reasons why your baby might be sleeping too much, when you should be speaking to a doctor, and some of the most common causes of a baby getting too much sleep.
4-month-old sleeping a lot: rule out medical concerns!
First of all, it's good to rule out any potential medical concerns. Generally speaking, if your 4-month-old baby is sleeping for over 17 hours a day and it's starting to get in the way of their feedings, you may want to speak to your pediatrician to figure out the root. Otherwise, it can lead to other issues such as weight loss, and have an impact on their growth.
You'll also want to see a doctor if your baby is experiencing any of the following as well as an excessive amount of sleep:
A lack of interest in eating
Extreme crankiness after waking up
Difficulty or a lack of response when trying to wake them
Indicators of dehydration, including tearless crying, dry lips, and fewer wet diapers
Of course, you're the best judge when it comes to your own baby - if you don't notice these signs but are still concerned about your baby's sleep patterns, talk to a pediatrician.
Should I wake my baby during the day?
Waking up a sleeping baby seems against common sense, right? But if your little one is sleeping too much, you may need to in order to give them the milk they need.
Generally speaking, if your baby is still asleep by the time you reach a scheduled feed, you should gently wake them, as missing out on much needed milk is more potentially harmful than losing a little sleep.
Breastfed babies and formula-fed babies at 4 months old typically need to be fed every 4-6 hours, so if your little one is sleeping for a longer stretch than this, you'll likely need to give them a nudge!
Dr. Sonia Rubens from the Pediatric Sleep Council has some great advice when it comes to feeding a sleepy baby: making use of dream feeds.
'After the first month and a half or so, you may also consider using focal feedings (or, “dream feeds”), which means that you feed your baby at a set time each night that is close to your bedtime.
It might mean that you have to wake her for this feeding, which is ok! If you use this strategy, then you can both get a three to four-hour stretch of sleep after that feeding.'
If you want to learn more about how dream feeds can give both you and your baby better sleep, check out our Zen Blog on the topic!
Times when sleep is more common
You'll likely notice when figuring out your baby's sleep schedule that they're more likely to snooze at some times than others; you can use this to your advantage, scheduling naps when your baby is already going to be feeling sleepy.
While these times are unique for every baby, they're also impacted by factors like feedings, with some babies feeling sleepier after they've eaten, and age, with most babies starting to get more consistent night sleep at around the two or three-month mark.
There are also periods of time where your baby is more likely to oversleep, such as when they're teething or during a growth spurt. Again, this varies for every baby, and usually isn't anything to worry about after you've already ruled out any issues by speaking to a pediatrician.
The most common reasons for babies sleeping too much
We all know that baby sleep isn't all that consistent - just ask any sleep deprived new parent! But there are a few specific reasons why your little one could be sleeping more than usual.
Even if you've already ruled out more serious problems, any smaller illness like a cold or a tummy problem can lead to your baby sleeping more than usual. This is to help give their body more time to recover, and mirrors what we often do as adults when we're feeling under the weather!
The oversleeping should likely clear up within a few days once your little one has had time to heal - just make sure they're getting all the milk they need in the meantime to help them mend and grow!
If your little one has just had one of their recommended vaccinations, such as the hepatitis B or rotavirus vaccinations, they may experience some side effects that lead them to snooze more.
These can include a sore arm and a mild fever - and if you've had a vaccine lately, you can vouch for how lethargic and sluggish they can make you feel! Mom and life coach Mary Vaughn from Mother Together agrees:
'Your baby may be extra sleepy in the 48 hours following their shots and need to rest.
Being sleepy means their body is doing an excellent job of fighting the virus, so you want to allow them the opportunity to rest. This may mean they sleep extra hard at night (yay, if your child is usually up often at night!) or it may mean naps run a bit longer than usual.
So yes, this means that you might ignore their usual schedule and wake windows for a day or two. Trust your instinct!'
This should only last for two to three days at most and isn't anything to be concerned about unless accompanied by other (much less common) symptoms, like a high fever that won't go down even with methods like paracetamol and keeping their fluid intake high.
In this case - and if you're ever worried about your baby's health - you should consult a medical professional.
You're unlikely to remember many of the growth spurts you had as a child and in your adolescence, and remembering what it was like to grow as a baby is pretty much impossible!
But even though we don't recall this part of our lives, it isn't always the most comfortable and requires a lot of energy - which is why healthy babies during a growth spurt often need a little more time to rest.
Genevieve Howland from Mama Natural explains how hormones have a role to play here:
'Your baby is taking extended and frequent naps, but she’s up for more feedings at night—just when you thought she was finally hitting a routine!
Studies show that hormones responsible for bone growth are created during sleep, so a few days of increased napping might lead to a measurable difference in size, but it could also disrupt nighttime sleep in the following days.'
How to care for an extra sleepy baby
Though you might be grateful to have some quiet time, looking after a sleepy baby can come with some problems - not only can feeding be trickier to schedule, but you might also feel less connected to your little one if they're snoozing more than usual.
First of all, it's important to remember that it's likely to pass fairly quickly - you'll be lamenting a lack of sleep again soon enough!
If you find yourself with the opposite problem - a baby who fusses all night and just won't fall asleep - you're sure to love our Zen One swaddle with adaptable mesh sleeves! Here's what Zen Mom Sam H. has to say about her baby's experience with this cozy sleep sack:
'My daughter loves this sleep sack! She loves to suck on her hand but still struggles with the startle reflex so the mesh on the arms is perfect.
The first couple nights I didn’t notice a difference but from the 3rd night & on she’s slept 6/7 hours straight from a 3/4 hour stretch. I also love the wrap on the inside to keep it in place & comfort her.'
Commonly asked questions about babies sleeping more than usual
Do babies sleep more before or after a growth spurt?
When your baby is about to go through a growth spurt, their body knows that they need to build up some energy first. That's why you might find that your baby is extra sleepy for a day or two before they go through a growth spurt.
They might also seem fatigued and need more sleep while they're going through the growth spurt, and this is also perfectly normal. After all, growing is hard work!
You will need to make sure - espeically during periods of rapid grwoth - that your little one is still getting all the milk they need. If they're sleeping through their usual feeding windows, you may want to try a dream feed, where you feed them when they're drowsy rather than fully awake.
Why is my four-month-old so sleepy and fussy?
There are a variety of reasons why your four-month-old might be getting more sleep than usual. The first thing you'll want to do is rule out any risk of illness by speaking to a pediatrician.
This is a good course of action if your baby has been sleeping too much for a week or more, or if their sleepiness is accompanied by other symptoms such as a high fever or unresponsiveness.
Once you know that your baby is healthy, it's time to consider other factors. For example, their sleepiness might be a response to a recent vaccine, in which case it should resolve in a day or so, or it may even be connected to a growth spurt that your little one is going through - or about to go through soon!
Most of the time, your baby sleeping too much is an issue that will resolve itself within a few days - and once they're waking up through the night again, you're likely to miss it!
Does teething cause sleepiness?
Teething can cause a range of symptoms for your baby, from a mild fever and hot cheek to drooling and a slight rash on their face. But the effect on sleep can actually vary quite a lot, with some babies fussing and crying all night and others struggling to stay awake during playtime!
Every baby is unique, and their reaction to teething will be too - so don't be alarmed if they're oversleeping for a few days and you know that they have some teeth coming through. As long as they're getting enough milk, this is harmless and likely to resolve itself soon.
Why is daylight important for baby sleep?
Although very young babies are only just getting used to the world - and sleeping through most of the day - the natural rhythms of day and night are vital to help babies settle once they've adjusted to their surroundings.
This sleep pattern is called the circadian rhythm, and while it doesn't fully establish until around a year of age, babies start to integrate it into their sleep patterns at around two or three months.
Ensuring that your baby is exposed to daylight when they're awake is vital to encouraging this adoption of the circadian rhythm. This is part of the reason why aids like blackout blinds are helpful - they help your baby understand that darkness means sleep, and daylight means play!
In most cases, it's normal if your baby is sleeping through the daylight hours in their first few months, as it takes some time to make this pattern consistent. However, once they're around the three or four month mark, you'll want to try to establish a sleep schedule that works around their circadian rhythm as it develops.
Why is getting enough sleep important for babies?
Infant sleep isn't just important in the short term to give your little one the energy they need during the day; it's also vital for growth, with much of your baby's brain development occurring during sleep!
As a newborn, sleep is arguably the most important resource for your baby, and they should be sleeping for the majority of the hours in the day. If your little one is struggling to snooze as much as they need, you might find our Zen Neo swaddle pod helpful!
Made from snug and stretchy fabric to help with the womb-to-world transition, and featuring gentle weight to mimic your soothing touch, the Zen Neo is perfect for any little ones who need a little extra comfort to help them fall asleep.