Top 10 Reasons Why Your Baby Wakes Up at Night
1. Hunger: – If your baby is small or under 9 months old they might wake from genuine hunger. We consider 1-2 feeds normal from 4 months to 9 months especially in breastfed babies. Formula fed babies can usually have their diets and day time feeds structured in such a way that hunger should not wake them up past 7 months. New-borns and especially breastfed new-born babies might wake 3 times a night to feed and this can be very normal in the early weeks. Aim to feed and quickly re-settle so you all get some sleep in between those important feeds.
2. Sleep Associations: These are the things or technique’s you use to get your baby off to sleep, they take root from 12-16 weeks, and if your baby’s sleep association requires you then your baby might wake at the end of each partial or full sleep cycle (2-4 hourly) expecting you to do the same thing you did 2 hours ago to get them back to sleep. We can help you change your baby’s sleep associations to eliminate this reason.
3. Too hot or cold – with summer on the way check you are not over heating your little one – their sleeping bag might need to be changed to a more suitable tog bag for summer, or a summer swaddle to prevent over heating. Check out this post on appropriate summer sleep wear.
4. Sleep regressions: these occur a lot in the first 12 months of your baby’s life – they are developmental and are not related to hunger or teething. They are a time when your baby’ sleep needs have changed or their sleep cycles have changed, or they have developed a new skill during the day, or are about to go through a big developmental milestone. Those babies with healthy sleep habits from birth will experience less regressions than those who are constantly over tired or rely heavily on sleep props to get to sleep.
5. Teething: depending on your baby’s age when they cut their teeth and how healthy their sleep habits are teething can wake your baby up. If your baby is a box of birds during the day and then wakes at night screaming this is probably not teething pain. Teething pain more often than not is an on off grizzle and your baby might be awake for quite some time with this on/off cry. Try some pain relief and a cuddle.
6. Over tiredness: If your baby does not nap well they will be going to bed over tired for the night, and over tired babies are wired on stress hormones and struggle to get into a deep sleep or stay asleep. Work on your baby’s naps and their night sleep will resolve itself in some cases!
7. Under tired: You just can’t win can you! If your baby over sleeps then you will likely have long periods of wakefulness at night and your baby will be thinking 3am is party time! Slowly reduce their naps back to an age appropriate amount of time, and the night sleep should fall back into place.
8. Reflux: If your baby suffers from reflux until the medication kicks in your nights will be heavily broken as your baby in in pain. No amount of sleep training can correct pain and discomfort. Help your baby get to sleep, so they are not over tired as over tired babies cannot tolerate as much pain or discomfort as a well rested baby. Once your baby is medicated ask your Dr about possible side effects as some reflux meds can cause restlessness and gut and wind pains – it is good to know this and prepare yourself!
9. Illness: if your baby has a cold and hasn’t fed well they might wake more often, if they have a gastro bug, sleep will be hard to come by. Get through this and you will then need to gently encourage night sleep once more. I always suggest you go to their room when they are sick – put a mattress on the floor, it is easier to slowly leave then kick them out of your bed if they have been reactively co-sleeping while ill.
10. Wet nappy: some babies are very sensitive to a wet nappy or a leaking nappy. Use a good brand nappy and a cover if needed to prevent leaks, Tight onsies are a common culprit for urine leaking out of a nappy, so check PJ’s are not too tight!
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Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
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My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.
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