Most parents will tell you that one of the most spine chilling sounds is that of your baby crying in the middle of the night. Lack of sleep seriously sucks, and there are so many books, websites and apps dedicated to helping babies sleep better, so that parents can also sleep better too. Getting a better nights sleep is big business. So. Wondering why your baby wakes at night? Wondering what you can do about it? Well wonder no more! We've put together the top five reasons why your baby wakes, and some information on why it happens too. We're not saying we can solve it and get you a full night's sleep, but its a start!
It might seem really obvious but it can sometimes be surprising for parents when baby still wakes at five months for food. But it can happen. In fact, it can be completely normal for your baby to wake for food up to 12 months and beyond.
In the newborn days, baby's tummy is so small that any food that's taken in is digested within two to three hours. This means that sleep is often in short chunks like that, as hunger is the number one reason why a newborn baby wakes. As babies get older, their tummies get bigger and so the length of time that they sleep for increases. But this doesn't mean that they can sleep all the way through the night without feeding.
Some babies may stop feeding at night from around three months of age, some around six months. Some babies may still need a feed up to twelve months old. If your baby is clean, dry and well and yet still waking in the night and seeming to be hungry, chances are she is. Try looking at it this way- the average night is 12 hours long, so you're asking your baby to go 12 hours without food. If you know that you would struggle that long without eating, it stands to reason your baby might too.
If you suspect that your baby is not hungry, then it might be time to night wean, but this is only really recommended after the age of nine months. Until then, make sure daytime feeds are regular and consistent and go with the flow. A hungry baby is not going to sleep, whether you like it or not!
This is a HUGE reason why your baby wakes, and it can pop up sporadically until all of those pesky teeth appear! Teething hurts. Pain disrupts sleep. End of story, sorry! But there are ways that you can soothe your baby if teething is keeping her awake at night.
Remember that your once great sleeper will once again become a great sleeper once those teeth are through. Teething pain tends to last around a week or so, so take comfort in the fact that it will soon pass.
Use teething remedies as much as you can- there are some great ideas in this post.
This is a tricky one. There are some who believe that if a toy or a dummy or a white noise app helps their baby to sleep, then there is no reason why they shouldn't be used. Then there are some who say that these things are nothing more than 'sleep props' and reasons why babies wake at night. We're not here to judge, merely to present an opinion. If rocking, singing or swinging helps your baby to sleep and you're happy to do it, then no problem. But if you think sleep props are waking your baby, read on.
Sometimes a baby will use a sleep prop to fall asleep, and this is great for all concerned... until baby wakes and that same sleep prop is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the dummy has fallen out or the white noise has long since fallen silent. If this is why baby has woken, chances are your best bet at getting baby back to sleep is to re-apply said sleep prop. The problem with this, according to some, is that baby will never stop waking and being unable to get back to sleep if she relies on sleep props to fall asleep.
If you think this is the case for your baby, it might be a good idea to do away with the sleep prop and help your baby to fall asleep another way.
Growth spurt/ developmental leap
Babies are constantly growing and developing, as they should, and all of this growing and developing can affect their sleep too. Some babies find the whole business of learning new tricks so unsettling that they struggle to sleep at night once they've woken. Think of it in terms of having a presentation due at work, or an impending exam. Sometimes, these things can keep us awake at night- and for some babies, learning to crawl or increasing their awareness of the world is exactly the same.
Some babies will wake during these developmental periods and be able to fall straight back to sleep by themselves. Others will need some help going back to sleep- only you will know which category your baby falls into!
Human beings are not designed to sleep through the night in one solid chunk of 12 hours. We're designed to go through periods of lighter sleep, followed by deeper sleep. We naturally have awake periods during lighter sleep, because we are more susceptible to being disturbed by the slightest thing. And also because we are human. We might be poorly, cold, hungry, hot, worried, excited... we are human, and your baby is too.
Your baby is not a robot and if you think that you can program her to sleep for 12 hours straight, think again. Some babies just don't. And some babies are very different to us, their parents. Again, this is human nature.
So these are the top five reasons why babies wake at night, but what can you do? The best advice we can give here is to ride it out. Babies are only babies for such short space of time, and the reasons why they wake at night are all valid. Be consistent. Stick to a good bedtime routine, follow your instincts and heed the advice of the parenting manuals that appeal to you. And remember that your baby is supposed to wake now and then.