7 Reasons Why Your Baby is Still Waking Up at Night
One of the biggest questions of your baby’s first year will likely be, “When will he start sleeping through the night?” This question might not have meant much to you before had a kid and experienced the insane sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn. But by the time your infant is a few months old, you’re likely to start wondering about, if not obsessing over, this very question.
There are all sorts of different opinions about what age a baby is physically capable of sleeping through the night. There are even a myriad of definitions of what “sleeping through the night” even means! I’ll save answers to these questions for another post, but I want to focus this time on answering the question that countless parents have lost sleep over, or have wondered about in the wees hours of the night while their baby was losing their sleep for them. While there are likely countless potential reasons why your baby is waking up (maybe you live right by a fire station – true story for one of my clients! ;) my list will cover the most likely culprits.
7 REASONS WHY YOUR BABY IS STILL WAKING (YOU) UP AT NIGHT - AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.
Your baby is overtired.
You can’t take 2 steps into the world of sleep training without tripping over the term “overtired”. It gets thrown around so much, it’s almost like a catch-all phrase for any sleep disturbance, from short naps, to crying at bedtime, to early morning wake-ups. The truth is, there’s a good reason for this. Overtiredness can cause or contribute to an almost limitless amount of sleep disturbances in babies and young children. Miss their nap window or overshoot their wake-time by 15 minutes, and any mom of a sensitive baby will tell you, there will be lots of screaming. Some of the most common times for these wake-ups are 40 minutes after the falling asleep for a nap, 1-2 hours after bedtime, and between 4-5 am.
The fix: Getting on the right schedule is of utmost importance for fixing this dreaded problem. And often, an early bedtime can go a long way.
Your baby is under-tired.
But don’t take that overtired diagnoses with you to the bank – under-tiredness, though less common, can be as much of a problem as overtiredness. It can also be a little bit harder to spot, mostly because we are always assuming the kid needs more sleep, and the symptoms of under-tiredness can look similar to overtiredness. It might be a case where a toddler is napping too long during the day, that it’s causing delayed sleep onset at bedtime, or a baby is taking a slightly too-long cat nap in the evening, causing them to pop awake just an hour after falling asleep at bedtime. Balancing sleep pressure so that baby is just tired enough, but not too tired, is one of the trickiest parts about baby sleep!
The fix: Make sure your baby’s naps are age appropriate. If they are sleeping a lot during the day, but night sleep is disturbed, you may need to cap some naps, or get them up earlier in the morning.
Your baby is eating too much overnight.
This is a problem I most often see in very young babies, but it can happen throughout the first year, as well. New moms are told to feed their babies on demand, which often turns into all-night open bar for a baby who loves to suck, and won’t turn down milk. What ends up happening is the poor kid’s digestion never gets a break, their metabolism never slows down, and anything from excess gas, bloating, and full diapers continue to wake them up throughout the night. Parents then mistakenly assume they are still hungry, so they feed them back to sleep again, perpetuating the problem.
The fix: Encourage full feeds on a more set schedule, and reduce night feeds to an age-appropriate number! (Not sure what is age-appropriate – schedule your free sleep consultation.)
Your baby is hungry.
Of course, the most common assumption parents make about nighttime wake-ups is that their baby is hungry, and of course, that’s totally possible! If your baby is under 1 year old (and older, in some cases where nutrition is an issue), they still may be genuinely hungry at night. But, just because your baby is waking out of true hunger during the night doesn’t mean that she actually needs to be taking in all of those calories during the night.
The fix: There are gentle and effective ways to get those calories shifted to the daytime, depending on her age/weight, so that you can all get more shut eye.
Your baby is cold.
This one isn’t as common, but when I see a persistent 3am wake-up that doesn’t have another obvious reason, I ask about temperature. Even if your kid was hot and sweaty at bedtime, our body temperature, because of hormones and our biological rhythms, naturally drops to its lowest point between 3-4am.
The fix: Make sure there is an extra layer of warmth, like a sleep sack or thicker pjs, if you’re concerned this could be an issue. And/or, turn up the thermostat just a tad when you go to bed.
Your baby doesn’t know how to connect sleep cycles.
This is usually the culprit when I work with parents who describe their baby as “the worst sleeper ever”. This baby not only takes hours to rock or nurse to sleep, but then wakes up every 45 minutes, or every 1-2 hours, throughout the rest of the night. These poor parents are either in tears by the end of the day, or practically catatonic after many months of living off 40 minute chunks of sleep. Their baby is completely dependent on them to connect all of their sleep cycles for them, and since a baby’s naturally sleep cycles change every 2-4 hours, throw in some overtiredness, and you have a babe that’s up 8-10 times per night!
The fix: Work yourself out of a job- teach the kid to connect their own dang sleep cycles! (Not sure how? Set up your free sleep call.)
Your baby has a bad habit.
When you’ve covered all your other bases, your baby has the sleep skills, is on the right schedule, is appropriately fed and napped throughout the day, but is still waking up at ungodly hours of the night or early morning, it is likely a habit that just needs to be changed.
The fix: Figure out what is reinforcing the habit, then stop doing it. :)
“balancing sleep pressure so that baby is just tired enough, but not too tired, is one of the trickiest parts about baby sleep! ”
If you’ve identified some problems and are ready to get to work on those solutions, contact me today for your free sleep call. Because a well-rested family is a happy family!