It’s 1 AM, you are finally lying down and about to drift off when you hear it – a squeak from the bassinet. The chances are that you start to think to yourself – please, please, please, go back to sleep. Unfortunately, this may not happen – and for many parents – you are sure it won’t. If you find yourself in this situation, you are likely wondering – what can you do to help keep your baby from waking up every hour throughout the night?
The sleep cycle for a baby (the entire circuit from light to deep, NREM sleep, and some REM) only lasts for approximately 60 minutes. This means, every hour, your baby enters a lighter sleep, or they may wake up briefly, making a short squawk or moan.
Unless your baby begins to wail, you should give them a few minutes to try to self-soothe while you observe on a baby monitor – there is a good chance they will go back to sleep. If you have swaddled your baby and have white noise playing, they should settle in about 30 seconds.
However, if your baby insists they need attention in the middle of the night and every hour after that, there could be something bothering them. For example, does a parent snore? Is there a lot of traffic passing by? For babies with sensitive temperaments, this can be particularly problematic. While this is true, most babies’ top wake-up-issue is hunger.
Common Reasons Your Baby Wakes Up in the Middle of the Night
Before diving into the reasons your baby may be waking up in the middle of the night, it is a good idea to learn more about what may be causing these disturbances. Sometimes, it may be discomfort, but in other cases, the issue could be a temporary sleep disruption, such as separation anxiety or teething.
Some of the reasons your baby may wake up during the night include:
Sometimes, teething can cause late-night-wake-ups. However, the waking is usually only caused by the pain of teething for the first few nights. Remember, this is a problem that can occur when your baby breaks a new tooth, starting at just three months old. While some babies can cope with these issues well, others are so bothered by the pain that their sleep is interrupted. If this happens, you can try pain relievers to prevent additional issues.
Changes in Schedule or No Sleep Schedule
While there’s no need to have every minute accounted for, babies do well with a consistent schedule. When you establish a regular routine and bedtime for your baby, they will be more likely to sleep at these times. If any significant changes occur in your regular schedule, your baby may become overtired, which leads to issues going to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night.
Some babies experience sleep regression when they are around four months old, but this doesn’t mean it can’t occur at other ages, too. If your baby has begun to wake up at night, again and again, it could be sleep regression, which means it may be necessary to engage in sleep training again.
Hunger is one of the top reasons babies wake up at night. Feeding your baby more often may help to prevent these issues.
Steps to Take if Your Baby Wakes Up Every Hour
If your baby is waking up too often at night, there are a few steps you can take to prevent this. Keep reading to learn what those steps are.
Increase Daytime Feedings
You may be focused on sleep during the early months of life, but your baby is focused on food.
Remember, while your baby was in the womb, they ate every second of the day. This means it is no surprise they not only need but expect regular feedings – especially to sustain the fast growth that occurs during the first few months of life. In some cultures, some mothers nurse their babies 50 to 100 times a day.
To manage this high demand and get more than two hours of sleep at a time, it is a good idea to feed your baby every one and a half to two hours during the day. This will help them sleep longer at night.
Check for Noise and Lights
Some babies will wake up because of stimuli that are not very noticeable to you; however, it may be fascinating to them. This includes things like a light left on in the hall or a siren in the distance. With a white noise machine and blackout shades, you can help to reduce these distractions.
Check the Baby’s Diaper
Before putting your baby back to bed, be sure to check their diaper and make sure they are not in pain or sick. If your baby has a dirty diaper or is not feeling well, they will wake up throughout the night. Be sure to check for these things ahead of time to prevent issues through the night.
Don’t Rush in the Room
If your baby is fussing but not in serious distress, you need to resist the urge to rush in and pick them up. Instead, try a gentle pat until they calm down. However, be sure you stop patting right before they go to sleep, so they learn to go to sleep on their own. Using a pacifier may also be beneficial.
Never Assume Your Baby Is Hungry
If you have a baby who has been sleeping through the night and not eating in the middle of the night for a while, if you begin feeding them to get them to go back to sleep, it can be a hard habit to break. While this is true, if you have a baby who is younger and really does need feeding in the middle of the night, this may be the best way to get them back to bed.
Tips to Prevent Nighttime Wake-Up Calls
It doesn’t matter what has caused your little one to wake up; there are a few steps you can take to help prevent these situations in the future.
Develop a Bedtime Routine
Start getting ready for bedtime about 30 to 45 minutes before you want your baby to go to sleep. This may include a bath, infant massage, and story.
You should never give your baby the idea that being awake at night is exciting or fun. Dim the lights, don’t engage them and don’t change diapers – unless absolutely necessary.
Don’t Skip Naps During the Day
While it may seem like skipping naps is a smart move if your baby is waking up in the middle of the night, this tactic may backfire. While naps can counteract a sleep deficit at night, they are still necessary to maintain your routine and ensure your baby’s good health.
Give Them Plenty to Eat During the Day
Be sure your baby finishes their final feeding of the day before going to bed. If they don’t eat enough during the day, it is almost a guarantee they will wake up hungry at night. For very young babies, scheduling a dream feed may be smart right before you go to bed.
Overcoming Late Night Wake-Up Calls from Your Baby
As you can see, there are several reasons your baby may be waking up in the middle of the night. While this is true, there are also steps you can take to help ensure your little one gets the sleep they need, each and every night.
Keep in mind, the process of getting your baby to sleep through the night may take time and effort. While this is true, when you use the tips and information here, you will be able to get them smiling and on a good sleep schedule.