The big question is why do babies wake frequently at night? Here are the top 5 reasons babies wake too often at night along with what to do for each reason:
- Your expectations are too high for your babySimply put, you need to examine what you expect from your baby. Newborns wake often at night. If your baby less than 6 weeks old is stretching for three hours or more, they are doing the right thing. Solution – adjust your expectations. If your young baby is waking more than two hourly or not settling at all after a feed, you are right to be concerned. Solution – swaddle your newborn tightly and play white noise; don’t change her nappy at night unless she has soiled it. Nappies are generally absorbent enough for urine not to disturb her and by changing her nappy you may wake her up to much during a night feed, which may make her unsettled thereafter.
- Your baby is hungryAt around 5 months babies start to wake more frequently again as they start to need a little extra nutrition at night. Solution – Either reintroduce a night feed such as the early morning (1am) one and feed when she wakes OR if she is over 4 ½ months and there is no history of allergies, you could introduce rice cereal. After 6 months some babies start to wake more often because they need certain Essential Fatty Acids that are found in proteins. Milk no longer supplies all the EFA’s your baby needs. Solution – If your baby is over 6 months old introduce proteins such as chicken, lamb, beans, legumes, cheese and yogurt. If your baby is older than 9 months add in fish, egg and nuts as well (if there are no allergies to these in your family).
- Your baby is not sleeping enough during the dayAs strange as it sounds, if your baby is over tired because she is not sleeping enough during the day, she will wake more often at night. Solution- Make sure she has enough day sleeps by watching her awake times (refer to Baby Sense). Once she has been awake for her age appropriate awake time, watch for her signals and put her down to sleep.
- Your baby is uncomfortableIf your baby has been a good sleeper or can effectively put herself to sleep in the evening and most nights and then suddenly wakes at night frequently, you can bet your bottom dollar she is uncomfortable. Solution – Make sure she is warm enough and not too hot. Invest in a room thermometer and maintain the room temperature at around 20 degrees Celcius. If it is cool in the early mornings, use a sleeping bag. Check that your baby is not teething – make this decision during daylight hours – if you can see or feel a tooth under the gums. If your baby has lost her appetite and feels like she has a fever take her to your doctor as she may be ill.
- Your baby has developed a bad habitFrequent night waking can be put down to habits if your baby is over five months old (particularly common from 7 months onwards) and need to be fed, rocked or patted to sleep in the evening and for day sleeps. Solution – You will need to help your baby relearn strategies to self sooth that she can use independently. Dummies must be put into her hand so she learns to do it herself. ‘Doodoo’ blankies such as the Baby Sense Taglet are great as they are easy to use. At the end of the day some sleep coaching may be necessary as you teach your baby to sooth herself.
Frequent night wakings are the bane of a new parent’s life. The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel and most babies do sleep through consistently eventually. However along the way, all babies have period of disrupted nights until they are in pre-school.
By Meg Faure