Why is My Baby Waking in the Night?

Why is My Baby Waking in the Night?

I’m not sure what parent wouldn’t have asked this at some stage throughout their little one’s life right?!

Well, firstly you may have already heard that your baby will never actually sleep through the night.

No matter how old we are we all partially wake after a sleep cycle and usually, without even knowing it, transition into the next one.

However, if you’re asking this question your little one is obviously fully waking in the night either multiple times or more than you would expect.  

Is your baby getting too much sleep or not enough sleep?

So first, let’s look at what is realistic to expect from your baby overnight:
  • 6 weeks old: 3-6 hours
  • 12 weeks old: 3-8 hours
  • 4-5 months old: 4-8 hours
  • 6 months old: 4-12 hours
  • 7 months old: 5-12 hours
  • 8 months old: 6-12 hours
  • 9 months plus: 11-12 hours
It’s also worth being aware of the recommended total hours sleep over a 24-hour period which the AAP recommends is:
  • 4-12 months: 12-16 hours
  • 12 months: 2 years: 11-14 hours
  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours.
Again, you’ll see this varies a lot but when we are looking at why your baby might be waking overnight it is important to look into whether they are getting too much or not enough sleep first. This is because overtiredness causes higher cortisol levels and makes it harder for your baby to go to sleep and/or stay asleep, and too much sleep will mean they won’t have enough sleep pressure to get them through.

Are they waking from genuine hunger?

If your baby is waking in the night and taking long, full feeds then they will be genuinely hungry.

If your little one is on solids, make sure they are getting enough low GI carbs and protein (if over 10 months) at dinner time, as well as a full milk feed before bed.

Also, make sure that your little one is getting enough milk during the day. If they’re not they will definitely be making up for it during the night.

Remember, to keep in mind the realistic night expectations above and know that your little one may possibly need to keep that feed or feeds overnight for now.

Are they waking due to a sleep association?

A sleep association is anything your little one needs to be able to fall asleep. So, this could be feeding, rocking, a dummy, a pat, singing, and so on.

If your little one isn’t genuinely hungry when they wake, is waking more than the realistic expectations above, and/or you can see they are just waking and needing your support to go back to sleep, then they have a sleep association and it is causing them to fully wake after a sleep cycle when sleep pressure is lower, rather than transition into the next one with no support.

So, if this is the case and you want to reduce those night wakes, you will need to start working on either independent settling or replacing the current sleep association with one that is going to work better for you and your family!

How do you know if your baby is waking due to genuine hunger or association?

Like I mentioned above, if your little one is taking long, full feeds then they’re obviously hungry.

But if they are waking and only feeding for a minute or two before falling back to sleep, then they will have a feed to sleep association happening.

Is it their sleep environment?

If there is any light getting into your little one's room this can effect their melatonin production and cause wakes. Try some black out blinds and make sure there isn't any artificial light getting into their room.

Maybe they're being woken up by noise? Try some white noise to soften any noise in or outside.

Or possibly the room temp is too cold or too hot? Keep their room at about 18-20 degrees Celsius, or dress them according to the room temp.

Multiple night wakes are bloody exhausting and can be tricky to get on top of on your own. It's also important to keep in mind that these are just a few of the things that I commonly see contributing to night wakes. There could be other things happening for your little one.

But that is why I am here!

You can book your 1on1 sleep support with me here, and we can tackle those night wakes together.  
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