You can’t fix a problem you don’t understand. If your baby is waking up at night frequently, it can be hard to understand the why. And it’s impossible to try and fix the problem without understanding what is causing the wakings. But as any mother will tell you, trying to figure out the why behind those wakings is not an easy task. Every mom has her own reasons, and we readily share those reasons with other moms to be helpful because we all know what those dark sleepless nights and days are like. The problem is that there is a lot of misinformation going around, so some of those suggestions may not actually be helpful. I have helped hundreds of families sleep better with babies and toddlers, and here are my top five reasons your baby is waking at night.
1. Hunger. Yep, you’ve probably heard this one before. Of course, babies wake when they are hungry, right? The real question is how do I know if it is actually hunger that is waking them? You can get specific answers for your baby through your pediatrician about how long your little dreamer can go at night without eating and how many total feedings at night your baby needs. Generally, babies younger than four months may need up to three feedings at night (though many don’t need this many), babies older than four months may only need 1-2 feedings, and by 9 months all babies should be able to go all night without any feedings.
2. Sleep Aid. Many babies before 4 months of age are given many different sleep aides to help them sleep. Think binky, swaddling rocking to sleep, just to name a few. These tools are so helpful in the newborn months, but after 4 months of age these precious tools can begin to inhibit good sleep for your baby. What ends up happening is the baby relies on these aids not only to fall asleep, but essentially, to stay asleep. When the binky falls out or you stop rocking, even 45 min. to a few hours after these “tools” go missing, your baby will have trouble transitioning from one sleep cycle to another without help. And without those tools, you have a baby waking up!
3. Developmental Milestone. Object permanence, rolling over, crawling, walking are all development milestones that can disrupt sleep. How can you know if your baby is experiencing a developmental milestone? If your baby has mastered or is close to mastering any of these new skills it is a good chance that you have a developmental milestone sleep regression on your hands. With routine and consistency these sleep regressions tend to pass in two week’s time. If your baby isn’t sleeping back to normal in two weeks, you may have another issue at hand.
4. Inappropriate Schedule. Essentially a baby who is getting too much or too little daytime sleep, or too much awake time before bed is likely to wake more frequently at night. In one year your baby’s sleep needs will change drastically. In fact, in even just a few months your baby’s sleep needs can change drastically. It can be hard to keep up with. At 4 months your baby may need 4 naps a day and at 7 months your baby might only need 2. If you want help identifying if your sleep schedule is what is waking your child at night, head over to Facebook and participate in my weekly and free Q&A sessions. You can tell me your schedule, and I will help you understand if your child’s sleep schedule is a problem or age appropriate.
5. Illness. We all know that illness can disrupt sleep, be it adult’s sleep or that of a baby. If your baby is sick, extra night wakings may be part of the bargain. But remember, not all illnesses are created equal. A cold, ear infection, or stomach bug will all affect sleep differently and some can even improve sleep. Sleep is vital to the body being able to recover and during recovery your baby may need even more sleep or sleep more soundly than normal. While many parents would lump teething in with illness I would caution against that. Currently there is no research to support that teething disrupts sleep for more than 1-2 nights, which is how long it takes for the tooth to actually break through the gum and pop out. However, if you have ever been around a group of moms, you know how much teething gets blamed for every possible waking (and many other symptoms for that matter)! The first tooth tends to break through sometime between 4-7 months, and guess when the first big sleep regressions happen? Four to seven months. This is quite the coincidence. It makes sense that teething takes the blame for bad sleep. Unfortunately, teething isn’t the culprit. If your child is waking frequently at night for more than 4 nights it is safe to say that you may have something other than teething on your hands.
When you are sleep deprived, it is hard to make sense of all the information out there and be confident in your approach. I help exhausted parents know with confidence that they are giving their baby exactly what he needs in order to get the best possible sleep. Don’t wait for another sleepless night. Contact me today to schedule your free 15-minute consultation to discuss the right sleep package for you. My prices range from $30-649 and there is something for everyone!