Geez, itâs been a while. Life got in the way of my writing, but Iâm here to talk to you all about a pressing issue all moms face in the first year of babyâs life. If you were never around babies before becoming a mom, then youâre just now discovering that the saying âsleep like a babyâ isnât what anyone should ever go for.
Sleep like a log is a much better way to sleep because logs will just lay there.
Babies, on the other hand, donât. In fact, it is common for babies to wake multiple times a night. Itâs not normal for them to sleep through the night, especially early on. That time will stretch longer and longer as they get bigger, but for the first year of your babyâs life, plan on being woken up quite often by your baby.
Table of Content
Why Do Babies Wake Up at Night?
There are several reasons why your little one will wake up at night, but before I get into those, letâs talk about the physiology of it.
According to Stanford Childrenâs Health, newborns will sleep between 8 and 9 hours during the day. At night, they will sleep about another 8 hours though they will likely not sleep for more than 1 to 2 hours in a stretch.
Depending on your baby, they likely wonât sleep for the 6 to 8 hour stretch that is considered through the night until 3 months or later. Generally, when they start weighing about 12 pounds, youâll start getting a bit more sleep.
But do know that babies have different sleep cycles than grownups. They spend less time in REM, which is that dream-time sleep. Their cycles are shorter too.
Now that you know this, we can get into why your baby wakes up at night. Remember, itâs totally normal. Both of my daughters did it though I assumed it was because they were hungry. It turns out; it has a lot to do with the whole sleep cycle and their brain waves too.
Because babies donât know how to get themselves back to sleep, theyâll often cry, which results in your attention. For all the reasons why your little one is waking up at night and how to handle it, keep on reading!
Some babies are just born this way
My mom is a light sleeper. She always has been. Sheâs an early riser too. I remember waking up for high school, bleary-eyed, and grouchy until I had coffee. Mom, on the other hand, was chipper without fail, even before coffee. Sheâd get up at 5 am because thatâs how sheâs programmed. Iâm the complete opposite. If you left me to sleep and didnât wake me up, Iâd probably sleep until 9 or 10 am.
Babies are the same way. Some just sleep better than others right from the start. But if your baby is like my mom, donât worry too much. You can help them develop good sleep habits. Itâs all about being consistent.
Be forewarned though that old habits tend to die hard. I would always nurse my girls back to sleep. This worked like a charm until they got bigger and I had to break them of the habit so they could learn to soothe themselves back to sleep. In the beginning, though, if your baby is showing the signs of hunger late at night, donât withhold the boobies!
They just want you
From your babyâs perspective, sheâs wondering where youâve gone. In reality, you could be mere feet away, much like my girls were when they were newborns. The crib stayed in our room until they were bigger.
As my eldest got bigger, she was less clingy. My youngest, though, is a clinger that Iâve talked about at great lengths. Sheâs becoming less of one, but sheâs totally a Mamaâs Girl.
When theyâre in their infancy, though, forgive this because while growing inside of you, you were technically holding them 24/7. They grew to know your voice, your laugh, and your scent. You are one of your babyâs greatest comforts in the world. The mere sight of you or the smell of you can make them feel secure again.
One way to keep your baby from getting a bit too clingy at night and make the transition to sleeping for longer stretches is to take the fitted sheet from the crib and snuggle with it. Make sure you get your scent all over it, then put it back on the crib. It will definitely help!
Make your husband get up and help too! I found a fascinating study conducted in 2010 in Tel Aviv, where the dads that were more involved with helping care for the baby at night and during the day, too, resulted in fewer nighttime awakenings by the baby.
What can you glean from this? Simpleâ¦make sure you and your spouse are taking turns!
Theyâre going through a developmental shift
My wonderful friend Chrystal once said that once you start acing what your baby needs, thatâs when they go through another developmental shift, and you have to go back to square one. Itâs a perfect way to describe it too.
Usually, youâll find this fun starting around 4 months of age. Itâs during this time that most babies sleep for longer stretches and then wake up every few hours due to those changes in the sleep cycle.
Once upon a time, you little one cried because she rolled over. Now sheâs doing it like a pro and finding ways to explore and engage with the world. Youâre going to be seeing a lot more activity from your baby during this time, count on it!
What can you do about that?
There are a few things you can try, though, namely if you stimulate her more during the day and keep her busy, it should tucker her out a bit more at night.
Here come the teeth
Probably one of the most frustrating times in the first year of your babyâs life is the stage of teething. It really does get better as more teeth come in, but in the beginning, expect her to be incredibly upset.
Nursing can help soothe her as can holding her. Giving her something safe to chomp on like a clean, cold, washcloth, or a wooden toy is also an excellent way to get her to chill. Sometimes though, nothing seems to work. You can try the proper old-fashioned distraction technique.
Actually, distraction is ideal in most interactions with babies and small children. If you can get them to laugh or focus on something else, it takes their mind off the teething.
Sooner or later, your little will come down with something. Generally speaking, this seems to happen around 6 months or so. The likely culprit is because theyâre always putting their hands in their mouths (or anything else they can find, which is why itâs so important to keep dangerous things out of reach).
Youâll know something isnât right either. The sound and pitch of her cry will be different from the other cries youâve grown used to her making for hunger, wanting attention, having a dirty diaper, and everything else.
When my eldest was just a baby, I remember her making a strange cry. She wouldnât stop nursing either. I called my breastfeeding coach, and she could hear her crying. She said we should take her to the doctor because she sounded like she was in pain. It turned out to be a stomach infection.
If your baby is coughing or congested, you can help by elevating the mattress underneath the head, so it angles downward. This will help keep fluids from pooling and allow them to flow more easily.
When your baby is sick, itâs a very stressful time that gives you even more sleep deprivation. In most cases, all should be well though if your baby is less than 3 months old and has a fever, call the pediatrician right away. There are other things to look for, too, and this list by the Mayo Clinic can help you determine if the symptoms and age of your baby are severe enough that they require immediate medical attention.
If itâs nothing major, youâll just need to hang in there and be the rock that she needs. Lots of TLC and breastfeeding will surely help.
How to Handle an Older Baby Waking at Night?
Basically, with newborns, youâre just going to have to suck it up and wait until the sleep cycles and developmental stages start working in your favor. You can, of course, set a pleasant sleep environment for your tiny baby, but sheâs not going to fully understand your subtle cues for several more weeks, at least.
Thatâs not to say that you shouldnât try; however, itâs not going to make your baby go right to sleep magically. Still, swaddling brings security in the early months. Add rocking and white noise to that, and itâs a bit of a holy trinity. And of course, breastfeeding can help though youâll want to stretch that out a bit to keep her from depending on your boobies to get her back to sleep.
Older babies are a bit of a different story, though. The tricks that eventually work on her when sheâs just a few months old like swaddling, rocking, white noise, and breastfeeding, are mere childâs play when sheâs 9 months and up.
As teething and milestones begin to become more frequent, you may go from having a good sleeper to a wild child. What can you do to minimize all those late-night wakeups at this stage of the game?
- Have a solid bedtime routine in place
Remember that bedtime routine you started creating when she was just a wee thing? If you havenât perfected it by now, itâs time to start. Ideally, about 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime, you should have bath time. After the bath, follow with a soothing massage on the bottoms of her little feet. This Aveeno Baby bath kit can help!
You can use pure essential oils with baby too, but they should never be applied directly!
After the soothing bath, once all snuggly in her pajamas, have her pick the bedtime story. If you read to her while sheâs in bed, she should get sleepy. You can then sneak away. This takes practice and patience, though. I did this with my eldest, and it took several weeks for her not to cry when she found Iâd left the room.
- Make sure sheâs eating enough
At 9 months on up to a year, sheâs likely eating more and more solids as well as having breastmilk too. Itâs so important to make sure you feed her to the point of fullness. In fact, just before bedtime, perhaps before the story, top her off, so sheâs plenty full and sleeps more peacefully.
- Run out her energy during daytime hours
During the day, keep your little one as busy as possible. Play learning activities, take her on a walk in the stroller, or anything you can think of to wear her out. At night, keep things dull and dim. By that, I mean to turn down bright lights and make sounds more muted throughout your home. Sheâll start associating these things with sleep time.
- Make sure she naps
One last thingâ¦as babies get bigger, designated nap time is always essential. In the early stages, theyâll nap in the morning and the afternoon, but as they get bigger, one of those naps will drop off. Youâll be wise to plan errands and outings around that. Not letting her nap results in her waking up more or even being more challenging to put to sleep.
Youâd think the opposite would be true, but nope!
Now that you know why your baby wakes up at night and what to do, you can work around it to try to get just a little bit more sleep in. Maybe someday soon, youâll work your way up to sleeping-like-a-log status!