It’s a situation parents of infants know all too well. You and your little one have had a big, exciting day, and now it’s time to sleep. You’re certainly all but ready to pass out for a few days. The only problem is that your child just keeps waking up, even though he/she should be out like a light.
Why is your baby waking up every hour? Is it no big deal, something to be concerned about? Will he/she (or you) ever sleep through the night again? Taking care of your baby can be a full-time job, especially when your little darling doesn’t let you get any sleep. There’s no one specific reason your baby is waking up so frequently, but there are a few common factors I’ve found that affect the sleep patterns of babies.
1. Is Your Environment Noisy?
As an adult, it’s relatively simple for me to tune out distractions. While a passing car or neighbour’s television might be annoying, it won’t make it impossible for me to eventually fall asleep (within reason, of course). Babies haven’t had the time to adjust to intrusive sounds and how to tune them out, and as a result, struggle to sleep consistently if there are distractions present.
Once you’ve put your baby down to sleep, make sure any nearby activities are quiet enough to avoid disruption. A white noise machine helps for those outdoor interruptions you just can’t control, and will also help soothe your baby to sleep as an added bonus.
2. Is Your Baby Hungry?
There’s a chance you may be underfeeding your baby during the day. Have you researched exactly how much nutrition your baby needs throughout each stage of development? It might seem obvious, but many new parents don’t realize how precise the line between under and overfeeding can be.
There is also a chance that this may not be actual hunger, but merely habit kicking in. If you have a pattern of regularly feeding your baby throughout the night, he/she will grow to anticipate these set times. This is especially common if you are trying to wean your baby from nighttime feedings all at once. Keep in mind that you should not attempt to wean infants six months and younger from night feeding.
3. Is Your Baby Teething?
It’s no secret that teething hurts; those of us who have suffered through emerging wisdom teeth can attest to that. The general discomfort of new teeth bursting from their gums is more than enough to force a baby awake every hour.
You can’t make the pain from teething completely vanish, but there are small ways to help soothe it. A cold chewing ring works wonders (make sure there is absolutely no risk of it being a choking hazard if you plan on leaving it in the crib overnight), along with soothing gels. When putting your baby to sleep, try using a cold, thin washcloth to gently rub his/her gums.
Everyone gets sick, no matter how old they are, and it’s bound to happen to your infant at one point or another. It doesn’t help that he/she can’t tell you they’re sick. Being under the weather will keep any of us up, especially a little one who doesn’t understand what’s happening.
Common signs of illness (beyond the obvious and highly recognizable fever/rash) include a change in usual demeanor/appetite, increased frequency of crying that can’t be soothed, and abnormal bowel movements. Make sure you keep an eye on your baby’s symptoms and consult a licensed medical professional if you have any questions.
5. Is Acid Reflux a Factor?
Acid reflux isn’t just for those who are middle aged. If your baby has been diagnosed with GERD (GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease, it can be very difficult to get some sleep, especially considering that lying on your back for extended amounts of time can worsen the effects of acid reflux.
Frequent burping (especially after feeding), feeding in an upright position, and serving smaller portions of food more frequently are all ways to prevent acid reflux. Baby carriers and a propped crib mattress are additional methods of treatment and prevention.
6. Lack of “Wind Down”
Everyone has a hard time falling (and staying) asleep if they're still amped up from a particularly stimulating day. Doctors often recommend that we lead up to bedtime by staying away from electronic devices and other distractions. This applies for babies as well if they're still filled with energy when you lay them down to sleep, it's far more likely they'll wake up and stay up throughout the night.
It's best to ease your baby into bedtime. An hour before preparation, focus on simple, quiet, non-electronic activities. Keep lighting and noises low, then follow an established bedtime routine that ensures your baby recognizes it is bedtime and that it’s time to go to sleep.
7. Personalities Differ
Everyone reacts differently to various situations, whether they’re a baby or an adult. Have you observed that your child is more likely to be vocal in general? All babies wake up throughout the night, but some are just more prone to make some noise about it.
There isn’t much you can do to change this, but it can help ease concerns that something more sinister is in play as to why your child seems to be waking up more frequently than normal. Of course, you should still keep an eye out, as there may be a combination of reasons this is occurring.
There are a huge variety of reasons your baby might be waking up every hour. Most are easily preventable or treatable (noise, hunger, teething pains, lack of winding down, personality) while others may require the input of a licensed professional (illness, acid reflux).
What do you think? Have these solutions worked for you and your baby? Do you have some awesome suggestions of your own? Make sure to comment with any questions or thoughts!