By Nicole A. Johnson
A baby who is waking at night is one of the most common issues parents struggle to help their baby overcome. One step to understanding how help a baby sleep better at night, is to have a better understanding of why a baby wakes at night. In this article we will highlight the 5 main reasons for a baby waking at night.
1. Your baby has a sleep association
“Sleep association” are also known as “sleep props” or “crutches.” This means your baby has a specific item or way that they have been conditioned to believe they “need” in order to be able to fall asleep. For many babies, this will be a pacifier, bottle feeding or breastfeeding to sleep. For other babies, this may be some movement such as rocking, bouncing, walking or a ride in the car. Some higher needs babies will come to rely on a combination of sleep crutches such as bouncing with a pacifier.
The age of the baby and the type of sleep association are the two things to take into consideration when determining the best course of action to take to help teach a baby to fall asleep on his own and to break his dependence on his sleep crutch. It is also a good idea to keep in mind the baby’s temperament when creating a sleep training plan.
2. New Developmental Milestones
As your baby learns how to crawl, pull up, walk or talk, these are all developmental milestones that can disrupt your baby’s sleep at night or during nap time. The main thing to keep in mind with sleep disruptions caused by developmental milestones is to keep your expectations realistic because even when it may not seem like your baby is learning a new skills, that does not mean that she is not still learning. Even though a developmental milestone might temporarily disrupt sleep progress, it does not mean that your baby is not still learning sleep habits when you remain consistent with your sleep training. When your baby reaches an age where she can learn how to go back to sleep on her own, then night waking becomes less frequent and is much less disruptive for the whole family.
3. Your Baby is Teething
It might feel like your baby is teething constantly for two years especially when many babies experience teething troubles long before a tooth even pops through. When teething seems to make your baby wake more a night, it can be hard to know how to handle continuing to teach your baby to sleep well. Parents may wonder “Is my baby in pain?,” “Is this why my baby is waking all night?” Often a baby waking due to teething is a temporary phase where a baby will go back to their regular sleep habits once they feel better as long as the parents have tried to remain consistent with putting baby to sleep as they did before teething and during the teething process. Try to have a sleep plan in place for your baby during those teething phases.
4. Baby is hungry
Many parents are told that their baby should not need a feeding during the night after a certain age. This might be true if every baby were exactly the same and had the exact same needs. It is simply not the case. On average, many babies will still need a feeding or two at six months of age. It is important to keep in mind that 11-13 hours is a long time for a baby with a small tummy to go without eating. A baby waking at night out of hunger can still be fed without creating a feeding sleep association and often a feed at night is just what a baby needs to continue to sleep through the rest of the night.
5. Babies are human too.
While it is true that most babies will thrive on a good schedule and routine, parents can sometimes lose perspective and become confused that their baby does not sleep the same every day. Babies are people too and not robots. They are going to have some unpredictability about them, their own personalities, wants and needs. There are some babies who do sleep and wake like clockwork but there are just as many who do not. In the same way that a parent may not be hungry at exactly the same time every day, a baby may not sleep at the same time every night. Babies will have good days for sleep and bad days just like everyone else.
There are many reasons why a baby can wake at night and with toddler sleep problems, then number of reasons tends to increase. Try to understand why your baby may be waking at night and then work to find a solution whether it is temporary comfort during a disruptive phase or weaning her from a sleep association. As babies grow, they will change and their capacity to learn and understand increases substantially. The same will be true about their sleep habits so it is best to try to be flexible and understanding but consistent when teaching your baby how to sleep better.
The Baby Sleep Site offers personalized sleep coaching solutions for babies and toddlers struggling to get the rest they deserve. Through a combined approach that includes everything from comprehensive e-books and one-on-one consultations to regular blog updates and sample sleep schedules, the experts at The Baby Sleep Site have been able to help countless children – and their parents – start sleeping better during the day and at night.