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Read some of our great articles on a range of parenting topics from sleeping to teething. We publish new blog posts regularly and feature a number of baby sleep experts and their top tips

reasons baby wakes at night

Five Reasons Why Your Baby Wakes at Night

Discover why your little one is finding it hard to stay asleep.

Most parents will tell you that one of the most spine chilling sounds is that of your baby crying in the middle of the night. Lack of sleep seriously sucks, which is why there are so many books, websites and apps dedicated to helping babies sleep better, so parents can also sleep better too.

Wondering why your baby wakes at night? Wondering what you can do about it? Well wonder no more! We've put together the top five reasons why your baby wakes and some useful information on why it happens too. We're not saying we can solve it and get you a full night's sleep - but it’s a start!

Hunger

It might seem obvious but it can be surprising to parents when their baby still wakes at five months for food. In fact, it’s completely normal for your baby to wake for food up to 12 months and beyond.

In the newborn days, your baby's tummy is so small that any food taken in is digested within two to three hours. This means that sleep is also in short chunks, as hunger is the number one reason why a newborn baby wakes. As babies get older, their tummies get bigger and so the length of time that they sleep for increases but this doesn't mean that they can sleep all the way through the night without feeding.

Some babies may stop feeding at night from around three months of age, some around six months. Some babies may still need a night feed up to twelve months old. If your baby is clean, dry and well, yet still waking in the night seeming to be hungry, chances are she is. Try looking at it this way - the average night is 12 hours long, so you're asking your baby to go for 12 hours without food. If you know that you would struggle that long without eating, it stands to reason your baby might too.

If you suspect that your baby is not hungry, then it might be the right time to night wean; bear in mind that this is only really recommended after the age of nine months. Until then, make sure daytime feeds are regular and consistent and go with the flow and pop in a ‘dream feed’ when you go to bed. A hungry baby is not going to sleep, whether you like it or not!

Teething

This is a HUGE reason why your baby wakes at night and this will be a major cause of lost sleep until all those pesky teeth appear! Teething hurts and pain disrupts sleep. However, there are ways that you can soothe your baby if teething is keeping her awake at night.

Remember that your once great sleeper will once again become a great sleeper once those teeth are through. Teething pain tends to last around a week or so, so take comfort from the fact that it will soon pass.

Use teething remedies as much as you can.

Why Your Baby Wakes at Night

'Sleep Props'

This is a tricky one. There are some who believe that if a toy, pacifier or white noise app helps their baby to sleep, then there is no reason why they shouldn't be used. There are others who say that these things are nothing more than 'sleep props' and won’t prevent your baby from waking at night. If rocking, singing or swinging helps your baby to sleep and you're happy to do it, then that’s no problem but if you think sleep props are causing your baby to wake, read on.

Sometimes a baby will use a sleep prop to fall asleep and this is great for all concerned... until your baby wakes and that prop is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the pacifier has fallen out or the white noise machine has long since fallen silent. If this is why your baby has woken, chances are your best bet at getting your baby back to sleep is to re-apply the same prop. The problem with this, according to some, is that your little one will be unable to get back to sleep by themself if they rely on sleep props to fall asleep.

If you think this is the case for your baby, it might be a good idea to do away with the sleep prop and help your baby to fall asleep another way.

Growth Spurt or Developmental Leap

Babies are constantly growing and developing and this can affect their sleep too. Some babies find the whole business of learning new tricks so unsettling that they struggle to sleep at night. Think of it in terms of having a presentation due at work, or an impending exam. Sometimes, these things can keep us awake at night - and for some babies, learning to crawl or having an increasing awareness of the world is exactly the same.

Some babies will wake during these developmental periods and be able to fall straight back to sleep by themselves. Others will need some help going back to sleep. Only you will know which category your baby falls into!

Human Nature

Human beings are not designed to sleep through the night in one solid chunk of 12 hours. We're designed to go through periods of lighter sleep, followed by deeper sleep. We naturally have periods of being almost awake during lighter sleep because we are more susceptible to being disturbed by the slightest thing. You know that being poorly, cold, hungry, hot, worried or excited can prevent you from sleeping and your baby is no different.

These are the five top reasons why your baby wakes at night and the best advice we can give is to cope with each as it comes and get through it. Meanwhile, stick to a good bedtime routine, follow your instincts and heed the advice of the parenting manuals that appeal to you. And remember - your baby is supposed to wake now and then.

Free printable baby tracker, diary and logbook

Further Reading:

A Month by Month Guide to Sleep Regression
Why Going for a Walk When Your Baby is Asleep is Such a Good Idea
Keep Your Baby Safe While Using a Car Seat

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