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Why Your Baby is Waking Up so Often During the Night and How to Help

In the first 12 weeks of your little one being born, they are growing and adapting to the world around them; learning about this strange outside environment. During this time, it is extremely common for your baby to wake up frequently during the night and have what appears to be an irregular sleep pattern. There are a number of reasons that your baby could be waking up so often during the night, but there are several effective steps you can take to help your baby adjust to a better sleep schedule. Give yourself and your baby more valuable sleep at night by understanding why they wake so much and implementing steps to help develop their circadian rhythm. 

Why Is My Baby Waking Up so Frequently During the Night?

In the first 6 months, your new-born will most likely wake up frequently during the night because they do not have a fully developed circadian rhythm (the cycle that helps our bodies know when it is day and when it is night). This means that it is completely natural for your baby to have trouble adjusting to sleeping properly during the night. However, it is vital that you and your baby get a good night’s sleep, to ensure they are developing properly and to keep you sane! Your baby needs day time naps but the night time is when your baby should get the most sleep. Here are the most common reasons that your baby may struggle to sleep more at night:

Hunger

Hunger is an extremely common reason that babies struggle to sleep at night. If your little one hasn’t had enough milk during the day, they are most likely hungry. Your baby will also wake up during the night for feeding, so make sure they get enough milk to settle back to sleep. Ensure that you are feeding at regular age-appropriate intervals during the day to ensure that you are meeting day time nutritional needs. This may involve waking a sleeping baby during the day to feed; which goes against that old wife's tale to not wake a sleeping baby!

Too Much Sleep During the Day

It is key that your baby naps during the day, but doesn’t have too many hours of napping! For babies under 6 weeks old, there should be around 4 to 5 hours of total nap time during the day, and for babies ages 6 to 12 weeks old, there should be 3 to 4 hours of nap time, to properly aid their development. By waking for feeds and stimulating between feeds it will help baby to not end up in a situation of day/night confusion - which is very common.

They are Sick

It is completely normal for your child to catch a cold or get sick from time to time, which will most definitely affect their sleep at night. If you suspect your baby is sick then seek medical attention to check that everything is okay & provide whatever comfort you need to in order to keep things as settled as possible.

Too Hot or Cold

Just like adults, if a child is too hot or too cold then they are going to feel uncomfortable and struggle to sleep, or wake up frequently. You can usually tell if your baby is too hot or cold by placing your hand gently on their chest or back of their neck. Extremities like hands and feet will always appear colder and are not reflective of core temperature.

baby waking at night
There are other reasons that your child could be waking up frequently during the night so it is a good idea to try out a variety of methods to find out what helps your baby sleep and why they are struggling.

How Can I Help My Baby Sleep More During the Night?

Sleep is so important for babies, so if your baby wakes a lot during the night, you should try a range of steps to improve the quality of their sleep. Luckily, there are a variety of ways that you can help your little one sleep more during the night. This will not only help their development but give you the sleep you need during the night. 

Encourage Your Little One to Stay Awake More During the Day

If your baby is younger than 6 weeks old then they should be napping for a total of 4 to 5 hours per day with 45 minutes to 1 hour time awake between naps. Once your baby has reached 6 weeks of age, they should be napping for around 3.5 to 4.5 hours per day with a wake period of approx 90 minutes between naps. If your newborn is napping too much during the day then you should gently wake them by picking them up or unwrapping them from blankets or clothing.

Once your baby has woken from a nap, try to keep them awake for an appropriate period. You can do this by stimulating them; play with them, talk to them, show them around their environment. Keeping your baby stimulated and awake will mean that they do not nap too much during the day and be deprived of sleep during the night. 

Some more information here on naps.

Increase Natural Light During the Day and Darkness at Night

Baby waking at night

Increasing the amount of natural light your baby is exposed to during the day is very important to the development of circadian rhythms. Get out for plenty of fresh air and walks in natural light. Outside of sleep times spend time in brightly lit living spaces not associated with sleep. However, at sleep times, including naps, ensure that their sleep environment is as dark as possible.

Darkness supports the sleepy hormone, melatonin in doing its work around getting us to sleep and staying asleep. It cannot do this work in a brightly lit space. So, darkness in day and night sleep is very important. During the night keep your baby’s nursery as dark as possible; even when you are in there, keep just enough light so that you can see what you are doing. Your little one will learn to associate the darkness with sleep, and encourage them to sleep for longer periods of time. 

Make the Night’s Sleep Environment as Calm and Relaxing as Possible

If your child sleeps in their own room or nursery at night, try to make the environment as relaxing and soothing as possible. You can do this by keeping the room dark or playing white noise such as heartbeat sounds or calming and quiet music, and by ensuring you remain calm while talking to or engaging with your baby in the nursery. Try to keep all energetic and playful interactions out of the nursery and in the living area where it is light so that your baby knows to associate the light with being awake. 

Feed Frequently During the Day

To combat hunger which will affect your baby’s sleep at night, try to feed more during the day. Even if you have to wake your little one from a nap, try to feed them in age-appropriate cycles during the day. Feeding your baby more frequently during the day will mean they are less likely to be so hungry when it is time to sleep at night. 

Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine can affect your baby just as it affects you! If you are a breastfeeding parent and you consume a lot of caffeine then it could easily be the reason that your child is struggling to fall or stay asleep during the night. Try to reduce the caffeine you are consuming during the day and see whether it helps your baby sleep. 

These steps are simple, yet effective to developing your baby’s sleep pattern properly, and encouraging them to sleep more at night than they do during the day. It is completely normal for your little one to wake up a lot during the night while they are adjusting to a schedule, but if you suspect there is an underlying issue then make sure you speak to your GP. 

Need more help? Our online Baby Sleep Series is designed to support you meet your sleep goals!

Reflux, known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, in babies is incredibly common and usually occurs within the first 6 months of your little one being born. Reflux generally takes place while your baby’s oesophagus is still developing, which causes your baby to bring up the milk they are fed, through vomit or hiccupping. Babies generally grow out of reflux once their muscular food pipe has developed; this is usually when they start crawling or walking.

Reflux can affect your baby’s sleep, weight, crying, and feeding, as well as a number of other symptoms, so it is important to keep an eye on your little one and track their symptoms to make sure they are okay. Luckily, there are a few things that parents can do to help their children that suffer from reflux. 

How Does Reflux Impact Baby’s Sleep?

Reflux in babies can make sleeping difficult. Unfortunately, when your baby is lying on their back in the safest position whilst sleeping, acid reflux can cause milk to come up through your babies throat and mouth, which can be very uncomfortable and painful. However, there are a few different effective ways that you can help your little one to settle at night and fall asleep.

How Can I Help My Baby Sleep?

It is crucial that you try to get you and your baby as good a night's sleep as possible. So, if your little one is struggling to sleep because of reflux there are a few things you can do to help! The best way to help your baby with reflux disease to sleep at night is to ensure that you are disassociating feeding from sleep. Make sure that feeds are offered 45-60 mins prior to sleep so that it has a chance to settle in your little ones tummy. Ensuring that they are held upright after feeds to keep the milk down and avoid discomfort is important. Some parents swear by propping the top legs of your babys sleep environment to create a slanted but flat surface to sleep on can also help with keeping milk in the tummy and avoid it travelling back up the digestive tract. Many mothers also find that playing white noise in the background is an effective way to help a baby to sleep. You will find very useful apps for white noise as well as via Alexa and YouTube.

How Do I Relieve My Baby That is Suffering From Reflux?

If your baby suffers from reflux, there are a few different ways you can help! The methods below can help soothe your baby and treat their reflux. 

Is your Child Ready to Stop Napping?

Keep Your Baby Upright

The best way to help relieve a baby suffering with reflux is to keep them upright as much as possible.

Gravity helps to keep milk down while a baby is upright, and will help relieve them.

Try to keep your baby upright while breastfeeding or bottle-feeding so that they can properly take the milk in, with less chance of them vomiting it back up. 

Frequent Feeding in Smaller Amounts

Another way to help your child if they are suffering from reflux disease is to feed them smaller amounts, more frequently. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, if your baby is full then it is more likely that reflux will occur, whereas smaller feeds will help your little one to properly digest the milk.

Keep Pressure off Their Stomach 

Tight clothes and carriers can put pressure on your baby’s stomach which will not help at all with their reflux. Keep any pressure off your baby’s stomach, especially after feeding, to help them keep in their milk and properly digest.

Avoid Traveling Straight After Feeding

Try to avoid putting your baby into a car seat soon after they have been fed, as the movement and motion of the car or mode of transport will encourage reflux. It is best to keep your baby upright after feeding and gently move them around.

Reflux- burping

Burp Your Baby More Frequently While Feeding

Another great way to help relieve reflux in your little one is to try burping them more frequently while feeding.

Put your baby over your shoulder in an upright position while gently burping them to help relieve their reflux.  

Switch Formula if You are Bottle Feeding

If you bottle-feed your baby then you can purchase anti-reflux formulas that will help to manage your babies reflux. The anti-reflux bottles help to stop your baby from consuming so much air that gets into the milk.

Does Silent Reflux in Babies Go Away?

Reflux in babies should go away naturally by time they reach the age of 12 to 24 months. However, it can last longer than this in some, but if your child is still suffering from reflux after 24 months then you should visit your GP. In very rare cases, persistent reflux can cause complications which is why it is important that you seek medical attention

Does My Baby Have Colic or Silent Reflux?

Around 20% of babies suffer from colic, which is when your baby cries a lot, usually over 3 hours per day but with no obvious reason. Normally we can tell something is wrong with our children when they cry, but it is unknown as to why babies suffer from colic, which is why it can be easily misdiagnosed as silent reflux. However, colic is nothing to worry about and should naturally end after your baby reaches 6 months.

There are a few ways to help you find out whether your child is suffering from colic or silent reflux. The symptoms that differentiate colic from silent reflux include your baby clenching their fists, going red in the face or bringing their knees up to their chest while being held. Colic is often referred to as the Purple Crying Period due to the sheer frustration that both parents and baby experience during episodes. Silent reflux on the other hand will include symptoms such as your baby coughing or gagging, having difficulty breathing, or finding it difficult to sleep. 

Reflux is nothing to worry about and should naturally end so the best thing to do is to try out different methods to soothe your baby while they are experiencing discomfort. 

For more information on how to help you baby sleep visit our blog section.

Christmas is such an exciting time, not just for children, but for everyone. It is a time when routine really goes on hold and probably one of the only times of the year where you really get to have quality time together as a family.

However, it is a time that can really interfere with sleep for children (and adults!). The excitement can make it difficult for them to settle down and then this is compounded by a lack of routine that they may be used to.

Here are a few of my top sleep tips when it comes to maintaining as settled sleep as possible for your little ones

  1. Prioritise napping but in the same breath, you may need to be flexible with it. For example, you may need to be at a family gathering in the afternoon that involves travelling during nap time. My advice would be to allow them to have a longer nap than normal in the morning and then nap in the car on your way there. However, if your child is down to 1 nap a day I would advise holding the nap time and explaining to those hosting that you will be arriving a little late. This will allow everyone to be rested and result in a more enjoyable afternoon for you all.
  2. Be prepared for bedtime. If you are out and about visiting family or friends then bring your child’s pyjamas with you. That way when it is time for you to leave you can pop their PJs on and should they fall asleep in the car on the way home, you can transfer them to their cot or bed. A travel sleeping bag for younger babies and toddler is very handy when travelling like this.
  3. Try to keep meals regular and nutritious. We all fall into the trap of too much sugar over the Christmas period but for children, this will take the edge off appetite and limit their intake of regular meals. Stick to one treat a day if at all possible or only allow on Christmas Day.
  4. When at home stick to your routine as much as possible. It might be tempting to snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie in the late afternoon and into the evening with the children however we know that the blue light from the TV and devices has a negative impact on sleep and makes it harder for us to fall asleep. Turn off the TV in the hour before bedtime and switch to Christmas books or telling your children stories of when you were small at Christmas. Children love this type of one to one interaction with their parents.
  5. Keep your family active. Get out for daily walks as much as Irish weather will allow! This physical activity will help with tiredness at bedtime – as opposed to lounging around the house all day. Fresh air and time in the outdoors will always help everyone sleep a little better.
  6. Make sure to let your child know when bedtime is coming. Remember they are going to be out of routine over Christmas and will lose track of things. In the hour prior to bedtime start to give them little warnings on when bedtime is happening – 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes and then follow through with bedtime.
  7. When it comes to Christmas Eve and younger children make it special but also plan. I would advise sticking to your normal bedtime that night but starting your bedtime routine a little earlier. Allow them time to leave out their snack for Santa and talk to you about how excited they are about him coming. Keep reminding them that they must go to sleep as Santa does not come while children are awake.
  8. Don’t be afraid to be the host for family and friends meetups. In doing this you will get to see those you love and have the opportunity to keep your child in their napping routine. Yes, they might be stimulated by the extra activity that day and Aunty Joan may not want the little one to go for their nap but you are the parent and know best so stick to your routine around sleep as much as you can.
  1. Don’t expect Christmas to be a time to work on sleep issues you might be experiencing with your children. As described above, Christmas is a time for visiting family and generally one where we are out of routine.  Working on sleep requires consistency and follow-through. This isn’t something that you will be able to give over Christmas. So wait until the new year when things are quieter and you can really focus.
  2. Lastly, make sure you have fun. I am a firm believer in the 80/20 rule when it comes to routine and parenting. Yes, we do need to make sure that we are leading the way for our children and keeping a sense of what is normal and expected. However, we also need to have fun. Get out and about, make memories that will last a lifetime but remember that your little person is just that, little. They won’t cope with disrupted sleep and routine a few days in a row and what will result will be a grumpy overtired little human. If you have a few days on the go ensure you have a few days at home in routine to allow your little one to catch up.

What Age Do Babies Have Sleep Regression?

Sleep regression is the phrase used to describe when a baby or toddler who may have been previously sleeping well, begins to show changes in their sleeping patterns. This can include taking shorter, or no naps during the day, resist bedtimes and wake up through the night where things may have been more settled in that respect. Sleep regressions can last anywhere from a few days to a two to six-week period of time and can be a difficult and frustrating time for parents.

You have probably worked really hard on getting your little ones into a great bedtime routine and felt that sleep problems were a thing of the past. However, sleep regressions are part and parcel of the overall sleep development of your baby. Understanding and anticipating them will be key in handling it for your little one.

Key signs of sleep regression will include your baby suddenly waking up frequently during the night, fighting sleep at bedtime, shorter naps and generally fussiness.

What Causes Sleep Regression?

It’s important to remember that each baby is different, and you mustn’t compare your experiences with friends or even from one of your children to the next. That being said, there are key ages that sleep regression tends to occur, the first being 4 months, and there are also developmental milestones that can trigger it.

Sleep regressions occur due to huge progressions in your little one's development that then, unfortunately, can have a negative impact on sleep. These can occur when your baby is learning to crawl, pull themselves up or even potty training. One thing to always remember is that once your baby or toddler is passed each milestone, they can return to their standard sleeping patterns – which means you can too!

How Do I Know if it’s a Sleep Regression?

If your baby is sleeping less or stopped sleeping through the night for a few nights in a row and you can feel a tooth coming through, for example, then this is unlikely sleep regression and probably more teething related. So going through a little bit of trial and error plus noting down what is going on will help you to figure out what could be contributing to the sleep disruptions.

If the sleep problems are consistent for two to six weeks, and there are no other symptoms, then it’s likely sleep regression related. It can sometimes be hard to recognise sleep regression, especially if it doesn’t occur around an obvious milestone or expected age. However, as parents, you will know your own baby and be able to recognise any sudden changes in their sleep patterns.

Typical Baby Sleep Regression Ages

Four Months Old

The 4-month mark not only brings sleep regression but permanent changes to your babies sleep pattern. The 4-month sleep regression is one that parents fear but it really is a huge point of progressions and sleep development for your little one. At four months old, your baby’s circadian rhythms form. These are the start of more adult style wake-sleep cycles however they are in an infant state. So, understanding that from that point your baby’s sleep is starting its maturity will help you to understand your baby’s sleep capability at that point. This is something that is covered in huge detail in my sleep program The 4-6 Month Sleep Series. You will notice shorter naps, more broken sleep at night and potentially more frustration around sleep with your little one. The most positive way to look at it is, although you may feel frustrated that your last few weeks of developing a sleep pattern has come undone, it’s actually a very healthy growth and development milestone.

Six Months Old

Six months is a tricky one as, most of the time, it’s not sleep regression that your baby is experiencing but more like a growth spurt. Six-month-olds need around 11-12 hours sleep through the night and up to 3 hours through daytime naps. If you find your baby has started taking shorter naps, then you need to consider a change in their sleep schedule through the extension of wake periods. Again, this isn’t sleep regression but rather a nap transition.

The growth and development that occurs around the 6-month mark, including rolling or crawling, will leave your baby burning more calories than before. Over time your baby will start eating more solid foods, and you will be able to phase out the night feed completely if you are still feeding at night. My 6-9 Month Sleep Series program through its 7 Steps to Better Sleep can help you figure out how and when is the best time for you and your little one to fade out night feeding.

Eight to Ten Months Old

There are several developmental milestones that babies typically reach between eight and ten months old. For instants, your little one may already be crawling, pulling themselves up, teething and learning new skills. Thanks to this, you’ll find yourself in another phase of sleep regression, and thus you will get more sleep problems through the night and shorter to no naps in the daytime and end up with one exhausted baby.

During this age range, you will experience the transition to from 3 to 2 naps around 8 months of age. Coupled with this your baby may be able to tolerate longer wake periods between naps and up to bedtime. So, if you are experiencing challenges around napping and bedtime look to tweaking these wake periods to see if that then helps to resolve sleep challenges.

Eleven to Twelve Months Old

Much of the sleep challenges that parents experience at this age range are due to a need to tweak napping schedules. It can be the start of a need to shift towards 1 nap a day, however, trying to retain 2 naps for as long as is beneficial to your baby is recommended.

Fifteen Months Old

Between 14 & 16 months your child may be ready to transition to just one nap a day. However, with them learning to walk, you may find they start having trouble sleeping, and it’s harder to tuck them into bed! If your child is waking through the night and having two naps through the day firstly look to their day time sleep. If they are on 2 naps a day totally 3 hours sleep then reduce it back to 2.5 hours sleep to see if that helps things. If however baby is refusing naps over a 2-3 week period it is likely that the need to start shifting to 1 nap a day is needed. Take this transition slowly as going too quickly with it can create overtiredness and further compound sleep issues.

Eighteen Months Old

Did you think by now, sleep regression would be a thing of the past? Unfortunately due to developments around increased mobility, communication and brain development lots of toddlers can experience regressions around sleep. Another contributing factor can be separation anxiety. Very often parents will feel like they need to take a step back with their child's sleep however supporting them through this period can be key. My 9-18 Month & Toddler Sleep Series have the full toolkit on how to handle these regressions and expert-led support via the Sleep Series Community on Facebook.

Two Years Old

Unfortunately, the terrible twos are real, and it can bring with it another batch of sleep regression. Parents will report the start of nightmares and potentially night terrors. Toddlers will also start to naturally decrease their day time sleep and require longer wake periods to bedtime from the end of naps. Plus, they are walking talking negotiators with big egos! My advice here is keeping things very settled around sleep in your home, making it a priority and try to avoid the negotiations! Recognise that a lot of the challenges are around decreasing need for day time sleep can help things a lot. However, naps are life so I understand how the loss of napping can impact on the day to day running of your household.

How Do I Get Rid of Sleep Regression?

Unfortunately, there’s no ‘quick win’ to getting through each stage of sleep regression. However, it typically lasts for to two to three weeks, so it’s important to know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and that, as ‘regression’ suggests, your baby may return to their former sleep pattern, and it doesn’t last forever.

This being said, it’s essential that you don’t allow sleep regression to result in new habits being introduced around your little one's sleep. For example, through the frustrations of sleep regression, it’s easy to let your baby fall asleep in your arms, feed them to sleep or lie down with them to go to sleep. If you do end up in a situation like this moving away from the new habit after the regression has passed is key.

Here are six tips for surviving sleep regression:

1. Recognise that sleep patterns may need to be adjusted for your little ones sleep balance to settle. Sleep regression might set you back, but it doesn’t need to result in settled sleep forever leaving your home. By understand sleep and its developing stages you will be better equipped to deal with what lies ahead.

2. Make sure your babies sleeping environment, including during naptime, is as comfortable and dark as possible. Melatonin, the sleepy hormone, needs darkness for it to initiate sleep and maintain it. Sleeping in bring environments simply does not support consolidated restorative sleep for the body – day or night.

3. Ask for help – whether this is from a partner, grandparent or friend. Happy parents will equal happy babies, so don’t let sleep regression overrule you! Your loved ones will be more than ready to help look after their favourite little person, so make sure you ask if you need help.

4. Research (Research, Research). The more you know about each baby stage, from nap transitions and teething to sleep regression and developmental milestones, the better you will be able to understand each phase and understand what might happen at each age. My online program The Sleep Series is designed to empower and educate parents about child sleep through the age ranges so that at each stage they know what lies ahead.

5. Consider an earlier bedtime. Sleep regression can ultimately leave your baby irritable and exhausted, not to mention you as parents so an earlier bedtime could do the whole family some good!

I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it, every baby is different. You mustn’t compare your situation to another’s but if you are really concerned about sleep patterns, regression or just day to day, then consider consulting with a family sleep consultant to put your mind at ease.

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