Have you been there? Comfortably sleeping and your baby wakes up? One of the most common concerns for parents is in reference to a night waking and how they should respond.
Now, a few questions come to mind before responding.
How old is the baby?
How often are they feeding during the day and how much?
Are they waking for comfort or hunger?
Is a diaper change in order?
What does the baby’s room look and feel like?
What does their schedule look like?
For this blog post, I’m referring to babies 4 months and older. Newborns are in their own category and they run the show at this point. So, feed them at every waking, cuddle them, change their diaper, etc.
So what’s going on with an infant 4 months and older? The internal body clock, their development level, being hungry, and their room environment could be contributing factors to what a parent may experience.
First thing’s first. Anytime you respond to a night waking, keep your interaction very boring. Keep the lights dim, and go in to do what you came in there to do. We don’t want to stimulate your baby in a way that makes them think it’s time to play.
Babies should be fed every 2-4 hours depending on their age and maybe a little more frequently if breastfed. Offering your baby a little more to eat/drink after a feeding, allows for their little bellies to fill up, resulting in them needing to be fed less during the night. Typically, if I see a baby 8 months or older, getting full feeds, and they’re healthy, the chances of them waking up needing to be fed is slim. Rather, it’s a comfort feed. Now, by all means….if you want to feed your baby and you find that time relaxing (I did), then you feed your baby. But if you realize that it’s not needed, then you can begin the weaning process.
Another cause for night wakings could be light or sound coming in. Keeping the room pitch black and having the white noise running all night helps prevent any extra stimuli and also brings the comfort they had of being in the womb.
Dress your baby according to what the temperature is like in their room and based on the sleep sack they are wearing. Often times, babies will wake up if they’re uncomfortable and have trouble getting back to sleep. (You can find the TOG chart PDF at the end of this blog post).
Lastly, and the most common reason I find with clients for night wakings is their baby needs a change in their schedule. Too much sleep and too little sleep can cause night wakings, so a good schedule is my first recommendation.
So what are some solutions to help with night wakings?
Everyone wakes up throughout the night. Adults do, toddlers do, everyone. The difference is, as adults we know how to fall back to sleep. Babies stir in their sleep just like us, so give them a few moments to see if they’ll settle on their own.
If you feel a diaper change is in order, consider going up one size with an overnight diaper. This will help give your baby some room rather than have the diaper with urine press against their body. You can also change their diaper BEFORE the feeding so they can remain calm during the rest of their feeding and you can just lay them back down after they are fed.
Find what schedule works best for your child and their age. (You can find the download at the end of this blog post).
Keep room dark and if you have to go in, try to limit interaction so your baby doesn’t think it’s time to play. Consider a dimmer rather than a nightlight or the light from your phone.
If nothing else seems to be doing the trick, consider sleep training. Many times it’s a matter of baby learning how to put themselves to sleep so that if they wake during the night, they can take it from there.
The most important tip of all: STAY CONSISTENT no matter how you decide to handle night wakings. If you decide to feed, continue to always feed until you choose otherwise.