Babies under 9 months (particularly if they are small) may wake from being genuinely hungry. Giving your baby one to two feeds is quite normal up until this age, especially if you are breastfeeding. Newborns may wake up to three times a night to feed and this is completely normal in the early weeks. Making the feeds dark and boring is essential for getting your baby resettled and back to sleep as quickly as possible. Formula fed babies can generally sleep through the night without a feed from 7 months - this is because their daytime feeds and diets are routinely structured.
Making sure your little person is not too hot or too cold is essential. An appropriate tog rated sleeping bag is essential. The core body temperature drops between 3am to 4am so if you find that your little one is waking then, they may be too cold.
Teething pain is a real annoyance to babies - their cry would be more of a grizzle than outright screaming. If teething is the cause of waking pain relief will help. If your baby has been happy during the day then teething is probably not the cause of night waking.
4. Wet Nappy
Nobody likes to sleep in cold, wet clothing do they? The same applies for your baby. If your baby has wet through their nappy and into their clothing, they will more than likely wake up and need a nappy and clothing change. If you find your baby is wetting through often, you can consider going up a size just for nights, or putting the bigger size over the smaller size to catch any "escaping" fluid. Tight onesies very commonly lead to leaking as they put pressure on the nappy.
5. Sleep Regressions
Sleep regressions happen quite frequently in the first 12 months of your baby's life (and often again at 18 and 24 months). Sleep regressions are not related to hunger or teething as they are developmental. Your baby may have learnt a new skill or has gone/is about to go through a developmental milestone. Your baby's sleep needs may have changed or they way their sleep is structured may have changed. Babies with healthy sleep habits from birth will experience less regressions than those who are overtired or rely heavily on sleep associations to get to sleep.
6. Sleep Associations
A sleep association is a prop that your baby needs in order to get to sleep. After 4 months, if your baby requires you to get to sleep they then may wake at the end of a partial or full sleep cycle (every 2 to 4 hours) looking for you to get them back to sleep. I can help you if you need help changing your baby's sleep association/s.
A baby who is overtired will find it very difficult to fall into a deep sleep. This is because the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in their body is elevated and preventing them from deep sleep. This is often due to catnapping during the day.
A baby who has had too much sleep during the day is genuinely just not tired enough to sleep. This leads to periods of wakefulness overnight. Check that your child is getting the correct amount of sleep for their age and the night waking should stop (and yes - this may mean that you need to wake them from naps!)
Often if your baby has had a cold and is finding it difficult to feed, they may wake more often as they are hungry. A gastro bug will mean that your baby is feeling very unwell and will find it very hard to sleep. I always suggest you go to their room when they are sick rather than bringing them into your bed – put a mattress on the floor, it is easier to slowly leave then than deal with an association formed by reactive co-sleeping.
10. Medical Conditions (E.g. Reflux)
Nights will be heavily broken if your baby is in pain. It is important that you help your baby get to sleep, so they are not overtired. Overtired babies cannot tolerate as much pain or discomfort as a baby who has had rest. If your baby has reflux and is medicated always ask your Dr about possible side effects. Some reflux medications can cause restlessness due to gut and wind pains – it is good to know this and prepare yourself!
Lauryn Stanlake - Infant and Child Sleep Consultant