Every parent has experienced the absolute joy of waking up through the night with a new baby. Some parents are very lucky, and they have a child who sleeps relatively well through the night from the moment they are born. Other parents deal with the wakers, the colic babies, the cuddlers who want to be held all day and all night. And do you know what? There is nothing wrong with any of these babies in this scenario. There’s nothing nice about waking up regularly at night as an adult.
You want a solid sleep so that you can feel rested for the day. But babies just don’t work that way! Sleep in babies is developmental. They go through cycles in their first year of life so that their brain can grow and develop. The problem is that most parents try to get children into some kind of routine as early as possible. While it’s nice to have routines, and you think you may have it down with a relatively regular bedtime, the 4-month sleep regression will smack you in the face harder than anything else and make you feel like you’ll never sleep again. This particular regression is tough for most parents, because it’s a shift in the way their babies think, move, and understand how sleep works.
Because of the development in the brain, babies tend to regress back to what feels like a newborn waking pattern. Some parents even turn to solid food at this time to encourage the children to sleep through the night – but all that’s going to have to do is potentially damage their stomachs as there’s no need for solid food before 6 months unless medically necessary. Below, we’ve got some of the reasons that your baby is working through the night – and why it’s absolutely normal that they do.
- They are supposed to. Babies are not born with the ability to sleep through the night. The stomachs are little bigger than the size of a blueberry when they are born, which means they need frequent and regular feeding. It can feel like your baby is feeding from you 24/7, and that’s because the more they simulate the glands, the more milk they can make. It’s essentially like putting in an order at a bar! Babies are supposed to have shorter, more frequent cycles of sleep and waking so that they can survive. Some babies are born with the ability to sleep through – but that’s not the norm. You should know that it’s absolutely fine if your newborn baby is waking you up.
- The need to feed. As we said, babies have tiny stomachs. They need to have smaller feeds. Even if you are bottle feeding and not breastfeeding, feeding your baby 1 to 2 ounces every 1 to 2 hours is perfectly normal. Look up paced feeding to avoid too much wind being trapped, and feed your baby in a clustering way as you would as if you were breastfeeding to mimic the natural progression.
- They may be in pain. Wind pain is no joke for a tiny baby, and although you may feel like you have burped them for hours, the tiniest bubble can really cause discomfort. There is also the added pain of potentially silent reflux. This is when your baby is laying down, acid reflux moves back through the esophagus and causes a burning pain. Babies will scream when this happens, and they will want to be placed upright. A good way to avoid these things is to ensure that your child is upright on your chest or shoulder for at least 30 minutes after a feed. Patting their lower back or the bottom also helps to bring up some wind.
- Night time is scary. As an adult, when you wake in the night for a drink you get up and get a drink. If you wake in the night because of a nightmare, you do any method necessary to calm yourself down before you can get back to sleep. If you wake up in the night and you feel alone and in need of comfort, you might snuggle closer to your partner. Babies don’t have the ability to do any of that – not without your help. When they wake up in an unfamiliar place that doesn’t feel like your body and doesn’t smell like you, that can cause them to panic and they will cry to alert you to their discomfort. You can’t expect a baby to articulate to you what it is they need, so you have to respond to each of those cries so that you are providing the comfort that they need even if all they want is a cuddle.