If your newborn wakes every hour, do you just have to deal with it? Suck it up? Learn how to function on little to no sleep?
Parenting in the first few weeks is SO trying and difficult. You of course knew that babies don’t sleep for very long stretches, and that they developmentally SHOULDN’T. But waking every hour? Every 30 minutes? Every FIFTEEN? It can make you feel like you’re losing your mind.
Believe me. I’m a real mom, who had real-life sleep-hating babies. I’ve been where you are right now, wondering if it’s possible to die from baby-induced sleep exhaustion.
Baby keeps waking up every 10 minutes? Been there. Three week old wakes up every hour? Done that.
I have two kids, and just the thought of ever going through the pure exhaustion that newborn baby sleep causes again makes me cringe.
If your newborn is not sleeping well, it can consume a new mom. I know it consumed me and I probably read every single blog post out there about baby sleep. You need some baby sleep help.
The problem with newborn sleep is that new baby’s need to wake up in the middle of the night to feed. And while sleep training or cry-it-out might sound tempting because your baby won’t sleep, even sleep training experts don’t advise sleep training before 4-6 months old.
When you’re a new, sleep deprived mom, 6 months sounds like an eternity!
There are a lot of reasons that newborns wake in the night, but there are also things that you can be doing to encourage more sleep.
What Is Normal?
Short stretches of nighttime sleep are normal when your baby is a newborn. During the first few weeks, you should expect your newborn to wake every 2-4 hours.
It is normal for baby’s to have their days and nights confused. Your baby might sleep longer stretches during the day, and shorter stretches at night. Your baby might even be wide awake at night and not WANT to sleep.
Newborns also require frequent feeding, so frequent night wakings are normal and often needed. Waking every one hour or less however, is a little excessive and likely not due to hunger.
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Why Do Babies Wake Up In The Night?
Think the only reason that your baby should wake up is because of hunger? Think again. There are SO MANY things that could cause your baby to wake in the night. Here are the main possibilities.
This is the obvious one. Babies have tiny little stomachs and therefore it might seem like your baby wants to nurse constantly. Do you need to wake your baby to feed? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you wake baby at least every four hours until your baby is two weeks old or has reached his original birth weight.
2. The Startle Reflex
Otherwise known as the Moro Reflex, this involuntary reflex is a good indication of a well developing nervous system. Unfortunately, it can also startle your baby awake.
3. Sleep Associations
While some babies can be put to sleep by rocking, nursing, being held, using a pacifier, etc without issue, other babies will expect to fall asleep that same way whenever they wake.
4. Sleep Cycle Transitions
Think about how you, as an adult, sleep. Do you wake up in the night? It’s likely, and probably happens when you are moving through various sleep stages.
Therefore, why do we think that babies shouldn’t do the same? The difference is that a newborn doesn’t yet have the self-soothing ability to put himself back to sleep.
5. Needs To Burp
In the newborn stage, it’s likely that your baby falls asleep with the bottle or at the breast. Burping a sleeping baby is HARD. But then having your sleeping baby wake 30 minutes later due to discomfort is even harder.
If you’re having trouble getting your baby to burp, sometimes simply laying him down briefly and then picking him up can be enough to coax it out. You try this even if your baby DID burp before being laid down. You might get another one!
6. An Undiagnosed Issue
If your baby seems uncomfortable when laying flat on his back, he might have reflux, GERD or a milk allergy. These issues can have a very negative impact on your child’s sleep. If your baby does suffer from reflux or a milk allergy, you will likely find that your baby will sleep much better slightly elevated.
7. Night And Day Confusion
If your baby seems to sleep longer stretches during the day and shorter stretches at night, he might have his days and nights confused. Make sure to wake your baby more frequently during the day and keep it bright and noisy. At night, keep it dark, quiet and un-stimulating.
How To Help Baby Sleep Better
My first baby was breastfed and she slept 8-10 hours straight at 8 weeks old. By 12 weeks old she was sleeping 10-12 hours straight. My second baby (also exclusively breastfed) did almost as well as my first, sleeping 8-10 hours straight at about 12 weeks old. They were both amazing sleepers in the newborn stage.
I am convinced that these simple tricks are what helped both of my children to sleep longer stretches.
13 Tips For When Your Newborn Wakes Every Hour
1. Swaddle Your Baby
Not every baby likes to be swaddled, but the majority do. Swaddling works for two reasons.
- It mimics being in the womb. I realized in the hospital that my daughter loved to be swaddled, but our first night home, I found her with the swaddle blanket undone and over her face.
That ruined what little sleep I was getting because I was constantly checking on her until I ordered a SwaddleMe blanket. It velcros so that you can swaddle your baby tightly, and you can rest without worrying that it’s going to become undone in the middle of the night.
- It lessens the Moro (Startle) Reflex so that your baby doesn’t startle himself awake.
Both of my babies got so excited when I would put them in their swaddle. And seeing your baby wrapped up like a little baby burrito is the CUTEST.
The newest thing in the world of baby swaddle blankets are weighted swaddles. These swaddle blankets and sleep sacks are designed to give your baby the feeling of being held.
2. Make Sure Baby Has A Safe Place To Sleep That Your Baby Likes
My first child was 100% happy to sleep flat on her back in the Arm’s Reach CoSleeper.
Want to learn more about the best co-sleepers on the market? Check out the 4 best co-sleeper reviews.
3. Have A Good Newborn Sleep Schedule
A lot of people mistakenly believe that a bedtime routine isn’t necessary until your baby is older. If you’re wondering how to get baby to sleep better, a slight change of schedule could make a big difference.
Babies are smarter than we think. They can start to identify patterns at as little as 6 weeks old.
Having a routine will help your baby relax because she will know what is coming next. A routine will also help get your baby into a sleepy state.
The bedtime routine that you decide on doesn’t matter as much as the consistency. Following the same routine each and every night will help now and as baby gets older.
Our routine was pretty simple and consisted of a bath, jammies and a lullaby, a book and nursing to sleep.
4. Use White Noise
Sleeping with white noise is going to also simulate the womb where your baby had constant noise. I love the LectroFan. It is a basic, no frills white noise machine that gives you complete control over the volume (and lets you gradually decrease it later on when you want to start taking it away).
5. Make Sure You Have A Good Newborn Nap Schedule
Naps should be in a bright room so that baby’s internal clock can adjust if necessary. You should also try to wake baby if she seems to sleep too much during the day or if she sleeps shorter stretches at night.
On the other hand, you should make sure that your baby doesn’t become overtired, because it’s possible that your overtired baby won’t go to sleep or stay asleep.
If you have a baby that fights sleep no matter what, then I’m sorry. I feel your pain. I like to think that sleep-hating kids are smart. (Can you tell that I have one?)
You want to try to ensure that your baby is neither overtired or undertired. These babies sure keep us on our toes, right?
If you’re unsure of how frequently your newborn should be napping, check out this baby wake time chart.
Also keep in mind that some newborns sleep ALL the time while others will need to be forcibly put down for a nap. My first born, for example, would have stayed up all day if I didn’t make her nap, even as a newborn. My second baby slept all day and night for about the first 3 months.
6. Use A Glove Filled With Rice To Mimic Your Hand
This is such a genius idea. If you’ve ever kept your hand on your baby until she was asleep and then ever so gently removed your hand, all while begging the Lord that she will stay asleep, then you will so appreciate this tip.
And if you have a baby who simply wants to be held at all times, read more here about the baby won’t sleep unless held.
7. Make Night Time Wake Ups Boring
I know your baby is the cutest baby who ever lived, but in the middle of the night, you need to ignore that fact. Don’t make eye contact, don’t talk, don’t stimulate in any way.
Keep the lights low, TV off, and even if your baby wants to party at 4am, I suggest staying in the room and standing your ground until your baby finally gives in and goes back to sleep.
8. Put One Of Your Shirts Near Baby At Night
One of the first senses that your baby develops is her sense of smell (pretty cool, right?). If your baby can smell you while she’s sleeping, she will be more likely to feel safe and to sleep peacefully.
9. Sleep Close To Your Baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mom and baby room share (not bed share) for the first six months, and ideally for the first year. Your baby will be able to sense your presence and therefore might sleep better with a co-sleeper attached to your bed.
Having your baby so close to you at night will also mean that you can handle wake-ups faster. If nursing, you won’t have to physically get out of bed, which means that both you and baby will wake up less and therefore fall asleep faster.
10. Be Consistent
If you consciously want to co-sleep, then as long as you’re co-sleeping safely, that’s great. However, if you really aren’t a fan of co-sleeping, don’t bring baby into your bed “just this once”. It could be confusing for your baby and could ruin any progress that you’ve made in the sleep department.
Putting baby down in the same place every night can help your baby to know what to expect and to feel at ease.
11. Don’t Rush To Pick Up Your Baby In The Middle Of The Night
Now, I am NOT saying to let your newborn cry-it-out. But babies are NOISY. SLEEPERS. They cry, they groan, they squeak, they smack their lips, they grunt… You get the point. While you definitely don’t want to let your baby cry at this point, you don’t want to pick baby up is she isn’t actually awake.
A long-range baby monitor could be helpful, so that you don’t have to stay super close to your baby. She might just fall back asleep before you even get back to the nursery!
12. Make Sure Baby’s Room Is Just Right
Just like you wanted to have a bright room for naps, you want to have a dark room at night. Blackout curtains are so helpful in getting baby’s body and mind ready for sleep.
Making sure that baby is not too hot or too cold is also very important. The ideal temperature for baby to sleep comfortably and safely is about 68 degrees (some experts say 61-68 degrees, while others say 68-72 degrees, therefore I’m suggesting 68 degrees).
Newborn Baby Sleep Tips Specifically for Breastfed Babies
1. Cluster feed
If you are breastfeeding, you might find evening cluster feeding really annoying.
But let me just tell you the science behind cluster feeding. Many times, babies cluster feed as a way to “tank up” and sleep longer stretches at night. So grab a snack, a drink, turn on the TV and feed on demand as much as your baby wants in the evening. It just might mean extra zzzz’s for you!
Remember how I told you that my babies were pretty awesome newborn sleepers? I credit cluster feeding the most. I didn’t try to limit them when they wanted to nurse constantly for hours right before bed. I just went with it.
2. Dream Feed
Again, if you are breastfeeding, dream feeding might be an option that will help you avoid the “I just fell asleep and baby is waking me up” scenario. It didn’t work for either of my babies, because they simply refused to wake up enough to latch, but it’s definitely worth a try. It’s a method that works well for a lot of moms.
Dream feeding simply means that you “wake” baby just enough to get her to latch on and nurse a little bit right before you go to sleep. Click to read more about dream feeding.
Get Peace Of Mind By Knowing What You Can Do To Prevent SIDS
Learn more about the importance of baby sleep safety at Mom Loves Best.com.
That’s it! Those are my tips to getting your newborn baby sleeping better and longer. You know, sleeping UNlike a baby. Because whoever coined that phrase obviously had no idea what they were talking about.