Even if you are a first-time parent, you know that having a baby will mean less sleep.
After several nights of your little one waking up crying, you may begin to think it is just par for the course.
However, it is possible to have a baby that does not frequently wake up crying. A sound and consistent sleep is achievable for a well rested baby.
Sounds like a chicken and egg scenario right?
You need a well rested baby to get good sleep, and a good sleep to get a well rested baby. Where do we start?
It all comes back to improving what is normal for your baby’s sleep patterns.
Rather than working to a formula that may or may not work for your baby, in this article we want to identify all of things that may be interrupting your baby’s sleep.
If we can identify and remove these then by default we should have a sound sleeper on our hands.
Why Does Baby Wake Up Crying?
1. They Are Uncomfortable
We all know what it is like to try and fall asleep when the environment is not quite to our liking.
Too hot, too cold, too loud or quiet, too bright. We toss and turn, waking several times throughout the night, losing sleep as we desperately try to get comfortable.
Your baby is no different.
Here are four quick and easy tips to address discomfort:
- Keep your baby dressed comfortably, warm enough to not need a blanket, and keep the room at a cool temperature.
- A dark room is ideal, covering any windows with blackout curtains, and only allowing a small nightlight if necessary for your baby to feel at ease.
- Keep noise at a minimum, but not too quiet that every bump and creak keeps her up.
- Try using a white noise machine, smartphone app, or youtube video (example below) to give just enough noise to keep outside noises at bay and relax your little one for sleep.
Once you have made all the changes, evaluate your baby’s sleep again.
It may just be, despite your efforts to improve her environment, that your baby may still be uncomfortable, especially if she is not feeling well.
Babies instinctively breathe through their noses, so any congestion may keep them awake and prevent them from using a pacifier or nursing at night.
A gentle saline solution and nasal suction before bed can help to clear out your baby’s sinuses and allow her to sleep easier.
Cover her chest and back with menthol rub to suppress any coughing and clear nasal and chest congestion as well.
You can also try to adjust the moisture level in the room, either drying it with a dehumidifier if her nose is runny, or adding moisture in with a humidifier if she is stuffed up.
In more severe cases, you may need to see your pediatrician and try some over the counter cold medication.
Then, you just need to be patient and let the virus run its course, attending to your little one during the night for as long as the cold remains.
2. Sleep Associations
When you hear the term sleep association, it refers to anything that helps your baby fall asleep. We all have them, babies and adults alike.
While we parents do not likely use pacifiers or snuggle with stuffed animals, we may need to flip to the cool side of the pillow or pull the blankets up over our faces to help us get back to sleep when we wake in the middle of the night.
While sleep associations are not necessarily a bad thing, they could be making it harder for your baby to fall back asleep during the night.
They may help your baby to get to sleep faster, but they are also sleep thieves.
So why do we introduce them?
As a newborn, your baby is getting used to everything new, so we may introduce sleep associations such as rocking or swaddling to simulate the womb.
As your baby gets older and outgrows these things, we start to substitute other things, like a pacifier in place of a bottle or breast.
The best thing to do is to break your baby away from any sleep associations she may have and teach her to fall asleep on her own.
If the sleep association stays, your baby will continue to wake up during the night between sleep cycles and may not be able to fall asleep again until she has it.
For those that are breastfeeding long term, it is likely you will be waking up just as often.
3. Waking Up Between Cycles
Going hand-in-hand with sleep associations is the trouble that comes with a baby who wakes between sleep cycles ,and is unable to put herself back to sleep again.
We all wake up occasionally throughout the night. Adults can usually go about 90 minutes between sleep cycles, but babies only go about 30-50 minutes before drifting into a lighter state of sleep, where they can be easily awoken.
The main difference between adults and babies is that when we awake during the night between sleep cycles, we are able to put ourselves back to sleep again. So we may not even notice that we were awake.
A baby will need to learn how to do the same. This will be difficult at first, but will become easier as they get older.
A tired baby will sleep fast and sleep well right? Wrong!
An overtired baby will be your ultimate test of patience and sanity. It will be hard to get them to sleep, and it will be harder to keep them to sleep. Unfortunately by the time they are overtired it is already too late.
You need to learn to watch for the signs of overtiredness before they hit.
When a child reaches the point of being overtired adrenaline will kick in, and the hyperactivity begins. This will make it hard to get your baby to settle and into sleep mode.
When she finally does go down, there is a good chance you will have multiple wakings throughout the night.
Watch for your baby’s sleep cues. Keep her on a consistent schedule and put a bedtime routine in place.
Keeping to a specific, calming routine will help prepare her for sleep by settling her down and reminding her that bedtime is coming.
How To Soothe Your Crying Baby
If you are like me, you highly value your sleep! Being woken several times throughout the night can put you in a bad mood.
Of course, your baby does not understand why she is waking up, and you need to be sure to handle her with care.
Do not be quick to run into your baby’s room when you hear the first cry.
Give her a few minutes to see if she will calm down on her own and fall back asleep. You could possibly sabotage her chances of getting back to sleep quickly and peacefully if you run in right away. So you have to be strong on that one!
After a few minutes, if your baby does not calm down, you can go in to her quietly and calmly. Keep the environment sleep-friendly, being sure not to turn on lights and to speak in a gentle voice.
Reassure her, letting her know you are there for her and softly remind her that it is time for sleep. And try not to pick her up unless she absolutely cannot calm herself down.
Instead, rub or pat her back, letting her feel your touch while you speak to her… Or a little singing & dancing could do the trick:
No one likes to hear their baby cry, and when it keeps her, and you, from sleeping, it is nearly unbearable.
Being able to narrow down exactly what it is that is waking her and keeping her up at night will help you to sleep train her better and hopefully eliminate the crying altogether.
Does your baby struggle with waking during the night? Do you have questions about how to calm her down? Leave us a comment below and connect with other parents who may have tips and tricks to share.