My baby wakes endlessly at night

Nothing and no one can prepare you for the feeling of sleep deprivation – the relentless torture of a baby waking at night. You probably expected to wake for night needs at first, but when you are three months or more down the line and still dealing with endless night wakings you understandably may wonder what you can do. Here are three simple steps to get a full night sleep:

Rule out the basics

If your baby wakes repeatedly, you need to rule out any discomfort:

  • Hunger
    • Under three months of age, your baby may need more than one night feed but should not need to feed more than three hourly. If he wakes more often, establish if you have sufficient milk supply and weigh your baby. If he is gaining weight, you can start to encourage self soothing by swaddling your baby and letting him suck on a dummy to settle at night. If three hours or more have passed since the last feed, feed your baby.
    • After three months of age one night feed plus an early morning feed are the norm.
    • After six months, your baby should sleep for 10 to 12 hours without a feed
  • Illness or pain
    • If your baby is sick during the day, make sure he is comfortable at night using medication suggested by his doctor.
    • If your baby is under six months he is not waking due to teething.
    • More than 80% of babies start to get teeth at 6-9 months and this will only wake him for 3 days around the eruption of teeth. If your baby is teething, use teething powders or Paracetamol when he wakes at night

Focus on day sleeps

Day sleeps lead to healthy night sleep. Your baby must sleep regularly according to his age appropriate awake times If your little one does not sleep during the day, he will be overtired and fight falling asleep at bedtime and there is a good chance he will also wake more often at night and even may experience night terrors.

AgeTime awake between sleepsAMOUNT OF SLEEP NEEDED IN 24 HOURS
0 – 6 weeks40–60 minutes18 – 20 hours
6 – 12 weeks60–90 minutes16 – 18 hours
3 – 6 months1 – 1½ hours14 – 18 hours
6 – 9 months2 hours14 – 18 hours
9 – 12 months2½ hours14 – 16 hours

Teach your little one to self sooth

If you have ruled out discomfort and your baby is sleeping well during the day, there is a good chance he is waking out of a habit and is not self soothing at night. To help your baby learn to self sooth:

  • When you settle him to sleep in the evening, he must fall asleep independently:
    • Don’t put your little one down overtired as he will then require more help to fall asleep.
    • Rock until drowsy
    • Put him down with a blanky or dummy or sucking his thumb when drowsy
    • Pat until asleep
    • You may need to repeat this process if he cries a lot at bedtime, while he learns the new strategy of falling asleep
  • In the middle of the night, don’t respond immediately when he makes a noise – first listen and only go to him if he becomes distressed or is crying
  • When you go to him, help him to self sooth (as per step 1) until he falls asleep.

By simply ruling out the basics, having a good day sleep routine and by helping your little one to self sooth, you should rapidly approach a full night’s sleep again.

By Meg Faure