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Night Waking - What's Normal?

It’s very normal for all babies to wake in the night, however I’ve seen quite a few posts going around on social media saying its normal for your baby to wake up and need you and there isn’t anything you can do about it, but truth is there absolutely is!


To make it easier for you, I’ve broken down what’s normal night waking by age and some tips for what you can do about it.


Newborns


Newborns (0-12 weeks) especially during the first 6 weeks will wake several times a night to feed. They only have very small tummies, so they need to be fed more frequently. Their sleep patterns are also irregular and largely unpredictable.


As long as your baby is thriving and having good feeds during the day by 6-8 weeks old, they might be able to start going longer stretches of 5-6 hourly between feeds at night and this is amazing if they do but don’t panic if they don’t!


3-8 months


As your baby gets older their need for calories overnight lessens and they can get by on one or two feeds overnight – as long as they are having good feeds during the day, are healthy and thriving!


When I’m working with families, at this age, I usually go by weight as to how many feeds your baby needs at night, here is a rough guide:


From 4kg – 2 night feeds between 7pm and 7am, possibly 3 if baby wakes at 6am.

From 5-6kg – No more than 2 night feeds

From 6.5kg - Your baby may be able to sleep through after a feed at 10.30pm/11pm until morning as long as they are having good feeds during the day


But hang on a minute, my baby weighs more than 6.5 kg, and they are still waking more than once for a feed, what’s going on?!


From around 4 months old your baby’s sleep cycles mature to 2-4 hourly overnight. If your baby is waking around every 4 hours, this is due to having reached the end of a sleep cycle. They may fully wake at this point for the following reasons:


1. They are hungry

2. They need their dummy replacing

3. They don’t know how to go back to sleep on their own

4. Sleep environment – too hot, cold, light


Let’s talk about these 4 in more detail. If your baby hasn’t been fed for more than 4 hours at night, this could be genuine hunger and I would definitely feed them. If they rely on a dummy to go to sleep and back to sleep, they’ll cry out for you to replace it for them every single time. If they’ve been assisted to sleep in any way, so they are rocked or fed to sleep – breast or bottle they’ll cry out to be assisted back to sleep in the same way as they don’t know how else to go back to sleep on their own. We would need to help them learn to go to sleep and back to sleep on their own. Your baby also could be too hot or cold or their room may be too light if it’s the early hours of the morning, have a read of how to create the perfect sleep environment.


If your baby is waking as often as every 2 hours, this is a partial sleep cycle and a sign your baby has gone to sleep overtired at bedtime. They are struggling to make it in to the deeper stage of sleep due to too much cortisol which has suppressed their sleep hormone melatonin.


Persistent 2 hourly wakes are not biologically normal, but the good news is they can be addressed by simply putting your baby to bed earlier and establishing an age appropriate feed and nap routine during the day – check out my sleep & routines e-guides here!


If your baby had previously started sleeping through and around 5/6 months they then started to wake for a night feed again this could be a sign they are ready to start solids.


9-12 months


Breast or formula fed babies are more than capable of sleeping through the night at this age, if your baby is still waking, it’s likely to be a settling issue and we would need to help them learn to go back to sleep on their own.



Helping your baby learn to go to sleep independently will definitely help your baby to sleep better. We now know this won’t stop them from waking but it will give them the skills to go back to sleep when they wake at the end of a sleep cycle.


If you don’t want to sleep train, this is absolutely ok. If they are simply waking after a sleep cycle continue to respond and assist them back to sleep as usual.


If you do want to sleep train and need some help, I’ve helped many families do this with great success. I include night time plans in all my sleep plans tailored for your baby. Click here to find out more about my 1:1 sleep packages and guides.

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