What’s the best way to deal with your baby waking up throughout the night? Claudia Denti, founder of Genitore Informato (‘The well-informed parent’) and creator of the Happy Sleep method, explains. This is a common problem, and one which parents feel very strongly about as they struggle with tiredness and physical stress, resulting from the sleep deprivation, which comes hand in hand with having a newborn.
My baby wakes up every hour: one of the most common complaints by parents
In today's article we are going to talk about one of the most common problems faced by new parents: my baby wakes up in the middle of the night. Not only is this extremely common, but it is also one of the most significant for new mums and dads, as the constant night awakenings, during the first few months of an infant’s life, can lead to severe sleep deprivation in parents as well as all the related consequences.
Night awakenings in newborns is entirely natural (infants have yet to develop a regular sleep-wake rhythm) and therefore, there’s nothing we can do but accept it.
This, however, does not mean that you have to struggle through this newborn phase. There are some excellent ways you can manage the situation and today we’re going to look at some of them.
Why does my baby wake up every hour?
As we mentioned earlier, night waking in infants is a completely natural and biological occurrence. Even we adults don't sleep the whole night through, but we transition between various sleep phases, and even spend a fraction of the night awake (even if we don't remember it in the morning).
For a newborn baby, however, the situation is a little more complex: you have to bear in mind that the first nine months of an infant’s life were spent without any night/day rhythm, without having to breathe, without experiencing any real tangible sensations, and hearing muffled sounds coming from outside the womb.
Once they come into the world, they encounter an immense change to everything they ever knew. This occurs at the same time of them experiencing a period of growth and transformation during the first few months of life.
A newborn baby's wake/sleep cycle (circadian rhythm) isn’t fully developed yet, and, above all, a young infant has a biological need to be fed constantly: all these factors influence night awakenings.
Waking up at night, be that for feeding or for any other reason, is completely normal and is a natural part of being a newborn baby. We, therefore, have to accept the fact that our baby will indeed wake up every hour, at least during the first few months, as well as accept the tiredness we’ll feel as a consequence.
This does not mean that we have to just carry on accepting whatever the night brings, on the contrary, we can help create the best possible sleep conditions to help our baby sleep peacefully.
Establishing a daily routine and managing the amount of stimulation your baby is exposed to throughout the day are both key factors in managing your baby’s sleep.
Even an adult’s sleep is influenced by a variety of factors such as temperature, blue light exposure, mattress quality, what and when we ate that evening. A young infant is much more sensitive to stimuli than we are.
How to help your baby to sleep through the night
How can we manage frequent night awakenings in infants?
In addition to paying attention to your baby’s feeding schedule, there are various other significant factors to consider which can help us to manage their sleep pattern.
First of all, we need to be aware of safe sleeping measures. The first few months are the most critical and the routine we establish in this period helps set a safe sleep pattern for our baby, and they gradually lengthen their periods of continuous sleep, which in turn, improves everyone’s sleep.
It is essential to establish a baby bedtime routine: just like for us adults, how you prepare for sleep impacts directly on the quality of sleep itself. A regular routine will help your baby recognise bedtime and help them to wind down and settle, soothing them until they fall asleep.
In the long term, it’s also important that your baby learns to ‘self-soothe’, to go back to sleep independently.
Understandably, tired parents often look at short term solutions: rocking their baby, singing lullabies whilst feeding them or whatever else helps them to fall asleep. Unfortunately, however, these are "stop-gap" solutions and don’t solve the problem in the long run.
On the contrary, if these stop-gap habits become routine, then the parent will struggle to wean their child away from them in the future and their baby will struggle to fall asleep if their set routine is changed.
The Happy Sleep method
What’s the best way to deal with frequent night awakenings?
The Happy Sleep method, Genitore Informato (The well-informed Parent) wanted to find a solution to this common problem: a firm plan to create healthy and consistent routines which helps parents and their babies to have a better sleep at night, practical tips on safe sleeping and simple guidance which allows you to understand how baby and adult sleep works.
- Create a calming, sleep-inducing environment
- Set simple bedtime and ‘falling back to sleep’ routines, solutions which will help you in the long term.
- Encourage your baby to fall asleep independently and self-soothe, avoiding stop-gap solutions
- Respect and accept your baby’s biological sleep pattern, it’s only natural that a newborn wakes up frequently.
- Remember how we parents react to our infant waking up at night is equally important for the whole family and their sleep.
Is it simple? It depends. In certain severe cases, you may need to seek advice from your Doctor, but usually parents learn to manage their little one’s sleep quickly, with just a little effort and planning. Perseverance and consistency are key.
My advice is to prepare in advance, learn how to tackle sleep-related issues before your baby is born, as once they arrive you’ll be immersed in a new world, and you may find it difficult to fathom out what to do.