What to do when your 1 year old wakes up every 2 hours at night, screaming and crying? Learn how to help your child sleep through the night!
Wondering why your 1 year old wakes up every 2 hours to feed at night? He wakes up so frequently, much more than when he was a little infant. Sometimes he’s even crying and screaming inconsolably, distraught over something you can’t pinpoint.
He may have been a good sleep who has recently started waking and crying, or perhaps this doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you. If he stands up in his crib, it’s game over. You end up nursing or rocking him back to sleep, feeling so over these middle-of-the-night wakings.
It also doesn’t help if he breastfeeds to fall asleep, or even for comfort. He’ll easily wake up five or six times a night, and can’t fall back asleep unless he’s nursed or rocked. He’s so attached to breastfeeding, you don’t know how you’ll ever wean him off of it.
When your 1 year old wakes up every 2 hours
Frequent wake ups are the norm for babies, but by this stage, you’d think you’d finally have a solid night of sleep. You’re so sleep deprived, you can hardly function during the day. You know you’ve been too lenient with rocking and feeding to sleep, and it only seems to be getting worse.
No wonder you’ve resorted to these old standbys—you have no idea where to even start.
By 1 year old, experts agree that babies (or really, toddlers) should be able to sleep a solid 11-12 hours straight at night. They should also be able to take in their calories during the day like you and I do, and drop nighttime feedings completely.
Other factors could also be causing kids to wake up frequently, from teething to a change in diet. Let’s take a look at a few tactics you can try to get your 1 year old sleeping in longer stretches:
1. Avoid unsustainable habits
Habits can be difficult to tackle, don’t you think? On one hand, they work so effectively—feeding your 1 year old to sleep or putting a pacifier in his mouth works in an instant.
But repeating these habits only reinforces them even further. Plus, it makes introducing other, more sustainable ones more difficult. In other words, we can’t expect a child to suddenly fall asleep on his own when all he has ever known has been to be rocked to sleep.
Waking up every 2 hours can simply be his inability to go to sleep in other ways. We all wake up throughout the night, but unlike you and me, he has yet to experience what it’s like to fall back asleep without someone’s help.
For instance, one way to avoid feeding to sleep is to move the last nursing or bottle to the beginning of the bedtime routine, not at the end. This allows you to put him down awake, not asleep.
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2. Look for signs of teething
“It must be teething,” I told anyone whenever my baby fussed and cried. Except after months with no sign of a tooth popping up, I gave up teething as a possible reason for his fitful sleep. Not until he was around a year old did actual teeth come out.
While teething won’t always be the reason for every wake up, it’s worth looking for signs of growing pains nonetheless. The clearest way to know is to inspect your child’s gums. He’ll feel the most pain not when his teeth have already poked through the gums, but right before. Look for red, swollen gums that feel hard.
Besides the gums, be on the lookout for his desire to gnaw and bite, as well as excessive drooling. And finally, teething is often the cause when the middle-of-the-night wake ups happen suddenly and out of the blue.
If so, one “fix” could be to simply wait it out. Pain from teething isn’t permanent, and he should be able to fall back into his regular long stretches of sleep. You can also consult with his pediatrician about giving pain medicines, especially if he’s miserable at night.
3. Give your child solids close to bedtime
Some kids are waking up at night because of genuine hunger. This is especially common when they’d rather explore and play during the day than sit down and eat a meal. And at a year old, solids become the main source of nutrition, with breast milk, formula, or cow’s milk now a beverage.
That’s why several moms have found luck in stretching sleep by giving their kids food closer to bedtime. This could be as simple as a bowl of Cheerios a few minutes before bed (and brushing, of course!). Or you could bump dinner later—from 5pm to, say, 6:30pm.
Another option is to give him more food throughout the day, especially if he’s eager for more at meal times. You could offer more blueberries after he finishes a bowl, for instance. Or you could feed him smaller snacks but more frequently throughout the day.
4. Wean from night feedings
Do you still feed your child throughout the night? More than likely, she’s able to take in all her calories during the day, including milk.
For some kids, drinking milk throughout the night could be a habit. They’ve grown used to feeding to fall asleep and need that bottle or nursing session more out of habit than actual hunger. For others, they truly are hungry and waking up as a result, but again, they can start drinking those ounces when they’re awake.
Either way, if you no longer want to wake up throughout the night for feedings, consider weaning your child. You also might have luck by leaving a sippy cup of water in the crib as a way for her to settle on her own.
5. Experiment with different milk
Some moms have found that their child’s sudden wake ups are tied to switching to cow’s milk. After all, at a year old, many babies can drink regular milk instead of breast milk or formula. But it’s possible that your child can’t digest cow’s milk well just yet, or that it’s causing discomfort during his sleep.
If so, experiment with different milk, whether a new brand or an organic version. See what happens if you gradually introduce cow’s milk, ounce by ounce, instead of all at once. You might try a toddler formula or almond milk in lieu of cow’s milk, or even skip cow’s milk entirely.
6. Avoid making your child overtired
You’d think that the more exhausted your child is, the quicker he’ll fall asleep. But for many of us, a 1 year old who wakes up every 2 hours is often the result of being overtired during the day.
If you suspect that your child is too tired to sleep through the night, focus on catching on lost sleep earlier in the day. Put him down for an earlier nap (or add an extra cat nap in the evening). Have an earlier bedtime for the next few nights. Do what you can to reset his sleep so he’s caught up.
7. Teach your child to self soothe
Your child isn’t teething, overtired, or averse to cow’s milk. You’ve exhausted all your options, and you suspect that he simply doesn’t know how to put himself back to sleep throughout the night. If so, consider letting him fuss when he wakes up, checking in on him at set points.
For instance, if he wakes up crying, check to make sure that all is fine, but remind him that it’s time to keep sleeping and close the door. Then, set your timer for a few minutes—if he’s still crying by that point, return to his room and briefly (no more than 30 seconds) let him know it’s time to sleep.
Set your timer again, and repeat the process until he has fallen asleep. Note: If he stands up in the crib, use these check-ins to lay him back down. Don’t feel compelled to put him down every time he stands up because otherwise, you two will be playing a game of back-and-forth.
Sleep deprivation is tough during the newborn stage, but perhaps even more so with a 1 year old. This is when many of us hope to finally turn a corner and get a good night of sleep. Except, as you’ve seen, this isn’t always the case.
Thankfully, you can do plenty to address the issue. Avoid unsustainable habits that only reinforce the very methods you want to get away from. Look for signs of teething and take the steps to ease your child’s pain. Offer solids closer to bedtime and throughout the day.
Wean him off of night feedings so you don’t have to wake up so frequently. Experiment with different milk or other alternatives to avoid gas and digestion problems. Avoid making him overtired and instead find ways to catch up on lost sleep.
And finally, consider teaching him to self soothe and finally get a good night of sleep for the whole family. No more sleep deprivation, friend—especially a whole year later!
Get more tips:
- 15 Samples of a 1 Year Old Eating Schedule (From Real Moms)
- 1 Year Old Nap Schedule: Examples that Actually Work
- Why Your Toddler Is Going Through the 1 Year Old Sleep Regression
- Foolproof 13 Month Old Nap Schedule Examples
- Top 6 Tips to Get Through the Toddler Sleep Regression
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