No parent enjoys getting up when their baby is waking up at night. No worries—if your baby wakes up every hour, get her sleeping in no time with these tips.
The past few weeks had been brutal. Not only did my baby not know how to fall asleep on his own consistently, he’d also flip onto his tummy… and not know what to do. The result? My husband and I were up every hour to flip him over, or rock him to sleep.
Sadly, I wish I could say that my baby waking up frequently was a new development. But since his newborn days, my little guy was never the best sleeper. I dreaded looking at the clock, realizing that it had only been an hour since he last cried, and I of course hadn’t slept. Months later, things were still the same.
Instead, my baby would only fall asleep if I rocked or fed him to sleep. Both my husband and I worked the next day, and were seriously losing our minds if this continued to happen. I honestly wasn’t even sure how I functioned all those months.
I was going crazy and didn’t know what to do.
What to do when your baby wakes up every hour
Fellow zombie moms, if you can relate, you’re not alone. Maybe your baby used to sleep at least two to three hours at a time, but these days wakes up every hour on the dot. You’re beyond exhausted, unsure how long this will last. You may not even have any help, and are wondering when this will get better (if at all).
Perhaps she wakes up screaming, and can’t calm down until you feed her (never mind that she isn’t even hungry). Or maybe she wakes up at night and just wants to stay up. And even though it’s been months, still your baby wakes up every hour — in fact, she was sleeping better two months before.
And you wonder: shouldn’t my baby be sleeping through the night by now?
Sleep deprivation aside, it’s hard dealing with a baby who wakes up frequently. You may have heard that babies should be sleeping better as the months go by, but the reverse seems be happening in your case.
I was also terribly exhausted, frustrated, and even disappointed about my baby’s progress. Hopefully you can learn from my experience, and try different strategies to help your baby sleep better. Because at the end of the day, we all want to sleep through the night, especially after months of sleep deprivation.
Take a look at these tips so you know what to do when your baby wakes up every hour:
1. Make sure your baby is full before bed
Now, I know many babies have a habit of feeding just to fall asleep, even when they’re not hungry. But sometimes, your baby really can be hungry, waking up frequently for her fill. And the younger the baby, the more likely she’ll wake up because of hunger.
So, how can you make sure your baby is full before bed?
First, keep her awake during feedings. This is especially difficult for that last bedtime feed, when it’s time to fall asleep after feeding. But you’re making sure she’s not simply sucking to soothe, but actually taking in her calories. (Listen for that “swallowing” sound—that tells you she’s actually drinking.)
Then, feed her often during the day, especially if you suspect she’s going through a growth spurt.
Ideally, she’s taking in all her calories during the day (just like you and I do), and reserving the night for sleep. You can also try and give her more than usual during the day, to see if that will help her sleep better at night.
2. Have an early bedtime to prevent your baby waking up every hour
With erratic sleep patterns, it’s tempting to extend bedtime much later, as late as 11pm for some parents. After all, babies nap throughout the day and have no particular need to wake up or fall asleep at a certain time.
But if your baby wakes up every hour, her bedtime might be the culprit. Aim for a bedtime no later than 8:30pm to avoid her feeling overtired in the late evening.
Even better: go to sleep at a decent hour yourself. Many of the headaches of dealing with kids can be avoided when we’re as well-rested as we can be.
3. Give your baby a chance to fall asleep on her own
Assuming she’s past the newborn stage and isn’t actually hungry, your baby is likely more than ready and able to fall asleep on her own. The problem? She isn’t given a chance to, especially when she’s grown used to feeding, rocking, or co-sleeping to fall asleep.
As I say in my book, How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe:
“Your baby has grown used to rocking and nursing or having you nearby. He doesn’t know how to fall asleep in different circumstances by himself. Up to this point, he hasn’t been able to experience falling asleep on his own when you’re the one who’s been putting him to sleep. He simply has never been given the chance to. That’s why he fusses when he wakes up throughout a nap or at night and can’t go back to sleep—he doesn’t know how.”
Instead, create a new habit by putting her down drowsy but awake, so that she can learn how to fall asleep without your help. Check in frequently to reassure her you’re still here (and to make sure everything is okay), but don’t assume she can’t sleep on her own if you let her.
Yes, she’ll be “vocal” about this change (AKA cry), but who wouldn’t, especially if she’s only known one way of falling asleep. But the more chances she gets to learn to self soothe, the less she’ll need to rely on you to fall asleep.
The result? Every time she wakes up throughout the night (as we all do), she can now put herself back to sleep, instead of crying for you to help her do so.
Whether you’ve tried to teach her to self soothe in the past or are just now considering it, take a look at the 5 key mistakes to avoid. Take a huge weight off your shoulders once you know exactly what to do (and not do). Join my newsletter and download this amazing resource below—at no cost to you:
4. Create a conducive sleep environment
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Does your baby’s room make it harder for her to sleep?
You might assume that a quiet room is what she needs, but absolute silence can startle her awake, especially when she’s sleeping lightly. Instead, turn on white noise, either from a white noise machine, a fan, a heater, or even an app. The constant hum will muffle sudden noises that can wake her up.
Similarly, how bright is her room as well? I’ve found that darkening curtains can work miracles, even when it’s nighttime outside. Curtains block neighborhood lights, and keeps sunlight (either in the early evening or early morning) from waking her up.
5. Be mindful of milestones
I used to blame teething for just about any sleep issue my baby gave me, never mind that he never popped a tooth until well after his first birthday. Still, many babies struggle with teething as well as other milestones that could be making sleep more restless.
For instance, your baby might be learning to crawl, which makes her sleep more fitful as she tries to process this new development (and stall her sleep). She might have learned how to roll over or pull herself up in the crib, then cries because she has no idea how to “undo” what she just did.
In many cases, waiting it out a week or two is often the best case. Simply help your child settle back in bed, offer teething comforts as needed, and see how she does in a few days.
As with any concern, always talk with your baby’s pediatrician about your worries—doing so always sets my mind at ease. Plus, you want to rule out any issues that can worsen if not treated, like infections, especially if your baby wakes up every hour all of a sudden.
But assuming everything else is okay, try these tips to help her sleep through the night. Start by making sure she’s full before bed to rule out hunger as the reason she wakes up so often. Put your baby to sleep earlier than usual, and no later than 8:30pm, to prevent being overtired in the evenings.
Give her a chance to fall asleep on her own—learning to self soothe is a game-changer and can help her sleep a solid 11-12 hours straight. Create the right environment that promotes good sleep, like having white noise and a dark room.
And finally, be mindful of milestones—many you can take proactive measures to help, while others you simply wait out for a few days.
Rest assured that my baby eventually slept through the night, especially once he learned to self soothe. So much so that flipping onto his tummy, even multiple times a night, didn’t mean multiple wake-ups for me and my husband.
More tips for when your baby wakes up every hour:
- What to Do When Your Baby Wakes Up Crying from Naps
- 5 Reasons Your Baby Wakes Up Crying Hysterically
- How to Get a Teething Baby to Sleep
- The Biggest Reason Your Baby Will Not Sleep (Even After All This Time)
- What to Do If You Notice Pimples on Baby’s Head
If you’re struggling with putting your baby to sleep, you can teach her to self soothe and sleep on her own. Whether you’ve tried to teach her to self soothe in the past or are just now considering it, take a look at the 5 key mistakes to avoid.
Join my newsletter and download this amazing resource below—at no cost to you: