Tired because your baby wakes up every hour? Get him sleeping through the night in no time with these simple and effective 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 frequent night wakings were a new development. But since his newborn infancy days, he 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.
He would only fall asleep if I was feeding or bouncing with him on a yoga ball. Using a pacifier didn’t help at night, since he’d cry when it fell out of his mouth. Feeding him solids, however fun during the day, didn’t seem to help him sleep longer.
Both my husband and I worked the next day and were seriously losing our minds. I wasn’t even sure how we functioned all those months without deep sleep.
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 time 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 she be sleeping through the night by now?
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 sleep pattern. 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.
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.
1. Make sure your baby is full before bed
Now, I know many infants have a habit of feeding just to fall asleep, even when they’re not hungry. But sometimes, your baby really can be hungry, making for frequent wakings at night. And the younger the baby, the more likely she’ll wake up because of hunger.
So, how can you make sure she’s full before bed?
First, keep her awake during night feeds. 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, increase daytime feeds, 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.
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2. Have an early bedtime
With erratic sleep patterns, it’s tempting to start the bedtime routine 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 new sleep habits by putting her down 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 (in other words, she’ll cry), but this is understandable since 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 in the middle of the night (as we all do), she can now transition back to sleep, instead of crying for you to help her do so.
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 any disturbance that can wake her up.
Similarly, how bright is her room? I’ve found that darkening curtains can work miracles, even when it’s nighttime outside. Curtains block neighborhood lights and keep sunlight (either in the early evening or early morning) from waking her up.
5. Be mindful of developmental 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.
Your baby might be learning to crawl, which makes her sleep more fitful as she tries to process this new development (and stalls 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.
Or she could be developing separation anxiety, afraid that you won’t return when the lights are off.
In many cases, waiting it out a week or two is often the best case. Simply help her settle back in bed, offer teething comforts as needed, and see how she does in a few days.
Hopefully you’ve learned a few tips to try when your baby wakes up every hour. Start by making sure she’s full before bed to rule out hunger as the reason she wakes up so often. Put her 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 longer stretches. 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.
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 or my husband.
Get more tips:
- 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
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