FREQUENT NIGHT WAKINGS
Multiple night time wakes after being put down for bed? A seemingly untired baby, who will stay awake for ages overnight before re-settling back down to bed for the night? Looking like they want a feed, but don’t take it? Or even just constant 45 minute, 1 hour, 2 hourly wake ups that you’re not sure how and why are happening? It happens a lot, and every baby goes through it at some stage - depending on their age and abilities. So, how do we better understand why these night wakings are occurring, and what can be the causative factors behind the unsettled periods overnight? ✖️ Your child’s sleep environment is a huge contributing factor we commonly see as a cause for frequent night wakes. The temperature of your child’s room is the main reason - being either too hot or too cold, but mainly the cooler option being the culprit. Typically, we would recommended this ranging around 18-21 degrees, but a steady 21 degree temperature is what we have found to be most successful in limiting frequent wakings due to bubs becoming cold. Our bodies naturally drop their temperature when we drift off to sleep, so adding in a cooler sleep environment can cause the body to wake if it becomes too cold. This is usually a wake caused around 3am onwards, where the cooler part of the night can set in. Dressing your baby for the ‘coldest’ part of the night helps to prevent this, along with regulating the temperature of the room. ✖️Day sleep can have a huge impact on your child’s ability to stretch a greater duration overnight. If they are having less structured naps, longer morning naps, or not napping at all they will likely wake more frequently. Also if they are sleeping too much during the day, they are less likely to have a larger amount of sleep overnight! ✖️Further, we would commonly see an overtired baby wake more frequently overnight, and also if a baby is napping to close to bedtime or right before they settle down for the night, they will wake more frequently and not be tired enough to fall back to sleep, or re-settle without having another period of awake time to accrue enough sleep debt in order to be tired enough to fall asleep again. ✖️Babies will naturally wake at the end of a sleep cycle, however, now is the time you may notice the increase in overnight wake times as they rely more heavily on parents to assist [if required] to return back to sleep – which is why we now encourage the introduction of self- settling and re-settling to meet this. From the age of 4 months we can encourage a more independent style of settling, which guides your child towards falling back asleep on their own gradually, without mum or dads help. For a younger baby around 4-6 months of age, their nights will likely still involve a night feed or two, but all other wakes we would be looking to re-settle and encourage a larger amount of sleep to ensure they are well rested. ✖️Having some positive, nurturing and comforting sleep associations when settling your baby will help the process. Think a good wind down ritual, sleepy time phrases, a lovey or comforter, white noise, sleeping bag and so forth! It moves away from the parent needing to do all hands on settling, and gives bubs the tools to become more independent with this skill.
✖️Is there an issue with frequent night feeding? Are you looking to, or need to drop out some? Sometimes by dropping out 1 or all feeds we see an improvement! why?
Reasons for night feedings causing sleep disturbances:
NURSING ASSOCIATION: Baby associates the breast/bottle with sleep and therefore when they wake, demands a feed in order to fall back to sleep. In our opinion, there is nothing wrong with nursing to sleep when there is no sleep problem. Most mothers do this majority of the time, but if you have a child that is showing difficulty falling asleep on their own, or they always only fall asleep at the breast and their sleep is disturbed, then nursing may just be part of the sleep problem. As long as the child is put down in their cot after each nursing feed when they NEED to sleep the nursing to sleep in itself shouldn't cause sleep problems.
SOILED/WET NAPPY: Baby takes extra feeds and becomes wet, therefore resulting in being uncomfortable or grizzly requiring changes, and disrupting sleep.
DIGESTIVE ISSUES: The extra calories and intake overnight will trigger the digestive system to be activate, resulting in the increase of hormones for digestion and awakenings, a drop in body temperature and thus the disruption of the biological rhythms the body uses to promote sleep overnight - creating a reoccurring ripple effect cycle- feed, settle to sleep after a warm milk feed, digestive hormones shut off melatonin, triggers wake, feed again to settle to sleep - ALL NIGHT LONG!
✖️A sleep association is something that your child associates with falling asleep. These are usually purposefully used to create a positive association with sleep, for example, white noise, or a sleeping bag, allowing your child to learn that sleep is approaching when these are turned on, or they are placed into their sleeping bag. ✖️However, there are also sleep associations that can become accidental and then can turn into a troublesome association, such as being rocked to sleep, needing to be patted to sleep or breast/bottle fed back to sleep - meaning your child relies on this action to occur in order to fall back to sleep upon each wakeful period, either overnight or during the day.
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