Why do babies wake?
There are many reasons why your baby may wake during the night. Sometimes you might be able to work it out, many times you won’t. It can also be for several reasons:
In the early days, babies have no idea about day and night.
Young babies have tiny tummies which need to be refilled frequently. Short night feeds can send your baby (and you) back to sleep very quickly.
You may be told that your baby isn’t sleeping or has started to wake again, because they are hungry or because you don't have enough milk. There are many reasons for babies to start waking. Solutions such as formula top-ups and early starting of solids are sometimes suggested but may make no difference, and even make the situation worse.
Babies are easily disturbed. Too hot, too cold, some prefer to be wrapped firmly, others prefer to have arms and legs free. Some babies wake with the slightest noise, others wake when it’s too quiet.
Some babies and toddlers who have been sleeping well for weeks or even months, start to wake again. They might be going through a phase, perhaps they’ve learned to roll over and that wakes them. Rather than try to return them to their previous sleeping pattern, it’s probably less stressful to wait for the stage to settle down.
Some babies are noisy sleepers. You may hear them wakening but if you wait a bit, they may actually put themselves back to sleep.
Sometimes it's possible to find a cause of your baby's waking, but usually there is no obvious reason. However, you can be reassured that each baby is an individual and your baby's sleep patterns will change as your baby matures. Early sleep patterns don’t last forever.
A breastfeed is often the quickest and most natural way to settle a baby, as mums through the ages have found. Breastfeeding your baby to sleep gives them food, comfort and helps them to relax. It won't give them ‘bad habits’ and won’t stop them being able to settle in other ways or for other people.
If your baby doesn’t fall asleep while feeding or feeding to sleep doesn't suit your family, there are other things you can try.
When will my baby sleep through?
Every parent wants to know when their baby will sleep through. But in fact 'sleeping through' for a baby may not be the 8 hours we think of as a good night's sleep for adults.
Research has found that by 3 months, half of babies are sleeping for a 5-hour stretch. At 6 months, about half are sleeping for an 8-hour stretch on some nights. By the end of the first year, nearly a third of babies are still waking up during the night.4
There is also no evidence to suggest that there is any difference between breastfed and formula-fed babies with regard to the age at which they sleep through the night.
Your baby needs you at night
A baby's need for closeness and physical contact is very real and important to their wellbeing. Every baby knows when their parents are close or not. If you aren't in the room, your baby has no way of knowing when or if you will return. They feel their most secure by being held by you, being able to see you or by being near the normal household sounds and activities.