UK Family Lifestyle Blog

Friday, 30 September 2016

Why does my baby wake in the night?

It's a question that many parents will ask their friends, midwives or even turn to Google. Just why does my baby wake in the night? Many people have their own theories and of course, there could be many reasons why your baby wakes. But something you should be very sure of, it's normal for your baby to wake during the night. In fact, it's a healthy sign that they're waking in the night.

I have recently been doing a little research into why babies wake multiple times in one night. I get a lot of tired mum's ask me my thoughts and so thought it was time to educate myself.

Sleep cycles

Babies, just like us, go through sleep cycles of different types of sleep. From drowsiness to light sleep, followed by dream sleep (rapid eye movement sleep or REM). They come back again through deep sleep and light sleep, before then drifting off again. A newborn baby will move through the different sleep cycles about five times a night. There is a lot of information out there about sleep cycles and I found some useful information here.


Babies who are under six months require feeds through the night. This is completely normal. As with everything, all babies are different, some babies will stop having night feeds earlier than this, other's will continue to have the comfort of a night feed for months to come. My own son who is one will still have one quick night feed. When wanting to cut out a night feed, maybe offer a sip of water instead. At the tender age of 28, I still wake in the night for a drink - so why shouldn't your baby?


According to the NHS website ‘colic is the name for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It’s a common problem that affects up to one in five babies.’ This crying usually happens in the evening and can go on for several hours at a time. There are some other indicators that your baby may be suffering from colic; baby draws knees up to his chest, baby has a swollen stomach, baby passes wind more than usual. If your baby has some or all of these symptoms then it is likely that they are suffering with colic. Any mother who's baby has suffered with colic will tell just how helpless you can feel during those night's when colic strikes. There are some way's in which you can try and ease the symptoms of colic in babies by;
  • making sure you are winding your baby thoroughly after every feed.
  • an over the counter remedy such as Infacol may help to release trapped wind.
  • carrying your baby in a sling can really help to calm them – being upright against the warmth of your body can be very comforting. Henry loved sleeping in his carrier (and still does on long walks)
  • a walk in the pram or a drive in the car can sometimes help.
  • baby massage can be very comforting for a baby, and also help to release trapped wind. I have written about the benefits of baby massage here.

Comfort Through Breastfeeding

Sometimes instead of having a full night feed, breastfeed babies will feed for comfort. Breastfeeding calms a baby, sucking releases the hormone cholecystokinin in both mother and baby, which induces a sleepy feeling. Breastmilk also contains sleep-inducing hormones, amino acids and nucleotides, which help babies to establish sleep cycles. Boobie milk always seems to mesmerise me with its magic abilities. Plus, at the end of the day if a comfort feeds works for you and your family, why not do it?!

Other Forms of Comfort

Babies need physical reassurances. They just don't have the ability to understand "come on Tommy its bedtime now.". Babies (young babies) shouldn't be forced to fall asleep without comfort. They need to feel relaxed and safe when falling to sleep. Remember, even as an adult if something is bothering or worrying you, falling asleep can become near on impossible. Cuddling offers comfort to babies, as it's the closeness that is associated with positive development outcomes. Babies will soon learn that it's ok to go to sleep and won't need that same amount of comfort as they grow.

The last piece of advice I can give is to remember, this doesn't last forever. I promise! Even when they've woken up for the sixth time in one night, just remember, that it doesn't last forever. I also found once I had started to understand why babies wake during the night, the easier I found it to cope and rationalise this perfectly normal baby behaviour.

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