For first time moms like myself, I hope you guys get the sleep we all so deserve. For all the moms in general, I know this from experience. I’ve heard it from other mom friends, my mom, my grandma, and all other moms I know – “Sleep whenever your baby sleeps.”
But what if your baby wakes up so freaking often? Why is this happening? How to make your baby’s sleep longer?
There could be so many possible reasons why your baby would wake up every 2 hours, especially during nighttime. Of course, we are not talking about newborn babies because it’s pretty much expected of them. We are talking about babies 4-11 months or even older starting to develop a sleeping routine. It could be hunger, changing sleeping cycles, brain waves, teething, or infection.
How much sleep does my baby need?
Before we get to the point of figuring out why your baby wakes up every 2 hours, let’s go back to the basics of sleeping and find out if our babies are getting the amount of sleep that they need based on their age. Based on recent research, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) formulated recommendations for total daily sleep needs by age.
- Newborn: 0-3 months, your little one will need 14-17 hours of sleep. It’s safe to say that they will need to sleep the majority of their day and will wake up to be fed, burped, diaper changes, and soothed. This should include a long night sleep and multiple naps within the day, which would vary depending on your baby’s needs and routine. Your baby is not recommended to sleep for less than 11 hours and not more than 19 hours.
- Infant: 4-11 months, babies will need 12-15 hours of sleep at this age. Within this stage, a baby usually develops a sleeping routine and a sleeping pattern. They should now sleep longer through the night because they would start eating solid foods that are heavier than milk and could fill them up the whole night; you can also start weaning their night feedings by this stage. Sleeping for less than 10 hours and more than 18 hours is not recommended.
- Toddler: 1-2 years old, a sleep duration of 11-14 hours is what your baby needs at this age. These are fast development stages where your baby is growing and learning so much before your very eyes, and they need all the rest that they could get in between growing their first molar tooth and discovering the love for toy cars. They should get not less than 9 hours but also not more than 16 hours of sleep.
- Preschool: 3-5 years old, kids these ages will need 10-13 hours of sleep to stay as healthy as they could be. These stages are extremely active years in their lives as they explore and play around, curious little ones who will trade anything for playtime. The amount of sleep that they get is as vital as the food that they eat. Please make sure that they get at least 8 hours of sleep but not more than 14 hours.
Reasons why your baby wakes up
There are many reasons why your baby would wake up in the middle of their sleep, depending on their age and development. Some babies are naturally good sleepers and don’t take too much effort from their parents, while others are extra challenging for the sleep department. Here are some of the most common reasons why a baby would wake up every few hours.
- Sleep Cycle – Babies go through different sleep stages as part of their overall development. They could go from the long duration of sleep as newborns and transition to short but frequent sleep caused by their brain waves shifts. This is normal for growing babies as long as they get to complete the recommended sleeping hours for their age.
- Sleep Regression – This is a stage when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking up at night or is being difficult to settle and/or skipping naps. Your baby will go through many sleep regressions in the first 2 years of their life, the biggest being the 4-month sleep regression. This is a natural and normal change for your baby, but it can be a distressing time for parents.
- Development – Our baby’s milestones feel more like our achievements most of the time as moms, but these developments shift and change sleep. Rolling over, for example, once your baby starts learning to roll over, he would unconsciously do it in his sleep, and when it woke him up, he’ll cry and freak out for being in a different position. The same concept goes for when they start to grab using their hands or learn to sit.
- Behavior Changes – Around the age between 6 to 9 months, babies develop a sense of independence and self-awareness. You might find your baby in the middle of his sleep, bubbling the new sounds that he discovered he could do. No need to do anything if they are not crying or fussing; we want our babies to learn how to self soothe as early as they could.
- Hunger – Night feedings are common for babies, especially in their earlier months. They wake up to be fed and should get back once they get full. Once your baby starts to eat solids, you can start weaning them from night feedings considering they eat enough food within the day to get through the night.
- Teething – This one is to be expected especially when they start to grow their first molar tooth. Babies tend to be extra irritated and is uncomfortable. Try putting some teething gel or even a chilled washcloth to ease the pain a little.
- Infection – Baby’s exposure to infections usually spikes up at 6 months of age as by this time they have discovered their hands and that they can put it in their mouth, and so as other stuff, they could get a hold of. Babies who have colds or upper respiratory infections will wake due to congestion or coughing. Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea will awaken babies at night.
- Sleeping Tools – Some babies are used to fall asleep (or fall back to sleep) while sucking on something. Usually, a pacifier or their feeding bottle helps them sleep easier or go back to sleep quicker. This is fine, but once they develop an attachment to these tools, it wakes them up when it falls off or goes missing in the middle of their sleep.
How to help your baby sleep longer
Here’s the thing about sleep problems with our babies, we stress over it more than we probably should; it drains us more than our baby does. Why? Because we felt at ease and rested when they do sleep longer and fuss-free. Depending on what causes your baby to wake up every few hours, here are some ways you can help them sleep through the night or longer than every 2 hours.
- Sleep Routine – Babies learn by habit. They will anticipate what happens next once they get the hang of your routine, so you need to stick to one consistently. It’s not going to be easy all the time but try to get back to your routine as soon, and as much as possible so your baby knows you are not changing into a new one. They will soon get comfortable with how things flow and will sleep easier and eventually longer.
- Fully fed – Ensure that your baby gets enough food during the daytime to minimize the chances of getting hungry while sleeping and waking up. It is also helpful to give your baby a milk bottle (amount depends on baby’s age). This should increase the length of time before he goes hungry and wakes up in the middle of the night.
- Self-soothe – It is normal to wake up 4-5 times each night for both babies and adults. The difference is that adults can get back to sleep instantly, that we don’t even remember waking up. The best solution for babies waking up every 2 hours is to teach them how to self-soothe so that they can easily get back to sleep each time they wake up. Yes, it won’t happen overnight, but with proper guidance, your little one will get the hang of it.
- Temperature Check – This may sound basic, but most of the time, we don’t consider it as a factor why our baby might be waking up so frequently. Check how cold or hot it is where they sleep, dress them accordingly, check their cot or crib if anything feels uncomfortable.
Let’s be honest, it’s inevitable for babies to wake up frequently, and most of the time, it’s hard for us to catch up to them unless you started sleep training your baby at a very early age. As long as they get the healthy amount of sleep they need for their age, it should be good. But if you feel like it’s affecting their health and development, the best advice is to talk to your baby’s pediatrician and know how they could help you and your baby.
I hope this article answered some questions and helped you in any way. If you have any other questions or your own story to share, please comment down below.