QUICK SLEEP TIP: Why Your Baby Wakes Up Crying

 
Why Your Baby Wakes Up Crying

“Why does my baby wake up crying?”

That’s a question we hear a lot – and it’s the questions we’re answering in today’s quick tip article!

Why Your Baby Wakes Up Crying

Well, for starters, your baby may obviously wake up crying sometimes due too the need to eat (hunger is a powerful motivator!). Additionally, your baby may wake up with a wet or dirty (or leaky) diaper, or may wake up because he’s too hot or cold. These are all perfectly reasonable reasons for a baby to wake up – and they’re all reasons that mom and dad need to address, either by feeding or changing baby.

A bit less straightforward is the fact that many babies wake up due to their sleep associations. Some sleep associations are pretty straightforward causes of crying upon waking – for example, if your baby’s pacifier falls out, she may very well be pretty frustrated that she can’t put it back in, and that may lead to tears!

But some other sleep associations are less easy to spot as the cause of crying upon waking. If you normally rock or nurse your baby to sleep, she may cry when she wakes up because she’s no longer moving and/or sucking. Similarly, if you typically hold your baby for sleep, he may cry if he wakes up in his crib and is no longer behind held.

Beyond these reasons, though, here’s something to remember: we all wake up briefly between sleep cycles from time to time. Our babies are no different. Sometimes, your baby may wake slightly and cry between sleep cycles. This is often the cause of those weird 2 minute crying spells that you sometimes might hear in the middle of the night, or during a nap. Do you know what I mean? Those times when you hear a cry, but by the time you’re up and moving toward baby, he’s already fallen back to sleep? The cause there is just brief waking during sleep cycles that happens to be accompanied by some fussing.

That goes hand-in-hand with the next point: for some children, waking up crying is a sign that they aren’t really done sleeping yet, and need more rest. We suspect this has something to do with temperament – while some babies might wake too early from sleep and be fairly quiet and content, others will just wail. This was the case for Nicole:

“With my first-born, if he woke up crying, it 90% of the time meant that he was not done sleeping. He may have awakened in between sleep cycles and had trouble going into the next one.”

In these cases, it’s sometimes best to wait a minute or two when you hear crying that you suspect is just waking between sleep cycles – sometimes, your baby will go right back to sleep. Or, even if you ultimately to go in to comfort your baby, you’ll know that the goal should be to help baby get back to sleep, because she isn’t fully rested yet.

Finally, keep in mind that some babies (and toddlers, for that matter) cry after waking even if they’re fully rested. Some babies will wake up from a marathon nap crying, or will wake after a long night of peaceful sleep just wailing. In these cases, the problem is most likely that the child just needs a bit of time to fully wake up. (Heck, I know adults like this – I’m one of them, in fact!! 😉 I don’t wake up crying, but boy, do I need plenty of time and space to fully wake up!) In these cases, you can try simply cuddling your child, or offering a small snack or a favorite toy, and allowing your child to slowly wake up.

So, in short, if your baby often wakes up crying, you’ll want to evaluate the reasons. If it’s not something that requires immediate attention, like hunger of an uncomfortable diaper or illness, then evaluate whether or not it may be a sleep association. To do that, you’ll want to think about how your child falls asleep (in your arms, in the rocker?), and then compare that to how your child is waking up (in the crib, alone?). Finally, keep in mind that temperament makes a difference, too – it may just be that crying is one way that your child lets you know he’s not done sleeping, or it may be that your kiddo is one who needs to wake up slowly, and is going to fuss a bit while he does it! 😉

If you suspect that sleep associations are causing the problem, you may want to consider sleep training – this will help your baby gradually learn a new way to sleep, that doesn’t involve negative sleep associations. If you need help with sleep coaching, you can check out our library of do-it-yourself sleep coaching resources in our Members Area, or you can get one-on-one help with an expert sleep consultant. Whichever route you choose, know that you can overcome negative sleep associations and help your baby or toddler sleep through the night – and we can help!

Does your baby wake-up crying? What do you think the reason is? Have questions about crying upon waking? Ask, and we’ll answer!

 
bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
 
Essential Keys to Newborn Sleep Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
 
bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
 
 
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
 
bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
 

Need help knowing where to start? Visit our Help Me Choose page for helping choosing the Baby Sleep Site® resources that are right for you.

Baby Night Feedings: How To Know When They Are Necessary

 
How To Know When Baby Night Feedings Are Necessary


 

Water is wet. The sky is blue. Babies eat at night. These are basic facts of life.

Except that last one isn’t quite so straight-forward, is it? I mean, yes, newborns eat at night (a lot), and even as they grow, babies need to eat at night for awhile – night feedings help to ensure proper growth and development.

But what about unnecessary night feedings? You know – those ‘feedings’ that are actually just nursing or bottle-drinking for comfort? Those ‘feedings’ that last 2.2 seconds before your baby is conked out again? Those feedings that happen 20 minutes after the last feeding ended. Yes, night feedings are necessary, but how can you tell when night feeds are necessary, and when they are not?

Read on and find out!

Baby Night Feedings Are Probably Necessary When…

  • …your baby stays awake for long periods if you don’t feed. A baby who fusses or cries persistently if he’s not fed is likely hungry, and needs food. This is a pretty reliable sign that your baby’s night feedings are likely necessary, if you’ve ruled out poor sleep habits.
  • …your baby is not eating enough during the day. Some babies get in a bad pattern of eating little and sleeping lots during the day, and then waking often and feeding a lot at night. In this case, a baby technically does need the night feedings – but the larger goal should be to reverse the pattern, so that most feedings happen during the day! You can download our free guide, 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night, for more tips on how to reverse that kind of eating/sleeping pattern.
  • …after feeding, your baby sleeps soundly in 3-4 hour stretches. A baby who wakes at night, takes a full feeding, and then goes back to sleep and sleeps well was probably a hungry baby who needed the feeding in the first place. :)
  • …your baby is a good self-soother who can fall asleep independently and goes back to sleep without help after a feeding. This may be the best sign that your baby’s night feedings are necessary. If your baby has overcome all his sleep associations, is able to fall asleep without your help, and goes down awake in his crib after a feed (and is then able to put himself back to sleep), you can rest assured that the night feedings likely necessary.

Of course, age is a factor in night feedings, too. Newborns and young infants must feed at night in order to grow and develop properly. And it is perfectly normal for babies to feed once per night up until 12 months old (although we do recommend an attempt at night weaning at 9 months). So keep your baby’s age in mind, when looking at the factors above. Not sure when your baby should be feeding at night? Check out our sample schedules by age for night feeding tips.

Baby Night Feedings May Not Be Necessary When…

…your baby is using waking out of habit (not hunger) and is using night feeds to soothe back to sleep. Only one point necessary in this section, because unnecessary night feedings are pretty straightforward. (At least, they are straightforward to understand – actually fixing them may be more challenging! 😉 )

Unnecessary night feedings are unnecessary because your baby is using them for soothing and comfort, and not for food. The scenario goes something like this: your baby wakes during the night and is unable to fall back to sleep without help. So she cries for you, and you offer a feeding (because you think she may be hungry). She feeds for a short time and then falls asleep mid-feed. You lay her back down to sleep carefully (so as not to wake her up). But then, just a short time later, she’s awake again and crying. So you repeat the process. You may do this 6, 7, 8 times each night (or maybe even more!)

THIS right here – this pattern – is the #1 sign that your baby’s night feedings are probably not necessary. There are exceptions to this, of course, but by and large, this pattern represents a sleep problem that will need to be fixed eventually.

How To Stop Unnecessary Baby Night Feedings

Feeding ScheduleIf, after reading this, you feel confident that your baby’s night feedings aren’t necessary, the question remains: what should you do about it? How can you solve this problem?

That’s up to you, of course; there are many ways to sleep train your baby, and change her sleep associations so that she is able to fall asleep without help and stay asleep until she is truly hungry and ready to eat. But sleep training can be an overwhelming task. That’s why we created The Baby Sleep Site®, and it’s why we are here to help! If you want personalized help for your baby’s sleep, from a trained sleep consultant, browse our list of consultation packages and and choose the one that looks best for your unique situation.
 
Click here to learn how you can connect one-on-one with a sleep consultant.

Or, if you’d like to know more about how our system of personalized baby sleep help works, Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Questions about your baby’s night feedings? Ask them below! Sleep training tips for other parents? Offer them – we love to hear your insights!

 
bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
 
Essential Keys to Newborn Sleep Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
 
bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
 
 
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
 
bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
 

Top 15 Reasons Why Your Baby or Toddler Wakes At Night

 
15 Reasons Baby Toddler Wakes At Night
 

We love providing free resources for our readers – just take a look at the ‘FREE’ tab above, on our main menu bar! :) And so, in the spirit of offering free help, we have designed this checklist, to help you understand why your baby is waking at night.

Is it hunger? Discomfort? Something else? Use our checklist so figure it out!

Top 15 Reasons Why Your Baby Wakes At Night

  1. Hunger: Newborns need to eat around the clock, but even older babies need one (or possibly two) feedings at night. We generally recommend an attempt to night wean around 9 months, although we consider it normal for a baby to need one night feeding up to 12 months of age in some cases.
  2. Wet/Leaky/Dirty Diaper: There’s really no way to prevent wet or dirty diapers from waking your baby. But you can do something about leaky diapers that disturb your baby or toddler’s sleep – read this article for details.
  3. Sleep Associations: Rocking or feeding your baby to sleep isn’t necessarily a problem – that is, until your baby needs you to re-create her sleep associations in order to fall asleep when she wakes between sleep cycles. For details about what sleep associations are, and how they form, browse through this article.
  4. Too hot/too cold: Your baby will obviously be uncomfortable if she’s too cold. But avoid the impulse to overdress your little one, too; babies and toddlers (and adults!) tend to sleep restlessly when too warm. It’s best to keep your baby’s room at an optimum temperature for sleep. Want to know what babies and toddlers wear to bed? Read through this article.
  5. Sleep regression: Your child will go through about 4 or 5 sleep regressions in the first 2 years of life. Want to know when the regressions happen and how the affect sleep? Check out this page.
  6. Teething: Growing a mouthful of teeth is hard (and sometimes painful!) work for a baby. Read this article for tips about how to handle teething and its effects on sleep.
  7. Illness: Despite your best preventative measures, your baby or toddler will sometimes get sick. During an illness, be prepared for your baby or toddler to wake often, and provide all the comfort you can.
  8. Napping too much: Long daytime naps are a good thing – until they interfere with night sleep. That’s when you know your baby is napping too much. Remember, your baby or toddler’s overall daily sleep amounts tend to stay the same, but your little one will shift sleep from nighttime to daytime. So consistent long naps will mean less sleep at night. Check out this article for details on how many naps your baby or toddler needs, and how long they should be.
  9. Overtiredness at bedtime: While it may seem sensible to keep your baby up later at bedtime, in the hopes that she’ll sleep all night, the reverse is actually true. Babies who go to bed late tend to be overtired at bedtime, and sleep worse than babies who go to bed early. Try shifting bedtime a bit earlier, to help with night waking that stems from overtiredness.
  10. Discomfort: Big things, like vaccinations, can cause discomfort; so can small things, like an itchy shirt tag. If your baby seems to be in pain, or highly agitated, see if you can pinpoint a source of discomfort.
  11. Digestive issues (like gas or reflux): Gas and reflux can be very painful for a baby, and will obviously disrupt sleep. Food allergies may be to blame; if that’s the case, try a change in diet. For more help with digestive problems, see your baby’s healthcare provider.
  12. Food allergies or sensitivities: Food allergies and sensitivities cause a whole host of problems for your baby or toddler – including sleep issues. For details, read this past article. For more information about starting your baby on solid foods, check out our sister site, Your Baby’s Start to Solid Food.
  13. Nightmares or Night terrors (12+ months): This won’t apply to younger babies, but if your little one is 12 months or older, nightmares (or night terrors) may begin to disrupt nighttime sleep.
  14. Room is too bright: Our brains associate light with being awake; that’s why it can be a good idea to let your newborn nap in a bright room, in order to sort out day/night confusion. But once your newborn has days and nights sorted out, it’s best to keep your baby or toddler’s room dark during sleep.
  15. Room is too noisy: Despite conventional wisdom, you can’t teach a baby to sleep through noise. Some babies and toddlers are just light sleepers – every little sound wakes them up! For these little ones, white noise machines and apps are crucial for good sleep.

Night Waking Help That Works…Guaranteed!

Night waking isn’t all bad, of course – age-appropriate night waking for feedings is essential for healthy growth and development! But excessive night waking, or night waking that drags on well past the age that your child needs nighttime nourishment can be so exhausting. Fortunately for you, our team of highly-trained, caring sleep consultants has worked with thousands of families like yours – they know exactly how to account for your baby’s temperament and your parenting philosophy while still ensuring that you have Personalized Sleep Plan™ that will help reduce night wakings and lead your baby towards sleeping through the night.
 
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
 

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Any of these reasons look familiar? What are some of the most common reasons for your baby’s night waking?

 
bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
 
 
 
bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

 

Can’t decide which product or service is right for you? Visit our Getting Started Page for help.

Controlled Crying, Cry It Out, No-Cry, or Soothe Baby to Sleep?

Controlled CryingControlled Crying. Cry it out. Don’t cry it out. Soothe your baby. Co-sleep. Don’t co-sleep.

The advice is endless and talk to one expert, say your baby’s doctor, and she will say one thing. Talk to another one and he might say do the opposite. Read this book or that book and it’s likely to say yet another thing.

This week I was quoted as one of three experts in Hudson Valley Parent in an article called Let Them Cry or Rock-a-Bye. One of my quotes reiterates how I believe all families and situations are different, so there isn’t just one solution. After you read it, make sure you comment on what your philosophy is as a parent.

What is the difference between Controlled Crying and
Cry It Out?

In my experience, when people think of “Cry It Out” they think of not going back in the room once they put their baby down for sleep at night and let them cry. Controlled Crying is when you go in at intervals to check on your baby and you may put a time limit on how long your baby cries in total. I do find many people consider Controlled Crying the same as “Cry It Out” and don’t want to do either. Everyone seems to have a slightly different definition. Some people think of Cry It Out as not even going in to feed or change a diaper while others recognize that they are not looking for a 12-hour straight sleeper or baby sleeping through the night, necessarily, they just don’t want to go in there every 1-2 hours to replace a pacifier, breast-feed, bottle-feed, or rock their baby back to sleep all night.

The Baby Sleep Site Philosophy on Controlled Crying
or Cry it Out

For those who are new to The Baby Sleep Site™, my philosophy is that there is not one method for everyone. All families should find their own path and even different babies within the same family may take a different path. Do I think controlled crying or cry it out works? In many cases, yes. Is it the only thing that works? No. Do I think it always works when used? No. Do I often recommend controlled crying or cry it out? No, not usually. I start with no-cry (or limited crying) methods 90% of the time unless the parent has already decided to pursue controlled crying or cry it out and just has “what if” questions. And, then, whatever method they actually take I support that parent through and through. Why do I start with no-cry methods? Because I am a mom, not a doctor, who knows that your baby crying is one of the last things you want in the whole wide world, that’s why. I am not philosophically against crying methods, but there are quite a few things to try between soothing your baby all the way to sleep and putting him down, leaving the room, and letting him cry. Many families can make a lot of improvement without controlled crying or cry it out.

How to choose between controlled crying, cry it out, no-cry or soothing to sleep

Your baby’s temperament, your parental philosophy and level of patience are key components in whether you decide to try controlled crying, cry it out, a no-cry method, or decide to continue soothing your baby all the way to sleep each time. Take some time to read a few other articles that may help you find your answer:

Baby Temperament and Sleep Series
Is Co-Sleeping a Solution for Baby Sleep Problems?
Teaching Baby to Sleep with No Crying
How Crying Can Lead to Babies Sleeping
Cry It Out Defined and Age to Do It
Are You Sleep Training a Tortoise or a Hare?
Knowing When You’re Done Sleep Training

I hope this article helps you find the solution that is right for your family. You might be surprised at what that solution really is. If you are too bleary-eyed to make sense of it all and come up with a plan, let me do it for you. Check out our Sleep Consulting Services, where I help you make a plan YOU can feel good about. You can read a few parent stories to the right, too, or read them all here: Parent Stories.

How Crying Can Lead to Babies Sleeping

 
How Crying Can Lead To Babies Sleeping

A lot of times parents don’t understand how crying can ever lead to their baby sleeping. They think that they will certainly exhaust themselves and fall asleep that way, eventually, but what are they really learning? This article is very much NOT about cry it out. There is a LOT in between helping your baby back to sleep every two hours at night and letting them cry it out. This article is discussing how crying can lead to sleep and why crying might be a necessary step in your baby learning how to sleep, even if you are right next to your baby.

Imagine, you are learning to ride a bike. Your parents have put training wheels on your bike to stop you from falling. But, now it’s time for you to learn how to ride your bike on your own. Your parents tell you it’s time to take the training wheels off, but they’re still holding your shoulders as you pedal down the street. All of a sudden they ask you “Are you ready for me to let go?” and you say “I think so.” and they let go and you are off riding your bike all on your own. You look back and seeing your parent has let go of the bike, you freak out, and you fall down, scraping your knee.

It scared you to think that your parent was no longer holding on to you as you rode your bike. You fell down because you lost your focus and confidence. You are scared and you never want them to let go again. Maybe you’ll just never know how to ride a bike by yourself.

At this point, your parent has three choices: a) Put the training wheels back on, b) Keep holding on to your bike while you ride up and down the street, or c) Let go again and hope this time you learn to ride on your own. Having the age and wisdom, your parents know that you CAN ride a bike and all you need is practice and confidence. If they choose the third option, they can find a gentler way to teach you how to ride a bike. But, one thing remains the same: It is very difficult to learn to ride a bike without some falling and we parents want to cushion your fall as much as possible.

When it comes to helping your baby sleep, you might use “training wheels” in the form of a pacifier or rocking your baby to sleep or feeding your baby to sleep or some other sleep crutch, but one day you will realize that it’s your fault your baby won’t sleep and it’s time to take the training wheels off. You have decided that what your baby once NEEDED to sleep, now it’s simply a crutch, hindering him from actually learning how to sleep well on his own.

There are endless sleep training or coaching strategies (are you sleep training a tortoise or a hare?), but one thing that remains the same with all of them: it is difficult to convince your baby that she can sleep on her own without some crying just like it’s difficult to learn to ride a bike without falling. Does that mean you send your child outside to ride a bike on her own or let her cry it out all alone in her crib in her room? Not necessarily. Some people abruptly “let go” of the bike without telling their child “ripping off the band-aid” and others hold on for years and know that, eventually, she will learn to ride a bike. Everybody parents differently and you should have confidence in that your way is the right way for YOUR family.

Crying is part of the way babies communicate. She may have trouble finding that confidence that she CAN do this without you getting out of her way a little bit and “letting go”. Stay with her to encourage and support her through the transition, if you wish, but don’t keep “holding on” to avoid her crying. We all need to fall down sometimes to learn how to get back up and it’s part of growing up. Only you can decide the “right” time for her to learn to sleep on her own. I promise you that most of the time the first few nights are the worst and things can get ten times better after that.

If you need help developing a personalized sleep plan for your unique situation, when you are ready, make sure you check out our baby sleep consulting services, where we work with you on a plan YOU can feel good about.

Get Personalized Sleep Help That Fits Your Parenting Style

From cry it out to no cry, there are lots of sleep training styles and strategies out there! Our consultants at The Baby Sleep Site® specialize in creating Personalized Sleep Plans™ that are customized to your own parenting philosophy, and that will suit your sleep training style. Even better, once you have your Personalized Sleep Plan™, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing it at home.
 
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
 

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Sleep Resources That WORK

bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
 
 
 
 
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.

 

bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

What is your view on crying and baby’s sleep?