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  • Ursula Quinn

Frequent Waking - 2 big reasons why your baby is waking up so much..... and what to do about it.

If your baby is over 6 months and is waking up almost on the hour overnight, there are usually a couple of big culprits.

1. They have developed an association that is ultimately disrupting their sleep. They usually need this to fall asleep and then resettle back to sleep overnight. This can be the soother, rocking, bouncing, breastfeeding, or bottle feeding. Ultimately, if your baby relies on lots of your support to fall asleep, then they are likely to wake-up and require that help again to resettle. Some babies seem to wake more frequently than others. I find that relying on lots of motion in the form of bouncing or rocking tends to lead to more frequent wakes, as does falling asleep while drinking milk.

2. They have become overtired. When a baby develops a strong reliance on those associations, then this can end up shortening or disrupting naps, and their night-time sleep is very broken. They just aren't getting enough quality sleep by day or by night. This can become a torturous cycle of chronic poor sleep. If your child is waking almost hourly then it is very likely that they are overtired. If you are having to resettle them a few times before you even go to bed yourself then this is probably a sign that they are overtired. Waking from naps after 30 minutes in a fairly grumpy mood can also point to overtiredness. Some parents will describe their child as being in good form and happy despite all of the above. In fact, it is often only when their child starts to sleep better that parents start to see the sleepy cues such as yawning or eye-rubbing emerge.

So, how can you improve this situation?

My first suggestion is to try to improve naps in whatever way works. If your child needs constant motion or contact to nap well, then it can be worth doing this for a while to try to reduce and overtiredness. This may involve long walks or lying beside your child in bed. Try doing this before you take a leap into any form of sleep training or sleep coaching. Trying to change HOW a child settles when they are already overtired can limit your chance of success and lead to lots of crying.

My second suggestion is to work on reducing and phasing out the associations that aren't working. This can be challenging, but it can be a total gamechanger. There is no one "right" way to do this. This is what I help families with very frequently. We work out the best approach for their family, and we usually improve the situation dramatically with my guidance and support. Your child is unlikely to greet any changes to their sleep situation with open arms, however, changes are probably necessary and needed for everyone's sake if you are dealing with sleep deprivation overnight and know that your child isn't getting the sleep that they need.

Bottom line - you do not have to tolerate really broken sleep. If it is going on for a while, then it is probably not due to developmental leaps or teething. If you are breastfeeding, this doesn't have to come with the territory! If your child is over 6 months and is thriving and feeding well then they can and should be sleeping for longer periods overnight. If they are not, then there are usually reasons why and the situation can almost always be improved.

If you are sleep deprived, I hope this helps you to work out what is going on. If you need extra help or support, then I am here to help.

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