While it's normal for newborns to sleep for only a few hours at a time, waking up every 3-4 hours to eat, many moms grow concerned about an older baby's night wakings, especially if the child had previously been sleeping through the night. To help you decipher your baby's sleep schedule and put worries to rest, we've rounded up six common reasons, other than hunger, that babies wake at night.
1. Irregular Sleep Cycles
"Babies do not have regular sleep cycles until about six months of age," explains the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). "While newborns sleep about 16 to 17 hours per day, they may only sleep one or two hours at a time. As babies get older, they need less sleep. However, different babies have different sleep needs. It is normal for a six-month-old to wake up during the night but go back to sleep after a few minutes."
2. Change in Environment or Routine
If your baby was sleeping soundly but now suddenly is waking up, the root of the problem may be a change in the temperature of the room, or the amount of light and sound. Circle of Moms member Amanda notes that "You or your husband could actually be waking your daughter up with your snoring, tossing, [or] coughing," while Veronica B. suggests checking "if he feels too warm or too cold." A related cause of night wakings is a change in routine. As Julie notes: "Babies get out of whack with traveling."
Babies also wake up at night when they're sick or in pain. Charmaine O. relays: "My son was doing this but I found out he had an ear infection so I got him antibiotics and now he is sleeping without waking up again...so maybe check with your doctor."
4. Developmental Leaps
Disrupted sleep could also be a sign that your baby is getting ready to take a developmental leap, like crawling or walking. As Vanessa B. shares of her 10-month-old's disrupted sleep pattern, "JP last Thursday all of a sudden stood up and took four steps and then sat down... That night, he slept through the night again."
Your baby could also be waking up from teething discomfort. As Allie I. shares, "Our daughter was up all night before she cut her first two teeth." Tetsje V. agrees: "My seven-month-old did the same thing for a week and then a couple days after that we noticed her first tooth." (For tips on soothing a teething baby, see 7 Ways to Soothe a Teething Baby.)
6. Separation Anxiety
"My almost 10-month old little girl is waking up at night too," shares Liesle H. "I've heard from our pediatrician that this is very common amongst 9-12 month-olds, as they start to experience separation anxiety and are starting to actually wake up and look for their mommies at night. This seems to be particularly worse among babies with full-time working mothers." The AAP offers a similar explanation: "Between the ages of 6 months and 2 years children's sleep patterns may be disturbed by separation anxiety. This is a normal stage in emotional development. The child may wake up several times during the night and call out for his parents. Be firm in stating they should stay in their bed but reassure them you will be back soon."