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> > Avoiding hourly wakings, part 1 (part 2)

What to do when your baby wakes up every hour?

To help your baby sleep through the night if she's now waking up hourly, most effective is an approach that combines the specific sleep skill techniques (learn to self-soothe when fed or held to sleep, sleep alone, stay asleep, nap well, etc.) your baby needs right now with a precise idea of why she wakes and how to remedy those causes.

Awake baby wonderingBelow you will find a taster of 12 of such causes of frequent waking and how to start remedying them right away.

--- In my dedicated e-book Overcome Frequent Waking, you will find the complete list of possible causes of waking along with extensive ways to remedy. You will also apply the necessary, sleep skill techniques - all without crying it out. In it I share with you the detailed approach I have been developing over the years, for and with the many parents who have been through this before you.

Many if not most babies go through phases of very frequently waking up at some point in the first year.

Remember that in the very first months, frequent and even hourly awakenings are normal and can be absolutely necessary to protect baby's health: refer to the newborn and under 6 months sections for more info.

The checklist below gives you a few  Use the checklist below to find out why your baby wakes up so often (after 45 minutes, each hour, every two hours, ...), and then remedy accordingly to help your little one sleep through the night (again).

12 common causes of frequent waking

What causes waking up hourly?

Sleep comes in cycles. Each cycle lasts about 50-60 minutes for a young baby, consists of a set of lighter and deeper sleep phases and is repeated several times a night.

In-between cycles there is a brief half-awake moment. Sleeping through means going right back to sleep through this moment and straight into the next cycle.

However, if at this delicate half-awake moment, there is any discomfort,  external disturbance or a physical habit of waking up ... your baby will wake up.

And this can happen at the end of each cycle, i.e. every 50-60 minutes ... leading to hourly awakenings.

If your baby is currently waking up every hour or otherwise too frequently, remedying the underlying cause(s) of the wakings is always an important first step.

Important: please don't rush/skim/skip the headlines but take the time to read all possibilities, also the ones that you least suspect: often that's where the answer is. Follow the suggestions to remedy where necessary.

For more detailed guidance, with extensive symptom checklists to uncover causes of frequent waking - including those that often remain un-noticed even by the most observing of parents - you may want to consult the complete list of possible causes in my guide for remedying frequent waking.

1. Restless onset of the night

If the start of the night is not peaceful, sleep becomes restless ... with overly frequent wakings as a logical result. These wakings are often with crying but can also be without, just lying awake, wanting to play, ... not able to settle back.

A restless bedtime can come from difficulty settling, problems with feeding right before bed, stress from crying it out techniques or simply lots of energy and activity going on at home in the evening.

Ensure at least 1 hour of winding-down time before starting the actual bedtime routine. In that hour, stick to quiet activities (but avoid screens and electronics), dim lights, soft voices, quiet music, ... Then have a simple recognizable bedtime routine to ease into the night. This is so basic that we often forget its importance, especially in today's busy and fast paced times ... but a quiet evening is indispensable for a good night.

2. Hungry

Even at an age and health condition when night feeds would no longer be necessary, your baby may still wake up due to a very real hunger feeling - whether that got established from habit or e.g. during a growth spurt.

And when hungry at night, you may get her to settle anyway - with or without your help - but then she'll lightly wake up and cry in between sleep cycles, due to the hunger feeling.

Two possible causes for how this problem typically starts:
  1. Have tried to wean from one or more night feeds "cold turkey": even if you know your baby does not need the nightly feeds anymore, she may still be hungry - due to the true hunger feeling from the habit of feeding at that time.
  1. Not feeding enough during the day: during teething or illness feeding may be disrupted during the day, or she may simply be too distracted to feed probably during the day, leaving her hungry at night.

    ! To avoid issues with under- or over-feeding and disrupting sleep patterns, you need to balance nutrient and sleep needs very precisely.
Solution: always wean progressively and, when necessary, carefully (!) top up nutrient intake during the day. For safe results, have a look at the gentle, effective techniques for this as discussed in Overcome Frequent Waking.
Remember that if your baby is newborn or under 6 months old, (frequent) night feeds can still be necessary for optimal health (hydration, growth spurts, illness, ....).

To avoid unnecessary hunger wakings though, you will need to wean from the night feeds progressively and/or top up cautiously (!) during the day.

3. Reflux

Acid reflux (GERD) can be very painful, especially when lying down for a longer time. Consult with your doctor for medical advice but whether taking medication or not, always use all possible reflux sleep tips. Especially remember to burp frequently and hold upright for at least 30 minutes before putting down to sleep on an elevated mattress.

4. Not burped (enough)

When feeding before going down to sleep, it is important to give enough time and opportunity to burp. A simple swift movement to place your baby (facing behind you) high over your shoulder, some tapping on the back, ... are all good.

Not all babies burp easily, if yours doesn't then simply make sure you hold her upright long enough after a feed (30 minutes minimum). Even - and specially - if she dozes off during the feed and does not wake up when put down, do hold her upright long enough after the feed, and give plenty of burping opportunity.

5. Poor nap quality

An irregular or ill-suited nap schedule not only gives poor naps, but also gives rise to unsettled sleep patterns. And that is a very typical cause of frequent and unnecessary wakings Again the wakings will not necessarily be with crying, mainly being awake and not easily settling again.

Better suited nap times do not have to be at fixed times, and also do not necessarily mean more or less frequent naps ... just arranged differently is usually what it takes.

Observing and learning to recognize true sleepy signs and behavior is key. That allows to arrange a well adapted nap routine/schedule which ensures good naps and therefore improve continuous sleep at night. Review the award-winning 3-step nap program to set-up naps well.