June 14th, 2021
1. They are healthy!
Babies are supposed to wake at night, in fact none of us sleep through the night. Adults rouse every 90 minutes (this is a survival mechanism to make sure we aren’t bleeding or freezing to death). If all is well, adults quickly drift back to sleep. Babies are much more likely to need something when they rouse, and if they do, they will fully wake and signal for a caregiver. Contrary to popular belief, hunger, a clean diaper, and temperature are not the only needs babies have at night (or during the day, needs stay the same 24/7). Babies have a biological need to be close to their caregivers (people they are attached to). Infants are unable to regulate their own temperature, blood pressure and emotion. This is also a neurological need, since babies are born with only 25% of their brain, the rest of the brain is built through their experiences. For babies to grow into children, and then into adults who feel safe in the world, are resilient, kind, all the things – this closeness to caregivers must be what they experience as small children.
2. They are hungry.
Even after infancy, many children need to eat during the night. This misunderstanding emerged in the 1950’s when the biological needs of babies were becoming more and more inconvenient due to our fast paced lifestyles. Parenting style became more about shaping desirable traits in children rather than looking at who children are, how they develop and what they need. The result was behavioral based parenting methods, sleep training, separation based discipline, and using punishments to bring desired results. Eating at night (or even waking at night), was one of these problem “traits” of children. The solution, ignore the problem (the child) and it will go away. It would be great if this worked, but unfortunately this is not how human nature works, and behavioral issues have only grown since the development of these methods. If your baby needs to eat, day or night, feed them. Same goes for snuggles, see number 3.
3. They miss you and need contact with you!
Children attach through the senses in the first year. This means that they only know if you’re there (or coming back) if they can see, hear, smell, feel or taste you. Crazy right? Filling your child’s attachment needs is the way to true independence. Independence cannot be forced, only born from deeply rooted dependence. If this sounds overwhelming, the good news is children can fulfill this need with many different caregivers. Build your village of attachment early, there are plenty of baby snuggles to go around. We were never meant to do this child rearing thing alone! If you would like to bedshare, but don’t know how to do it safely – check out my free guides, including – Safe Bedsharing and Breastsleeping, A Modern Guide to an Age-Old Practice.
4. They are uncomfortable.
There are many reasons babies and toddlers can be uncomfortable. They could be healing from something, this can certainly interrupt sleep. Support your child in whatever way you need to, things will go back to normal once they are well. They could be teething, going through a developmental leap, or have sensitivities to food. They could be gassy, or hot or cold. They could have an undiagnosed tongue tie (this is definitely something to think about if your baby is waking hourly). Other signs of an undiagnosed tongue tie include – painful breastfeeding in the beginning (breastfeeding should NEVER be painful), milk spilling out of the baby’s mouth (breast or bottle), or clicking sounds while breastfeeding. Another red flag is that while a baby may be hitting all of their growth milestones they are also eating more than 12 times in a 24 hour period. If you are experiencing any of these, please reach out to an IBCLC or pediatric dentist for support.
5. Baby is overtired/routine needs tweaking.
It’s common to hear about popular schedules like eat, play, sleep or the 2-3-4 method; but these one-size-fits-all methods don’t work for the majority of babies. Our babies know how to sleep. Following your baby’s cues and providing an environment conducive to sleep goes a long way. There are a lot of popular sleep products out there that promise sleep that simply isn’t biologically normal. In fact – forcing babies too deep into sleep is considered a SIDS risk by top SIDS researchers. As I mentioned before, babies are supposed to wake up frequently, so they can eat, warm-up, cool-off and connect with their caregivers. The key ingredient here is to provide your baby with the comfort they need to surrender to the vulnerability of sleep. This includes their physical comfort as well as their emotional needs. If you’re having a hard time nailing your child’s unique rhythm, wake windows are a good place to start. I have a free guide all about wake windows in the freebies section of my homepage.