Welcome to our blog article: “The Real Reasons Why Your Baby Wakes Up Every 2 to 3 Hours at Night- and we emphasize with you! Parenting can be utterly exhausting, which is why today we are diving deep into the real reasons why your Baby wakes up every 2 to 3 hours at night! No one can quite prepare you for what sleep deprivation feels like. Whether your baby is 1 month old or 1 year old, we have all experienced some type of sleep deprivation at some point in our child’s life. It’s a common misconception that “this is parenthood”, and we must suffer through it, only to be relieved of our zombie-like state once they are high school or off to college. But this simply isn’t the truth, and our children are likely crying at night because they too, are completely exhausted.
So why if a baby is so exhausted, does he or she wake up every 2-3 hours? Here are the real reasons, by age, that your baby is likely waking this much at night that no one else has ever had the guts to tell you to your face.
First off, if you’re here- congratulations on your new baby or babies! The first two weeks are absolutely precious, and by far one of my favorite ages to share with your new infant. It’s extremely common for a premature and/or full-term healthy newborn to feed every 2-3 hours for the first month for optimal growth, and due to belly size. Your doctor may even advise you due to your baby’s size to continue to feed this often past the one month mark. About 50% of babies will drop at least 1-2 night feeds by the third month. Sleeping through the night at this age is defined as 5+ hour stretches over 10-12 hours at night. To achieve these totals and gently transition your Newborn to falling asleep independently without any tears, we highly recommend the Newborn Sleep Survival guide for families looking for the full package they can download and attempt on their own time, at their own pace. The real reason that baby is waking every 2-3 hours at this age: Age and hunger.
This is the age where things tend to become a little crazy; night wakings due to the dreaded 4-month regression (read more about all five of the sleep regressions here) can become increasingly common due to neurological advances within your baby’s brain, or more simply put, they are becoming smarter and beginning to realize their place in the world. 4 month old babies, especially around the 19-week mark, also start to become more distracted during feeding times, which can cause the daily caloric intake to drop off a bit, causing their hunger to increase at night. The real reasons that baby is waking every 2-3 hours at this age: The 4-month regression, and/or hunger.
The regression has finally passed, but unfortunately baby has now picked up some potentially undesirable habits and requires these habits to physically exist during the falling asleep process (i.e. feeding/sucking to sleep, the need to be rocked, bounced or held, sleeping in a parent’s bed, etc.) We refer to these are “sleep associations”, and often times they will trickle into toddlerhood if not addressed early on. If a baby wakes up at night and something is drastically different from when they fell asleep in the first place, their body will immediately tense up, and yep- they will cry out for Mom or Dad. Imagine as a adult falling asleep next to your significant other and waking up in the morning in Japan- it would be quite a shock! At Sleep and the City, we work to gradually wean infants from their sleep associations and replace them with more positive ones instead, all while keeping desired night feeds and all the cuddles.
Another reason your five to twelve month old baby may be waking up every 2-3 hours at night is due to him or her being overtired from the previous day. This can occur due to a missed nap, lack of age-appropriate nap totals, or a wake window that much too long (download our Schedules & Wake Windows Guide here for ages 0-3). Not sure which could be bothering your baby? The easiest way to know if baby is overtired: A waking that occurs within the first three hours, and/or baby falling asleep during the bedtime routine (or rocking/feeding prior to putdown), or falling asleep within 1-2 minutes of putdown at bedtime. Try a bedtime 30-60 minutes earlier if you suspect the napping minimums of the day have not been reached. Learn more about baby naps here on our Naps blog post.
Lastly, baby could be waking at night every 2-3 hours due to hunger, or looking to make up for calories missed during the daytime. On average, you’ll want baby to receive 24-36 ounces per day of breast milk or formula, and if only half of these recommended ounces are consumed during daytime hours, baby will wake up at night looking for the remaining half. Try encouraging full feeds during the day, after each nap (as opposed to before), and include a dream feed or two during the weaning process. For all the reasons above, the Infant Sleep Survival guide is a wonderful solution for the modern parent looking for gentle and PROVEN methods of sleep shaping (click button below to download). The real reasons that baby is waking every 2-3 hours at this age: Sleep associations, hunger, missed/short napping, oversized wake windows.
Once solids have been successfully introduced before a baby’s first birthday, most doctors will agree that infants are able to sleep all night without a feed. At this age, we can finally rule out hunger as a reason for waking up! However, wake windows that are too large due to dropping the morning nap before an Infant is ready can lead to an overtired baby. Babies will drop down to one nap between 15-18 months, and often need 3-4 weeks of transition time via a Bridge Schedule (request a custom bridge schedule here). For children taking two naps, you’ll need wake windows less than 4 hours, and a napping minimum of two hours total. For children on one nap, you’ll need wake windows between 5-6 hours, and a nap minimum of 1.5 hours. Lastly, a child that falls asleep under circumstances that differ from when they attempt to connect a sleep cycle (every 1.5-3 hours), will cause a child to wake up and call out for Mom or Dad (read more about sleep associations above). This may include rocking to sleep, feeding/sucking to sleep, or lying with a parent at bedtime. The real reasons that baby is waking every 2-3 hours at this age: Sleep associations, missed/short napping, oversized wake windows.