Being a new mother means multiple midnight feedings, diaper changes, and desperately trying to get your baby to sleep for just one more hour. These are the beginning challenges of motherhood and they are completely normal. Eventually you get a great sleep schedule down and then all of a sudden, your baby is wide awake at 2 am every night. Read on to learn more about why babies wake up at 2 am and what you can do to manage it.
Good and Bad Sleepers
When a mom has a new baby, you’ll often hear people ask, “is she a good sleeper?” Some babies are naturally ready to hit the hay, and others fight falling asleep. If your baby is a bad sleeper right out of the gate, following a sleep routine as closely as possible will be your best bet.
Sometimes there are good sleepers who have bad habits. Some babies will make habitual associations with falling asleep. Some of these include always being nursed, rocked, or held to sleep. These bad habits are hard to avoid because it’s part of your motherly instinct to do everything you can to soothe your baby! So, when your baby wakes up in the night, they are craving those associations and will cry until they get them.
There’s no need to strip your baby of all her night time rituals. As a mom, we love these bonding moments with our children. The best way to break your baby’s bad sleeping habit is to nurse, rock, or hold your baby until she gets sleepy. When she’s still awake you want to place her in the crib. She will realize that the crib is a safe and familiar place to be when she wakes up in the middle of the night and will most likely put herself back to sleep.
Cry It Out or No?
There are so many debates on if you should let your baby cry it out or not! Once your baby is around five or six months, she’ll gradually start learning self-soothing skills – turning over or sucking on her fingers. The truth is once your baby has learned these skills, letting her cry in the middle of the night a little bit is not a bad thing.
During your baby’s first year she will likely go through three sleep regressions. If your baby stays asleep until 3 am every night, she is likely going through one of these.
If your baby won’t sleep at night around three or four months, her more normal sleep pattern has likely been disrupted. Her brain waves start to develop and her sleep patterns head straight for the gutter. Up until now, your baby was falling asleep and immediately entering a deeper, non-REM sleep. This explains why babies can fall asleep just about anywhere!
At around 4 months, a baby’s sleep becomes more like ours and they no longer immediately fall into deep, non-REM sleep. Now, they’re entering a lighter non-REM sleep. So, when you’re nursing or rocking your baby to sleep and finally go to put her down, she wakes right back up.
This means that your baby will start waking up more often and earlier in the morning. The best thing you can do for the both of you is put your baby down earlier.
The three month sleep regression occurs at almost exactly three months. The nine month old sleep regression varies between eight and ten months. The nine month sleep regression is due to a lot of brain development. Your baby may begin crawling, scooting, sitting up, pulling up, and much more. Your baby also starts to comprehend simple words like cat, dog, and cow. On top of all of these developmental breakthroughs, your baby may also be teething.
This difficult sleep pattern can last as little as three weeks and as long as a couple months. When your baby is sitting up in her crib screaming at 2 am, you don’t want to leave her there. You don’t want to create bad sleeping habits for when her regression is over either. So, be patient and offer your baby your support.
The last sleep phase is the eleven month regression. Now your baby is more active and a little more independent. She will start refusing her naps during the day, and a lot of the time parents will give in to just getting by with one.
This is not a normal nap transition! Your toddler isn’t ready for one nap a day until about fifteen months. Try getting your baby to take a shorter nap earlier in the morning. Then, she’ll be tired and ready for her second nap in the afternoon. You want your little one to be awake for about 3.75 to 4 hours before she is down for the night, so plan your second nap accordingly.
Just like with an infant, your toddler is still experiencing new developmental milestones. If your toddler is waking up at 2 am every night, here are some things you can do to help. When your toddler wakes up in the middle of the night, go to her. Help her settle down and comfort her. It might seem like coddling, but it can be very effective. Try not to pick her up or lay in the bed with her, but pat her on the back, sing a song, and sit beside her. If she is screaming uncontrollably, then you can hold and console her until she falls back asleep.
If you are in the middle of a sleep regression with your baby, be patient and remember that it will pass. If you need more advice on what to do when your baby is fussy at night, Ask Ali! She’ll give you some seriously helpful and hardwon tips and tricks.