Crying babies are something we can be sure of in life. They cry when they wake up, they cry at random times throughout the day, they cry when they go to bed… It’s a fact of life and we can all expect it.
That said, we understand that this isn’t just some sort of annoying baby feature, like a lack of cup holders in your sedan. On the contrary, crying and screaming is really the only way babies have of verbally communicating their feelings and needs.
So they cry when they’re tired, they cry when they’re in pain, they cry when they’re scared – and, as a baby, there’s a lot to be scared about. You’ve suddenly been brought into a world you don’t understand with no ability to communicate or even think intelligently about it. That’s why babies become so attached to the safe presence of their mothers and why they have such a difficult time when they find themselves alone with no mom in sight.
It’s a tough situation for parents, because it’s not always clear what’s making their little ones cry. Of course, it’s not a problem to soothe your upset baby when she wakes up in the middle of the night. But when this becomes a nightly occurrence, you have to wonder if you’re missing something.
That’s why one of the big questions I get all the time is whether or not a baby is waking because they’re hungry. While that might be the case, especially if your little one is very little, there are a number of other things to keep in mind.
That’s why I want to take a look here at some ways you can figure out whether hunger is related to your baby’s waking throughout the night, along with some tips for solving the problem.
Keep your baby’s age in mind
When babies are really young – under six months – they very well may need to be fed once during the night. Their daily meals are milk which, while nourishing, isn’t that filling. Babies digest milk pretty quickly and, combined with the fact that their tummies are so small, it makes sense for them to feel hunger pangs at night.
So if your baby is very young, the best advice I can give you is to grin it, bear it, and know that it’s going to pass soon.
Make sure your baby is getting enough food throughout the day
If you’ve hit the six-month mark and your little one is still waking up wanting to eat during the night, then making sure they’re eating enough throughout the day is one of the first things to look at. Being that your baby is growing so quickly, you’re going to need to begin feeding her more calories, and you might even consider introducing some solids at this point.
Try adding an extra feeding throughout the day or adding a little extra to her bottle to see if that makes a difference. That said, if your baby is underweight or not growing as quickly as she should, you want to be careful weaning them off nighttime meals. If your baby is struggling to put on weight, talk to your pediatrician before making any major changes to their feeding schedule.
Evaluate whether your baby is waking up for food or for you
Babies generally aren’t deep sleepers, so when they wake up in the middle of the night – in a dark room with no Mom in sight – they’re understandably afraid. It’s important for them to learn to soothe themselves and learn that they can simply fall back asleep, but it’s easy to confuse that with hunger.
Here’s how to tell the difference. If your baby is regularly waking up at night and crying, but only wants to eat a little bit, chances are she just wants to be comforted. The next time it happens, try holding your baby but not feeding her and see if that puts her back to sleep by itself. If so, you know it’s not that she’s hungry but that she hasn’t learned to put herself back to sleep yet.
On the other hand, if your baby doesn’t go back to sleep without eating, you know that she’s hungry.
Teach you baby to sleep on her own
Ultimately, this is the key to figuring out why your little one is waking up throughout the night, along with the solution.
If she hasn’t learned how to put herself to sleep without you around to comfort her, this will be a recurring problem. Some parents think it’s hunger, some think it’s pain, some think it’s related to the temperature of their rooms.
While ALL of these could certainly be part of the problem, and shouldn’t be tossed aside, the first question to ask yourself in all of these scenarios is whether or not your baby can put herself to sleep. Because if she can’t, every time she wakes up, she’s going to cry. In fact, as adults we typically wake up throughout the night. We just don’t remember it the next morning because it was such a non-event that we went back to sleep without our brains even fully turning on.
To an extent, this is learned behavior that should be cultivated by parents. Of course, I completely understand the concerns around “crying it out” and I would never suggest that a parent not care and leave their little one to cry alone for hours.
Nevertheless, everyone in the family is better off when baby can fall back to sleep by herself, which only happens when you encourage her to do so.
If you’ve been afraid of it or uncertain how to do it without worry, simply put your baby in her crib at nap time, leave the room while she’s still awake, without a pacifier or any other sort of help, and then let her figure it out. She might cry a little bit, but – as we established above – babies do that and science has shown that short periods of crying has no negative effects on a baby’s well being.
Feeling Stuck? Don’t Hesitate to Reach out!
While I hope this info was helpful, I understand that the situation can seem helpless. I went through it myself, which is why I decided to help mothers like me who were struggling with their little ones’ sleeping troubles. There IS hope and you’re going to be just fine.
If you’d like to talk with me about how I can help, whether you’d like me to develop a plan for your little one or you’d just like to ask me some questions, don’t hesitate to reach out today. Head over to my contact page to get in touch.