Q&A: Baby No Longer Sleeping Through the Night?

My six-month-old had been sleeping for six to seven hours before waking up at night, but for the past few weeks she's back to waking every three hours to nurse (or drinking six to seven ounces from a bottle). She recently started solids and recently started going to daycare too. She eats plenty during the day, so it's hard to believe she's still hungry. And I miss my sleep. Any ideas?
ByJeanne Cygnus, IBCLC, RLC
Lactation Specialist
Updated
Nov 2017
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Photo: Getty Images

There are many reasons your baby may be waking more frequently now than she used to. The good news is that it’s often a temporary phase and may subside on its own within a few weeks.

Sometimes when babies have lots of new activities going on, or their  schedule is changed significantly (like when daycare is introduced, their feeding patterns change. Many babies eat just enough to satisfy their initial hunger during the day but then find at night — when everything is calm again — that they really are still hungry.

Other babies fill up on  solids and take less breast milk during the day. Solids at this age often act as roughage and pass through baby’s system only minimally digested. So they may then make up for this decrease of daytime calories by breastfeeding more frequently at night.

Plus, babies are busy processing all of these new changes in their life. They often dream quite vividly at this age and may wake themselves as a result. Because they’ve been separated during the day, they may crave that extra bit of reassurance and snuggle time during the night.

A few ways to cope during this difficult time:

Try to plan for a few extra, relaxed breastfeedings during the time you are together. An extra feeding or two in the afternoon or evening may give her the calorie boost she needs to go a little longer overnight.

Be sure your baby gets breast milk first — then offer any solids. This way she’ll get the calories she needs from your milk before her tummy gets filled with the less-efficient solids. (This will change as she gets older, after about nine or 10 months. By then she’ll have become much more efficient at digesting solids than she is now.)

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Minimize the crying time when she wakes at night. The longer your baby cries, the longer it will take for her (and you) to settle again and get back to sleep. Feedings will go much more quickly this way, and the whole family can get back to sleep in far less time.

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