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Why Do Babies Cry At Night? 9 Possible Reasons

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Why Do Babies Cry At Night?

Your baby might be crying at night because of hunger or thirst, separation anxiety, a dirty nappy, disturbed sleep, or teething discomfort. She could also be too cold or too warm. Colic, pain, and illnesses can also be to blame. Establishing a bedtime routine can help her sleep through the night. Do ask for help if you find that you’re overwhelmed or driven to frustration or anger.

Is your baby keeping you up all night with her crying? Dealing with a crying baby at night can be exhausting and worrying. But if you can figure out why your baby’s up at night crying, half the battle is won.

9 Possible Reasons Your Baby Cries At Night

Your baby may be crying because of:

1. Hunger Or Thirst

Here’s a common reason for your baby’s cries – hunger or thirst. Your baby has a really small tummy and needs to feed frequently. A newborn baby may need to be fed around 8 to 12 times in a day, that is, once every 2 to 3 hours, day and night.1 But by the time she 1 or 2 months old, she might nurse only 7 to 9 times a day2 and at 3 months she might sleep 6 to 8 hours continuously without needing a feed.3

2. Separation Anxiety

Sometimes your baby may cry at night because she needs to be held or comforted. If your baby cries out in the night but seems to calm down when you go to her, she may just be in need of a little reassurance that you’re close by. This is a normal stage that babies go through, especially when they are around 8 to 12 months old. Try to comfort your baby without taking her out of the crib so that she can quickly settle back to sleep.4

3. Too Cold Or Warm

Your baby may find it difficult to get to sleep if she’s uncomfortably warm or cold. Check if the temperature is comfortable. If the room’s too cold for you, it’s likely to be cold for your baby too. And, if you’ve very solicitously added an extra blanket, it might have become too warm!

4. Dirty Nappy

A dirty or wet nappy can cause your baby irritation and disturb her sleep. When your baby wakes up crying, check to see if her diaper is soiled. Sometimes a nappy change might do the trick.

5. Disturbed Sleep

Normal muscle twitches and jerks can wake your baby and make her cry. Also, check to see that factors like noise or light are not disturbing her sleep or startling her.5

6. Teething Discomfort

Your baby’s front teeth may start to appear when she’s around 6 months old. Some babies become irritable and fussy when they start teething. You may find that your baby finds it difficult to sleep and cries during the night at this time. She may also drool or lose her appetite. Try rubbing her gums gently with a clean finger to relieve her discomfort.6

7. Colic

If your baby’s crying for long periods – more than 3 hours in a day – then she might be colicky. When your baby gets colic, her hands might bunch up into fists, her tummy might seem swollen, and she might curl up her legs. She may quiet down after passing gas or pooping. Colic usually starts at approximately the same time each day, generally in the evenings. Some babies may cry into the night.

Colic is not caused by a medical condition and doesn’t result in any complications. It generally starts around the age of 3 weeks and gets better after the age of 6 weeks. Babies usually outgrow colic completely by around 4 months.7

8. Pain, Discomfort, Or Illness

Pain or discomfort can also cause your baby to cry at night. Something as simple as a hair or thread that’s become wrapped around your baby’s toe or finger can make her cry. A diaper rash or gas may cause discomfort too.8

Sometimes your baby’s crying may point to an illness. If you baby has other symptoms like difficulty breathing, vomiting, coughing, diarrhea, a rash, or seems to cry more when she’s moved or picked up, a visit to your doctor is a good idea. In any case, do check in with your doctor if you suspect that she might be ill.9

9. The Evolutionary Angle

Some anthropologists suggest that crying at night can give your baby an evolutionary advantage. Nursing a baby at night seems to obstruct the resumption of ovulation in mothers and it can keep you from having another baby. Now during difficult times, for instance, if there’s a food shortage or an infectious disease going around, a baby has a better chance of survival if she doesn’t have to share the attention of her parents.10 How’s that for some perspective!

How To Cope With A Baby Who Cries At Night

If you’re struggling to cope with a baby who’s keeping you up all night, try these simple tips:

1. Develop A Bedtime Routine

Sleeping behaviors are learned. So get your baby settled into a bedtime routine as soon as you can and make sure you stick to it. You can try a warm bath, massage, or soft music to relax your baby before bedtime.

2. Be Prepared To Feed And Change

Set up everything for your baby’s night feeds before you go to bed. Make sure that nappies, wipes etc. are on hand so that you don’t have to go hunting for them in the middle of the night. Also, don’t indulge in activities like play when you feed your baby in the night. Keep the lights dim and your voice low so that both of you can settle back to sleep with minimum disturbance.

3. Bundle Up

Some babies feel more secure if they’re wrapped up. Gently wrap them in light cotton or muslin, making sure that you leave enough room for their chests to expand when they breathe and for their legs to bend at the waist. Wrapping your baby at night also lowers the chances that she’ll wake up due to random jerks of her arms.

4. Get Help

If you find that you’re getting frustrated and angry because of your baby’s cries, settle her in a safe place and take a moment for yourself. Ask a trusted friend or relative for help if you find yourself getting overwhelmed. You can also alternate “night duty” with your partner so that you don’t feel too exhausted.11

References   [ + ]

1. Do I need to wake my baby for feeds?. Australian Breastfeeding Association.
2. Breastfeeding FAQs: How Much and How Often. Nemours Foundation.
3. Breastfeeding FAQs: Sleep – Yours and Your Baby’s. Nemours Foundation.
4. Sleep and Your 8-to 12 Month Old. The Nemours Foundation.
5, 8. Crying – excessive (0 to 6 months). National Institutes of Health.
6. What are some of the basics of infant health?. National Institutes of Health.
7. Colic and crying – self-care. National Institutes of Health.
9. A to Z Symptom: Crying (Babies). The Nemours Foundation.
10. Babies cry at night to prevent siblings, scientist suggests. Society for Science & the Public.
11. Sleep and your baby. Department of Health & Human Services.