What to Do If a Baby Wakes Up Every Night Crying

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Every parent knows the amazing feeling of watching their little bundle of joy sleeping soundly in their crib.  This moment of peace makes all of the work that goes into raising a child totally worth it.  While some babies do indeed take to sleeping like a duck to water, that isn’t always the case.  If you are like most parents you may know that it is actually a really difficult task to get a baby, especially a newborn, sleeping through the night.  One thing that may help to ease your overtired mind is that you are not alone in this seemingly endless journey of sleepless nights. 

Each parent knows that there are few things worse than settling in for the night and finally getting a moment to yourself to be suddenly thrown by your child’s cries.  Luckily for you there are some great tips and tricks to not only help your child learn to self sooth and cope on their own while also helping you understand why your baby wakes up every night crying. Here are some things to help you get through this sometimes overwhelming stage in your child’s life.

It Happens to Everyone

The most important thing to know when a baby wakes up every night crying is that it is more times than not, completely normal and okay.  This has a lot to do with the environmental and emotional changes that your child may be going through, especially if they are a newborn.  Picture it like this: a newborn spent over nine months surrounded by warm and comfort without a single care in the world only to be pulled out of their safe womb and thrown into the world.  That is enough to make anyone go a little crazy. 

There is also something known as an adjustment period.  Your child needs to get used to their new found surroundings and many times they need the comfort of their parent to help them along the way.  Sometimes this crying is simply them asking for a little bit of emotional support.  While this is a common reason as to why your baby wakes up every night crying, there are a bunch of other factors to consider.  When you know why your child may be having a hard time sleeping through the night you may be better able to help them learn how to cope better which may lead to a pretty great night’s sleep!

Simple reasons why a baby wakes up every night crying

Before you assume that there may be a serious problem, always consider the most common reasons for a lack of sleep at night for your baby.  Many of these simple problems also have simple solutions which is great news for you, your baby and your sanity.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Hunger

Many times your baby wakes up every night crying simply because they are hungry.  While older babies can sleep through the night without needing a feeding every few hours, newborns are just not built that way.  This is because newborns eat much smaller amount of milk or formula at time, sometimes as little as 2oz in one feeding which isn’t enough to keep their tiny bellies full for too long.  This means that you will find yourself getting up many times throughout the night, every few hours or so, to fill them up.

While this phase of your baby’s life is pretty annoying, it is only temporary.  While your child grows, so does their tummies and their appetites and while this seems like it will only make things worse, it won’t!  Children will also be able to eat more formula at a time which will help to keep their stomach full for longer which will eventually mean that they will sleep soundly through the night.  One way to help your child on this path will be to start slowly taking your time each time they cry out for food.  By letting them wait an extra minute or two you may actually find that they fall back asleep on their own.

  • Teething

Another common reason for a sleepless night is the dreaded teething stage.  While teething happens at a different age for each kid, most babies experience teething from as little as three months old.  This is a very difficult time for your little one because not only are they still trying to learn how to process their emotions, they not have to deal with all these new sensations along with also being in physical pain.  This is because when a child is teething, their sharp little baby teeth are trying to poke through their very sensitive gums.  This is certainly not a pleasant experience for anyone let alone a little baby.

There are some things you can do to help your child through the teething process.  There are different types of gum gel that is a topical numbing ointment that will help to ease their sore mouths.  If you are worried about using an ointment, you can try to use a mesh teething bag and fill it with some frozen fruit.  Not only will the cold fruit help to numb them but the chewing can actually help the teeth to pop to the surface quicker.

  • Overtired

We all know that feeling of not getting enough sleep.  Your body drags and your mind wanders.  This zombie like stage can make any adult cranky, so imagine what it does to a baby.  A lack of sleep can sometimes have the opposite effect on little ones.  Instead of falling asleep with ease at the end of the night, an overtired baby will often times be too cranky to comfort which means that they will be up for most of the night.  This may seem a bit counterintuitive, but babies are always a little backwards anyways.

While there isn’t anything you can do for an overtired baby besides comfort them, there are some preventative things you can to ensure that they get the sleep they need the night before.  One of these things is to help them stick to a pretty regular nap routine.  While it is almost impossible to have a schedule with a baby, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a general guideline.  A great way to do this is to try to put your child down for a nap around the same time each day, after they eat works best.  A well rested baby leads to many more silent nights.

  • Dirty diaper

Sometimes when a baby wakes up every night crying the reason is as simple as a dirty diaper.  There is no way of knowing when your little one’s diaper may spring a leak, this can even happen right after you put a fresh one on.  So waking up many times throughout the night for a diaper change will become second nature for you.  Just make sure that you get to them to change their diaper long before the leaking begins otherwise you will find that you also will need a new set of sheets too.

While there is nothing you can do to stop the every flowing cycle of diaper changes, there are a few things you can do to make it easier on you.  You can try to use thicker overnight diapers that were specially made to help prevent leaks.  You should also make sure that you are using a mattress protector to help keep your baby’s mattress from getting ruined.  A great way to prepare for the long night ahead is to set up all of the diaper changing essentials before you put your little one to bed.  Leave the diapers and wipes where you can see them and even have a change of clothes handy.  This way you can quickly move your child from the changing table to their crib which may help them to fall asleep faster.

  • White noise

Many adults have a problem fallings asleep without a fan because that white noise is always so soothing.  You may be surprised to know that the same can be said for your baby.  This is why babies love it when you sing lullabies to them.  That soothing white noise is a great way to stop their minds from turning for the night which can bring you some relief.  If you have a child who just won’t stay asleep no matter how comfortable you make them, try introducing some white noise into their rooms.

A great way to do this is to have some gentle music playing softly.  Not only will this help to soothe them back to sleep faster, it will help them to fall asleep easier.  If you are worried about over stimulating them with music, try using a humidifier.  Not only will a cool mist humidifier keep them from overheating at night, the soft hum of the steam will give their room the perfect amount of white noise.  Nothing beats a parent’s voice.  Even if you can’t be in the room with them for whatever reason to soothe them back to sleep, try to get a two way communication baby monitor.  This way you can softly sing to them even when you are not in the same room.

  • Temperature of the room

A big mistake many parents make is making their child’s room too hot or too cold to overcompensate for the ever changing weather.  Extreme changes in temperature can keep little ones from getting the sleep they need which is one reason why your baby wakes up every night crying.  Besides using a cool mist humidifier, in the warmer months try using a low motor fan.  Just make sure to point it away from their crib so that the air flow is not directly hitting their face.

In the warmer months, try to avoid cranking the heat up too high.  No one likes to sleep in an overly heated room and the same can be said for your infant.  Instead of keeping the heat too high, try to swaddle your baby at night.  Not only can swaddling help to keep their bodies warm, it is also a great way to use compression as a form of comfort.  This is the same sensation that children had in the womb so there is no surprise why they love to be swaddled so much!

Other reasons why a baby wakes up every night crying

While the simple reasons why a child may be not getting the full night’s sleep they need are easy to mend, there are a few other things that are a little more difficult to deal with.  While these causes are harder to pinpoint, there are some simple techniques to help calm your child down.

  • Nightmares

Nightmares come later in life, around the time right before your child becomes a full blooded toddler.  This is because their imaginations are running wild which is an amazing time in their lives.  They start to imagine all sorts of amazing things and it is an incredible stage to watch as their minds start to put together really neat scenarios.  Along with over blown imagination comes the dark side of things; nightmares.

While there isn’t anything you can really do to stop the nightmares, you can help to comfort your child.  Sometimes these nightmares even happen in stages which means that they can get up multiple times during the night.  While this seems like a scary time for them, chances are by morning they will forget all about it.  The one thing that you don’t want to do if your child is having nightmares is to let them sleep in your bed.  This can begin a cycle of co-dependence that is very difficult to break.  Instead just show them that everything is going to be okay while continue to encourage them to stay in their own beds.

  • Growing pains

Growing pains is not just a saying; it is a real medical problem.  As you child grows, so does their bones and their muscles too.  This can lead to some pretty painful nights.  As a parent it is sometimes even more painful for you to watch your child struggle.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything you can do to stop the growing pains.  Growing is a part of life and they need to go through it in order to grow up strong and healthy.  The best thing to do is to comfort them when they wake up.  If a certain part of their body is really aching, try giving it a gentle massage or even let them take a nice warm bath to relax their bodies and help them get some sleep.

If the pain gets really bad to the point where they are not only waking up in the middle of the night but not sleeping at all, you should give their doctor a call.  They might be able to recommend a low dosage pain killer like Tylenol as long as they are old enough and above the weight recommendation.  It should be encouraging to know that like all phases your baby will go through, this one will eventually end.

Other ways to soothe your child

While many times there is an explanation for why your baby wakes up every night crying, sometimes there is no reason other than your baby just wants to cry.  As frustrating as this may be, it is just a phase.  There is no magical machine that will allow you to know why your baby does what they do how feels what they feel, the only thing as a parent that you can do is your best.  Do your best to comfort and calm them and maybe over time they will be able to self soothe a little bit easier which will allow you to finally get some much needed rest.  Here are some things to try to help to calm your baby at night.

  • Set a routine

Setting a routine is a great way to allow your baby to get used to going to bed at night.  A great way to let your child know that bedtime is quickly approaching is to read them a book right before bed.  Even small babies will be comforted by the sound of your voice even if they can’t yet understand the words.  Eventually they will learn that reading time will lead to bedtime.

  • Calming bath

A warm lavender bath is a great gentle way to soothe your child at the end of the night.  Lavender and chamomile have been known to calm even the fussiest of babies down.  For extra measure, follow up the bath with some baby lavender lotion.

  • Turn off the TV

Sometimes overstimulation is what is keeping your little one up at night.  Try to keep TV time and other screen stimulates off before bedtime so that they can calm down and be ready for bed quicker.

No matter what the reason may be for why your baby wakes up every night crying, there are plenty of proactive steps you can take.  It is important to know that every child goes through this sometimes painful stage and they will eventually grow out of.  So hold onto your sanity for as long as can and give a couple of these tricks a try.  Good luck.

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