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Why has My Baby Stopped Sleeping through the Night?

Those famous last words “my baby sleeps, I don’t know what all the fuss is about”….before you have finished the sentence, your baby has stopped sleeping and is now waking often, crying out and needing you to comfort them.  For some it can even mean starting feeding again overnight.

Why has My Baby Stopped Sleeping through the Night?

Why is because babies brains are dynamic, they are growing, developing, adapting and adjusting to every external and internal experience. They are not static, nor are their brain or bodies.

Waking of course may be caused by sickness that initially wakes your baby with ear, throat or tummy pains. Whatever it is, it has caused your baby to call out for you.

If it happens over and over, it is quite possible a baby may start to associate where they sleep with the discomfort they experience. Additionally, when feeling ‘out of sorts’ a baby will need their parent or caregiver to comfort them, which is not dissimilar to adults. Comforting can help regain a sense of safety and security.

Through the experience of care and comforting, babies learn to self-regulate. This is a learned behaviour and babies need to experience co-regulation through their parents guidance, before they can take on to do it for themselves. If your baby is sick, they need care and lots of it until they are better again.

For other babies, it has nothing to do with illness, in fact, it is quite the opposite, wakefulness can be associated with totally natural developmental phases that baby passes through. It may be when the baby is progressing through enormous physical or social shifts, that their sleep becomes fragmented. Or maybe it is when they first become mobile and are rolling onto their stomach and get stuck there, so call out for help.

While others crawl around the cot as they sleep and find themselves bumped up against the top of the cot, or with a let out through the cot rails.  Another time we see sleeping disrupted is when your baby can pull themselves up to a standing position, but do not yet know how to sit back down, again, this is a time they will call for you.  The list goes on, and on.

So What to do When your Sleeping Baby Suddenly Stops Sleeping

Apart for feeling very sorry for parents who have never even experienced anything except fragmented sleep, there are some constructive things that can be done when sleep suddenly stops.

Firstly, be sure your baby isn’t sick. Check for rashes, temperatures and rashes. If your baby is not sick, you still need to offer them comforting. If you can comfort your baby with shhing or patting BRIEFLY in their cot, then that may be all they need for a few nights.  If that is not soothing your baby, then offer more, maybe a cuddle to calm, then back into the cot. If you baby is going through a growth phase, then the cuddle may not suffice, and it may be a feed your baby needs.  Some babies will continue this for a few nights or even a week before they grow through whatever it is that is waking them.

This is not the time for sleep training. These wakings are often related to developmental shifts and if a baby is supported through them it is highly likely they will resume their longer sleep patterns.

Some babies however, continue to just love that nightly cuddle, even when they are through the developmental phase. So to help them back to their previous sleep patterns, offer support and comforting, but offer just some voice comforting first, in the form of shhing or reassuring words. If unable to calm the increase your comforting, perhaps patting or gentle back rubbing, Again if this is not offering some comforting, then pick your baby up and comfort them. By doing this you are allowing your baby to respond to lesser interventions and you can progressively wind back what you are offering as your baby becomes increasingly comforted by less. By doing this you will avoid the distress that can lead to worsening the babies sleep patterns, you are kindly supporting them through yet another developmental growth phase.

If you are searching for more gentle guidance to wakefulness,  www.helenstevens.com.au

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