Help! My Baby Is Wanting to Nurse All Night

Oh no, your perfect sleeping-through-the-night baby has suddenly decided that it wants to stay awake at night. Sometimes all night! Why has this happened?

Well, don’t be alarmed because not only is waking up at nighttime extremely common for babies, it is also a sign that your baby is growing.

Let’s take a look at a few causes for poor sleep and a variety of suggestions on how to cope.

Four Reasons Your Baby Wants Nighttime Feedings

1. Reverse Cycling

Reverse cycling is a nursing pattern that often happens when the mother goes back to work after the fourth trimester.

Unfortunately, the mother isn’t the only one that has to get used to her back-to-work schedule; your baby does too!

Lack of daytime feedings with mama can lead to reverse cycling because the baby craves comfort from mama that they are not getting anymore.

Eating the Minimum Until Mom Comes Home

Because you are now away during most daytime hours, your baby might not be feeding as much as usual.

Your little one could be eating the bare minimum to stay satisfied until they see mama again. This is when they want to enjoy a good meal and cuddle.

Increased Daytime Sleeping

Reverse cycling may be a factor for a baby wanting to sleep during the daytime hours. Now, they can feed and cuddle with mama during the nighttime.

Sorry to say the baby does not think of the mama’s eight hours of sleep in this scenario and wants more time with you (which is exhaustingly adorable).

2. Daycare Distractions

Similarly, if your baby is at a daycare center, they could be more distracted by all the fun and exciting things happening and not on their bottle.

As a result, your baby could be, quite simply, too distracted to nurse fully.

New Faces and New Toys

This could be especially true if the baby is around other babies and toddlers for the first time.

While at daycare, they see all sorts of new things and want to take in as much as possible instead of eating.

Babies also experience a variety of new stimuli from toys and people that they have not seen before.

Preference for Breastfeeding Over Bottle Feedings

If you typically breastfeed, your little one may not like the transition to bottle feeding. Some babies are just particular and would rather be on nature’s nipple.

It could help, when transitioning back to the workplace, to introduce a bottle to the baby’s feeding schedule if you have not done so already.

3. Growth Spurts or Wonder Weeks

Another reason the baby might not be sleeping through the night, and would rather nurse through the night, is if the baby is undergoing a growth spurt.

Sudden phases of reverse cycling could occur just because babies grow quickly and suddenly need that extra fat and calories.

These sudden growth spurts are called wonder weeks which happen throughout the first 75 weeks (18 months) of the baby’s life.

You can expect to have ten wonder weeks happen during this period which follows a predictable pattern:

  • WW1 – 5 weeks – “Witching hour” fussiness
  • WW2 – 8-9 weeks – Curiosity and alertness
  • WW3 – 12 weeks – Squirmy and active
  • WW4 – 15-19 weeks – 4-month sleep regression
  • WW5 – 23-26 weeks – Separation anxiety & teething!
  • WW6 – 33-37 weeks – 8-10th month sleep regression
  • WW7 – 42-46 weeks – No more morning nap
  • WW8 – 52-55 weeks – Bedtime and naptime resistance
  • WW9 – 61-64 weeks – Discipline problems
  • WW10 – 72-76 weeks – Toddler fussiness

During each of these leaps in growth, your baby might resist sleeping through the night, but at least you can plan for it!

4. Teething

Around the year mark, your baby might start teething. Not only is this an uncomfortable moment for the baby, but it is also one of the main reason’s the baby might be staying up at night!

Massaging the gums is one way to ease teething discomforts in a baby. This is also accomplished by suckling on the mother’s nipple.

Unfortunately, this does not stop when nighttime comes, leading to the mother being up all night while the baby soothes its little sprouting teeth.

How To Wean The Baby From Nighttime Feedings

1. Increase Daytime Cuddles

One reason the baby might be waking up at night is that they want the touch of mama. So, if you can, try and get good cuddle time in with the baby during the daytime.

If you work during the day, perhaps you can spend an extra thirty minutes cuddling and breastfeeding the baby as part of your morning routine.

Similarly, you can also cuddle and breastfeed the baby as soon as you return home (of course, we all know cuddling with your cutie pie is the first thing you want to do!)

Putting the baby in kangaroo care or putting the baby in a chest carrier while you go about accomplishing various tasks around the house could be an excellent way to get that cuddle time that the baby needs while also getting things done.

2. Set A Feeding Routine And Bedtime Schedule

If your baby is already getting plenty of cuddle time during the day and is still staying up all night for night feedings, then perhaps the issue lies in the frequency of feedings during the daytime.

If Feeding On Demand, Try Longer Feedings

When babies are on a feed-when-it-wants-to-feed schedule, then that schedule most likely goes into the nighttime hours as well.

If this is the case, then perhaps your baby is nursing frequently and not filling their bellies enough to sustain long periods of sleep.

It could be worth trying a feeding schedule to see if the baby can feed for more extended periods during the daytime and go a longer amount of time between feedings.

Consider Beginning A Feeding Routing

Start small and skip one feeding for the baby, increasing in thirty-minute increments until you can get to three hours between meals.

Then try and give the baby a more prolonged feeding right before he or she goes to bed. Longer feedings and conditioning your baby to feed every three hours can help the baby, and you sleep a bit longer through the night.

Bedtime Routines

Similarly, creating a bedtime routine could help condition the baby to fall asleep at nighttime.

A bedtime routine can consist of playtime followed by having a wash off, reading a book, and finally, one last feeding before bedtime.

3. Learning to Self Soothe

The most challenging way to get more sleep at night is to let your baby cry its little self to sleep. However, this is challenging for mothers and fathers because who wants to let a precious baby cry when you can so quickly soothe them? It isn’t easy.

But, self-soothing is a good skill for babies to learn. If the baby is used to having mama or papa right there every time they even think about crying, they will expect you to come when called.

But if the baby learns to self-soothe, that is an excellent skill to have in the long run.

When All Else Fails: Try to Embrace the Alone Time

Of course, sometimes babies want to stay awake at night, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But look on the bright side, the time spent awake with the baby can also be the time you can have as a-little-bit-of-me-time.

Perhaps this time can be the perfect me-time to catch up on a show you want to watch.

For example, your baby has an appointment with your breast, and you have an appointment with Netflix (or Disney, HBO Plus, or the like).

Or perhaps you can spend this time with a good book or podcast you have meant to catch up on.

Lack of sleep is hard on everyone, especially new mothers. So remember, no matter what method you decide to use to help get some extra shut-eye, you are doing a good job, mama.