Night Wakings Out of Nowhere

Infant Sleep

The Potential Reasons Your Independent Sleeper May Suddenly Be Waking

When your great sleeper suddenly starts waking in the night, it can be alarming. Could something be wrong? Fortunately, there are a few common reasons why a solid sleeper might suddenly start waking up out of the blue, and knowing what to look for can make the difference between one bad night and a two-week sleep regression.

1. Check Basic Needs

One major benefit to teaching your baby independent sleep skills is that you know when something is really wrong because it is uncommon for your little one to wake crying in the night. If your baby wakes up crying one night after she’s been sleeping well, we recommend going in right away to check on her. Check the diaper, make sure she’s not too hot or too cold, and even check her toes for a tourniquet, which is when a hair gets wrapped around it and cuts off the circulation. 

2. Rule Out an Ear Infection

Night wakings that seem completely out of the blue can often be due to an ear infection. Ear infections are quite painful – especially when laying down. If your baby has recently had a cold, other illness, or is teething, an ear infection is even more probable. You might see a baby with an ear infection putting his hands to his ears, but only a doctor can tell you for sure if that is what it is. 

3. Survey Your Sleep Environment 

If you haven’t been using white noise or blacked out the room, definitely consider doing this, even if your baby slept fine without these things before. Developmental strides can change a baby’s level of awareness, making them suddenly more sensitive to light and noise. 

4. Milestones Matter

Developmental milestones can certainly impact sleep. Rolling, talking, standing, etc. are big milestones for your little one! We have seen many a waking caused by a child working through some of these milestones in the middle of the night. Our best advice is to offer plenty of “practice time” in the daytime hours, and resist introducing a prop into sleep when dealing with those night wakings.

5. Be a Sleep Prop Detective 

Most likely you have already done some work on independent sleep, but you may need to go a little further with this if your baby starts waking again. Anything that you do to lull your baby to sleep becomes something he may call out for when he stirs in the wee hours. This includes anything you do to get him drowsy, like a bottle or a lullaby. You don’t have to take these special parts of your bedtime routine away, but you may consider moving them up to the start so that your little one is wide awake when you put him down in the crib. 

6. Tweak the Schedule

It’s possible that your baby is ready to drop a nap or needs a later bedtime in order to get tired enough for a solid night of sleep. Check out our age-appropriate schedules if you need some guidance.

7. Get Back to the Basics 

If you can rule out a wet or dirty diaper, sickness, and environmental factors, go back to your sleep training basics. Continue with whatever method you used before, and trust that with consistency, you can get back on track. Sometimes children become curious after we react differently when they are sick, for example, and they need a reminder that it’s time to get back to the regular routine. So remember, check on your baby if he cries out after being a great sleeper. But unless he’s sick, put him back down while he’s still awake, so he can maintain his independent sleep skills.

Night wakings can be concerning, so trust your parental gut instinct, and the capabilities of your little one to overcome any sleep hurdles (illness, milestones etc.) and find their way back to independent sleep.

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