Your baby may be unsettled because he/she is hungry. This may be particularly relevant if they are approaching the weaning stage of development or are experiencing a growth spurt. Specialist hungry baby formulas are available for evening and/or night time feeds. If you are breastfeeding you might consider introducing a formula feed before bed as this takes longer for your baby to digest than breast milk.
It is possible that your baby is going to bed too late and that they are over-tired. Try making bedtime slightly earlier to see if this improves the situation. Over tired babies might also benefit from having stimulation in their environment reduced (noise, feeding, talking, eye contact, light, number of people, activity etc).
Physical and developmental milestones
If your baby or toddler is experiencing advances in their development this may be impacting on their ability to sleep. They may even be waking to practice their new skills. Milestones which may impact on sleep include learning to sit, roll/turn over, crawl, stand and talk.
Similarly if your baby is having a growth spurt this might also cause them to be unsettled at night.
Separation anxiety often starts around six months and can continue until the age of two. When your baby begins to realise that he/she is separate and can be left alone or with others it is not unusual for them to feel anxious, fearing that you may not return. Night time separation anxiety may interrupt normal sleeping patterns as your baby wants reassurance from you. It is helpful to offer this reassurance although any contact should be minimal. To help your baby fall asleep alone you may need to go through a process of gradually increasing the intervals of time between going in to offer reassurance.
Distinguishing between night and day
Babies are born without knowledge of night and day. This is something that has to be learned over time. Parents can help teach their baby the difference between night and day and as baby learns that night time is for sleeping this may in turn improve any difficulties. Some ideas to try include setting a morning wake up time and keeping this consistent or using black out curtains/blinds at night to create an environment suitable for sleeping. Make daytime fun, active and noisy, whilst making bedtime calm, quiet, dark and boring.
Adjusting to a new sleeping arrangement
If your baby has recently moved rooms or beds, for example from your bedroom in a Moses basket to their own room in a cot,
night time will undoubtedly feel different and is likely to unsettle sleeping patterns. Before making such a large and sudden change it may be beneficial to introduce the change more gradually, such as spending more time in your child's bedroom during the day or moving daytime naps to the new cot/bed first, followed by night time sleeps a little later.
It may be that your child is simply too hot or cold whilst they are trying to sleep. As well as regulating the temperature of your baby's room by devices such as radiators or portable air conditioning units, there are many other ways to help them feel more comfortable. For example, baby sleeping bags, baby grows and toddler duvets are all available in different togs/thicknesses to create the ideal temperature for sleep. It might be useful to have different options depending on the time of the year. Adding and removing sheets and blankets will also have the same effect. If your baby is kicking off their covers then duvet clips or an enclosed baby sleeping bag could be helpful.
Young children and babies are prone to a variety of ailments. If your child is not sleeping consider talking to your doctor about the possibility of physical causes such as allergies, infections, rash, eczema, tonsillitis and viruses.
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