It’s 2am. You are just sliding into sleep when you hear a squeak from the cot. You say, ‘Oh, please…please…just another few minutes, sweetie!’ But you are already awake—waiting for the next cry—and your sleep is ­fast disappearing in your rearview mirror.

Your baby’s sleep cycle (the full circuit from light to deep to light NREM sleep…plus a bit of REM) lasts only 60 minutes. So, about every hour, your baby will enter a light sleep…or even briefly awaken and make a short moan or squawk.

Unless she is wailing, give your little babe a few moments to soothe herself and dive right back into sleep. If she is swaddled, and you are playing a rough and rumbly white noise, she should settle within 30 seconds. 

However, if your princess insists you attend to her at 1am (and 3am…and 4am), something may be bothering her. Noises—from a snoring parent to a passing truck––can awaken her each time she returns to light sleep (especially if she has a sensitive temperament). But hands down, your baby’s No. 1 middle-of-the-night, snooze-shattering disturbance is hunger.

Increase daytime feedings if your baby awakens every hour.

During the early months, your favourite subject may be sleep—but your baby’s is definitely food!

In the womb, you literally fed her every single second. So, it is no surprise that she needs frequent feeds to sustain her fast-paced growth. In fact, mums in some cultures actually nurse their babies 50-100 times a day! I am not recommending that to you, but breast-fed newborns do need at least ten to twelve feedings a day. (Bottle-fed babies need 6-8.)

Is it possible to manage that and still get more than 2 hours of sleep in a row? Yes! The key: during the first few months feed your little one every 1.5-2 hours during the day (if he is sleeping, awaken him after 2 hours). That should help you get a couple of back-to-back longer clumps of sleep (3, 4, or even 5 hours) at night, and eventually grow by 6 hours…then 7 hours at a stretch, by 3 months.

What to do if you increase feedings and your baby still awakens every hour...

If you bump up feedings during the day, but your baby still awakens every hour, try incorporating these tactics:

  • Swaddle your baby before bed  
  • Use white noise 
  • Try dream feeding

These reinforcements will help to trigger a calming reflex in your baby, and encourage longer sleep sessions. For more tips and advice on calming your baby and getting them to sleep better, check out the Happiest Baby on the Block book, or learn more about SNOO—a baby bed that automatically responds to calm fussing.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.