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Infant Sleep – What to Expect

Every parent has been here. It’s 3am and your baby has just woken up for the fourth time. As she drifts back to sleep, you try desperately to keep your tired eyes open so you pick up your phone and search “why is my baby waking up so much.” You jump from one result to the next, and you are left feeling even more confused. If this is you, you aren’t alone. 


One of the biggest contributors to poor maternal mental health is the misinformation about what our babies should and shouldn’t be doing. It is easy to become preoccupied with trying to do everything “right”. When we are misinformed about normal infant development, we create our own unrealistic expectations. Since we can’t meet those expectations, we are left thinking and feeling like something must be wrong with us, or our baby.   


The reality is that babies, just like adults, are all individuals and “normal” can vary greatly for each baby. We all know that babies wake at night. But what we find so elusive is – WHY are they waking? Is she uncomfortable? Is she hungry? What should I do?  


Let me sprinkle some magic sleeping dust and put your mind at ease. I have put together a few of the top reasons why babies wake at night. Although, there could be other causes for your baby, here are the top culprits for nighttime waking: 

  1. They are supposed to wake at night. 

A Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood by Sadler, S. (1994) surveyed the parents of 640 babies and found that: 

  1. They are hungry.

Even past the age of one, babies may still wake to eat once or twice, and this is completely normal. However, if your baby is wanting to eat every ne to two hours all night long, then this could be a red flag. 

  1. They miss you and are looking for you. 

Attachment is a big topic, but in a nut shell, babies are wired to want to be in proximity to their caregivers.  

  1. They are uncomfortable.
  2. Illness
  3. Undiagnosed tongue ties and breathing issues 


Remember, you are doing a great job and your baby is likely doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.  



McKenna, J. J. (n.d.). Re-Thinking “Healthy” Infant Sleep. The Natural Child Project. Retrieved from https://www.naturalchild.org/articles/james_mckenna/rethinking.html 

Nancy Mohrbacher. (2012, November 1). Do Older Babies Need Night Feedings? Retrieved from http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/articles/2012/10/31/do-older-babies-need-night-feedings.html 

Sadler , S. (1994). Sleep: what is normal at 6 months? . Prof Care Mother Child4(6). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8680184?dopt=Abstract 

Ashley Fader, MSW, is the Director of Counselling and Clinical Services & Psychotherapist at Compass Rose Wellness. Ashley has a private practice providing one on one individual therapy to her clients, has a specialization in parenting and provides parenting counseling. In addition, she is a Certified Baby-Led Sleep and Well-being Specialist, for infants to age six. She sees clients in-person or virtually.


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