Help! My baby is waking hourly – is this normal?

Baby waking hourly in the night crying in cot.

Many parents come to me for help when they are struggling with their baby’s hourly waking and ask me this question. The truth is whilst it is biologically normal for babies to wake in the night for the first year and beyond, there does come a point when frequent night waking is NOT normal. There are certain conditions that always warrant investigation and it is really important to rule out some possible causes of poor sleep before you start working on improving sleep.

If your baby is waking every hour or so and never settles for a longer stretch of sleep, this suggests that there MIGHT be something interrupting sleep which needs to be addressed. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. Some babies simply have more restless sleep patterns or require extra comfort during the night and this is often down to their temperament or to a difficult start in life.

 

Signs to Look For:

So, how can you tell if your baby’s night waking is cause for concern? Keep an eye out for any of these signs:

  • Snoring or heavy breathing
  • Mouth breathing and sleeping with an open mouth
  • Frequent crying or distress without an apparent reason
  • Symptoms of reflux
  • Restless sleep, constant movement, or frequent waking in discomfort
  • Back arching, pulling knees up, or excessive wind

If your baby displays any of these signs, it is worth investigating further to rule out underlying conditions that could be affecting their sleep.

Sleep red flags is something I screen all my families I work with for. As a pharmacist and a sleep coach with lots of experience helping families struggling with wakeful babies, I am often able to detect when signs and symptoms do not seem right and suggest an underlying reason for the sleep issues. Sadly, I have also worked with many families who have already been to their doctor and have not been taken seriously or essentially been ‘fobbed off’ when they voice their concerns. In this case, I usually suggest seeking a second opinion and together we provide the evidence of signs and symptoms necessary for further investigations.

It’s sad how often this happens. However, if there is an underlying issue that is disrupting sleep, there is absolutely no point working on sleep until this has been addressed.

 

What’s Next?

Always trust your instincts. If you suspect something isn’t quite right, or you are not sure, I suggest getting in touch with your baby’s doctor or paediatrician to rule out conditions such as allergies, intolerances, sleep apnoea, nutrient deficiencies, or tongue-tie.

It’s important to recognize that not all babies who wake frequently have an underlying medical issue but it’s always best to check this first. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of their temperament or their need for extra parental support. If you’ve ruled out sleep red flags but still find yourself dealing with hourly waking, the good news is – there is hope.

 

It Is Possible to Improve Your Baby’s Sleep

There is so much we can do to improve sleep and I have plenty of free advice on my website and Instagram page to help you with this. Sometimes just by optimising routines and the timing of sleep, the night waking will improve. Whatever happens, you do not need to leave your baby to cry to improve sleep. Getting some support to improve your situation and start getting solid sleep can be a game-changer.

I have a successful program called ‘The Good Night Sleep System’ which has helped many families go from hourly waking to long stretches of sleep and settled nights.  With the right tools, strategies and expert support, you can start having the peaceful nights you currently feel are impossible.

 

In conclusion, while it’s normal for babies to wake during the night, hourly waking might indicate an underlying issue that warrants further investigation. Trust your instincts, be on the lookout for red flags, and don’t hesitate to seek support if you need it. With patience, perseverance, and the right guidance, you can help your baby – and yourself – get the rest you both deserve.