Why Do Babies Wake Up So Much and So Often?

Why Do Babies Wake Up So Much and So Often?

Why Do Babies Wake Up So Often?

If infants do wake up easily (and this is always a relative description, just as it is for adults), then it is likely biologically appropriate and dependent on method of feeding (bottle or breast or mixed), as well as general comfort level (condition of diaper and/or satiation-hunger status).

Breastfed infants wake up much more frequently and at shorter intervals than do bottle fed infants. This is because cows milk is designed for cow brain growth (much less volume compared with human brains) and body growth rates, while breast milk has just the right composition.

This means fast burning sugars and much less protein and fat for that ever-growing human infant brain – which triples in size in the first year.

All human beings – including infants – have their own unique sleep personalities, and no two human infants (adults or infants) are the same.

Mostly infants wake up because it is in their best interest to do so, as their neurobiology is not designed for sustained, deep and consolidated sleep at young ages, before six months of age.

They appear not to wake up as much next to their mothers, but actually in terms of small arousals and even larger ones, they wake up more — but they do not necessarily alert the mother, because they sense their own safety (or whatever emotion or physical sense that reduces stress or anxiety). This safety comes with smelling her milk and feeling her body, hearing her breath and feeling her movements and rhythms.

Recommended Reading: For more great information, read Professor McKenna’s book, Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping, which is one of our top 5 baby sleep books on BellyBelly.

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Professor James McKenna CONTRIBUTOR

Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Behavioral Studies of Mother-Infant Sleep, Notre Dame University.

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