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Yikes! Why is my child all of a sudden waking up in the middle of the night?!

Is your little cutie all of a sudden waking up after months of sleeping peacefully?

The first time it happened, did you sit straight up in bed like there was a fire alarm going off and start flapping your arms, waking your spouse, trying to find your glasses on the night stand to see what time it was and then running in to your child’s room in a panic thinking someone was clearly in your house?

Or maybe you just slowly opened your eyes and mumbled some choice words, knowing your child was up…when he should be sleeping.

These were the reactions two moms recently told me about when they had this experience. Each mom was frustrated and confused because their children had been GREAT sleepers before.

They wondered WHY this was happening. Out of nowhere! And more importantly, one mom asked, how do we get back to normal??

So I’ve compiled a list of the four reasons I see most often in this situation. #1 and #2 will work themselves out in time, #3 and #4 will require some monitoring on your part:

1. Teething
Babies can’t talk and tell us they would prefer the plums to the peas or a longer bath, followed by a massage.  And when they’re cutting new teeth, they won’t be sending you a memo either! Some signs that a baby is starting to cut a new tooth:

  • drooling
  • swollen gums
  • biting or gnawing on everything–bottles, fingers, toys, etc.
  • fussy/irritable
  • not eating well
  • rubbing face/mouth
  • grabbing ears
  • waking in the middle of the night and/or short naps…DING DING DING

Fever and diarrhea are also ones many believe come with the territory, but if those persist for more than 24 hours, it’s best to check in with your pediatrician.

The first tooth will come anywhere between 4-12 months, and then your child will get a new tooth or two every couple of months (at least), so talk with your pediatrician to see what he/she recommends to keep your child comfortable!

2. Milestones
Has your baby recently learned how to roll and is FASCINATED by the process? Or maybe he’s starting to pull up on the coffee table and feels like he’s conquered Mt Everest each and every time? Especially with sitting and standing, many babies can’t figure out how to get back down, so even if they’re tired, they can’t get back into the sleeping position!

Until they master this new skill, help them out of corners in the crib if they can’t roll back out, lie them back down if they seem stuck, give them lots of practice outside of naptime to practice…and be patient! It can take a couple of weeks and then your baby will be a superstar with this new skill…and it’ll become old news, so he won’t need to practice 24 hours a day!

3. Sickness/Discomfort
Kids seem to get sick so quickly! One minute you’re playing outside or taking a leisurely walk down the sidewalk with a perfectly healthy baby and next thing you know, she’s sneezing and all clogged up and looking miserable! If that’s the case, you know you’re in for a couple of rough nights until she can breathe better. I highly recommend the NoseFrida aka Snot Sucker, saline spray to thin the mucus in the nose and a humidifier.

But if there are no outward signs, but you have that mommy intuition that something just isn’t right, it could be a tummy ache or a food sensitivity. Keep a log of foods your baby is eating and when you see signs that that food may not be sitting well and talk with your pediatrician to see if follow up with a specialist is recommended.

4. TemperatureMichelin Man
In the last week, Chicago has experienced a 50° difference in temperature–it was in the 30s last week and we were bundled up like the Michelin Man and today it’s 80° and I scrambled this morning to find flip flops and shorts that would fit the boys (clearly I wasn’t prepared for hot just yet!).

With such big swings in temperature and as we adjust to new seasons, it’s important to be mindful of the temps in the bedrooms and what pjs our kids are choosing. I’m guilty of overdressing everyone, probably because I’m not on constantly and the weather in Chicago can change in a flash!

For optimal sleeping, bedrooms should be in the 68-70° range. A good indicator of whether your little one is too warm is to feel the back of his neck. If it’s sweaty, drop the temp and/or take a layer of clothing off of him.

During the transitions in Spring and Fall, make sure that your child is choosing appropriate pjs, remember to change the flannel sheets out for normal cotton ones, and it’s a great idea to keep a thermometer in the bedrooms to keep tabs on the temp, especially with the door closed.  Often parents shut their children’s doors but leave theirs open, and the temperatures between the two rooms can be significant.

Of course, today I’m more focused on being too warm, but if a child gets too cold, that will affect sleep as well. We’ll have that conversation in about 5 months!


This is by no means an exhaustive list…just the ones I see most often! Assuming your child has some great sleep skills prior, once the teething or milestones pass or your little one gets well (or changes diet) and the temp in the bedroom is just right, sleep will once again rule the roost!

Have you experienced one of these, or was the culprit something that didn’t make the Top 4? I’d love to know in the comments below!!



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