Do you have a newborn baby who is “fussy” at night?
For us parents, the evenings are incredibly important because they are typically the only chance we get to switch off, spend quality time with our partner, or enjoy some much-needed me time.
But if your normally angelic newborn has suddenly become fussy at night, we’ll hazard a guess that you’re not far off from losing your mind right now.
So in this post, I’m going to explain why babies are fussier at night compared to other times, and perhaps more importantly, give you some useful tips and advice to help calm and settle your baby so you can get your precious evenings back.
Let’s jump right in.
Table of Contents
- 5 Reasons Your Newborn Is Fussy At Night But Not During The Day
- How To Calm A Fussy Baby At Night
- Final Word
5 Reasons Your Newborn Is Fussy At Night But Not During The Day
Here’s an eye-opening fact for you – newborns usually spend an incredible 2 to 3 hours per day crying.
The first time I heard this I was shocked, because that’s up to 1/8th of the entire day spent crying or complaining!
Now the truth is that babies tend to cry or become fussy due to a number of physical and developmental reasons, some of which are easy to detect, for example when they have a dirty diaper.
In other instances however, a newborn baby can also be fussy for no obvious reason, which as you can imagine, makes diagnosing the issue and coming up with a solution much harder.
That’s why it’s very helpful that parents are aware of the most common reason why an infant might be fussy at night.
You can then these use this information as a checklist to help assess what may be causing the fussiness in your baby.
And once you have identified the cause with some degree of confidence, you will then know exactly what steps to take in order to calm your fussy baby at night.
So without further ado, here are some of the most common reasons why babies are so fussy at night:
With their small stomachs and ever-growing appetite, it doesn’t take much for a newborn baby to get hungry.
If you breastfeed your baby then they may need to be fed as often as every 2 to 3 hours.
But it’s also normal for babies to “cluster feed“, which is when a baby suddenly starts eating much more frequently.
This leads to feedings that are bunched together, usually in the evening.
So the fussiness that your newborn is exhibiting at night (but perhaps not during the day) could be because they are really hungry and want more milk more often than usual.
So for those parents asking why is my newborn only fussy at night, the first thing to consider is whether hunger could be the issue.
2. Overtired or Overstimulated
If you can count on one type of behaviour from an overly tired baby then it will surely be fussiness, crankiness and a bad mood that can make life even harder than usual for mom and dad.
When trying to figure out why your newborn is fussier than normal it’s also worth asking if they are perhaps overstimulated.
Things like loud sounds, bright lights and the screen from a television, iPad or cell phones can be too much for your baby, especially as they haven’t yet learnt to settle down, calm themselves and self-soothe.
So if you think your newborn is crying at night for no reason, it might well be because they are either overtired or overstimulated.
Must Read: How To Break The Cycle Of An Overtired Baby
As with most things to do with a newborn, their digestive system is still developing.
Unfortunately this can make it more challenging for your baby to digest the proteins, fats and carbohydrates in their breast milk or formula.
4. Too Hot Or Too Cold
Another area that could be the cause of your baby’s fussiness is their sensitivity to the environment in which they sleep.
Experts recommend that babies sleep in a room that’s between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit (around 20 degreed Celsius) in both winter and summer.
Why such a tight range?
It boils down to the fact that newborn babies cannot regulate their body temperature at night, meaning they can quickly overheat or become too cold.
I know from experience that achieving this temperature in summer can be difficult (especially without running the air conditioning all night), or in winter (without spending a fortune on heating).
5. Not Feeling Well
It sounds obvious, but if your newborn is suddenly more fussy than usual, don’t rule out illness without investigating further.
Understandably, things like a fever, stomach ache, sore throat or common colds can all lead to a cranky baby that’s much harder to calm and settle than usual.
Three Reasons You Can Rule Out
Right, so we’ve looked at some of the most common reasons why your precious new arrival might be crying at night, but I bet there are some causes you were expecting to see on our list but which aren’t there.
This isn’t a mistake, but rather because newborns are too young to be affected by some of the things that cause older children and toddlers to cry at night.
3 reasons why your newborn is NOT fussy are:
- Separation Anxiety. As a concerned parent you might be wondering if your baby is waking up and freaking out that you’re not with them. But separation anxiety typically begins when a baby is around 6 months or above, so if you have a newborn you can rule this one out.
- Darkness. Newborns and infants are not afraid of the dark, because they are too young to have an imagination. That’s why babies actually prefer sleeping in dark rooms, both in the evening and for daytime naps.
- Teething. Yes, teething can begin as early as 3 months, but for most babies that first tooth will start pushing through when they are between 4 and 7 months old.
How To Calm A Fussy Baby At Night
Once you have identified the cause of your newborn’s fussiness, you’ll be in a much better position to respond in an effective way that can help calm and settle them.
Here’s a helpful way to go about calming your fussy little one:
Consider Basic Needs First
It can be helpful to think of these as a simple checklist you can run through in your head to rule out the obvious.
Ask yourself questions like: Is my baby hungry? Could their diaper need changing? Do they feel too warm or too cold? Has their pacifier dropped out?
Check If They Are In Physical Pain Or Discomfort
If you suspect they have trapped wind, maybe you need to rub their belly or pat their back in an effort to burp them.
If they have a cold, would putting a humidifier in their room help your little one breathe more easily?
And of course, if you believe your baby is in a lot of pain or anything could be seriously wrong you should call your doctor so they can take a look or advise on the appropriate care.
Develop A Consistent Bedtime Routine
This one is more preventative, but it’s well worth stressing that unless your baby has a strong and consistent bedtime routine, it can be difficult for them to feel settled and to soothe themselves to sleep.
Having a bath, giving your little one a massage and reading stories to them before bed are all terrific ways to develop that much needed routine that babies thrive on, and these activities can also help break the cycle of overtired baby.
Some Other Tactics To Consider
A few other things that could help settle a newborn who is fussy at night are:
- If you are breastfeeding your baby to sleep, you may want to nurse them more often not only because they might be hungrier at the moment, but also because this can help you little one feel safer and more comfortable.
- Play white noise, which many babies find soothing.
- Give them some skin to skin or let them settle on your chest. If you do this then keep in mind that for safety reasons it’s vital to make sure you’re awake at all times.
- Put your baby in their crib, Moses basket or bassinet before they fall asleep.
- Wear your baby using an appropriate baby carrier.
- Dress your baby in suitable clothing in the warmer summer months, and when the temperature drops dress your newborn in another layer or use a sleep sack or pajamas with a higher TOG rating.
- Let your baby sleep with a pacifier (according to the AAP, pacifiers are safe for newborns, as long as you follow some basic safety rules which include only using a 1-piece version, using the correct one for your child’s age, and only using a pacifier clip under supervision).
- Let your baby self soothe for a short amount of time before entering their room.
Taking care of a newborn is hard at the best of times, but if your little one is going through a fussy phase at night then it can be even more challenging than usual.
The best thing you can do right now is to try to understand the reason for their fussiness and then use some trial and error to find the most effective methods for soothing your baby.
Hang in there, because your baby will most likely outgrow this night time fussiness soon, and in the meantime don’t be afraid to turn to your healthcare provider if you need assistance.
Learn More: The Ultimate Guide To Baby & Toddler Sleep