Issues Sleep

Why Newborns Are Fussy At Night (But NOT During The Day)

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.

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:

1. Hungry

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.

Now throw in a growth spurt or developmental leap, and you’re got the recipe for an extra fussy baby.

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.

Related: How To Survive Leap 1 (10 Tips For Parents)

2. Overtired or Overstimulated

I know, I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but a well rested baby is less likely to resist sleep and will typically sleep better and for longer periods compared to a baby who is overtired.

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.

Baby in Onesie Sitting Between Toys

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

3. Wind

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.

The result?

Wind, gas and excessive farting, all of which can be particularly uncomfortable for a newborn baby.

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.

mother holding little baby

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:

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.

Could cold formula or cold breast milk be causing them to break wind a lot, resulting in pain or discomfort?

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.

A Father Reading a Book to his Baby

Some Other Tactics To Consider

A few other things that could help settle a newborn who is fussy at night are:

Final Word

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

Nick is a passionate dad who co-founded Rockinbaby to share his parenting journey with other new parents. He has a BSc and MBA, and works as a senior marketing professional. In his spare time Nick loves watching sports, staying fit and traveling. Learn more about Nick here.

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