Inside you’ll find the top 10 reasons your baby won’t sleep. Is your baby not sleeping? The reason is probably easier than you think… Check out my free video sleep series as well if you know you need a lot of help! If you are in the newborn phase, get my free Ultimate Newborn Sleep Schedule: Week by Week.
There is nothing quite like that feeling.
The manic, middle of the night, I’ve been up so many times I think I’m going insane feeling.
Even if it only lasts a few nights in a row, it is extremely difficult and debilitating. As days turn into weeks turn into months… everyone in the home suffers including the sweet baby.
While you might be willing in heart to wait this out, your mental health tells you differently.
Never fear, however, because we were all born to have restorative regenerative sleep, and babies are no different.
They aren’t always able to teach themselves to sleep on their own, but with some gentle and consistent help from you they will get it!
Top 10 Reasons Your Baby Can’t Sleep
While there will be more factors than these alone, in all my conversations with mothers and all the books I’ve read, these are the top 10 most common reasons.
Baby is overtired
It is a huge misconception that babies who are super tired will sleep better.
They will not.
They will sleep worse, wake more, and become fussier overall. There will be more tossing and turning and they will have more difficulty staying asleep. Quite simply, it backfires every time.
To prevent overtiredness, keep your baby on a schedule (even a minimal one), put them down for regular naps and bedtimes, and put them to bed earlier than normal if they are showing tiredness cues.
Baby is overstimulated
Similar to over tiredness, over stimulation makes it very difficult for a baby to get to sleep.
Over stimulation occurs when a baby’s environment is so stimulating they are unable to calm down easily and end up hyper-alert, fussy, and even fidgety and anxious. If they are overstimulated, they will have trouble falling asleep then have trouble staying asleep.
Imagine being at a full day meeting, conference, or training. After a while the new information starts to make you crave a break. You need to stop learning and start processing what you’ve learned.
Babies are no different. Too many screens, noise, toys, books, scene changes, errands, and people talking in their faces will make them overstimulated.
You can prevent this by keeping them on a good routine, guarding their rest, and giving them a proper wind down before nap or bedtimes. This is something really to pay attention to if you are having some witching hours.
Baby doesn’t have a good routine
The fact is, no routine is the same from family to family. And it definitely doesn’t have to be!
You don’t have to do certain specific things, you just need regularity, stability, and consistency with your babies. Research is so overwhelmingly in favor of routine, there is absolutely no reason your baby shouldn’t have one.
They’ll sleep better, eat better, be happier, and make life more peaceful.
For a visual reminder of your baby’s wind down and bedtime routine, you can use these printable routine cards in the nursery.
Printable Routine Cards for Morning, Evening, and Bedtime Routines
28 Things To Try If Your Baby Can’t Sleep
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Baby is awake too long before napping
You may think your baby isn’t “tired” because they are able to stay up a long time. Whether your baby can stay up a long time or not doesn’t mean much.
Except that they are able to keep being awake when they are actually ready for bed. Babies under 4 months old will need a nap about 1.5 hours after they wake. This will mean multiple shorter naps per day.
This is good and right!
By the age of 9 months babies still need to only be awake around 2 hours after they last woke.
Again, multiple naps throughout the day. I have had 4 babies with 4 different personalities all of whom followed these loose guidelines and all of whom napped well.
If your baby is awake too long, they will fight sleep.
Baby has a sleep prop
If your baby needs something only you can give them to go to sleep, they have a sleep prop. (This does not include milk which they need to survive, but can’t get on their own.)
This may mean rocking to sleep, nursing to sleep, laying on you, and many more things.
If they can’t get themselves back to sleep because they need you to do something for them they won’t sleep long and they won’t sleep well. Sleep habits are the single most important thing you can focus on.
Baby has a physical or medical discomfort
Acid reflux will make it difficult for your child to sleep since they are in pain. Follow your pediatrician’s advice for how to bring your baby comfort.
If your baby usually sleeps well then stops All Of a Sudden, it could be something like a sore throat or ear infection. I’d rule out any sleep disorders or medical issues before trying to sleep train.
Also teething can disrupt sleep for a time. If they’ve always slept well then stopped, look for something medical first.
Baby can’t transition from active to passive sleep alone
All humans naturally go through both active and passive sleep cycles. As babies transition from one to the other (every 45 to 60 minutes or so) they will rouse lightly.
If they know how to put themselves back to sleep they’ll just keep sleeping. If they have a sleep prop and can’t go to sleep on their own, they will wake up.
This is the culprit for short naps and frequent night waking. The way to help babies transition through this is to teach them to sleep on their own by putting them in their cribs drowsy but awake.
Baby doesn’t have enough solids
If your baby is 5 months or older and not on solids they will likely wake frequently at night.
I’m not telling you to feed them solids if your pediatrician suggested you wait until 6 months or you aren’t ready, but the reason they are waking is because they are legitimately hungry.
When you start giving them ample solids you will see improvement in sleep. In the hours before bedtime it’s important to make sure baby is eating well and feeling full.
Your little one is too hot or cold
This is always what you hope is the issue! I once had a son wake up multiple times a night for a week until I finally realized he was cold, poor thing.
I added another layer to his nighttime wear and voila. Sleeping through. If you notice they are sweaty, shed a layer. Keep in mind babies usually need one more layer than we adults do to be comfortable.
Babe is having a growth spurt or wonder week
Often our babies will go from sleeping well to having struggles. One thing I’m always aware of is whether they are having a growth spurt. If so, I give them more milk and/or solids throughout the day.
I change up their routine a bit to allow giving them more of what they need. This will also help if you need to get up your milk supply.
I’ve created a free email series just for you! There are truly only a few reasons why babies and toddlers have struggles sleeping… really, I mean it. I am going to teach you the main 3 reasons and how to start making small changes to help your baby go from:
- fighting sleep to embracing it
- night wakings to sleeping through
- needing you to jump through hoops to going to sleep on their own
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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