Why Won’t My Baby Sleep?

I can say from experience that having a baby or two that just won’t sleep is one of the most soul destroying experiences of a new baby. It leaves you drained and exhausted the next day and makes it that much harder to be the best parent you can.

Sleep. No one in your home is likely getting much of it, especially during the first few months. And even once your baby is sleeping through the night, she can still develop sleep problems.

That’s why it’s helpful to know why babies don’t sleep. Here are some of the most common reasons your baby might not be sleeping at each stage during the first year, and solutions to help your restless little one get her Zzzs.

Sleep Problems 0 – 1 Months

Resisting sleeping on their back

Most babies feel more secure when sleeping on their tummy but due to the high risk of SIDS, this is not recommended. The safest way for baby to sleep is on their back. f your baby just won’t settle down on her back, talk to your pediatrician, who may want to check for any possible physical explanations. Much more likely is that your baby just doesn’t feel as secure on her back. If that’s the case, there are a few tricks that you can try, including swaddling your baby and rocking her to sleep. Just skip the sleep positioner, and stick with a consistent routine. Eventually, your baby will get used to sleeping on her back.

Mixing up Day and Night

If your baby is sleeping all day and partying all night it is likely that they are mixing up day time and night time. Your newborn’s nocturnal ways should correct themselves as she adjusts to life on the outside, but there are a few things you can do to help your baby separate day and night, including limiting daytime naps to three hours, and making clear distinctions between day and night (like keeping baby’s room dark when she naps and avoiding turning on the TV during nighttime feedings).

Sleep Problems 2-3 Months

By this age your baby sleep patterns should be more predictable. They should be having 3-4 naps during the day with longer stretches overnight. It is still quite normal for babies to wake for feeds at this age.

Sleep Regression

Some babies seem to go through every regression possible and others aren’t affected at all by regressions. The most common sleep regressions are at 3-4 months, 8-10 months and 12 months.

Sleep regressions are usually caused by your baby learning new skills and wanting to practice them rather than sleeping. Even though it may be tough, stick with your bedtime routine, or start one if you haven’t already. Make sure that your baby is getting enough sleep during the day so that they aren’t over tired at bedtime. Sleep regressions are temporary so once your baby gets used to their new skill, sleep patterns should return to normal.

Interrupted Sleep Due to Night Feeding

Most babies, particularly breastfed babies, still need to feed once or twice a night at this age. Any more than that is probably more than they need. You can now start to reduce this number by increasing the size of the bedtime feed, ensuring they eat enough during the day and trying to stretch out the night time feedings.

Teething Pain

While some babies don’t start teething until after their first birthday, others will get their first tooth at 2-3 months. If they are showing signs of teething, drooling, biting, fussiness, then pain at night may be causing sleep issues.

Teething rings, soothing with pats or songs can help. It is best not to pick your baby up if not necessary, instead giving comfort in the cot and encouraging baby to settle back to sleep. Pain relief medicine is an option but not a long term solution.

Sleep Problems 4-5 Months

As babies get older, they tend to nap less. If your baby seems happy with her changing schedule and sleeps well at night, embrace this milestone and carry on. But if your little one is napping less but fussing more, or having trouble going to bed at night, she may be overtired and in need of some nap time encouragement.  

 Try an abbreviated bedtime routine before each nap (some quiet music, a massage, or some storytelling) and be patient — it may simply take her longer to settle into a routine, but she’ll get there.

Sleep Problems 6 Months+

Not Falling Asleep on Their Own

Being able to self settle is a skill that babies need to learn. Everyone wakes up multiple times a night but adults and older children have learnt how to fall back to sleep on their own and link sleep cycles. If your baby is rocked, patted or fed to sleep then when they wake during the night, they will need this process repeated to fall back to sleep.

You need to put baby to bed sleepy but not asleep in order to learn how to self settle. If you haven’t already, then now can be a good time to introduce a sleep aid such as a cuddly toy or comforter.

Waking Early

If your baby is waking up early and staying awake, there are a few tactics you can try.

 If your baby is at least 6 months old, you can try to get her to sleep in later by adjusting her nap schedule, experimenting with different bedtimes, and making her room more light- and sound-proof.

Sleep Problems at Any Age

Disruptions in Routine

Things will come up that interfere with routine such as illness, holidays or mom returning to work.  Do what you can to soothe your baby through these transitions and return to your normal routine as soon as possible.

If you have tried everything under the sun to improve your childs sleep and they are still having frequent night wakings, it may be worth taking them to a doctor to be checked for any underlying health conditions that may be affecting their sleep. Sleep Apnea, constipation, low iron, reflux and allergies can all affect sleep.

Try one of our great sleep aids found on Best Sleep Aids here

How to Create a Good Night Time Routine

night time routine

Recent studies have shown that children sleep better if they have a regular good night time routine, which is best implemented when a baby is 6 to 8 weeks old.

The study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine tested over 10,000 mothers from 14 countries. The age ranged from infants, to toddlers and children up to the age of 6. It was discovered that the children who had a consistent bedroom routine slept better than those who did not. They also didn’t wake up as much during the  night and slept for longer.

Getting your child into a sleep routine can seem like a difficult task, and isn’t always easy, but establishing a soothing and predictable pattern will help your child settle down much easier at bedtime. It will also help him to develope good sleep patterns as he gets older.

A good night time routine can have quite a few activities. The key is that you do similar activities in roughly the same way each night, starting around 20 minutes before your child’s bedtime.

Most bedtime routines include pre-bed tasks like having a bath and brushing teeth, as well as quiet, enjoyable activities like reading a book or listening to a story. The aim is to keep the atmosphere calm and positive, using positive attention and praise.

Where to Start?

Choose a bedtime, this is often between 7 and 8pm but can be earlier if you prefer. If  you’re dealing with settling problems, it’s best to start with the bedtime that’s closest to when your child naturally falls asleep. This increases the chance that the bedtime routine will become strongly linked to sleep time for your child. For example, if you find that your child finally falls asleep around 9 pm, start with this as a temporary bedtime.

About a week after you introduce the positive bedtime routine, you can start gradually making your child’s bedtime earlier.

This involves making bedtime about 15 minutes earlier every couple of days. You do this until you reach the ideal bedtime for your child.

Create a Restful Bedroom

Creating a sleep-friendly environment is a vital part of establishing a routine, so make sure the bedroom is set up to encourage snoozing. The room temperature shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, around 16-20°C. It should be quiet, too. If it’s a room that’s prone to noise from outside, or the rest of the house, try using a white noise machine.

Room darkening shades are also good, especially for daytime naps. The aim is to indicate it’s sleep time, so a dim light can help while getting ready for bed. When your baby nears bedtime his body will produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. A dim light helps encourage this and can ease him into bedtime slowly.

Simple Is Best

Start your good night time routine simply and build it up over time. A nice way to signal that it’s night-time and to start the bedtime routine is a bath. Afterwards, take your baby into the room where he sleeps, which should be warm, dimly lit and calm.  Then you might like to give him a massage, sing a lullaby, dress him for bed, and either swaddle him if he is under 3 months old or put him in a sleeping bag if he’s older, before you start feeding him.

Adding a book as the final stage of the routine from an early age has lots of advantages. Reading makes for great bonding time for mum and dad, and it’s part of the routine that can be developed as your baby gets older, so start with a simple age-appropriate book.  It also stops your baby developing an association with feeding and falling straight to sleep. You want to avoid this as much as possible, as a baby who needs certain conditions to fall asleep will need the same conditions to get back to sleep when he wakes during the night.

When your baby is around 6 weeks old, master the ‘drowsy drop-off’ by putting your baby down sleepy, but not asleep, so he gets used to settling in his cot. If you want to use a self-soothing technique, like the ‘cry it out’ method at about 5 to 6 months, then this can be incorporated into the bedtime routine after you have put your baby down for the night.

Cement the Routine

As your baby gets older your routine may change slightly, you may spend more time reading books or longer in the bath playing, but your routine should still retain the same elements so that it stays predictable.

A white noise machine can signal that it is time to go sleep. Find one here.