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.
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.
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.
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