Baby Won’t Go To Sleep: 4 Causes and How To Cope
Little Yawn Collective - Sep 29, 2021
Remember when you used to crawl into bed, close your peepers and just sleep? Or how Saturdays meant you could unplug the alarm clock and snooze till noon?
Remember when the soft sound of chirping birds woke you from your slumber instead of a crying baby?
When your little buddy doesn’t sleep, no one sleeps. Not you, not your tiny tot, and not the dog —no siree! And while you’ve probably been told to “just sleep when the baby sleeps,” the truth is that this unsolicited advice only works if your pint-sized peanut is actually getting some rest.
Sleep may seem like a pretty foreign thing for sleepless parents with late-night party animals who refuse to snooze. And while you might be willing in heart to wait for this exhausting phase to end, your mental health tells you differently.
From frustration and irritability to tension and fatigue, just one sleepless night can turn even the most patient parent into a grumpy grizzly bear.
Babies are no different. Without adequate shut-eye, an overtired youngster can quickly transform from a sweet angel into a Tasmanian devil faster than you can say super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious. But despite feeling exhausted, sometimes babies just won’t go to sleep. Why? We’ll tell you.
In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about why your little buddy won’t go to sleep and the best tips and tricks to cope. Ready to summon the Sandman to bring on the sleepies?
Why Won’t My Baby Sleep?
Extra bedtime stories, nourishing body lotion, white noise … you’ve tried it all, but your newest family member still won’t sleep. Just about every parent deals with it at some point — and it’s undeniably miserable.
For months, you’re a zombie, lucky to clock three hours of shut-eye in a row. After that, you hobble along, completely consumed by your sleepy thoughts while cursing the old pre-baby you for not realizing how good you had it. (don’t worry, we’ve all been there!)
Until you’ve actually experienced sleep deprivation, it’s hard to appreciate a good night’s rest. Sleep is critical, and without it, the human body can’t function optimally, especially for babies.
While it looks like your little sleepyhead is just catching zzz’s, the reality is that an enormous amount of mental and physical development takes place during their slumber.
These important developments help brain functions to mature while influencing critical abilities such as attention, language, and impulse control. Needless to say, baby sleep is of the utmost importance!
That being said, if your baby won’t go to sleep, there could be a rhythm to the reason. Figuring out what’s causing your sweetie pie to party like a rockstar from sun-up to sun-down will get you one step closer to that oh-so-glorious sleep.
1. Mixing Up Day and Night
Sometimes your little buddy goes down for a siesta in the middle of the day and just won’t wake up. Other times, despite being way past their bedtime, your precious treasure is up all night wanting to play. What gives?
The problem here may be that your bundle of joy has little or no light perception and can’t differentiate between daytime and nighttime.
You see, babies don’t have the slightest clue as to what ‘day’ and what’s ‘night.’ That’s why some youngsters are early birds while others are night owls. Their sleep rhythms are completely different from ours, making it super easy for them to mix up day and night.
So if your dumpling seems to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when it’s time to hit the hay, it could just be that your little buddy’s internal sleep clock is out of sync with the 24-hour day.
2. Developmental Changes
Has your perfect sleeper suddenly become a nightmare? Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy — they’re probably just dealing with sleep regression.
Perfectly normal in babies, sleep regressions are periods of time when a baby sleeping like a champ suddenly has difficulty settling down for bedtime or wakes up fussing in the middle of the night.
Sparked by developmental changes such as a maturing sleep cycle or growth spurt, the key to getting through a sleep regression is consistency — stick to your baby bedtime routine and be patient as these sleep-related issues are temporary (in other words, there’s light at the end of the tunnel!).
3. Changing Routines
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 and consistency with your tiny tot.
Research is so overwhelmingly in favor of adopting a good routine that there’s really no reason why your baby shouldn’t have one. Not only will a routine make life more peaceful, but it will help your little nugget to sleep better, eat better, and be happier.
Babies thrive on routines — especially when it comes to bedtime. It helps to regulate their circadian rhythms to achieve healthy sleep patterns. As your bundle of joy gets older, these routines tend to change (i.e., number of daily cat-naps). Some little ones respond positively to changing routines, while others can’t stand them.
That being said, if you recently made a change to your baby’s routine and now they won’t go to sleep or are especially fussy at nighttime, take a deep breath and be patient — it may take your tot a bit of time to settle into the new routine, but they’ll get there!
Tiny babies have tiny tummies and therefore need to eat frequently. If your darling angel won’t go to sleep, try soothing them with a cuddly feeding. Babies have fast metabolic rates and can digest food quickly.
That means your little buddy can (and will) protest a snooze until the hunger pangs have gone away and their belly is full and happy.
Sleep Solutions: Zero to Three Months Old
At the newborn stage, little ones are still getting used to a regular sleeping pattern. They generally sleep 14 to 17 hours in 24 hours, waking up every couple of hours for nappy changes and feedings — both day and night.
If you ask us, there’s just about nothing more adorable than a tiny sprout wrapped up like an itty-bitty baby burrito. That being said, wrapping your sleepyhead nice and snug in a cozy blanket for cute social media pics isn’t the only reason why so many parents are such big fans of swaddling.
You see, for the first few months, babies innately possess a startle reflex in which they feel as if they’re falling. The uncomfortable sensation resulting in jerking movements may cause your little buddy to wake from their slumber.
Keeping a snug swaddle prevents babies from startling themselves awake, helping both you and your newborn to sleep better and longer.
Most babies have a strong sucking reflex. In fact, some even suck their thumbs or fingers before leaving the womb.
Beyond helping with nutrition, sucking has a soothing effect —which is why a pacifier can often flip a fussy baby’s frown upside down. With that in mind, if your sleepy tot has trouble settling for bedtime, a pacifier just might do the trick!
Distinguishing Between Day and Night
Too sleepy to go for a walk with your little buddy while the sun is shining? Forget to open the shades? Believe it or not, keeping your munchkin in the dark could be to blame for their crazy sleep schedule.
Yup, it’s true — according to experts, babies who get more exposure to light during the day tend to sleep better at night. This is because natural light helps reset their internal clock.
Teach your tiny tot how to distinguish between day and night by placing their crib or bassinet near a window that gets a steady, bright light in the morning.
When the sun goes down and it’s time for bed, dim the lights and turn off the TV. While it may take a bit of time, eventually, your baby will associate daytime with being awake and nighttime with going to sleep.
Sleep Solutions: Four To Six Months Old
Congrats, parents — you’ve made it through the first three months in crazy newborn land where sleep is like gold: precious and rare. By now, your little dreamer should be well on their way toward an established sleep pattern.
During this time, babies need around 14 hours of quality shut-eye daily and can go up to eight hours at night without feeding. In other words, now is the time to put effective sleep solutions into practice so you can finally close those tired peepers for more than just a couple of hours.
Reinforce Your Bedtime Routine
At four months old, your formerly perfect nighttime sleeper may be ready for anything but bedtime — regardless of how sleepy you might be. Welcome to sleep regression!
While there’s no official way to “diagnose” sleep regression, you’ll certainly know when you’re dealing with it. If your little buddy was on the path to developing a solid sleep pattern but is suddenly battling bedtime or waking up a lot more often, chances are you’ve got sleep regression on your hands.
To combat this icky phase, consistency is key. Reinforce your baby bedtime routine and stick with it every single night — the warm bath with our soothing shampoo and body wash, the cuddly feeding, the lullabies, and of course, the goodnight kisses.
While sleep regression can certainly be frustrating, the good news is that it’s only temporary. Once your bundle of joy acclimates to their new developmental abilities, sleep patterns should return to baseline.
Encourage Nap Times
Getting your little nugget to sleep under the best circumstances can be tricky, but when your baby is overtired, bedtime can be even more of a challenge. Why? Because overtired babies have a much harder time settling down, tend to snooze intermittently, and wake up more often throughout the night. This causes them to sleep less, making them more tired, which continues the dreaded tired-overtired cycle.
To prevent your precious treasure from becoming overtired and incredibly fussy. Try an abbreviated bedtime routine before each nap to help soothe your little buddy and be patient — it may take a bit of time for them to settle into a routine, but they’ll get there.
And when they finally do, those exhausting memories of sleepless nights due to your overtired baby will quickly begin to fade, only to be replaced by good sleep and sweet dreams, ahh!
Sleep Solutions: Older Than Six Months
From 6 months onward, babies do the bulk of their sleeping at night — but you haven’t made it out of the woods just yet! Around this time, other issues such as teething, illnesses, and growth spurts may start leading to late-night awakenings. *sigh*
A lifetime of good sleep habits depends on knowing how to drift off to dreamland both at bedtime and overnight — an essential skill babies need to learn. That being said, if your sweetie pie still needs to be fed or rocked to sleep after six months, you might want to consider sleep training.
Just like how we teach our kiddos to use a spoon, say ‘please’ when they need something, and wash their hands after using the potty, we sometimes have to also teach them healthy sleep habits.
Create a baby bedtime routine that will help your tiny bundle associate new activities with sleep: give them a warm bath, put on their cozy jammies, sing a sweet lullaby, spritz a relaxing pillow and linen spray in the room, and then dim the lights.
If you stick with the same routine every night, your little sleepyhead will start to understand that the Sandman is soon to come, and it’s time for sleep when the sun goes down.
Pro Tip: When sleep training your tiny tot, be sure to put them in their crib before they get too sleepy and doze off. By doing this, your baby will learn to connect going to sleep with being in their crib — not in your arms.
We’ve all been there: a perfectly quiet nursery, a snoozing infant, and then suddenly, the baby is woken up by some noisy disruption or another. If you ask us, there’s arguably nothing more frustrating than finally getting your fussy love bug to sleep, only for them to wake from their slumber due to an unpleasant sound.
As a parent, creating a peaceful environment for your little one is just as important for their good night's sleep as it is for your sanity. With that in mind, if your baby is a light snoozer and constantly wakes from disruptive sounds, it might be a good idea to soundproof the nursery.
Soundproofing your baby’s room will provide a quiet place for your sleeping angel to catch zzz’s without forcing everyone else in the house to be totally silent. Plus, it will help to prevent your cranky tot’s cries from echoing through the halls when they need to cry it out.
Worried you won’t be able to hear your angel in a soundproofed nursery? Don’t worry — that’s what a baby monitor is for!
From overtired infants on a mission to battle bedtime to late-night party animals who prefer to snooze during the day, babies are hard work. But despite the many challenges, parenthood is one of the most wonderful things on earth.
Here at Little Yawn Collective, we’ve got zzz’s down to a science. That’s why it’s our mission to empower parents and build confidence to establish awesome bedtime routines that work.
Made with you and your little buddy in mind, each of our formulas includes high-quality, ethically sourced, and natural ingredients designed to bring on the zzz’s.
Check us out today and help your baby sleep tomorrow. Trust us. You’ll be glad you did!