My Baby Won’t Go to Sleep
Lack of sleep is probably the number one complaint of new parents. When your baby won’t go to sleep, that means you can’t go to sleep either, and this makes parenting the next day extremely difficult.
Even if your baby is a dream in the sleep department, there may come a day when baby won’t go to sleep due to sleep regression. What do you do when everyone in your house needs rest? Follow a few steps to make sure your baby is ready for a goodnight’s rest before you attempt to start bedtime.
1. Feed the Baby
Hungry babies have a hard time sleeping, and they process food pretty quickly when they are very young. If your baby won’t go to sleep, try feeding her before bed so her stomach is full before she tries to rest.
It’s fine to have a feeding schedule if that works for your child, but spacing feedings out too far will lead to a hungry baby who won’t rest. Make sure you try to offer food if your little one is having a hard time with sleep. Many lactation specialists recommend feeding on demand in those early days so your little one controls when she eats. Feeding on demand can help babies sleep and thrive.
When you introduce solids, make sure you still give enough breast milk and formula. Your baby won’t go to sleep if she isn’t taking in enough food to be full.
2. Burp the Baby
It’s wise to burp your baby right after you feed her, but it may be a good idea to try to burp her again before putting her down for sleep. When baby won’t go to sleep, it may be because her stomach hurts or she has gas. Helping her release the gas by burping her can alleviate the problem.
There are also drops that can be given to babies who struggle with gassy stomachs. Check with your doctor before offering them. If you get the okay to try the drops, you may find your baby sleeps much better when her gas is under control.
It’s also a good idea to track her worst gas flair ups and see if there is a possibility of food allergies that are causing her pain. What you ingest passes to her in breast milk, and some babies are super sensitive to certain flavors. Your baby won’t go to sleep if every meal brings on floods of stomach pain.
3. Try a Pacifier
There is nothing wrong with offering a baby a pacifier. You may be worried about nipple confusion if you are breastfeeding, which is an issue that occurs when a child becomes used to a pacifier and then tries to extract milk from the breast the same way she sucks on the pacifier. It’s a fair concern, but it shouldn’t be an issue after the nursing relationship is established.
It’s true that if the pacifier falls out of a child’s mouth at night or during nap time, she may wake up to retrieve it. However, she will likely get better at keeping it in her mouth or not waking up when it comes out after a period of time.
Other Great Reasons to Use a Pacifier
- Lowers SIDS risk
- Easier to break a child of pacifier use than thumb sucking
- Works as a distraction when a child is upset
Swaddling, also known as creating a baby burrito, is a great method for getting a baby to sleep. When your baby won’t go to sleep, it could be due to her extremely sensitive startle response that compels her to throw her arms in the air the minute her back hits the crib. If you want to avoid this, swaddle.
Nurses on the labor and delivery floor at the hospital can teach you how to swaddle with a blanket. If the skill seems hard to master, grab a swaddle blanket with Velcro specifically made for swaddling sleeping babies. Just make sure you stop using the swaddle method if your little one can break out of the blanket and it becomes a sleep hazard.
5. Place in Crib Before Exhausted
There really is no such thing as wearing a baby out before they go to sleep. If baby won’t go to sleep, trying to keep her awake for an extra long time to exhaust her will not make the situation better. A child who is too tired will actually be so cranky that she may fight sleep.
It’s best to put a child down in her crib before she is so exhausted that she is overly clingy. Watch for sleepy signs, such as fluttering eyes or the baby chewing on her fingers, and follow the baby’s lead. Get her into her crib before she is completely asleep or so tired she doesn’t want to let you go.
6. Check Body Temperature
When baby won’t go to sleep, parents often forget to check body temperature. If a child is too hot, it can keep her from sleeping comfortably. It is also not a safe situation when a child is young because she can overheat.
Don’t layer tons of clothes on a child before putting her to bed. Keep blankets out of the crib as well since they are a safety concern when babies are asleep.
If the baby is too hot but it’s not due to how she is dressed, check to make sure she does not have fever. Sickness and fever can make babies clingy and cause sleep disruptions. Check with your doctor to find out if you should let your baby wait the fever out or offer a fever reducer so she can get some rest.
On the flip side, your baby won’t go to sleep if she is too cold. After coming out of the womb, your little one will have a hard time regulating body temperature and will need skin-to-skin time to stay warm. When it’s time to let her sleep on her own, make sure she is warm enough based on the temperature in the house and the time of year.
7. Try a New Routine
Babies like routines, but they don’t all love the same routines. If your pre-bedtime routine isn’t working for your baby, try a different one. While bath time usually calms a baby down before it’s time to go to bed, your baby may get riled up splashing around in the water. This leaves her too excited to rest.
Some children want to be rocked before they get in the crib, but others see this as a sign that aren’t going to be put down at all. It may be better to give your baby a hug and kiss and then put her in the crib before she refuses to be put down.
Watch the signs and cues your baby gives you to figure out what helps her calm down for the night. Stay away from anything that gets her overly excited.
8. White Noise Machine
There’s a reason products exist for both adults and babies that offer ambient noise for night: they work. White noise machines can help a baby’s mind mellow out and keep her from startling at every sound that occurs around her.
If your baby won’t go to sleep while listening to white noise, try other ambient sounds, such as ocean waves crashing or a light rain falling. Noise machines often have different settings, so you can experiment until you figure out what sound is most calming for your little one.
9. Offer More Naps
It may seem like the last thing you want to do is offer a baby who won’t sleep at night more sleep during the day. However, your baby needs to be taking enough naps throughout the day to make it to bed time without experiencing exhaustion. An overly exhausted baby will not sleep better. In fact, she might not want to go to sleep at all.
Most parents will tell you there is a magic line between just tired enough and too tired. When that line is crossed, you have a cranky, clingy baby on your hands who won’t rest. Make sure your baby is napping enough during the day.
10. Good Sleeping Guidelines
Birth to One Year
- 0-3 Months: Baby will sleep on and off around the clock, totaling about 18 hours in a 24 hour period
- 4-6 Months: Baby will sleep between 14-16 hours and take two or three naps a day.
- 6-12 Months: Baby will sleep about 14 hours and take two naps.
Whatever sleep problems ail you and your baby, know that one day you will likely have a teenager on your hands who never wants to get out of bed! Do what you can during these early days to make sure everyone in your house is getting enough rest. If your baby won’t go to sleep, keep trying until you find the method she prefers.