Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by your baby’s sleep patterns, or lack thereof.
During the first year as a new family, no one in your home is likely getting much sleep. Persistent all-nighters are extremely draining and it feels like the more exhausted you become the more your baby won’t sleep.
In this article we are going to set realistic sleep expectations, discuss common reasons why babies won't sleep and provide ways to get the restorative sleep you and your baby need.
Sleep expectations: How much do babies sleep?
As a new parent, you’ll be asked countless times, “Is the baby sleeping through the night yet?”
Which creates this unrealistic pressure that they should be. Sleeping through the night is an eagerly anticipated milestone and while we are waiting for our baby to learn to sleep through the night, it is important to have realistic goals around what constitutes a “good” night.
Here’s what we learned from a 2015, National Sleep Foundation (NSF) study on how much babies sleep:
Newborns (0-3 Months Old)
Between 0 - 3 months of age, it is very normal for newborns to wake throughout the night because of frequent feedings. The NSF found newborns sleep for about 14 - 17 hours throughout the entire day.
Infants (4-11 Months Old)
Parents of infants (4 - 11 months old) should expect their baby to sleep at least five hours without waking or needing a feeding. Infants sleep a total of 12 - 15 hours every day, with 3 - 4 of those hours happening during daytime naps.
Reasons why babies won’t sleep
Nonetheless, some parents find themselves struggling to get their wiggle worm into bedtime mode and finally crash after a long day. You may be one of those who is wondering why won’t my baby sleep through the night?
Don’t worry mama, better nights are ahead! Here are some common reasons why babies won’t sleep and how you can help.
Think of your "circadian rhythm" as an internal clock telling you when it's time to be awake and when it's time to sleep.
Trouble is the "clock" doesn’t come pre-programmed.
Newborn babies' internal clocks do not automatically sync with our 24-hour cycle of being awake during daylight and asleep during darkness.
But, we do not have to wait for our baby's clock to sync with ours. Studies show that babies adapt quickly when they get cues from their environment about the time of day.
Try these baby sleep solutions to help sync circadian rhythms:
Keep an active day environment.
At morning time, enthusiastically greet your child by saying “good morning.” Opening the curtains and engaging your baby. With the exception of nap time, be sure to keep lights on and noise at a normal level during the day. This will help signal that it’s time to be awake.
Encourage a sleepy environment at nighttime.
As bedtime approaches, close the curtains, keep lights dim or off, minimize noise and other disruptions. As your baby grows, introduce a nighttime routine to signal that bedtime is near.
Nap when your baby naps.
This tip is more for you than for them, but if you rest while baby is resting it will help take the edge off of sleepless nights.
There’s a fine line between encouraging wakefulness during the day and creating an overstimulating environment.
Babies are sensitive, and even an active day environment should be mindful of stressors like visitors, loud televisions, rough siblings or pets.
Your daytime routine should minimize visitors, establish a consistent nap routine and keep errands to a minimum.
Overtiredness is one of the most common reasons babies will fight sleep. Not surprisingly, as we are all a bit more cranky and agitated when we lack sleep.
To avoid this “too tired to sleep” situation, be mindful of their early signs of sleepiness; this may look like yawning, pulling ears, or rubbing eyes.
Total and complete silence can make it hard for your baby to stay asleep: They’ll be able to hear a pin drop or the smallest scuffle.
If your little one seems distracted when trying to sleep or is waking frequently, consider investing in a white noise machine. This will create a relaxing environment that allows other family members to move around without disturbing the baby's sleep.
It is very important that you always put your baby to sleep on their back. Some newborns will protest when laid on their back to sleep, however there are ways to help them feel more secure.
Help your baby get used to sleeping on their back by using a gently weighted swaddle to keep baby snug and comforted. Nested Bean’s Zen Neo™ is specifically designed to ease transition from womb to world.
Speaking of comfortable sleeping wear. You know the feeling when a sock slips down while you’re wearing boots - or when the tag on your shirt keeps scratching the back of your neck?
As adults, we can do something about that. Babies can’t. So it’s important to check for signs of discomfort associated with clothing: Are they too warm or cold? Is fabric scratchy, too tight or too loose?
Puckering, smacking or licking lips. Turning head, rooting. Clenching hands and bringing hands to mouth. These are all signs that your child is not sleeping because they are hungry.
Did you know human milk only takes about 1.5 hours to digest? This explains why your little one is awake and hungry every 2 - 4 hours.
Research has shown that in the early weeks and months, babies nurse most frequently between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. It is tiring but I promise this stage doesn’t last forever! Babies do grow out of the need for constant nighttime feedings.
Straining faces, grunting, kicking legs, a firm belly. These are signs that your baby is not sleeping because of a tummy trouble caused by gas or constipation.
Burping during and after feedings is one of the simplest ways to relieve gas pains. If that doesn’t do the trick try massaging their tummy or cycling their legs. Cycling their legs is basically pumping their legs back and forth like they’re riding a teeny tiny baby bicycle, while they’re laying on their back.
Drooling, chewing, increased comfort nursing, overall fussiness and irritability. These are signs that teething pain may be keeping your little one up at night.
Try settling with gentle words, a lullaby, rhythmic patting or a teething ring. If tender gums are keeping everyone up night after night, talk to your pediatrician about pain relief options.
If your little wiggle worm was sleeping for extended periods of time but is now fighting sleep or waking up frequently, you may have entered a sleep regression. A sleep regression is a normal, temporary blip on babies' sleep radar that many children begin around 4 months old.
Don’t get discouraged, this is only temporary. Be sure to stick with your bedtime routine and daytime nap schedule. After your baby masters their new skills, sleep patterns should go back to normal.
Hang in there
I know you’re tired. Raising a family requires an almost superhuman level of patience. Remember to take care of yourself, talk to your partner about how you’re feeling and get support from friends and family.
Be sure to fuel your body with healthy food and plenty of water. And, meditate, daydream or take a catnap when your baby is sleeping. Taking even just a few minutes to allow your mind to wander can give you the energy you need.
If it’s getting too tough, and you feel like you and your baby aren’t coping, reach out to your pediatrician. They can help recommend a course of action to help you both rest better.
In the meantime, hang in there mama. You’ve got this!
When baby won’t sleep: Key takeaways
Baby still won’t sleep? No problem.
If you’re still struggling to get your baby to sleep, then it might be time to try a weighted sleep sack.
Nested Bean weighted sleep sacks help babies’ sleep longer (which means the whole family sleeps more) by strategically placed weighted pads that apply Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) in areas where babies are naturally held.
Plus, every sleep sack features zipper covers, soft tags, and cozy seams to minimize irritation and sensory discomfort.
Want to learn more? Click here to discover the benefits of the Classic Nested Bean sleep sack.