20 Reasons Why Baby Won’t Sleep and What To Do

My baby won’t sleep till late at night, and it made us live a zombie-like life!

I wondered if all the people who call babies a bundle of joy, the apple of your eyes and all cute things; mean the same for their baby when it won’t sleep at night and does not let you sleep either!

I have always been a person, who loved “early to bed and early to rise” song, but now things were all messed up.

I had twin kids with one year age difference, and things were challenging with no support. I used to wish them to sleep throughout the night – longer and better. The only mantra I recited,”Sleep and Let Sleep.”

I read all the parenting books to find out what wrong I was doing, that kept my baby awake for so long.

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Thankfully, when I had another baby, I was an experienced mother and handled things differently.

Not only it gave me a happier, chirpier baby, but it also ensured my sanity and sleep.

In this write- up, I share what I learned as a mother while bringing up two babies, who behaved differently at sleep time. 

The first one, my daughter made sure that she won’t sleep at night and made life hell.

But gradually I realized, it was not her mistake. No baby compromises on food and sleep, but if these basic things are disturbed there was something I needed to learn about my baby.

I should be more aware as a mother, and I had to be better prepared to know why my baby won’t sleep. 

The second baby, the son, was an angel, who slept at 9 pm and got up at 5 am. He hardly got up during night feeds etc. 

Though I don’t deny that all babies are different, so maybe it was due to his different temperament. 

In a corner of my heart, I give some credit to myself as a parent because I feel that I actively and consciously made efforts to understand the baby and my own self to tackle baby sleep problem. 

Related Read : Best Bassinet for a Baby to Sleep Longer

20 Reasons Why Your Baby Won't Sleep -

  1. Age and development stage
  2. Health or illness
  3. Surroundings
  4. Inadequate feed
  5. Uncomfortable crib, bassinet or mattress
  6. Weather too cold or hot
  7. Too much layering
  8. Suffocation
  9. Unfamiliar surroundings or people
  10. Attention seeking
  11. Feeling insecure and lonely
  12. Feeling unloved
  13. If people are giving unjust attention, then also some kids do not wish to sleep and engage in things, which interest them.
  14. Getting too tired 
  15. Not feeling tired and sleepy
  16. Gas, constipation or stomach trouble
  17. Mosquitoes, flies, pets or similar disturbances
  18. Fear or shock
  19. Pain or body ache
  20. Disturbance from older kids, noise or light

Interesting Things About Baby Sleep – 

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All babies are different; one baby may have different preferences than others.

I wish there was some technology to read what exactly going into a baby’s mind, to care for them better.

I am not aware of such a gadget yet. And babies do not come with a manual. So you have to devise your own ways to understand why your baby won’t sleep.

You would agree that a newborn baby loves to eat, sleep, pee and poop, and this cycle is so frequent that a new mom doesn’t get a break to understand what exactly is happening in her life!

Of course to the general public  (who share baby images on social media), this is not the reason, babies are cute and oh so adorable. 

By the time you have another baby, you understand that it is natural for a newborn baby to ask for frequent feeds and need help for sleeping. 

Though my son (second baby) broke this circle in second month itself, most babies want your help during sleep until six months of age.

After six months, a baby stays awake at daytime, takes some after lunch naps, and sleeps during the night for a long duration. 

After many years of suffering, I understood that sleep and food should be a natural and smooth process for anybody, especially a baby. 

As they undergo physical, mental and emotional developments rapidly, a parent is not well prepared to handle the next stage in a baby’s life, and it causes their frustration.

You look at a baby from the viewpoint of an adult, but just imagine if you have to spend time lying down for four months, then you start to learn sitting. At six months, you begin crawling; how would you be feeling being so much dependent?

Have you seen older adults, when they are dependent and behave like babies?

They feel distressed and anxious when they separate from their near and dear ones. 

Likewise, a baby had been a part of your body for nine months. It came out, and you started expecting it to behave the way you want. Is it fair?

The day you start looking at your baby as a new life, which is struggling to settle in your world; you will be more empathetic, and you’ll manage better when your baby doesn’t sleep.

That is my feeling that you need a heart to heart talk with your baby, rather than getting frustrated when baby won’t sleep.

The child specialists talk about a baby’s physical development and sleep requirement based on researches and their experiences as physicians. 

I followed their advice for both my kids, so here are the things I agree with.

What is Baby Sleep from 0 to 2 Months

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The zero to two months time is your introduction to a newborn. She keeps sleeping, you tickle her tiny feet, but she doesn’t bother if you exist. 

Sometimes, she gets up for feed, diaper change and back to sleep, she doesn’t bother you for anything else. No toys required, no outside attention and playtime needed. 

She gives you enough poses to click her baby pictures and post on your social handles.

You feel a little exhausted because she would get up during the night for her feeds and tummy cleaning. She is not yet aware that there is a difference between night time and day time. 

During these zero to two months, you would either catch your sleep during daytime or adjust it with baby’s sleep. 

You can’t do much. You have to adjust because your baby doesn’t care what you say and what you want her to do.

Therefore, you read blogs, visit parenting sites and ask other experienced moms, when your baby would start sleeping NORMAL?

You take relief when you learn this newborn baby sleep pattern is NORMAL, and this phase shall pass.

As a Baby Grows Older, It Would -

  • Play during the daytime that’ll reduce sleep time.
  • Spend time playing, eating, laughing, crying, rather than sleeping all the time.
  • A few daytime naps are needed, but now the baby would sleep at night longer, and wake less at night time.
  • With growth and age, a baby needs lesser sleep.

Baby Sleep from 2 to 3 Months

After two months, a baby starts recognizing moving things around her. She would understand a slight difference between day and night time. 

Though they would still sleep for more than 14-15 hours, their sleep cycle is shorter. 

They would wake up for a feed, change, play, feed and sleep for about an hour. 

By the age of two to three months, a baby starts moving a little. At age three, her neck gets stable, and she tries to lift her head to look around. 

She may try to turn sides by this time. While sleeping, she may move around and groan, or sleep quietly.

At three months, a baby starts attachment and finding identity with the objects and people around her. 

When she wakes during her sleep cycles, she may be startled and start crying, looking for comfort and security from familiar faces.

Slowly, a baby (a pure soul) starts developing a relationship with this world and adapts to the day and night sleep patterns, as suggested by you. 

You can start sleep training a baby when she completes three months of age.

Baby Sleep Around Three Months

I feel a baby’s life is a manual for us to live a blissful life.

Babies create a rapport with their surroundings, and they start sleeping longer during the night while smiling in their dreams. 

A 3-month-old baby sleeps around 4-5 hours at a stretch, and needs about 16 hours sleep during 24 hours.

Baby Sleep from 3 to 6 Months

Three months onward, your baby becomes an active participant in the drama of this world. 

She cries, senses the reaction of people around her and behaves accordingly. 

She changes her tone and volume of crying, depending on her need and your reaction to her cry. 

Sleep is a primary requirement for a baby’s development; she continues to sleep around 16 hours even now.  The daytime naps duration would be around two to three hours each time.

Generally, they sleep for 5-6 hours at a stretch; asking for a feed once during the night.

Baby Sleep from 6 to 12 Months

Babies grow fast. When you prepare yourself to handle one stage of baby’s development, they would present you with some new challenges and surprises.

A baby starts sitting, crawling, exploring and finding out her limits around her. She would establish relations with people who come in contact with her regularly. 

She would be more active during the day to discover your world and how she fits there. 

She would start eating and experiencing different tastes and interactions. 

Thus, your baby won’t sleep longer during the day because she is more active as a little person, and she is getting an identity of her own.  

Though she still needs about 14 hours sleep and she’d cover some of it during daytime naps, and mostly at night.

While you start preparing for dinner, she may be rolling around for sleep or lie around crying for some comfort. Sleep is natural to her, and it would be longer during the night. 

The concept of bed, brushing, soothing, reading, music, soothers, comfort toys and all such things you create for her. She can very well sleep even in natural surroundings. 

She would sleep when she feels sleepy, and her stomach is full, but she may still need your scent to feel secure. By now, the night time wake up calls may end or would be less.

What Affects Baby Sleep Pattern?

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A baby is not an automated doll or a robot; it is a life, a living being – who is learning to blossom in your hands. 

When a baby grows older, she is affected by things around her.

Her perception and absorption of experiences may have more impact on her than you imagine. 

For example, a calm and happy home may relax the baby to sleep soundly, whereas a house with quarreling people, may affect baby sleep negatively. 

Older siblings or kids may engage a baby more during the daytime, which leads to longer sleep at night.

Parents’ routine and lifestyle may affect baby sleep. If you are travelling with the baby, her sleep may get disturbed.

If something is discomforting her, your baby won’t sleep comfortably. 

Constipation is a common problem in some babies. Stomach upset, gas and tummy troubles may be the cause of your baby crying out at sleep time.

When the baby starts moving around, she is more engaged with surroundings and sleeps less during the daytime.

More light, noise and distractions may affect baby sleep.

Crawling is physically exhaustive. Try it! I do my yoga and exercise for a few minutes in the morning, and I wonder how a baby manages to crawl around while still smiling.

How crawling affects baby to sleep?

I feel she exhausts herself during daytime and sleeps soundly during the night. But too much physical exhaustion may cause her body ache and crying.

Related : How to make your house a safe zone, for a crawling baby?

When a baby starts recognizing people around her, she calls for them for comfort and sometimes gets up during the night for comfort feeds.

Every baby gives some signals before crying. When a baby is sleepy, it will sleep on her own (if basic needs fulfilled). 

How to Make Baby Sleep Better –

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  • A separate baby bassinet or baby bed develops a habit of self-soothing, and the baby would sleep better.
  • Babies sleep better after a body massage and bath. 
  • They sleep better when told a story with voice modulations. 
  • Music, nature sounds and vibration relax a baby to sleep longer. 
  • A baby bed mattress should not be too soft. A newborn baby’s mattress should be firm and a toddler can sleep on a medium soft mattress, as recommended by child specialists.
  • You should set a routine for your baby. If you set a regular sleep routine, you would never complain that your baby won’t sleep. 

The most important thing – enjoy the process of parenthood and love the feeling that a life is growing with you, as per nature’s grace.

Related Post : Best Pack N Play for Newborn Sleeping

About Dim Candell

Dim is a mom to two lovely kids. She is a practitioner of Yoga, Design Thinking, and mindfulness in everyday life.

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