Newborn babies need a lot of sleep. I wonder, then, Why My Baby Will Not Sleep?
A healthy baby needs about 16 hours of sleep a day on average. However, some babies sleep more than others in their sleep patterns.
Nevertheless, the bottom line is – they will sleep more than they are awake.
So why do we, parents, stagger to our feet from lack of sleep and unsuccessfully try to put them down?
Why my baby will not sleep?
The most common reasons why your baby has trouble sleeping are overtiredness, overstimulation, physical discomfort, hunger, overheating, lack of sleep routine, adjustment to the new life outside of the womb and medical conditions. By observing your baby behaviour and signals, you will be able to identify the reason why she stays awake, so you can effectively deal with the problem.
(Un)realistic expectation of a newborn baby sleep schedule
First and foremost, I wanted to note that majority of the problems come from the fact that we, adults, have unrealistic expectations from our newborns.
We would like them to sleep when it suits us – ideally at night when we would love to sleep ourselves. And babies do not cooperate in this matter. They hardly ever cooperate in any situation.
We also expect a few power naps during the day, so we can take care of our affairs for a while, such as having a shower, dressing up or getting something to eat. And to top it up – we still dream that the newborn sleeps in her crib.
However, the reality looks a bit different. The newborn does not sleep but falls asleep, not in the crib – but in our arms and once, God forbid, we try to put her in bed – she instantly opens their eyes and starts crying.
At this stage, all we can do is accept the fact that your little one has its sleep schedule and take the time to learn your baby sleep needs and work around them!
Check out my related post: ====> How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need
and ===> What Is My Baby Trying To Tell Me?
To deal with sleep problems in babies, you first need to understand the cause.
1. My Baby Is Overtired
In simple terms: An overtired baby has difficulties falling and staying asleep than the baby that have regular naps throughout the day.
I know that for a parent it is tempting to skip the nap during the day or extend the time between the naps with the hope that the tired baby will sleep longer at night. But, this doesn’t work like that in the real world. Overtired baby releases a stress hormone which makes it hard to settle her down for sleep.
Babies get tired very quickly, for example, while suckling the breast or feeding with a bottle which takes hours for them to do. Hence, regular naps are essential for their wellbeing and development.
So, make sure you let them rest when they need it!
How to Prevent Overtiredness
2. My Baby Is Overstimulated
It is very similar to overtiredness: An overstimulated baby has difficulties falling and staying asleep.
What makes my baby overstimulated, you ask? It can be anything – from too many new activities or sensations such as noise, toys, books – to too many people than they can handle a once.
Generally, newborn babies receive a lot of stimuli from the outside world. Therefore, their brain is working at high speed and needs regeneration.
So, make sure you give them some quiet time in their safe environment to let them wind down before the nap or bedtime!
3. My Baby Is Adjusting To The Life Outside Of Womb
During the first three months of her life, the baby adapts to life on the other side of the belly. This period is called the fourth trimester of baby development.
During this time, your baby will learn to breathe, suck, swallow, and digest. After 8th months of living in warm and cosy darkness, she is getting used to the touch of clothes and diapers, different shapes, movements or lights.
To help your baby transition into this new world, you need to recreate the life inside the womb. Here is what you can do:
- Give your baby plenty of skin-to-skin contact. Your familiar smell, warmth and heartbeat will calm the baby down and create, soothing environment.
- Feed your baby on demand. Obviously, during the pregnancy, your baby never experienced hunger or thirst. So, watching for hunger cues and feeding when your baby asks will provide her with the comfort she needs.
- Swaddle your baby to sleep to mimic a snug and secure environment (just like in the womb).
- Use a white noise machine or app to recreate the sounds coming from your body (heartbeat, sound of breathing, gurgling belly). It is a good idea to use to same noise each night to introduce a sleep cue.
What Can My Baby Understand And Feel In The Womb?
4. My Baby Is Hungry
Hunger is a common reason why babies will not sleep. Newborn babies have a small stomach that does not hold too much food at a time and digests it quickly. Hence, she needs feeding very often. Even every 1-2 hours (depending on your little one).
So, make sure you are watching for early warnings of hunger before the baby gets upset and starts crying. If she eats well, it should be much easier to put them to bed. To help this process, you could do more frequent feedings before bedtime or to top her up using dream feed.
Also, do not forget burping after the feed!
5. My Baby Is Too Hot/Cold
They say that it is better if your baby is too cold than too hot. And this is the truth. Overheating your baby may have some serious consequences and potentially increase the risk of infant sleep death (SIDS).
Critical places where you can check the temperature are mainly in the neck and back (not on their hands or feet – these are usually much cooler). If they are wet and hot, your baby is too warm.
So, make sure you use adequate clothing to the temperature, so your baby is comfortable during sleep.
6. My Baby Is Uncomfortable
Baby spends a lot of time lying down in her crib or bassinet. Therefore, it is worth making sure that the place to sleep is as comfortable as possible. An infant mattress should not be too soft so that the spine can be well supported. It should also be, and perhaps above all, simple and neatly arranged in a crib.
Too tight or too large and folding sleepsuits don’t help a restful sleep either. The baby wakes up because he feels discomfort – which is understandable. A sleepsuit should be perfectly fitted for a newborn and without too many buttons or zippers.
7. My Baby Cannot Distinguish Between Day And Night
Do you remember these kicks and movements that occurred in the evening or at night? For a baby, there is no difference between day and night. Therefore, it is a good idea to introduce your little one to the cues that indicate the difference between day and night.
At night, when your baby wakes up and needs feeding, do not turn on the overhead light or make noise. Teach your child slowly that the night is for sleeping, and the day is a time of activity.
During the daytime, let the natural daylight in by keeping the curtain open and don’t worry about keeping the noise down during nap time.
8. My Baby Needs A Consistent Bedtime Routine
During the first weeks after the birth, try to listen to your baby needs and follow her routine. That is an adjustment time for both you and your baby. And you need to take the time to bond and get attached.
Gradually introduce a steady rhythm of the day. It is worth setting fixed times for the most significant elements of the baby’s day, such as playing, bathing, storytime, feeding and sleeping. Your baby needs consistency, stability, predictability and a good routine that will help meet these needs!
Above all, make sure you put your baby to bed when she is still awake. That will help her fall asleep on her own instead of snoozing on your chest.
9. My Baby Has A Health Issue
Unfortunately, it also happens that the infant does not want to sleep at night due to illness. (Although it happens, that much more often a baby is disturbed by external factors in her sleep, rather than a health issue.)
The most common illness that your baby may experience are colic, cold, fever, allergies (such as lactose intolerance), infection, acid reflux, nappy rash, cradle cap, constipation or have trapped gas (not sure if trapped gas or constipation are medical conditions, though).
It is worth knowing how to bring your baby comfort when she experiences any of the above. I will be covering these in detail in the future post.
Remember to always trust your intuition and call your doctor for advice right away if you are worried about any medical issue.
Check out my related post ===> How Can I Help My Baby with Acid Reflux?
and ====> Why Do Babies Get Cradle Cap?
The vast majority of parents, just like you, dream of even one night of undisturbed s sleep. You probably miss the times when you could even watch a movie in the evening.
On the other hand, it is a unique and precious time with your newborn child. There is probably no better proof of love and affection than this moment when the child cuddles up to you, relaxes and drifts off to blissful sleep.
I hope that my post helped you understand the reasons why your little bundle of joy has some trouble sleeping. The good news is – it will get easier!
As your baby grows and you get to know her better, you will understand what is wrong, what she needs, how can you help her fall asleep effectively.
I would love to hear your feedback. Please feel free to leave the comment below the post.