If you’re a parent with a newborn, you know that the first few months can be difficult. Getting your baby to sleep is one of the most frustrating parts of parenting, and trying to figure out why he/she keeps fighting sleep can be even more confusing. Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.
Why Does My Baby Fight Sleep?
A few tears at bedtime are the standard operating procedure for most babies. Many babies can’t get to sleep without crying first. But if the fuss goes on and on, even after you’ve ruled out hunger, a wet or dirty diaper and illness, consider these other factors:
It may sound a little crazy, but not getting enough Zzzs can lead to a baby who’s so wiped out she’s wired and has trouble settling down at night.
Sleep begets sleep. And missed sleep begets more missed sleep! When babies are overtired, it’s harder for them to fall asleep. How to tell if your baby is overtired?
Signs to look for: ear tugging, yawning, looking away, and eye rubbing.
If your baby is doing any of these—or if you have a hard time consoling him or her—overtiredness may be the issue.
If your baby has become overtired, you can try the following:
- Swaddling (once they show signs of learning to roll over, you need to move away from swaddling)
- Holding and rocking your baby can help them calm enough to sleep
- Making sure the room is dark can also help them give into sleep.
- Playing white noise is another good way to help your little drift off.
To avoid getting overtired in the future, try:
- Watch for their minor signs of sleepiness, and act on them promptly to take your baby out of the stimulating environment and put them down to sleep. Signs to look out for include: red eyes, glazed expression, yawning, hiccups/sneezing, blueness around the mouth (in newborns), rubbing eyes, turning away from stimulation.
- Try bringing their bedtime a bit earlier, and make sure they have a 30-minute wind-down period (not in a room where the TV is on) before bedtime.
- Keep it calm, focused and short (around 30 minutes – not longer than 45 minutes as they might get over-tired).
- Please do the same thing every night, so they know what to expect.
You’ve probably heard a million times to avoid screens for an hour before bed to fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. The same is true for your little one, but it goes beyond screens.
Noisy toys, loud music, or exciting play can leave them feeling overwhelmed and unable to calm down for sleep.
A bright, busy household, screens, beeping toys or a crying jag can be too much to handle, resulting in overstimulation and the urge to fight sleep.
Try to avoid stimulating activities at least an hour before the baby’s bedtime.
Just as you might find it hard to hit the hay immediately after returning home from work, some babies have a hard time settling down after lots of stimulation.
Overstimulation is caused by too much noise, too much light, or too much touch, among other things. If your house is often full of visitors and action, consider whether your baby is fighting sleep due to overstimulation.
This setback in your baby’s regular nighttime routine can crop up throughout the first year, including at four months, six months, between 8 and 10 months and once more at 12 months.
Most infants start to cut teeth around six months (though it can happen earlier or later), and teething pain can cause a baby to wail and fight sleep.
When new teeth break through the gums, some babies barely seem to notice. But for others, teething is painful!
Feeling discomfort due to teething is a common reason babies cry and fight sleep. If your baby is around six months old and you’ve noticed increased drooling or food refusal, teething could be what’s keeping him or her awake.
Hitting a Milestone.
Babbling, rolling, sitting up, crawling and walking are all significant developmental milestones that some infants like to practice at night.
A vacation means a different crib or a shift in the usual bedtime schedule, prompting a baby to fight sleep.
Baby Drop a Nap.
Around 12 to 15 months, babies start to skip their morning nap, so if yours isn’t keen to be put down, it could signal she’s a one-nap tot from now on.
Has your little one been like a shadow, always wanting to be held and never more than a few steps away all day? They’re likely feeling some separation anxiety, which can show up at bedtime as well.
After nine months of being nestled snug in mom’s womb, being alone in a big world can be scary for a baby!
But actual separation anxiety begins around 8-10 months of age. This is when babies start to realise they want to be with you all the time. If your little one had been sleeping well and suddenly they’re fighting sleep, this might be why.
This is a developmental phase they go through, and you can’t change it. But if your baby has slept well until now, continue with your bedtime routine as usual and remind yourself it’s just a phase that will pass like all the others.
Go and comfort him if he needs it, as a baby will feel secure if their needs are met. But try not to create a long-term sleep problem in the process!
So try not to pick him up, but pat him gently and kiss him goodnight before retreating. You might have to do this several times. Keep it quiet and calm; no lights on.
Newborn babies and infants need to eat frequently. This means you may be up around the clock feeding your baby for the first few months.
This is normal and expected. If your baby is sucking on his fist, rooting, or licking his lips, he or she might be fighting sleep because of hunger.
Be sure you know your baby’s hunger cues so you can rule hunger out.
As babies age, they need less sleep overall.
Newborns sleep 16-17 hours a day, whereas babies between four months and one year need just 12-15 hours.
If your older baby (or toddler) cries and protests when you try to put him or her down to sleep, consider whether they’ve already slept more than they need to.
Look at tweaking your daytime schedule a bit: increase face to face playtimes with your baby, get outside a bit more, and perhaps cut out one of the naps – especially if they’re not yet mobile.
Try to stop them napping after 4 pm, or at least keep it short. You could also try making their bedtime slightly later.
You can figure out why your baby is fighting sleep through the process of elimination. For example, if you’ve fed your baby, but the crying continues, you can likely eliminate hunger. Check out our range of baby nursery products and furniture for all your baby needs.
Infants start to develop their circadian rhythms, the 24-hour cycle that regulates our bodies, at around six weeks old.
These circadian rhythms mature enough to establish a proper sleep schedule around 3 to 6 months old. And, of course, every baby is different, so some may not set an actual sleep schedule until after that.
Sometimes discomfort from an illness can affect your baby’s sleep. Keep an eye out for other symptoms of diseases like ear infections or colds.
Sleep Problems Vs. Formal Sleep Disorders
Pediatric sleep problems like the ones named above are typical. According to a study, one in two children has difficulty sleeping.
Formal sleep disorders—like infant sleep apnea or bradycardia—are less common. If you suspect a medical issue might be to blame for your baby’s poor sleep habits, talk to your pediatrician as soon as possible.
Medicine or other interventions may be needed.
How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need?
To figure out how much sleep your baby needs to be healthy and happy, start by understanding baby sleep needs by age group. Once you know how much sleep your baby needs, use a sleep diary to track your baby’s sleep.
Even if your baby is getting the minimum required hours of sleep, they might still have a sleep problem.
Newborns and infants three months old or younger sleep in one or two hour stretches. But older babies generally shouldn’t be waking up so often.
For reference, two-thirds of babies sleep through the night (six to eight hours) regularly when they’re six months old.
What Can You Do When Your Baby Fights Sleep?
The steps you take depend, in part, on the reasons for your baby fighting sleep, but the following tips help create a positive sleep environment, no matter what your challenges.
Learn Your Baby’s Sleep Cues.
Watch closely for signs that your baby is tired and put them to bed within minutes of symptoms like eye rubbing, yawning, avoiding eye contact, fussing, or losing interest in play.
Keep in mind that some waking periods may be as short as 30 to 45 minutes for young infants.
Establish and Keep a Soothing Bedtime Ritual.
Taking a bath, reading books, cuddling in a favourite chair — these are all ways to help ease a child to sleep. Be consistent and do the same things in the same order around the same time each night.
Establish Day-Night Behaviors
Play and interact with your baby during the day, expose them to lots of sunlight in the morning and afternoon, and be less active and more sedate before bedtime. Also, eliminate rough physical play, loud noises, and screens at least an hour before bed.
Create a Nap and Sleep Schedule Based on Your Baby and Your Lifestyle.
Consider their overall sleep needs and ensure that they’re given a chance to get plenty of day and night sleep.
Ensure your baby is getting enough feed within 24 hours. Newborns will typically feed on demand every 2 to 3 hours. As your baby grows, the time between feedings will increase.
Make Sure Baby’s Space Is Conducive to Sleep.
Use blackout curtains, white noise, or other elements to encourage a restful environment.
Try to respond to your baby’s sleep challenges with patience and calm. They feed off of your emotions, so staying relaxed can help them to calm down as well.
Consistency is vital when it comes to getting your newborn to stop fighting sleep. Your best bet is to stick to your plan, and the tuck-in should become easier over time. Here’s how:
Memorise Drowsy Signs.
An overtired baby is too worked up to sleep, so strive to spot the signs that she’s tired, such as yawning, ear pulling, eye rubbing, thumb sucking and fussing.
Keep Things Low-Key.
Overstimulation can be caused by too many people around, bright lights or a noisy environment. Do what you can to remove your baby from the din.
You go away, but you always return. Teach this by leaving the room for a few seconds at a time, and your tot will get better at being away from you.
Get to Know Your Baby’s “wake Windows.”
Get to know the amount of time your baby can handle being awake at a stretch, which varies by age. A 1-month-old, for instance, can be awake for about an hour at a time, and a 3-month-old for up to two hours.
Make Daytime for Playtime.
Give your sweetie lots of practice with her newly minted milestones (sitting up, crawling) so she nixes these night urges and stops fighting sleep.
Take the Routine on the Road.
Bath, bottle, cuddle, bed! Babies with a solid bedtime routine will cry less and sleep more, so stay the course even when you’re travelling.
Change Her Bedtime.
A giant baby needs a little less shut-eye, so be ready to push your little one’s bedtime back a bit as she ages.
Plan a Longer Afternoon Nap.
If your babe seems to be dropping her morning nap, consider moving lunch up a bit and putting her down for a long afternoon snooze.
Sleep Tips for Babies Who Fight Sleep
If your baby fights sleep, here are some tips to get the baby (and you!) sleeping through the night.
Be There for the Baby—but Set Some Boundaries.
You might be considering a cry-it-out sleep training approach, but if separation anxiety is the issue, this could do more harm than good.
Speak to your health care provider to understand all your options—then choose one that feels right for you and your family, whether it’s cosleeping, letting sleep evolve naturally, or doing some form of sleep learning.
Set a Bedtime and Stick to It.
Stick to a Nap Schedule Too.
If your baby is used to nap whenever and wherever he felt like it, schedule nap time.
Shut Off the Electronics Two Hours Before Bed.
If you live in a house where the television, stereo, or computer is always on, electronics could be disrupting your baby’s sleep.
This is the most important tip of all. Remain consistent in your sleep training. Whatever form of sleep learning you’ve decided to pursue, try to stick with it.
Coping with a crying baby that fights sleep is exhausting and frustrating. That’s why it’s essential to take time for self-care. Here are some easy fixes to help you cope:
- Sleep when the baby sleeps: A messy house can wait. If your baby naps and you’re exhausted, take the opportunity to squeeze in some shut-eye. Your body will thank you!
- Treat yourself to some cute and comfy loungewear: When you’re a mom, you spend lots of time at home. Treat yourself to an attractive and comfy nursing T-shirt and joggers.
- Ask for help: If you have a friend or family member you trust, ask them to watch the baby so that you can get a break. Remember, it takes a village. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Of course, if you’ve exhausted all your options (pun intended!), and they don’t seem to be working, talk to your doctor.
Watching your baby fight sleep can be very frustrating. But most of the time, they respond to one of the interventions above. The time you spend helping your baby sleep is an investment in their growth, development, and happiness. We have the best range of baby nursery blankets to keep your baby just right day and night.
Keep in mind that fighting sleep is likely due to a predictable phase. Once you’ve identified the issue, you can help her through it and then ease her back to the rest you’re both cravings.