“Why won’t my baby sleep” … This has to be the top googled thing by Mamas at 3am. The days are long and the nights feel even longer and I want you to know that I see you Mama! I see you sitting in your feeding chair rocking and willing your little one sleep. I see you walking at the mall like a zombie with coffee in hand. I see you with that baby strapped in the carrier for the fourth hour today. I see you popping that soother in her mouth for the 18th time since 4am. Mama this gig is hard and sleep deprivation makes it even more challenging so to help I have written my top three reasons why your baby won’t sleep!
This is such an important aspect of sleep for your little one, especially as your baby gets passed that 3 month mark. You may notice that at this age your child’s awareness begins to explode and they are seeing things they have never seen before and are much more aware of where they are going to sleep. A dark room is going to be beneficial for linking nap cycles and help to avoid the dreaded early rising! Melatonin (our sleepy hormone) can be disrupted by sunlight or blue lights, from screens, and if we drop melatonin levels your child is less likely to fall asleep or stay asleep. You are literally fighting against biology so black out that bedroom. Use garbage bags, cardboard, tinfoil or whatever you need to block out sunlight! A white noise machine that plays all night long and for all naps can also be hugely beneficial for your little ones sleep. Babies will naturally wake if they hear a noise and with our goal being less wake ups, this can be so helpful.
Did you know that a child who is overtired will struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep? It is important to find the awake window that works best for your baby. If it’s too long and your baby is overtired, their body will be in a wired state. This means their body is producing fight-or-flight hormones and telling them to stay awake longer and even possibly get giddy or hyper. This makes it very challenging to fall asleep when they are in this wired state. So NO, keeping your baby up all day will not help them sleep come bedtime, this will backfire. A baby who hasn’t had enough awake time will also struggle to sleep, simply put, they are not tired! Another important aspect of bedtime has to do with a good morning! Sleeping in until 9 or 10am and then trying to do a bedtime of 7pm will not work very well. Most babies NEED 12-13 hours of daytime in order to produce melatonin and fall asleep at bedtime- a too early bedtime may be to blame!
3. Sleep Props
This is anything your baby needs in order to fall asleep. Soother, nursing, bottle, rocking, etc. If these work for you and your family that is great. If you’re wondering why your baby is waking frequently or struggling to fall asleep, it may be the sleep prop. Typically, babies will sleep well for the first 3-4 hours. After that they wake to feed and an continue to wake every 2 hours until 3 or 4 am. They’re likely to be up every hour after that until morning. This is a very typical sleep prop association problem. This has to do with sleep cycles, meaning they come to light awakenings every hour throughout the night. If a sleep prop is used while your baby falls asleep, it will need to be replaced when your baby wakes. It’s very typical for these awakenings to occur more frequently as you enter the 2nd half of the evening and early morning as our babies sleep cycles aren’t as deep.
So there you have it- my top 3 reasons your baby isn’t sleeping, sleep environment, bed timing and sleep props. It is so easy to point these things out. Maybe you already know that these things may be the problem. It’s really hard to make a change. It is often really overwhelming to tackle these challenges on our own. If you are looking for some support in this process please reach out, we are always happy to help.