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Why Won't My Baby Sleep?

Updated: May 30, 2023

As parents, there is nothing harder than your little one being unsettled and not sleeping, it's so exhausting. We asked our Sleep Expert Richelle Franklin from Sleep Right Tonight about the common reasons why babies don't sleep and what strategies you can put into play if your little one refuses to sleep.

Common reasons why babies don't sleep

When our babies don't sleep well, we tend to look for an explanation. We think it might be teething or gas. We worry that she's too small and she needs to eat at night, or he's too big and he needs to eat more, or he won't feel full. The list goes on and on.

Are any of these explanations the real truth? Sometimes. But barring those times when your child has a burning fever or a new tooth coming in, the real reason most babies won't sleep or stay asleep is that they just haven't learnt how.

We all have strategies that help us make the journey into sleep each night. We have bedtime routines that we tend to do without really thinking about it, and we do these things because they help us transition from the busyness of our day to restful sleep.

Sleep strategies for babies

Most of us have a favourite position on the bed that we turn to when we feel sleep about to come. Some of us need a glass of water beside the bed, some need white noise or music, and others can't sleep without the window open. Some need a cup of herbal tea, and some must read for ten minutes. Whatever the differences might be, these are all sleep strategies, and without them, we'd have trouble drifting off.

The same goes for babies. Many parents who haven't developed a sleeping strategy for their babies will complain that their child can only fall asleep with the bottle, or while breastfeeding, or while being rocked or patted.

While this might be true, the trouble is, by offering these props, parents are creating a situation where their babies are dependent on something external to help them sleep. And that is why they don't sleep well.

Night waking is very common in babies who have not learned to sleep properly and are relying on a prop. When they wake up, and the prop isn't there to put them back to sleep, they have to wake up fully and cry in order to be soothed back to sleep. It's not personal, Mum and Dad, they haven't made it their personal mission to wake you up ten times a night. They just have no idea how to go to sleep without your help.

Of course, daytime sleep also affects nighttime sleep. So it's really important to establish a good, age-appropriate routine that allows your child to consolidate sleep and build good habits.

There are lots of ways to give your child the tools she needs to be able to sleep independently, even from a very young age. Babies are capable of sleeping through the night, and learning those skills at a young age will help make bedtimes and nighttimes relatively hassle-free. This is where sleep training and support can be invaluable.

Tips for establishing good sleep habits

  • Watch the waking hours (overtired babies are harder to settle)

  • Try making your Childs room as dark as possible

  • Be Predictable (babies thrive on a routine)

  • Feed after naps, not before (so they learn to fall asleep independently)

  • Same place, same time (put your child to sleep at the same time in the same place each day for their longest nap of the day)

  • Try the 1,2,3 system (If your child wakes up during the night or during a nap and starts crying or fussing, try and wait a specific time before checking on them and try to extend each day slightly, allowing your little one time to go back to sleep independently)

  • Take 5 (make sure the 5 mins before putting your little one to bed is very calm and relaxing

A well-rested child is a happier, healthier child. And a well-rested parent is healthier and happier too!

To learn more about Richelle's sleep strategies for your little secure your spot at our Free Starting Solids and Infant Sleep Masterclass. Richelle Franklin is Parents You've Got This Sleep Expert and runs Sleep Right Tonight Sleep consultancy.

Baby having trouble sleeping


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