Is it about 3 am? And you are up with the baby… AGAIN? Or even worse, STILL? Girl, I get it. This mom stuff is hard. My daughter used to wake up 5+ times each night. And when she did wake up, it was always at least an hour before she went back to sleep. Then there were nights where after that hour she would only sleep for 20 minutes… yeah, I thought I was going to die. I tried A TON of different things. Some worked, and some didn’t. I am not going to leave you to suffer for months like I did. I’ve got some AMAZING tips and products for you to try when your baby won’t sleep.
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What To Do When Your Baby Won’t Sleep
- Halo Sleep Sack– I use this for my kids before they are rolling. It makes them feel safe and stay warm.
- Zipadee-Zip– Once baby starts to roll, into this amazing thing they go! It lets them use their arms and legs but still feel contained and comfortable in a crib that may still feel too big and open.
- Outlet night lights– They allow you to see but keep the room dark for baby. Perfect balance to pull off changing a night poop!
- Crib Wedge– Great to help baby be more comfortable, especially if they have a cold or suffer from reflux issues.
- Bedtime Books- How To Tuck In Your Sleepy Lion, B, is for Bedtime, Slide and See Nighttime, Goodnight Moon, The Going To Bed Book, The Moon Sees You & Me
13 Things To Try when your Baby Won’t Sleep
Your baby spent 40 weeks warm, wrapped up, and safe. The world is big and cold in comparison. So swaddling helps them to feel safe so they can sleep. I like this Halo Sleep Sack a lot.
It is important to note that your baby will have trouble with their arms being loose so you may see them have a falling reaction randomly in their crib. That is totally normal. It can be avoided by swaddling with their arms in. BUT, if your baby can roll over, DO NOT swaddle with their arms in. It becomes a suffocation risk. Once that happens you can either swaddle with the arms out or you can get this AMAZING product called a Zipadee-Zip.
My daughter started rolling over by the time she was 1 month old, so she was in a Zipadee-Zip from then until about 6 months old. It was a life saver for us and it is now on my must-have list for baby products!
2. Recognize the signs of sleepiness
Every baby will have their own tells that they are tired. For my son, you see it on his face. Even if he is running around laughing you can look at his eyes and tell he is tired. He also screams about absolutely everything and nothing. Kind of like a very loud version of crankiness.
My daughter was a little bit trickier. Since the moment she became vocal (around 3 months I believe) she has been squeaky. I remember a day when I was sitting on the floor at the library with her on my lap while her brother played and she was excited watching all the other kids. So she started screeching. It was a happy screech, but a screech nonetheless. In the MIDDLE of the LIBRARY. Yup.
So learning the difference between her screech and her screaming/crying/crankiness was a little more difficult. And if she has gotten to the screaming and crying point, she is usually too far gone to calm down. Turns out her top tell is that she starts to grab her hair. Nothing else. She just grabs the hair on the back of her head.
Take the time to really pay attention to your baby’s behavior and learn the signs they give that they are tired. And remember, a newborn will only be awake for 45-60 minutes at a time. And that is TOTALLY fine. A sleep schedule will begin to come together somewhere between 4 and 6 months when you are able to move to 2/3 naps per day.
3. Have quiet time BEFORE your bedtime routine
This will make sure that your baby isn’t over stimulated. Often times you won’t even realize it but the reason your baby won’t sleep is because they can’t stop their senses.
Turn off the TV and music, turn the lights down low, and speak more quietly. If you have older children, take the baby into a different room or area of the house during this time. It only takes 10-15 minutes. But it will make a big impact. You can read or play quietly with baby now, and then transition into your bedtime routine smoothly.
4. Have a bedtime routine
Just to clarify, “bedtime” means any time baby is going to sleep. Naps count. You want to give your baby consistency in their bedtime routine.
This will teach your baby cues that sleep is coming. So they will learn to calm themself down and prepare for sleep. But if you don’t do it every time, they won’t understand what happened.
The routine doesn’t have to be anything crazy. For my kids, they drink their milk in the living room after dinner. Then they get into pjs. At bedtime we say goodnight, walk back to their rooms, and they are laid down. They each have a blanket, night light, and sound machine set to a specific sound.
It is very simple. And they respond well to it. At one point, I tried to read a book before putting them in bed but neither one wanted it. Tobias used to actually cry because I hadn’t put him in bed yet. So I ditched the book and we read at other times. Sometimes we read before or while they drink their milk.
Do what works for you and to get your baby to sleep.
5. Crib Wedge
Sometimes your baby won’t sleep because they are uncomfortable. It is possible that your baby has some reflux you don’t know about. Getting a Crib Wedge to keep baby at a slight incline could really help significantly.
Tons of people swear by this method. You can also roll up a towel and put it under the mattress to achieve the same effect.
6. Be sure to burp
When your baby wakes up to eat overnight, it can be tempting to allow them to fall asleep eating and then lay them down and sneak out. Trust me, I get it.
But you don’t want to skip burping. It could be why your baby won’t sleep! If they are uncomfortable, they could end up spitting up, getting sick, or having reflux. All of which will cause baby to wake up. You don’t want that!
7. Don’t overstimulate
I know I already mentioned this with quiet time before bed. BUT there’s more.
When your baby is awake and playing, you don’t want to have too much going on with baby right in the center. It can be overwhelming. Even 30 minutes later, your baby won’t sleep because they just have too much going on.
If you other kids, let them play and be kids! Just keep baby slightly outside of the chaos to avoid over stimulation.
8. Make sure baby is comfortable
I know that sometimes I get so busy trying to solve a problem, that I forget to check the basics. This is one of those basics.
Make sure baby isn’t too hot or too cold! In the house we lived in when Tobias was born, his room did not have a heating vent. We didn’t realize it until it started to get cold and that room wouldn’t heat up. So we had to get a small space heater and dress him in a little lighter clothing. The room was pretty much the size of a double bed plus a door being able to open, so the $10 heater did more than necessary to heat it up. HA!
Check to see if baby won’ sleep because they are sweaty, or cold. And adjust their clothes accordingly.
9. Lay baby down sleepy NOT sleeping
In order for your baby to learn to self-soothe and sleep through the night, they need to learn to fall asleep after you have set them down.
I have heard it recommended that you don’t have feeding be the last thing you do before you put them down. Both my kids get VERY unhappy if I do that. So I have always just set them up straight for a moment, made sure to burp them, and then lay them down. It has worked to have them just awake enough to be aware, but not enough to cry and watch me leave.
10. Keep lights OFF overnight
When your baby wakes up overnight, don’t go in and turn the lights on. It will confuse them and make them think they should be awake. Instead, allow your eyes to adjust to the dark and only do what you need to in order to get baby back to bed.
If you live in a city or suburban town, you may not even realize that you have light coming in the house anyway. But I live in a rural area where we can’t even see a streetlight from our property. So with no lights on, it is DARK. Funny story, the power went out a few weeks ago at about 6 at night. I literally thought I forget to open my eyes after I blinked… yeah. That’s how dark it is LOL.
So I use these Outlet night lights so I can see enough to move around, change a diaper, nurse, whatever I need to do, but they don’t keep the baby up at all. Since they are plugged into an outlet, they are low to the floor and a pretty soft glow. So they don’t cause any issues with night/day confusion!
11. Set the scene
There are a few things you want to do to encourage good sleep for your baby. If your baby won’t sleep, make sure you have all of these things in place.
Blackout curtains to keep any headlights or street lights out. We have these throughout our house and love them.
Sound Machine to help baby stay asleep even if there is another noise in the house. It also helps my daughter go back to sleep when she wakes up.
12. Keep the space for sleep only
Avoid using the place your baby sleeps (crib, bassinet, whatever it is) for anything other than sleep. It should be a place that they recognize as a place for sleep time.
No timeouts or play time should happen there. This will keep them from being confused about what is going on when you put them down there.
If your baby won’t sleep, you will want to think about what you are doing not only in their crib or bed, but also in their room. And reevaluate if you need to make some changes to the use of their room to encourage sleep.
13. Sing or hum quietly
Sometimes your baby won’t sleep simply because they need you. This can be hard to accept in the middle of the night when you are up for the 5th time, but if you just give your presence your baby will feel better.
When you were pregnant, your voice was always with your baby. So humming or quietly singing a little can soothe them quickly and significantly. Despite quite and minimal interaction in an effort not to wake baby up, sometimes this is what your baby needs. It should just be like background noise. But it will give your baby what they want and hopefully calm them down!
Your “baby won’t sleep” phase will end
I know that being sleep deprived the way you are when your baby wakes up multiple times a night or is awake for hours on end overnight is hard to describe. With Temperance, I had nights when I slept an hour or less and it was broken up because she was awake 2-3 times each night for 2-3 hours each time.
I get the struggle. I PROMISE I do.
But it will pass. It is only a season. As I type this, I have 2 kids that are sleeping through the night. And, one day, you will too.
So take the tips and product recommendations I’ve given you, and try everything out. You may be surprised at what works for you!
Don’t forget to visit the Resource Library for your FREE printable worksheet to design the perfect bedtime routine for your baby!
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