Why Your Baby Is Not Sleeping: Common Problems and Solutions

baby not sleepingBeing a new parent is exhausting. The days (and nights) are jam packed with unexpected challenges as well as time-consuming, monotonous tasks. Dealing with a baby who is struggling to sleep can take a toll on the spirit of an already exhausted parent. If this sounds like you, take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone. According to Psychology Today, “Infant sleep problems represent some of the most common concerns reported by parents of young children.” Trying to achieve a successful sleep schedule for your baby and family can be a mentally trying and exhausting task. For five simple steps to calm your baby’s crying and increase sleep, check out this course taught by Dr. Harvey Karp.

Despite what many think, there are no typical sleeping patterns for newborns. This is why babies might fall asleep for a few minutes here and there or nap for a couple of hours at a time. Quite simply, the part of the brain that controls sleep needs some time to develop. When babies are around six weeks old, many show small signs of organizing their sleep and may even slumber for consecutive periods of four or more hours. However, sleep is still something that many babies and parents struggle with on a daily basis. By reading about the common reasons baby is not sleeping, I hope you find a solution or strategy that works for both you and your unique bundle of joy.

 Common Reasons Baby is not Sleeping

  • Day/Night Reversals

After coming home from the hospital, some babies experience day/night reversals. This can be particularly frustrating and tiring for new parents and can often leave them feeling helpless. However, baby’s schedule can be reversed with a few strategies. During the day, expose your baby to bright sunlight. Move your baby to a busy part of the house where they can experience much stimulation and activity. If baby is napping, wake her for regular feedings every few hours. In the evening, focus on keeping things as calm and quiet as possible. In time, your baby should adapt to these patterns and distinguish daytime from night.

  • Baby is Overstimulated or Simply Not Tired

Babies need time to wind down and transition toward a sleepy state. It is difficult to find that sweet spot where baby is ready for bed, yet not overly tired (which could result in crying and excessive fussiness). Establishing and adhering to a bedtime routine will not only  help babies ease into sleep but will continue to be a valuable strategy as your child grows. Many parents like to implement the 3-Bs: bath, books, and bed. It is important to create a routine that not only works for your baby, but is somewhat enjoyable for you as well. Following a consistent and calming bedtime routine will encourage babies to settle down and mentally prepare to sleep. You also might want to incorporate music or massage into your routine.  A nightly massage before bedtime will help baby to relax and wind down. Luckily, Udemy offers a course on baby massage taught by a licensed massage therapist.

  • Baby is Uncomfortable

Babies will be more likely to fall and stay asleep if they are comfortable. Your baby may be unable to sleep because she is too hot, too cold, simply unhappy with the amount of noise, or irritated by her clothing. A wet diaper is also a common culprit of discomfort. To help baby sleep, ensure that she is as comfortable as possible. Many babies enjoy the sensation being swaddled. Swaddling makes a baby feel safe and protected thus encouraging restful sleep. The temperature of the room and sheets should be welcoming to your baby. Security objects such as a blanket, stuffed animal, or pacifier will help to comfort baby and put her at ease if needed. To ensure a safe sleeping environment, be sure to remove a stuffed animal or special blanket from the crib or bassinet after baby is sleeping.

For some babies, sounds or music will help them to fall and stay asleep. There are even sound machines that mimic the sounds that baby was used to hearing while in the womb. Soothing ocean sounds or simply the humming of an overhead fan often help babies to fall asleep. On the other hand, some newborns prefer a silent atmosphere. Making sure things are as quiet as possible will help these babies to get a better sleep. The important thing is to learn your baby’s preferences and be extra sensitive to stimuli that may be causing discomfort or distress.

  • Baby is Experiencing Pain

Oftentimes, pain from teething or gas will wake babies or prevent them from falling asleep. If you suspect teething pain, (some signs other than waking are excess drooling, gnawing, or refusal to eat) applying counter pressure to the gums or providing a teething toy may help ease her pain. Ask your doctor about numbing agents that are specifically made for babies who are teething or about using a pain reliever.

If you believe gas is the culprit, remedies such as gripe water or gas drops could prove helpful. Be sure to consult your doctor before trying any of these products. Also, gently moving babies legs in a bicycle type pattern may help to alleviate gas. Being sure to burp regularly during feedings and if bottle feeding, be sure you are using a nipple with an appropriate flow. Baby might be eating too fast if milk or formula is being released too quickly from the bottle.

Talk to your doctor if you suspect an underlying medical problem. One of the most common causes of night waking is gastroesophageal reflux or GER. This is caused by muscular weakness in the stomach which results in stomach acids being regurgitated in baby’s esophagus. Suddenly waking due to distress, frequent spitting up, abdominal pain, or wheezing after feeding are signs of GER. Other stomach issues may be a result of formula or dairy allergies. If baby often seems to be waking as a result of sudden pain or seems to be in great distress, consult your pediatrician.

Sleep Methods

There are two basic methods of sleep plans when babies soothe to go to sleep or return to sleep. Some experts have developed their own specific structures to follow which some parents swear by. Also, many parents adopt tips or strategies from different places to develop a system or strategy that works best for their baby and family as a whole.

  • Self-Soothing

Baby is put to bed while still awake. Parents can offer intermittent comforting, but are not there when baby drifts to sleep. If baby learns to go to sleep by herself, she may be able to put herself back to sleep without parental help. This may be temporarily tough for baby and parents, but may lead to an easier bedtime.

  • Parent-Soothing

When a baby is ready to sleep, a parent makes baby comfortable by nursing rocking, singing, or other comforting methods until baby is asleep. Baby learns a healthy sleep attitude and builds parent/infant trust. However, baby learns to rely on an outside force to get to sleep and when she awakens will need more soothing.  To learn how to coach your baby to sleep with gentle sleep solutions, explore this course offered by Udemy.


You want your baby to develop a healthy and positive attitude when it comes to sleep. There are many new concerns and challenges when it comes to parenting. Experimenting with different techniques to see what works best for your family and arming yourself with knowledge will help ease anxiety and discover what works for you and your baby. For even more tips on caring for your newborn, check out this course.  Hopefully, before long, you too will be getting a healthy dose of sleep.