There are many reasons why your baby won’t sleep. Baby sleep can be very tricky. Learn some of the top culprits for why your baby isn’t sleeping and how to fix it!

reasons why baby won't sleep

If you’re up late at night (or in the early hours of the morning) Googling answers on “why won’t my baby sleep?” I feel your pain.

Newborn sleep can be challenging and frustrating and leave exhausted parents feeling desperate and helpless.

But as difficult as getting a baby to sleep can be, newborns really need and desire sleep. In fact, babies need between 14 to 18 hours of sleep in those first few weeks of life. They spend more time sleeping in the beginning, than they do being awake!

If your baby won’t sleep and you have no clue what to do, I hope these tips can help!

Ten Reasons Your Baby Won’t Sleep

In my experience working with families, there’s typically a reason why your baby won’t sleep. And it usually comes down to one of these reasons.

1. Baby is Overtired

It may sound counter intuitive but an overtired baby won’t go to sleep and once they do fall asleep, they may have a harder time staying asleep.

Short naps can be caused by too much wake time as well.

For babies, sleep begets sleep! Often, an overtired baby becomes energized and overstimulated and will have a difficult time settling down.

If you’re wondering how to get an overtired baby to sleep, you need to break the cycle of being overtired by watching their wake windows and getting them down within that time frame.

2. Their Nursery isn’t Conducive for Sleeping

Your baby is used to the womb, which was dark and loud. It’s not very comfortable for them to be in a bright and quiet room.

You don’t need a bunch of fancy sleep products to create a great sleeping environment.

Just a few nursery must haves that will help set the stage for sleep such as a white noise sound machine, blackout curtains, and a safe sleeping space.

People ask me their baby should sleep in a DockATot and the answer is no! Make sure to follow the abcs of safe sleep no matter how your nursery is set up.

3. They Aren’t Swaddled Properly

If your newborn won’t go to sleep unless held, swaddling can help. There are pros and cons to swaddling baby but I think the pros are worth it!

Swaddling also helps recreate the cozy environment of the womb that your baby is used to and helps newborns from waking themselves up from the Startle Reflex.

I’ve heard many parents say they don’t swaddle their baby, either because they don’t know the benefits of it, or they think their baby hates the swaddle.

If your baby doesn’t like traditional swaddles, you can try a swaddle transition, which allows more movement for baby while keeping a cozy environment.

4. They Didn’t Get Enough Sleep During the Day

Did you know sleep begets sleep? One of the biggest mistakes I see new parents make is thinking that if they keep their baby up for long stretches during the day, then they’ll sleep longer at night.

But that’s a big myth and usually the opposite happens. When a baby naps well during the day, they typically sleep better at night as well.

Pay attention to your baby’s wake times and make sure they are getting the naps the need.

5. They need the Breast or Bottle to Go Back to Sleep

Feeding to sleep is one of the hardest habits to break. If your baby is used to needing the breast or bottle to fall asleep, then they will come to need that each and every time they wake up in the middle of the night (which can be a lot of times!).

Learn how to stop nursing baby to sleep and try following an eat, play, sleep routine or EASY baby schedule to keep your baby from needing help going back to sleep each time.

6. No Routines Have Been Established

Establishing a bedtime and nap time routine helps your baby know that sleep is coming. You can do the same bedtime activities each night to establish a routine, so your baby knows what’s coming next.

Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to be much in those early newborn days. Just one last feed, pajamas, snuggles and bedtime.

You can also do a quick routine before nap times. Even something as simple as changing their diaper and adding a swaddle can help cue to their brain that sleep is coming!

7. They’re Too Cold or Too Hot

I was absolutely obsessed with temperature when my daughter was a newborn. I constantly worried if she was too hot or too cold.

Babies actually sleep best when they are on the cooler side (we all do). Learn how to dress your baby for sleep so you can eliminate this as one of the reasons why your baby isn’t sleeping.

8. You’re Interfering with their Sleep

I see this one happen a lot.

Sometimes babies cry out or make loud grunts and other noises in their sleep. Often a baby will let out a little yelp and then fall back asleep. When you hear your baby wake up, give her a second to see if she resettles.

Moms with more than one child often say their baby falls back asleep because she was preoccupied with her other child, and wasn’t able to rush in immediately.

I’m not saying to leave your baby to cry it out. Just take a pause, asses if baby is awake and needs you, and then proceed.

9. They’re Hungry

This is definitely a viable reason for why your baby may be struggling to sleep. Make sure they are getting enough feeds throughout the day so they don’t go looking for all those calories at night.

10. They Need a Little Help

This world is new to your baby! Even though they need sleep, it doesn’t mean they necessarily know how to do it. Even if you set everything up perfectly, they may still need you to help them go to sleep, especially when they are brand new!

You can help them get to sleep by using the 5 S’s, going up the steps of the Soothing Ladder, or doing the Shush Pat Method.

As you setup healthy routines and sleep habits, you won’t need to intervene as much. Your baby will learn how to fall asleep on their own!

Baby D.R.E.A.M Mockup image

Get Better Sleep with The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System

If you want someone to walk you through the process of sleep training, let me help. The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System is for babies 4 months through 2.5 years old. I’ll walk you through how to establish daily routines, sleep schedules, and sleep training techniques to help you break the sleep associations you no longer find beneficial! Check it out here.


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Amy Motroni

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