Baby Fighting Sleep
As a parent, few things are more frustrating than trying to get your baby to fall asleep, only to have them start crying the moment you set them down in their crib.
You’ve done everything right—fed them, changed their diaper, rocked and cuddled them—but as soon as bedtime comes, suddenly your once sleepy baby is wide awake and protesting bedtime. Why does this happen, and what can exhausted parents do to help their little ones get the rest they need?
In this blog post, we will share reasons for baby fighting sleep and tips on how to make your baby sleep better.
Reasons Babies Fight Sleep
Here are some of the most common reasons babies put up a fight at bedtime:
1- Separation anxiety – Between 4-6 months of age, babies become more aware of their surroundings and parents. They experience stranger anxiety and separation anxiety when apart from their parents. Being put down to sleep alone can provoke cries of protest.
2- Sleep associations – Babies often get used to falling asleep in specific conditions, like being rocked, nursed, or taking a ride in the car or stroller. When those props are removed at bedtime, they become unsettled.
3- Overtiredness – Ironically, an overtired baby will struggle to fall asleep. The overstimulation makes it harder for them to relax and settle down. Their cries at bedtime are often more frantic.
4- Developmental milestones – During growth spurts or developmental leaps, babies need more sleep but often fight it. The stimulation of new skills and awareness makes it harder for them to unwind. Teething discomfort can also interfere with sleep.
5- Change in routine – Babies thrive on consistency. Any change in the bedtime routine or sleep location can prompt fussiness. Traveling, switching rooms, or even a different person putting them down can disrupt their sleep.
Tips for Helping a Baby Sleep
While some amount of bedtime struggles are normal, there are ways to minimize fighting and ease your baby to sleep:
1- Maintain a calming bedtime routine – Cues like a bath, rocking, story, and lullaby tell your baby it’s time to sleep. The predictability is soothing.
2- Address sleep associations – If your baby relies on motion or nursing to fall asleep, try putting them down drowsy but awake to learn to self-soothe.
3- Be consistent with timing and environment – Put your baby down at around the same time each night, in the same sleep space. Consistency and familiarity set the stage for sleep success.
4- Use white noise – Continuous, soothing white noise can help drown out any disruptive noises and make it easier for the baby to drift off.
5- Swaddle your baby – The feeling of being snugly wrapped offers comfort and security to help the baby relax into sleep. Stop swaddling as soon as signs of rolling over appear.
6- Avoid overstimulation before bed – Calm play and activities in the hour before bed get your baby ready for sleep. Too much excitement will delay bedtime.
7- Watch for and address overtired signs – Decreased appetite, crying, and rubbing eyes are cues. Adjust naptimes and bedtime to prevent overtiredness.
8- Check for underlying issues – Consult your pediatrician if sleep struggles persist to rule out reflux, allergies, or illness.
The reasons behind baby sleep struggles can vary. With loving patience and consistency using the above tips, you can help your little one get the restful slumber they need. Reach out to your pediatrician if you have ongoing concerns about your baby’s sleep habits.
While babies fighting sleep can be puzzling and tiring for parents, understanding the common causes behind bedtime struggles can help. Maintaining consistent, soothing routines, addressing sleep associations, and making the sleep environment familiar and comfortable can all promote better sleep. Staying patient and responsive to the baby’s needs remains key.
If sleep issues persist, consult your pediatrician to rule out any underlying problems. With time and consistency using these tips, your baby will soon be drifting off to dreamland more easily. Learn here more about baby care and a healthy lifestyle.
Q: At what age do babies start fighting sleep?
A: Babies typically start resisting sleep between 4-6 months of age as separation anxiety and awareness of their surroundings increases. They may also begin protesting bedtime around developmental milestones.
Q: Why does my baby cry when I put them down to sleep?
A: Crying when being put down is often due to separation anxiety or disrupting sleep associations your baby is used to, like rocking or nursing to sleep. They feel unsettled being put down awake.
Q: How do I get my overtired baby to sleep?
A: Stick to calming bedtime routines. Avoid overstimulation. Try swaddling, white noise, and motion. If crying increases, the baby may be overtired – adjust nap schedule.
Q: How do I stop sleep associations?
A: Start putting baby down drowsy but awake. Use transitional objects like stuffed animals or blankets. Maintain elements of routine but remove a parent as a sleep prop.
Q: Why does my baby fight sleep during travel?
A: Changes in environment and routine can disrupt sleep. Use familiar sleep associations like white noise, swaddle, and pacifier. Keep bedtime routine as consistent as possible.
Q: What if my baby keeps crying when I put them down?
A: Comfort them with soothing touches but avoid picking up and rocking to sleep. Stay consistent and allow some fussing before the baby learns to self-soothe.
Q: At what point should I talk to the doctor about sleep struggles?
A: Discuss with your pediatrician if sleep issues last over a month, disrupt development, or maybe tied to medical issues like reflux.
Q: What can I do to calm my baby before bedtime?
A: Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine – bath, massage, feeding, rocking, storytime. Keep lighting and stimuli low-key. Recognize tired cues like eye rubbing.