There a several reasons behind why a baby might be fighting sleep. Being a mother of 2 girls I understand and have experienced the challenges of this very situation. It can be very stressful especially if you are alone or with limited support from family and friends.
Some of the main reasons why this might be occurring are: your baby is becoming overtired, your baby is unable to calm themselves down, your baby has not being awake for their optimal awake times / baby not being ready for sleep and finally your baby being over stimulated. In this post I hope to be able to better explain the reasons behind this and give you some useful tips to support a baby fighting sleep.
Baby Fighting Sleep Infographic
Check out the below infographic which summarises the key takeouts from this article visually – please feel free to share with your friends and network!
How Long Should A Baby Take To Fall Asleep?
Before we get into the details of why and how to help a baby who is resisting sleep, a very recent study from early 2020 published here found that the average baby takes around 20 minutes to fall asleep by age 6 months. Furthermore by the age of 2 an average will only wake once during the night. Now these are just averages and every baby will differ but felt it was interesting to share first off.
Overview – back to basics baby sleep
When settling your baby, its always important to check that your baby has been fed, has a clean nappy and is in the right environment for sleep. It’s important to cover these basic checks first.
In the early days I am also a big believer that if you have a baby struggling to sleep, to try various methods to get your baby off such as: crib, baby carrier, pram. It’s a great time to get your baby sleeping in various places. Rather than struggle at home, any sleep is good sleep so get your baby to sleep wherever they are comfortable initially.
In the first few months I believe babies benefit from being wrapped. The reason behind this is that babies feel more secure being in a confined space.
Wind down this is key prior to settling for sleep, as its important to get your baby calm. By preparing for sleep in essence you are setting expectations of what is to come. Your winding down routine might last as long as 15 minutes and include: dimming lights, pulling blinds, looking at books, putting on white noise, talking in a gentle, soft and measured voice helping calm your baby down.
Having a consistent routine is also a very important way to ensure that your baby recognises what’s to come and has their expectations set around a pattern of events that leads to sleep time. This predictability for your baby provides security and reassurance.
Baby becoming overtired so fights sleep
All babies of different ages have optimum awake periods between naps. So being aware of these and understanding the sleepy cues of your baby will help to avoid your baby becoming overtired. When it comes to knowing what these sleepy cues are, these could include – yawning, rubbing eyes, staring blankly, over excitement and your baby becoming agitated / whingey and grizzly. The trick is to try and ensure that you get your baby settling and winding down before they reach this state.
Baby unable to calm themselves down and hard to settle
Just like adults, all babies might vary in how easy it is for them to fall asleep. Some babies might need a little more help settling for sleep and finding calm before they can drift off. The more you support them to do this, and to help them feel secure, the more they easily will find calm – and hence will find falling asleep easier as time goes on. Some basic suggestions to calm your baby down are: gentle singing, rocking in your arms and patting. What’s important however is to simply observe and see how your baby reacts to each method of calming. Wait for a bit and see how they react to your support, and then transfer when calm.
Baby not being awake for optimal times
Knowing your baby’s age and optimal awake time is very important – these vary per age group and I would be happy to provide these to you if interested, just get in touch. Some babies tire more quickly so again its important to recognise those sleepy cues and try not to follow the clock (as hard as I know that can be at times!). In addition, its important also to ensure you are settling your baby when they are ready for sleep. I know that there are so many variables it can be very hard to win – this sleep thing can be tricky business at times 🙂
Baby being over stimulated
My belief is that less is more with babies and children in general. When looking at their sleeping environment ask yourself is it conducive to sleep? Would you like to fall asleep in that environment? Is it calming? Setting the right environment for sleep plays a major factor in this process so it’s worth creating a relaxing space. I talked earlier about how it’s important to wind down before sleep time, on the other hand it’s also equally important to avoid overstimulation.
One common example might be that your partner comes home from work and they want to be playful with your baby right before placing them in their bassinet or cot which tends to overstimulate them, or perhaps your baby’s sibling want to play right before baby’s bed time. Now you might not want to put a stop to this as its important interaction time for your family but be aware this might be playing a part in causing some overstimulation with your little one.
Baby Has Seperation Anxiety
Seperation anxiety is very common in babies and really normally presents itself around the 8 month mark. Its because your baby is starting to learn that bedtime means saying goodbye to you. Its very normal and its a phase you will need to support your baby through. My suggestion would to be more attentive and acknlowedge your babies emotion, but at the same time be careful not to develop any negative sleep attachment or association. The The introduction of the seperation anxiety is a form of developmental leap, and I will cover that in more detail next.
Baby Having Developmental Leap
A developmental leap occurs in a baby (as then name suggests) when they have a sudden leap forward in their development. The term “Wonder Weeks” which was transformed into a famous book in the early 90s really first introduced the concept. These leaps occur between the ages of 4 weeks right up to about 18 months and they can result in your baby to suddenly seem to start fighting sleep. From my perspective its important to recognise the leap and to simply go with it, the baby might have up to a week of some sleep disruption and you might need to be more attentive but their patterns will likely return to normal
Hopefully this post has given you a better understanding of the reasons behind a baby fighting sleep as well as some useful ways to approach it. There is really no one size fits all approach so don’t get disheartened if you don’t have success straight away. Babies are always changing no matter if they are 3, 4, 5 or 12 months – so with patience and confidence you will be able to find the right way to overcome this.
If you are struggling to settle your baby for sleep and are looking for more support, then please do get in contact with me here or call me on 0406 344 010.