If you’re at your wits end and it seems your baby won’t go to sleep no matter what you do, try checking things off this list first:
You baby will not sleep if…
Baby awake windows grow as they grow and many babies display confusing signs as to when they’re actually ready for bed. If you’re trying to put your baby to bed and they just seem like they want to party, they probably do just want to party! Try keeping them up a bit longer. For the perfect awake times per age, we recommend our age-specific Sleep Programs.
Babies who are overtired will find it really difficult to settle and go to sleep. We advise using the correct awake time window for your baby’s age to avoid overtiredness in the first place! If your baby does get overtired however, they’ll probably need some more help to go to sleep. Try a very dark room, white noise, a pacifier (or sucking), tight swaddle for babies under 4 months, rocking, patting, shushing. If all else fails take them for a drive in the car or a walk in the stroller.
Babies need a very specific amount of daytime sleep in order for them to sleep well at night (see our napping advice for more specific guidance). If your baby has too much sleep in the day they won’t settle easily or sleep for long enough overnight.
Hungry babies will not sleep! Even if you think they’ve had enough, if you’ve tried everything else and they still won’t sleep, they’re likely hungry. Feed feed feed!
Very young babies need to be tightly swaddled to help control their flailing limbs. Their startle reflex means they will wake themselves up by flinging their arms around. A tight swaddle works really well to help them settle and sleep longer too.
Young babies might have trapped wind which means it will be uncomfortable for them lying down. See if you can get an extra burp out of them. Babies can also be uncomfortable by their positioning in bed – maybe they’re starting to want some freedom from their swaddle?
Small babies cannot regulate their own body temperature very well and can easily become too hot or too cold. Either of these will result in a baby who won’t settle and sleep. Make sure you always dress your babies in appropriate clothing for the room temperature, use natural fibres such as cotton, merino or wool and never sleep your baby in a hat. Check your baby’s temperature by feeling their check or back rather than their hands or face (which should feel cooler than their bodies).
If you notice a sudden change to your baby’s sleep habits, such as sudden early waking, not settling well or suddenly waking between sleep cycles when they have previously been able to self settle, they are likely unwell. Take them to the doctor and get them checked out before you start looking at other reasons for their waking.
A baby’s sleep environment will greatly affect their ability to go to sleep and stay asleep. We recommend a dark room (with no nightlight) and white noise. This will calm your baby and encourage sleep.