Help! My Baby Won't Sleep!

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Ivan sleeping

Remember when you used to lay down, close your eyes, and just sleep? Remember when Saturdays meant you could sleep in? Remember when you were woken up by an alarm clock rather than a crying baby?

When baby doesn't sleep, no one sleeps, and while it is natural for young infants to wake frequently during the night, an older baby who's up all night can really start to wear down his parents. If your baby just isn't sleeping through the night, you're probably beginning to feel pretty desperate. You want to know Why won't my baby sleep? and, most importantly, How can I get my baby to sleep?

There are many reasons why a baby won't sleep, but when your baby is blind you have even more issues to consider. We've compiled five reasons why a baby might not sleep. Some of these problems are experienced by all babies, some are specific to blind babies. Following each sleep problem is a sleep solution, including ideas on how you may overcome your baby's sleep problem.

Each baby is different and what works for one may not work for another. Pick a solution that seems to best fit your situation and give it a week trial. If it doesn't work, move on to another. We know you'll find something that works!


Sleep Problems and Solutions

Dad rocks Ivan to sleep.Sleep Problem #1: You rock and sing your baby to sleep and he goes down within five minutes. But for how long? He's up again in an hour and you pick him up, rock him, and sing until he falls asleep again. An hour later, he's up! And on it goes all night.

The problem with this scenario, according to experts, is that your baby has not learned the skill of putting himself to sleep. We all wake up now and then throughout the night as we move between different levels of sleep. The difference with most adults, however, is that we can simply roll over and go back to sleep. Babies who have always been put to sleep may not develop the skills necessary to put themselves back to sleep once they've woken in the middle of the night.

Sleep Solutions: Your baby needs to learn how to comfort himself and put himself back to sleep. You may think that falling asleep is something that comes naturally to babies, but really they need to be taught how to do this on their own. You can begin slowly by introducing a soft toy or blankie during cuddle time. Later, when you put your baby in his crib, give him the soft toy or blankie. The hope is that the toy will remind him of pleasant comforting times with you and when he awakes he will find the toy, snuggle it, and drift back to sleep.

Another technique is to lay down with your baby in a bigger bed that fits both of you. Your baby can snuggle up to you and drift off on his own, eventually without you having to sing or rock him. You can get up after he's asleep. The next step would be to get up just before he's fallen asleep. Then try laying him down, kissing his head, and sitting next to the bed. Eventually you should be able to lay your child down and walk away. For more advice and to better understand why babies need to learn how to fall asleep on their own, check out the book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems.


Sleep Tip!

Golden OfferCreate a soothing environment with sweet, soft lullaby music. Only play the lullabies at bedtime so your baby associates the songs with going to bed. Our favorites are Didipop's Bunny in the Moon and Charlie Hope's World of Dreams.


Sleep Problem #2: Sometimes your baby goes down for a nap in the middle of the day and just won't wake up. Other times she's up all night and wants to play. The problem here may be that your baby has little or no light perception and cannot differentiate between day and night.

Sleep Solutions: It's important to teach your blind baby the cues that indicate a shift from day to night. This means that you will want to establish a pretty strict night time routine so she will understand that the evening hours have begun. Besides following a simple schedule (dinner, bath, bedtime story, etc), also choose special night time songs, night time story books, and night time toys that only come out during the evening hours. Then, when you begin to sing one of these night time songs, for example, your baby will know that it's getting late and almost time for bed.

Another good practice is to point out night time sounds to your baby. I like to take Ivan outside in the early evening hours so we can listen to the crickets chirping. He finds the sound very soothing and it helps calm him and transition him into the night time routine. Plus, as he gets older, he'll be able to identify the sounds of crickets as an evening sound.


Sleep Problem #3: Maybe you have a mellow baby or maybe your baby is delayed in some of his gross motor skills. Either way, if your baby is passive most of the day and doesn't spend much energy he may not be ready for bed at the appointed hour.

Sleep Solutions: Try to motivate your child during the day. Stay active, go to the park, and introduce as much vestibular stimulation as your baby will handle (vestibular stimulation is anything that gets the body moving through space, like swinging or sliding or just rough housing with dad). In other words, try to tire the little guy out during the day!

Little babies that don't get as much activity as they should may also feel aches in their muscles at night, a sort of "restless leg syndrome" kind of feeling because they haven't been using their muscles enough throughout the day. Try massaging your babies legs and arms before bed. Right after the bath is a nice time to snuggle up in a heap of warm, dry towels and massage your little baby into relaxation. What a perfect transition to bedtime!


Sleep Tip!

Golden OfferA relaxing pre-bed routine can help your baby learn that it's bedtime and get ready to go to sleep. A warm bath scented with lavender has been shown to ease stress and prep the body for sleep. Johnson's Baby Bedtime Better Sleep Set is perfect for a pre-bed bath and baby massage.


Ivan is wide awake!Sleep Problem #4: No matter how tired she may be, your baby just loves to get up and play! The problem here may be that your baby craves interaction and wants to have fun all night.

Sleep Solutions: Many of the solutions above will help in this scenario, like establishing a night time routine and relaxing your baby before bed with a nice massage. But the most important thing to remember with an overly interactive baby is to be consistent! Don't give in to your baby's desire to play and make sure all of your baby's caregivers are on the same page. It can be hard to ignore the sweet little smiles and hilarious little laughs bubbling out of your baby at 2 am, but whatever you do, don't play! This just reinforces to your baby that if you're cute enough, mom and dad will play with you at night.

Also, if your child has little or no light perception, night time play can confuse them as to whether it's day or night. You need to consistently act like it's night even if everyone in the house is awake. This means keeping very few lights on, speaking in hushed tones, and singing only those songs reserved for the night time routine. You may feel desperate, but if you remain consistent, your baby should get the hint eventually and understand that no matter how adorable they are, you just won't play with them at night.


Sleep Problem #5: When people ask how your baby sleeps, your answer is that he sleeps wonderfully at 1 pm and terribly at 1 am. If your baby takes long afternoon naps but then has difficulty sleeping at night you may need to take drastic measures.

Sleep Solutions: I know those long afternoon naps are a great time to get the housework done, but many blind babies just can't be allowed to nap during the day. Period. It came as quite a shock to us when our Vision Specialist told us that she never knew a blind toddler who could manage a day time nap and still sleep well at night. Aren't babies supposed to take naps? They are, but when you figure that your baby isn't sleeping more than four hours at night, a nice two hour nap during the day still only gets him to a total of six hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period, and that just isn't enough for proper brain development. If skipping the nap means ten hours at night, it has to be done.

This advice has made the biggest difference in Ivan's sleep patterns. Ivan went from four to six broken hours of sleep a night to ten to twelve uninterrupted hours in less than a week. We played around with new sleep schedules and found that Ivan can handle one half hour nap around 2 pm. He wakes up chipper and ready for the rest of the day and sleeps well at night. We have also incorporated many of the other sleep solutions into our routine (Ivan especially enjoys the massage), but the reduced day time nap has definitely had the most impact.

Whether sighted or blind, it's important that your baby gets enough sleep. Hopefully these tips will bring peace to your night time routine. If you've tried these solutions, however, and your baby still won't sleep it may be time to try the dreaded Crying Technique.


Sleep Tip!

Golden OfferIf sleeping at home is a problem then sleeping while traveling may be almost impossible! Bring as many of your regular bedtime items with you (like your lullaby CDs and bedtime lotion) and get a nice comfortable travel crib too. We use the BabyBjörn Travel Crib and love it for it's easy setup and comfortable mattress.


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Posted by Anonymous on Oct 06, 2011 - 12:57am

The Shush sound helped my baby the most in the first six months. There are apps that now make it easier - I just got the Baby Sleeper app and love it.

Posted by Anonymous on Oct 15, 2011 - 2:00pm

My 3 month old baby won't nap at all during the day and gets over-tired and very cross. Usually he sleeps alright at night as a result, because he's wiped out. But only after spending most of the day cranky. The advice here is typical of what I read - it assumes the child naps fine and won't sleep at night. I'd love advice on getting my child to nap - I can hardly spend my day trying long routines for an hour long nap

Posted by Anonymous on Oct 16, 2011 - 8:07am

Appreciate the reply. All that works is long walks, which is great for the health! He startles himself out of sleep in his crib and can't be soothed. He actively fights the sleep, forcing his eyes open and looking to see if you're there. I guess he has worked out that if he drops off he'll be left alone. I don't mind the walks, it's just I'm constantly reading about 'accidental parenting'

Posted by Danielle Cridge on Feb 24, 2012 - 11:12am

I have a 17 almost 18 month old little boy who Im having a very hard time getting him to sleepall night. Most of the time he goes down good, but within 45 minutes he is back up screaming and throwing a fit. I try and let him scream it out but than he starts throwing all of his blankets and his little lamb he has and get upset that he doesnt have the lamb any more so its more crying. If he mangaes to get back alseep he right back up at 1230 and i go through the same routine for almost three to four hours, which then ive had enough and am so angry and fustrated I end up bring him to our bed so I can get some sleep. Im really at my wits end I dont know Ive try everything. His room there is no light, letting him cry, giving him warm milk before bed I am out of things to do.
Please help

Posted by v on Aug 23, 2012 - 9:24am

Hi....i have a friend that has a 10 months old baby.....who sleeps 3 hrs at night only and hes up for the rest of the night and also during the day he would sleep 3 hrs as well.....its getting really hard for my friend and partner to get any rest and doesnt know wat to do anymore for him.....they cant even go away because he wont sleep at all....and wen he gets back home he gets worse......could u plz give me an advice on wat she could do to help him out and get him to sleep.....thanks kind regads v

Posted by Anonymous on Oct 20, 2012 - 6:57am

Hi my son is 2months, and is not sleeping well. Before he slept for 3 to 4 hours and now he is only sleeping 1 hour or so not longer than 2 hours during day time and night time. Please give advice.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec 08, 2012 - 6:09pm

Our 8 and half week old daughter just wont nap or sleep, was 4 weeks 2 days prem, was sleeping at night and in past 24 hours has mainly cried for food or been feeding, is this start of yet another growth spurt?

Any advice in helping get her to sleep (we've tried nappy change, winding, cuddling, rocking, singing)

Posted by Barry on Jan 15, 2013 - 9:21am

Excellent strategies for helping your baby to sleep.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar 03, 2013 - 2:35pm

My 1 and half year baby doesn't sleep much in the night. Even after using the sleeping medicine prescribed by doctor. Kindly let me know how to put my baby to sleep.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar 26, 2013 - 2:31pm

My daughters baby is 6months old and he only sleeps 30mins during the day and an hour to 2 hours at night. She has tried many things, but nothing works. When we go shopping and he is in his car seat and we don't take him out he can sleep up to do we get him to sleep without being in the car seat? Any better ideas that are already mentioned.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr 08, 2013 - 6:57pm

Hi my son is 5months, and is not sleeping well in the day and night Before he slept for 3 to 4 hours and now he is only sleeping 1/2 hour in the day 2hrs in the night and need to feed him milk i,m so tired. i have try masssing n warm bath in night its not workor so not longer than 2 hours during day time and night time. Please give advice.

Posted by Abdul on Apr 10, 2013 - 11:51am

My 7 months old son really has problem sleeping through all night. he is awake minimum 2 times through out the night and we have to make him sleep again by picking him up from his bed. Mostly when he changes his sleeping style from one side to another he is awake and then its difficult for him to fall in sleep again. we have done many things but no success. don't know what to do to make him sleep all night.

Posted by
on Apr 30, 2014 - 9:59am

Hi, my girl baby 11 month old.she always sleep one side only is any problem to her. and also she never drink milk.

Posted by
Rajakishor Panda
on May 28, 2014 - 10:23am

Hi,My baby girl of 14 months having sleeping problem since from her birth.If taking consideration of total time of sleeping is 04 to 05 hours in 24 hours. Still my baby girl is active in other activities..Kindly suggest me is it a matter of doctor consultation.We are worried...Please help.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov 24, 2014 - 4:53pm

My 6 month old son has just recently started to refuse going to sleep even though he is so tired he does have a short afternoon nap but I do keep him active to make him tired for his bedtime he'll fall asleep in my arms but as soon as I put him down he screams the house down and no matter what I do he doesn't seem to settle I'm so tired and being a single mum so nobody to help me I don't know what to do anymore!

Posted by
on Jul 12, 2015 - 7:16am

I have a baby that wakes up every hr to two hrs during the night. He slept for a solid week thru the night, which still woke up crying a couple times but did not have to get up and console, so I know he is able. He is 8 months old and I cannot figure this out.... I want him to rest bc I know it is important but at this point I do not know how.... I am going to take away his naps during the day and see if that works but that is the only thing I have NOT tried....but any other tips would be great.