Newborn Not Sleeping? Try These 35 Tips

mother holding and talking with her newborn baby on a bed.

  • Your newborn probably isn’t getting enough sleep if they sleep less than 11 hours per day, take short naps, wake every 30 minutes, and stay awake for 2-3 hours at a time.
  • If your newborn is overly fussy, not engaging with you or others, or having feeding issues, it’s a good idea to address sleep concerns.
  • There are many reasons your newborn isn’t sleeping, including hunger, mixing up days and nights, being overtired, feeling uncomfortable, tummy troubles, and a lack of routine.
  • There are tons of tips to help your newborn sleep better, including filling their bellies before bed, sticking to a consistent routine, giving them an ideal sleep environment, and helping them figure out the difference between day and night. 

We’ve all heard the brags from other moms – their baby sleeps for twelve hours straight at night, and they didn’t even have to sleep train! 

I was not a part of that lucky group when my son was a newborn. Even at four years old, my son is awake multiple times throughout the night. As an expecting mom of a second child, I hope to be one of those moms who gets to gush over how my baby is a good sleeper this time around.

When your newborn is not sleeping well, desperation starts to creep in. Have no fear, there are tips and tricks that will have you and your newborn sleeping more in no time. 

Newborn Not Sleeping: Should You Worry?

Desperate mother holding her angry baby crying.

Newborns are notorious for not sleeping, and sleep deprivation is typical for new parents. 

Even if you think you have it figured out, that goes out the window when a sleep regression, growth spurt, or time change hits.   

It can be hard to determine which sleep issues are typical and which are causes for concern.

First, what’s normal when it comes to newborn sleep? 

You can expect your baby to sleep in bursts. In between bursts of sleep, your newborn should stay awake for about 1.5 hours at most. 

In general, your newborn should be sleeping between 14 and 18 hours per 24-hour period. Your baby isn’t likely to sleep through the night until after they reach 3 months old. Until then, they bounce between awake and sleep throughout the day and night.

So, when should you worry that your newborn isn’t getting enough sleep? 

Illnesses and allergies can cause sleep issues and fussiness in children. If you feel like there is something you want your pediatrician to look into, push them to take sleep issues seriously. 

Physical problems can also cause sleep issues when babies won’t fall asleep lying on their backs. It could be worthwhile to have your pediatrician check them out to be sure there isn’t anything physical keeping them from getting comfortable. 

Overall, issues to be aware of are waking every 30 minutes at night, staying awake for longer than 2-3 hours at a time, and getting less than about 11 hours of sleep per 24 hours.

If you notice any of those behaviors, it is a good idea to involve your pediatrician to be sure there are no illnesses, allergies, injuries, or breathing issues to be aware of. 

Reasons Why a Newborn Is Not Sleeping

Cute little newborn baby girl wrapped in blanket.

One possible medical reasons for a newborn fighting sleep have been ruled out, it’s time to consider other reasons why your newborn is not sleeping as much as they should. 

Here are some common reasons your newborn isn’t sleeping:

  • They’re hungry: Newborns need to eat frequently to maintain their blood sugar and gain weight. 
  • Their sleep cycle is off: It’s common for babies to have their days and nights mixed up while they adjust to life outside the womb.
  • They’re uncomfortable: It can be difficult for newborns to adjust to falling asleep on their backs on a firm mattress. However, according to a policy statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, newborns should sleep alone on their backs on flat surfaces without blankets, soft toys, or pillows in order to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • They have tummy troubles: Many babies experience reflux or spitting up after meals. Being gassy can also keep your little one awake. 
  • They’re overtired: It’s easy for a baby to become overtired by staying awake longer than they should between naps. Newborns can be ready for their next nap in as little as 45 minutes of awake time. 
  • They’re under tired: Your newborn’s sleep should be distributed fairly evenly throughout the night and day. If your baby is sleeping more than they should during the day, they won’t need as much sleep at night.
  • They’re overstimulated: Newborns can find it hard to cope with loud noises, bright lights, too many faces, and too much excitement in general. 
  • They need you: It’s totally normal that your baby misses you or looks for you while they should be sleeping. 
  • Development: During growth spurts or “wonder weeks,” babies quickly become fussy or overtired because their bodies are putting so much energy towards their growth.
  • They don’t feel well: If your newborn is crying more than usual rather than sleeping, it could be due to an illness or ear infection. 
  • Lack of routine: Babies strongly benefit from a calming bedtime routine so they know what to expect nightly and develop good sleep habits. 
  • They’re sensitive to disruptions: Newborns spend more of their sleep in active sleep than deep sleep. This means they’re more likely to wake up to any noises or disturbances in their environment.
  • They need a sleep prop: Some babies benefit from having something to sleep with that brings them comfort or familiarity (ex: pacifier or swaddle).
  • You intervene too quickly when you think they’re awake: Many newborns make noises or even cry while they are still asleep, so rushing in to care for them too quickly may actually be waking them up.
  • Their “startle” reflex keeps them awake: Newborns’ moro reflex, which causes them to startle themselves awake, will sometimes make it difficult for them to stay asleep. 

How to Tell if a Newborn Is Not Getting Enough Sleep

In an article from the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation written by Hirshkowitz et al, it was shown that the least amount of sleep a newborn should get is about 11 hours within a 24-hour period. 

During the day, your baby will be awake for short periods between naps. These wake windows shouldn’t be longer than 90 minutes at a time. If babies stay awake for too long in between sleep, you risk overtiredness.

If you track your baby’s sleep and find they are getting less than about 11 hours of sleep per 24 hours and you notice fussiness, taking longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, and short naps (all signs of overtiredness), they are probably not getting enough sleep.

Other signs of sleep deprivation include poor appetite, trouble engaging with others, or having a glazed-over expression.

35 Tips to Get Your Newborn to Sleep Soundly

Asian baby lying on the couch.

Once you’ve ruled out any medical issues or illnesses as the causes of your baby’s sleep problems, it’s time to address other possible problems.

If you’ve remediated every possible issue and still are not finding any relief, it may be time to reach out to a sleep consultant. Sleep consultants are professionals who specialize in baby and toddler sleep.

IssuesTips to Solve Them
  • Keep your newborn awake for their entire feed before bed.
  • Feed your baby as much as you can during the day.
  • Try dream feeding, which is feeding right before you go to sleep.
Mixing up days and nights
  • During the day, keep noise and lighting at normal levels.
  • At night, turn down the lights and lower noise levels.
  • In the daytime, expose baby to as much daylight as possible.
  • Keep their sleeping environment very dark.
  • Swaddle your baby to mimic the coziness of the womb (stop swaddling when your baby can roll over to prevent SIDS).
  • Use a white noise machine to imitate noises from the womb.
  • Feel baby’s chest, neck and ears to see if they are too hot or too cold.
Tummy troubles
  • For gassiness, try massages, over-the-counter gas drops (mylicon), and gripe water.
  • If diagnosed with reflux, avoid lying your baby down immediately after feedings.
  • Have your newborn evaluated for tongue and lip ties and food intolerances.
  • Follow wake windows to time naps and awake times.Get your baby to bed as soon as you see their sleep cues (rubbing eyes, yawning, looking away from you, and fussiness).Set bedtime earlier.
Under tired
  • Follow wake windows to be sure babies are spending enough time awake during the day.
  • During awake time, play with your newborn and make sure they are stimulated enough.
  • Try to avoid loud, bright, busy environments.
  • Limit the amount of visitors at one time with your newborn.
  • Make sure their sleep environment is dark, quiet, and not filled with too many bright, bold colors and decorations.
Needing you
  • Sleep in the same room with your baby until they are at least six months old.
  • Try to get in extra cuddles during the day or try baby-wearing while you get things done.
Lack of routine
  • Do the same activities at the same times each day.
  • Implement a pre-nap routine before every nap.
  • Implement a calming bedtime routine nightly.
  • Use your baby’s sleep cues to tell you when an ideal bedtime would be and stick to that bedtime each day.
Sensitivity to environment
  • Invest in blackout curtains or blackout crib cover.
  • Swaddle your newborn to mimic the womb.
  • Use a white noise machine.
  • Keep the sleeping environment between 68 and 72 degrees.
Needing a sleep prop
  • Offer your baby a pacifier to help them sleep, which has been shown to significantly reduce the chance of SIDS according to a 2005 article by Hauck et al.
Too quick to intervene
  • If your baby is making noise or even crying in their sleep, give them up to 10 minutes to settle themselves.
  • Turn your monitor volume down, so you only hear the major screaming.
Startle reflex
  • If your baby is startling themselves awake, try swaddling them.
Newborn Not Sleeping? Try These Tips

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