Is Your Baby Fighting Sleep?
As a parent, you know how important sleep is for you and your baby. But why do babies fight sleep, and what do you do when your little one is fighting sleep and having trouble staying asleep through the night?
A baby fighting sleep can be a source of frustration and exhaustion, but it’s important to remember that your baby’s sleep struggles are not a reflection of you or your parenting. Babies fight sleep because they are….well, babies. But there are some things we can do to help.
So, why do babies fight sleep? There are many reasons your baby might have trouble settling down for the night. Go through the list and see if you can identify what’s bothering your baby at night.
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Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?
Babies fight sleep for several reasons, including:
- Overstimulation: Babies can become overwhelmed, overtired, and overstimulated by their surroundings, making it difficult for them to settle down and fall asleep, which results in baby fighting sleep.
- Hunger: Babies have small stomachs and may wake up hungry, making it difficult for them to fall back to sleep.
- Discomfort: Discomforts such as a wet diaper, a stuffy nose, or a too-tight swaddle can make it hard for a baby to sleep.
- Developmental milestones: As babies reach new developmental milestones, such as rolling over or crawling, they may become more active and find it challenging to settle down and sleep.
- Separation anxiety: Babies may develop separation anxiety and resist sleeping without a parent nearby as they grow and become more aware of their surroundings. This anxiety and sleep deprivation can lead to a baby fighting sleep.
It’s important to remember that every baby is different, and the reasons babies fight sleep are different for every baby. What works for one may not work for another. The best approach is to be patient and persistent in trying different strategies to help your baby with falling asleep and prevent your baby from fighting sleep.
Let’s go through each of the above reasons babies fight sleep in depth.
Babies are very sensitive to their environment, and too much stimulation can make it difficult to wind down and fall asleep. Overstimulation can come from various sources, including:
- Too much light: Babies are particularly sensitive to light and may become overstimulated by them.
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- Noise: Babies can be easily disturbed by loud noises, such as a vacuum cleaner or television, making it difficult for them to fall asleep.
- Touch: Babies may become overstimulated by too much touching or holding, especially if they have been handled a lot during the day. If your house is often full of visitors and action, consider whether your baby is fighting sleep due to overstimulation.
- Movement: Babies can become overstimulated by too much activity, such as bouncing or rocking, which can interfere with their ability to fall asleep.
When a baby is overstimulated, their bodies release stress hormones like cortisol, which can keep them alert and awake. Creating a calm and soothing environment can help reduce stimulation and promote sleep. This may include dimming the lights, reducing noise, limiting movement, and using a quiet, soft voice and touch when interacting with the baby. See more about how a calming environment can prevent baby fighting sleep below.
✅Our reader’s favorite white noise machine can be found here (we have three of these at home!).
Hunger can make it difficult for babies to fall asleep and stay asleep because their bodies are focused on getting the nourishment they need. Babies have small stomachs and may wake up hungry during the night, especially if they are going through a growth spurt. This can interfere with their sleep and make it difficult for them to fall back asleep once they have been fed.
If a baby is hungry, they may cry or fuss, stimulating their body and making it harder for them to fall asleep. Additionally, if a baby is not getting enough calories during the day, they may be hungrier at night and more likely to wake up during the night to feed.
Stick to a Feeding Schedule
It’s essential to monitor your baby’s feeding patterns and ensure they get enough nutrition during the day and night to prevent hunger from interfering with their sleep, leading to the baby fighting sleep. If your baby seems hungry at night, it’s a good idea to offer a feeding, but try to keep the feedings quiet and low-key to minimize stimulation and promote sleep.
Babies can become uncomfortable and resist sleep due to various physical discomforts, such as:
- Dirty diaper: A dirty or wet diaper can be uncomfortable and cause irritation, making it difficult for a baby to sleep.
- Stuffy nose: A stuffy nose can make it difficult for a baby to breathe and may cause them to wake up frequently or resist sleep.
- Overheating: Babies can quickly become overheated, making them uncomfortable and interfering with sleep.
- Tight swaddle: A too-tight swaddle can restrict movement and cause discomfort, making it difficult for a baby to sleep.
- Teething: Teething can cause discomfort and pain, making it difficult for a baby to sleep.
It’s important to address any physical discomforts as soon as possible to help your baby get the sleep they need. This may include changing a dirty diaper, using a humidifier or saline drops to clear a stuffy nose, adjusting the room’s temperature, loosening the swaddle, or offering a teething toy to help relieve discomfort.
By addressing discomforts, you can create a more comfortable environment for your baby and promote better sleep.
Hitting a Developmental Milestone
Developmental milestones can significantly impact a baby’s sleep, making it difficult for a baby to settle down and fall asleep. Some of the ways developmental milestones can affect sleep include:
- Increased activity: As babies reach new milestones, such as rolling over or crawling, they may become more active and find it challenging to settle down and sleep.
- New skills: When babies learn new skills, such as sitting up or standing, they may be more awake and active during the day, which can make it difficult for them to wind down and fall asleep at night.
- Separation anxiety: As babies become more aware of their surroundings and develop a stronger attachment to their caregivers, they may develop separation anxiety and resist sleeping without a parent nearby.
Be patient and persistent in trying different sleep strategies to help your baby fighting sleep as they adjust to new milestones. This may include creating a predictable bedtime routine, offering comfort and reassurance during the night, and being flexible with your sleep expectations. With time and patience, your baby will adjust to their new skills, and sleep patterns will become more established.
Separation anxiety can cause sleep issues for babies because they feel a strong attachment to their caregivers and become worried or upset when they are not close by. When babies experience separation anxiety, they may fight sleep or wake up frequently during the night, looking for their parent or caregiver.
Separation anxiety typically develops around 8 to 10 months as babies become more aware of their surroundings and relationship with their caregivers. It can be triggered by changes in the baby’s routine, such as starting daycare or being away from their parent or caregiver for extended periods.
Help Baby Deal With Separation Anxiety
To help babies with separation from you settle down and not fight sleep, providing comfort and reassurance, such as a favorite blanket or toy, and establishing a consistent bedtime routine can be helpful. Gradually reducing the time spent comforting the baby at bedtime can also help them learn to fall asleep independently.
It’s important to remember that anxiety is a normal part of development and will typically resolve independently with time and patience. In the meantime, be patient and supportive, and provide comfort and reassurance to help your baby feel secure and rested.
How to Help a Baby Fighting Sleep
How do I get my baby to stop fighting sleep? What can you do when your baby fights sleep? There are several steps you can take to minimize overstimulation before your baby goes to sleep:
- Sleep cues: Learn your baby’s sleep cues. Watch closely for signs that your baby is tired and put them to bed within minutes of signs like eye rubbing, yawning, avoiding eye contact, fussing, or losing interest in play.
- Establish a bedtime routine and sleep schedule: A consistent routine can help signal your baby that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep. A bedtime routine might include a warm bath, a quiet book, or a lullaby.
- Limit screen time: Avoid screens, such as televisions, computers, and phones, for at least an hour before bedtime, as bright light and too much noise can interfere with sleep.
- Create a calm environment: Keep the environment around your baby calm and quiet, with dim lighting to promote relaxation.
- Reduce noise: Use white noise, such as a fan or a white noise machine, to block out any outside noise that might interfere with your baby’s sleep.
- Swaddle or wrap: Swaddling or wrapping can help provide a sense of security and comfort, which can help your baby relax and fall asleep more easily.
- Offer feeding: A feeding before bedtime can help your baby feel full and satisfied, reducing stimulation and promoting sleep.
More About Creating a Calm Environment
Here are some tips to make a baby more comfortable for sleeping through the night:
Ensure proper sleep environment: Make sure the room is dark, cool, and quiet and that your baby is sleeping on a comfortable, supportive surface, such as a crib or bassinet.
Swaddle or wrap: Swaddling or wrapping can help provide a sense of security and comfort, which can help your baby relax and not fight sleep as much.
Offer feeding: A feeding before bedtime can help your baby feel full and satisfied, reducing stimulation and promoting sleep.
Use white noise: White noise, such as a fan or a noise machine, can help block out any outside noise that might interfere with sleep.
Keep a consistent sleep routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine to help signal to your baby that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
Address physical discomforts: Make sure your baby’s diaper is clean and dry, and address any other physical discomforts, such as a stuffy nose or teething pain, that might be interfering with sleep.
Consider a pacifier: Some babies find comfort in sucking, so offering a pacifier before bedtime can be helpful for some babies.
Making sure your baby is comfortable and secure can create an environment that promotes better sleep and helps your baby get the rest they need.
Try a Baby Sleep Tracker to See Why Baby is Fighting Sleep
Babies can have a tough time sleeping, and it can be difficult for parents to know what’s causing the problem. That’s where a baby sleep tracker can come in handy. By keeping track of your baby’s sleep patterns, you can gain valuable insight into what might be affecting their sleep.
A sleep tracker allows you to monitor when your baby falls asleep, wakes up, and how long they sleep. This information can help you see any patterns in their sleep and determine if they are getting enough rest. If your baby is waking up frequently during the night or has trouble settling, a sleep tracker can help you identify the cause of these disruptions.
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Sleep Training Using a Sleep Tracker
Additionally, if you’re trying different sleep strategies or sleep training methods, such as a sleep routine or white noise, a sleep tracker can help you determine whether they’re working. It can give you a more accurate picture of your baby’s sleep patterns, so you can see if these strategies have the desired effect.
If your baby is experiencing sleep difficulties, sharing the information from your sleep tracker with their healthcare provider can be a valuable tool. It can help them better understand your baby’s sleep patterns and guide them on improving their sleep.
When Babies Fight Sleep, You Can Help
Watching your baby fight sleep can be very frustrating. The steps you take depend partly on why your baby fights sleep. But most of the time, they respond to one of the interventions mentioned above.
Curious about different sleep training methods? We think you should meet Dana Obleman. She can help you with newborn babies to toddlers – both nighttime sleep and daytime sleep. She’s an expert in establishing a baby’s sleep schedule and can help your baby who is having trouble falling asleep. With the right help and interventions, we can all help our babies sleep. Read our full review of Dana’s Sleep Sense method.
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