Newborns are so cute, but newborn sleep can sometimes seem downright ugly! Ask any parent of a newborn, and he or she will likely tell you that long, deep, peaceful sleep is NOT on the list of things their family is enjoying.
And that’s usually normal. Newborns aren’t supposed to sleep 8 hours straight at night; their little bodies simply aren’t designed to work that way at first. But sometimes, newborn sleeplessness can seem excessive. What do you do if your newborn seems tired, but is crying and not sleeping?
We can help! If your newborn is not sleeping, keep reading for our top tips.
Newborn Not Sleeping? It Might Just Be Normal Newborn Sleeping Patterns.
Keep in mind that, again, newborns are supposed to wake frequently to feed. Indeed, your newborn’s sleeping patterns are nothing like yours. It’s helpful to think of newborn sleep as happening in cycles: your newborn wakes, eats, perhaps has a bit of wake time, and then goes back to sleep for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2-3 hours. This sample newborn sleep and feeding schedule (for breastfeeding babies) illustrates this cyclical sleep pattern well:
9:00 AM – Wake and Feed*
10:00 AM – Nap (30-60 minutes)
11:00 AM – Wake and Feed
12:30 PM – Nap (30-60 minutes)
1:30 PM – Wake and Feed
3:30 PM – Nap (30 – 60 minutes)
4:30 PM – Wake and Feed
6:00 PM – Nap (30 – 60 minutes)
6:30 PM – Wake and Feed
7:30 PM – Catnap (20 – 30 minutes)
8:00 PM – Wake and Feed
9:30 PM – Catnap (20 – 30 minutes)
10:00 PM – Wake and Feed
11:30 PM – Feed and Bedtime*
3:30 AM – Feed and Right back to sleep
6:30 AM – Feed and Right back to sleep
Newborn Not Sleeping? These 6 Reasons May Explain Why.
So you can expect your newborn to wake often — but if your newborn seems tired and can’t fall asleep, and is instead becoming more and more upset, you no doubt want to help your newborn sleep any way you can. To do that, you’ll need to pinpoint the cause of your newborn’s distress and offer help as best you can.
These are, in our experience, the top 6 reasons why newborns who are tired sometimes struggle to fall asleep:
- Your newborn is hungry.
This is the reason many of us jump to first when a newborn won’t sleep – and it may very well be the most common cause for of a newborn not sleeping. Newborns have small tummies and therefore need to eat frequently; what’s more, during a growth spurt, your newborn may feed what seems like every hour! So if your newborn seems distressed and won’t fall asleep, try offering a feeding.
- Your newborn is overtired.
If hunger is the reason many parents jump to first when their newborns won’t sleep, overtiredness may be the last. But it’s true; newborns can simply become too tired to fall asleep easily. The “cure” for overtiredness is simply to watch your newborn’s sleep cues closely; as soon as your newborn starts showing signs of tiredness (by rubbing her eyes, yawning, looking away from your face, etc.), get her down for sleep quickly.
- Your newborn is overstimulated.
A little stimulation is good for your newborn; during his wake time, it’s a great idea to engage him in a story, or a few simple play activities. However, too much stimulation can stress your newborn out! Newborns don’t always cope well with bright lights, loud voices, and lots of “in your face” activity. If your newborn is looking away from people and beginning to fuss, try to get your baby to a quiet area and start working towards falling asleep.
- Your newborn’s moro (or “startle”) reflex is making it impossible to fall asleep.
You’ve probably observed this in your newborn before: your baby starts to fall asleep and then suddenly “startles” herself awake. Frustrating, especially if you’ve worked to get your baby drowsy enough to fall asleep in the first place! Fortunately, there’s an age-old remedy for newborns who startle themselves awake: swaddling. If you aren’t already, try swaddling your baby to help her fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Your newborn is uncomfortable.
This one can be harder to pin down. If you can’t seem to figure out why else your baby may be crying instead of sleeping, look to comfort. Is your newborn’s diaper wet or dirty? Is your baby too warm or too cold? (In our experience, most people overdress their babies, so too warm is usually more likely.) Is your baby ill? These can all make it tough for your newborn to settle in and fall asleep.
- Your newborn needs YOU!
It’s true, parents – sometimes, your newborn simply needs to be held and cuddled by you! Just as your newborn nourishment, warmth, shelter, and sleep, he needs YOU! If your newborn is not sleeping and seems very upset, try cuddling your newborn skin-to-skin against your chest; you’ll be amazed at how quickly and effectively this can calm your newborn.
Newborn Not Sleeping? Let The Baby Sleep Site® Help!
Being the parent of a newborn is simultaneously the most difficult and the most wonderful thing on earth, isn’t it? But all of us at The Baby Sleep Site® know first-hand how exhausting and overwhelming it can be to try and help your newborn sleep well. Yes, newborns are supposed to wake around the clock for feeds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gently encourage better, deeper sleep from your baby. And we can help with that! Connect with a consultant today, and she will craft a newborn-focused Personalized Sleep Plan® specifically for your baby, that aligns with your unique situation and challenges, and with your parenting goals.
Browse our list of consultation package options here.