Newborn Not Sleeping? Here Are 6 Reasons Why

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:

  1. 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. If you are considering putting cereal
    in your baby’s bottle
    , be sure to talk to your doctor, first!
  2.  

  3. 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.
  4.  

  5. 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.
  6.  

  7. 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.
  8.  

  9. 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.
  10.  

  11. 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.
  12.  

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.

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22 thoughts on “Newborn Not Sleeping? Here Are 6 Reasons Why”

  1. My baby boy is 8 weeks, going on 9 weeks. He used to sleep really well for naps. Usually an hour minimum, averaging 2 hours. Since literally January 1st he is no longer napping easy. He is up every 20-30mn. The plus side is he seems to be sleeping longer at night, we’ve gotten a 4hr stretch the first part of the night. But I’m concerned on this change for his daytime naps. Is this normal? Will he start napping longer again? He needs it, he gets very fussy as the poor guy is tired.

    • Hi @Amber –
      Thank you for writing to us and congrats on your babby boy! I’m sorry to hear you’re having some trouble with his naps! Short naps are common for many babies, and can stay short for a while – you can try to help him fall back to sleep and lengthen those naps though! If you haven’t yet, you can sign up to receive our free guide written just for families with young infants here:
      https://www.babysleepsite.com/15-free-baby-sleep-facts-new-parents-must-know/

      You may also want to take a look at this article on our blog, 7 Gentle, Natural Ways To Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Better:
      https://www.babysleepsite.com/newborns/better-newborn-sleep-7-tips/

      To save yourself some time from reading and researching on your own, we do offer a few more in-depth solutions that would be a good fit. Our e-book, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep, may be a good option for you. In it, we give you a complete toolkit to help your baby establish healthy sleep habits today and throughout the first year.

      You can read more about our wonderful newborn/young infant options here:
      https://www.babysleepsite.com/essential-keys-to-your-newborns-sleep

      Thanks again for writing to us Amber! Please do let us know if you need more help at any time!

  2. My 1 month old baby boy does not sleep well during the day, and if he does it’s for 30-45 mins at the most. Unless I keep him next to me in which case he will sleep a long time. I have tried a wedge for his crib to elevate his head and back to help with any reflux, which helped for a little but still doesn’t settle him for longer than 30-45 mins. I am out of options, I try and keep the room cool and he is in short sleeves onsies as well. He feeds every 3-4 hours and sometimes cluster feeds as well. I need help getting him to stay asleep.

  3. Our baby is 5 days old. We feed him every two hours, 20ml breast milk, we just put the bottle in even if he is sleeping, burping him is quite the task after. If he is not completely swaddled he cries, so getting a burp through blankets is quite hard. He does not like onsies as he will kick until his feets are in the belly of the suit. Ive even done skin to skin on my chest while patting his back but he freaks out because he has any skin in the air, we have turned the heat up alot during the night to try and make this easier (meanwhile in the day time i sit him up he burps, and has no problem in any position to get burped). When i do finally get him asleep i put him in his bassinet but he wakes up instantly and hates it…so i will put him in bed with me so atleast i can get a little sleep but that only lasts about 45 mins and after the struggle to get him asleep i gotta put the bottle in and try and burp again. If he is able to move his hands he will hit his face until he wakes up or remove his soother. There doesnt seem to be a good place for him to sleep at night, but during the day he could sleep anywhere. Its getting to be confusing. Should i not be feeding him every 2 hrs? We did try feeding more one night so he would be full longer but that seemed to make matters worse. What can i do?

    • Hi Danielle,
      Thank you for using The Baby Sleep Site as a resource, and congratulations on your new addition! 🙂 Unless you’ve been otherwise instructed by a pediatrician, we usually recommend feeding baby every 2-4 hours as a newborn, or as the baby requests it. Feeding too often can actually interrupt sleep, especially since you will need to burp after every feed. It also sounds like your baby may be experiencing some day/night confusion, which is very normal when they’re tiny, but can be frustrating.
      We have an article on day/night confusion here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/day-night-confusion-newborn-baby/
      And we have a whole, free ebook on newborn sleep I really recommend for you, that you can sign up for here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/15-free-baby-sleep-facts-new-parents-must-know
      I hope this helps, but please get in touch if you need further help!

  4. Hello, my so will be 7 weeks old tomorrow. From the moment we brought the baby home, we set a feeding & nap schedule for him. For the first 5 weeks everything was on schedule. He was napping 3 hrs during the day in between feedings and sleeping between 5-6 hrs at night. All of a sudden his schedule is off. He does not sleep at all during the day or night time unless he’s sleeping on us. The moment we put him down he wakes up and won’t go to sleep. Is he going through a growth spurt or is this something more serious?

    • @Roxanna – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. We’re sorry to hear that your little guy’s sleep schedule changed so suddenly! This does tend to happen around the 6 week mark as babies hit a growth spurt and a super fussy period that lasts about a week or so around this time. The good news is if your little guy hasn’t developed any new “bad” habits during this time, he should get back to sleeping normally as soon as this passes. Hang in there, Roxanna!

  5. HI there,
    My baby girl is 3 weeks and 2 days old. Our issue is a little unusual and may be nothing to worry about but I wonder if she is getting anough sleep.
    Typically most nights for the last.few weeks she will wake up only once at night, sleeping for 4-6 hours then another 2-5 hours after a feed. Some nights she has even slept up to 8-9 hours. Dont get me wrong this is fantastic by comparison to other newborns sleepless nights I hear about.
    The worry is that during the day she generally has only 3-5 naps of 1/2 to an hour… it seems like this all added up doesnt make up enough for what is reccommended sleep time. She is gaining weight well but can be a little colicky during the afternoon/evening.
    Is this ok?

    • Hi @Bex B, and thank you for visiting the Baby Sleep Site. Congratulations on your new daughter! I am sorry to hear you are concerned about her not getting enough sleep during the day. Newborns need about 16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period on average but short, frequent naps, are very common in babies this age. For more of a laid out guide of what that commonly looks like, we have information on that in this article: https://www.babysleepsite.com/newborns/newborn-sleep-patterns-guide/
      If you think she is fighting you on naps and need more help, we would happily help you through this in one of our one-on-one sleep consultations where they can look at your daughter’s full sleep history and properly advise. 🙂 If you are interested, please contact us here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/contact
      Thank you for your comment and I hope this helps!

  6. My son is 14 weeks old, but he was born 6 weeks early. Adjusted age of 8 weeks. He has been trying to break out of his swaddle sleep sack since he was 5 weeks old. He will spend a significant amount of time at night grunting and squirming to try to get his hands out. Sometimes he works so hard, he spits up. But, if we don’t swaddle him he startles himself awake and cries. What’s a family to do? I’ve found swaddles that he can’t get out of, but he cries when he can’t start loosening them. If I put him down on the verge of sleep swaddled he sleeps about an hour before he wakes up and starts trying to get out. He sleeps in a crib a few feet from our bed with a nightlight and a sound machine.

    • @Tasha – Thank you for reading and for sharing your little guy with us! Have you considered swaddle-alternatives to help with the startle reflex? If not, there are many out there that you can use like a swaddle blanket or a sleep sack that won’t bind him too much – this article overviews a few of them that we’ve tried and support: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-comfort/when-to-stop-swaddling/ I hope this helps, Tasha. Hang in there and good luck!

  7. Our daughter is 5 weeks old. Since coming home, she always wants to sleep on one of us and we have to wait 20 minutes or so before we can put her down when she is past the active sleep stage. I have tried to put her down earlier before In hopes she will go back to sleep or learn to settle, but she ends up protesting. Is she too young to teach to fall asleep on her own. We do swaddle, but it seems to make no difference. She also won’t take a pacifier. She only will fall asleep on one of us or nursing or rocking. She only sleeps 1-3 hours at night and takes cat naps during the day. Our schedule looks similar to above and we try not to go more than an hour of awake time or she gets over tired.

    • @Erin – Thank you for stopping by our sleepy little village. Congratulations on your new little girl! Yes, it is very common for newborns and young babies to prefer to sleep “close” to or on you as they like the recreated “womb” feeling of being snuggled closely. This is one reason swaddling is so effective for some babies – though not for my own either!

      Beginning to lay the foundations for healthy sleep habits from the newborn stage can go a long way in ensuring your daughter gets the sleep she needs.
      We generally advise our parents that it is never too soon to start teaching your baby healthy sleeping habits even though we discourage a “formal” or strict sleep training program until your baby is at least 4 months old.

      During the first several weeks of your daughter’s life, she will sleep a lot but generally, yes, in short chunks of time. But for babies your daughter’s age, there are various gentle techniques that can be applied to help her sleep better, if needed. Falling asleep on their own is a skill that babies will have to learn in time as their bodies grow and mature and as they gain the ability to soothe themselves when they become upset or agitated. This article will better help you understand when she’ll likely be able to sleep through the night: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-patterns/baby-sleeping-through-night-when/

      I hope this is helpful, Erin. Hang in there, and please keep reading!

  8. My newborn is 32 days old. He does seem to feed and sleep on a typical newborn “schedule” but has to be held when sleeping. As soon as we put him down in a playpen or bassinet he stirs (even when swaddled he makes lots of grunting noises and wakes himself up). Are we developing an unhealthy habit by holding him when we need sleep (nights get very long and desperate times call for desperate measures)? How else can I get him to settle down for sleep after a feeding?

    • @Laura – Thank you for stopping by our sleepy little village and for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that sleep with your little guy has been rough lately. But rest assured that it is very common for newborns and young babies to prefer to sleep “close” to or on you as they like the recreated “womb” feeling of being snuggled closely. I’m not entirely sure if you’re saying that you all hold him while he’s sleeping and while you’re ALSO sleeping or just holding him to get him to sleep because you need to go to sleep, too. (I hope that wasn’t confusing!) If you’re holding him while you’re ALSO asleep, you would want to evaluate the risks that lie in this sleeping position as well as the environment in which you’re sleeping to ensure it’s a safe way for you all to sleep. Please run that past your son’s healthcare provider. Co-sleeping is 100% normal and natural for many parents when done safely – here’s an article that can help better explain this arrangement – https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/the-accidental-co-sleeper-5-key-facts/

      If you’re saying that you hold him to get him to sleep and then you can, too, go to bed, then please be assured there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at his age. You definitely do what you have to in order to get some much needed zzzs! We generally advise our parents that it is never too soon to start teaching your baby healthy sleeping habits even though we discourage a “formal” or strict sleep training program until your baby is at least 4 months old. But for babies your son’s age, there are various gentle techniques that can be applied to help him sleep better, if needed.

      Falling asleep on their own is a skill that most babies are able to learn in time as their bodies grow and mature and as they gain the ability to soothe themselves when they become upset or agitated. While your son won’t be ready for a strict sleeping schedule for a few more months, you can work now to watch for his “sleepy” signs in order to be able to put him down to sleep before he becomes overtired. Once a newborn becomes overtired, he can become very fussy leading to you having to put forth quite some effort to soothe him in order for him to be able to go sleep. Here’s an article that overviews helping your 5-7 week old sleep better – it’s filled with good tips that you may find useful – https://www.babysleepsite.com/how-to-get-my-baby-to-sleep/how-to-get-my-5-6-or-7-week-old-to-sleep/

      I hope this is helpful to you, Laura. Hang in there, and please stop in to see us again soon!

  9. Hi ,my newborn boy is 21days old . After each feed he used to nap just 30 minuets after that he wakes up..afternoon he sleeps only for 2 hour or 1 hour continues . Nd during nite times he sleeps 1 or 3 hours continues. After that he takes nap .is that normal ?? Coz newborn baby needs atleast 18 hours sleep rite ?? But his sleeping pattern is too poor.he naps well whenever he was with me .

  10. My baby girl is 28days old…she does not sleep well during night and continue to have problem falling asleep during the day as well…she looks tired and drowsy but does not sleep continuously for more than 15minutes…i have tried swaddling but she does not approve of it and looks extremely uncomfortable…

    • @Kanchan, Congratulations on your new baby girl! I am so sorry to hear that she is not sleeping too well for you though. At this age, short naps are pretty normal, but ideally they would be at least 30 minutes. If you aren’t already, try offering her naps every 1.5-2 hours (at the most!) after her last wake up time. You will kind of feel like you are always trying to get her to take a nap, and you’ll know you’re on the right track. 😉 Hopefully things start to lengthen soon!
      Not all babies like the swaddle, but be sure to check out this article which includes a video to make sure it’s done correctly – it’s pretty tricky, not to mention trying to do it while sleep deprived!

    • Hi. My newborn son is 18 days old. For the first week, he slept very well as to sometimes we could not wake him up to feed. But since last week he has been waking up frequently and eating milk. From time to time he takes some nap for about 30 minutes or so and wakes up again.and he cries more that last week( when we change and lay him down to sleep) (during the day time). At night he sleeps for about 2-3 hours and wakes up sometimes we can’t wake him up. After waking up, he falls asleep very hard and takes 2 hours sleep.
      The thing makes us worry is that he cries a lot. And he doesn’t seem to be hungry. May be overtired due to less sleep. Maybe uncomfortable because of gas problems in his stomach. As new parents, we don’t know if this is normal?
      Thank you very much in advance

      • Hi Seven,
        Thank you for using The Baby Sleep Site as a resource, and congratulations on your newborn! I’m sorry to hear you are having trouble with your newborn not sleeping. Many babies do start “waking up” about two weeks after birth, seeming more alert and crying more often. This can be completely normal, and we actually have an article with a list of the most common reasons for newborns to cry, that you can use a reference, if you like: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-comfort/baby-crying-13-reasons-why/

        If you at any time feel like your baby is in pain or deeply uncomfortable, or he’s crying for an extended period of time and nothing helps, please do get in touch with your pediatrician. Some babies do have colic, reflux, or allergies that can cause serious discomfort, and which can be treated by a doctor, so it’s important to consider that. But if your baby is crying just until you fix the problem for him, he is likely fine 🙂 Hope this helps!

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