10 Tough Baby Sleep Problems, and How To Solve Them

Baby Sleep Problems

Solving your baby’s sleep problems can be tough enough, but finding the solution to YOUR specific problem can be even tougher. After all, the sleep training plan we would recommend for parents who want to transition away from cosleeping would be very different than the sleep training plan we would recommend for parents who want to stop rocking their baby to sleep.

So how can you solve YOUR unique sleep challenge? Well, I can’t give you personalized advice here on the blog (you’ll need to connect with a consultant for that), but I can give you some tips and additional resources that are designed to solve the 10 most common baby sleep problems.

10 Common Baby Sleep Problems, and Sleep Training Solutions To Help

1. Your baby will fall asleep only when you feed him.

Oh, is this a common one. This is what we call a feeding association – your baby associates feeding (usually breastfeeding) with falling asleep. The best way to wean your baby away from a feeding association is usually to distance the feeding from the start of a sleep time. For instance, if you usually feed your baby to sleep at bedtime, you’ll want to move the feeding to an earlier point in your bedtime routine. If that change feels too abrupt to you and your baby, you can break it down into smaller baby steps; our consultants generally offer baby step options to help minimize crying with changes like this.

2. Your baby will fall asleep only when you rock her, or when she’s in the infant swing.

This is a movement association – your baby associates falling asleep with movement. You can gradually wean your baby away from a movement association by fading out the movement. For example, you could start by rocking your baby mostly to sleep and then work towards simply holding your baby in your arms without any movement, until he falls asleep that way.

3. Your baby will fall asleep only when you hold her, or when he’s in a sling or wrap.

Usually, babies who fit this description need to be held or worn closely to mom specifically in order to fall asleep. We sometimes call this a parent sleep association, with mom usually being the parent in question. If your baby has a strong association with you, in particular, you could try having your spouse or partner, or maybe another family member, do the pre-sleep routines and put your baby to bed; sometimes, getting your child accustomed to another caregiver at bedtime can fix the association. Or, you can use a sleep coaching method like pick up put down or the chair method to keep you close by while you work on teaching your baby to fall asleep without being held.

4. Your baby will fall asleep only in the carseat.

If your baby needs to be in the car while you’re driving around in order to fall asleep in the car seat, then that’s another movement association. But we sometimes see families in our Helpdesk who find that their babies sleep great in the car seat both in and out of the car. That snug, semi-reclined position is very relaxing for babies and can be especially comfortable for babies who have reflux or GERD. In this case, be sure to treat any medical conditions like reflux that can make sleeping flat uncomfortable. Then, fade out this sleep association like you would any other.

5. Your baby will sleep only in your bed, right next to you.

If your child has always shared a bed with you, then she may not know any other way to sleep. But even if co-sleeping is just an occasional thing, your baby no doubt sleeps great that way, simply because he’s so close to you. To gently stop co-sleeping, you’ll want to gradually move your baby out of your bed and into his own sleeping area. You can break this down into a series of small steps in order to minimize crying; we outline a detailed day-by-day co-sleeping transition plan in our Members Area.

6. Your baby sleeps okay at night, but won’t fall asleep at nap time and won’t nap on a schedule.

Believe it or not, this is very normal, and so is the reverse scenario. Daytime and nighttime sleep are handled by different parts of your baby’s brain, so even if your baby has mastered nighttime sleep pretty well, those skills won’t necessarily translate to naps. In this case, you will need to work on nap training.

7. Your baby falls asleep at bedtime but wakes constantly for the rest of the night.

If the wakings are due to hunger and a need to feed, and if the feedings are excessive, then you’ll need to adjust your baby’s feeding schedule. However, if the wakings aren’t related to hunger, then you likely still have some unresolved sleep associations on your hands. Carefully examine how your baby is going into her sleeping area at night…if she isn’t fully awake, then you will probably need to do more sleep training until your baby can go from fully awake to asleep without your help. When she gets to this point, she’ll be able to put herself back to sleep when she wakes between sleep cycles at night, and this will eventually eliminate night wakings that aren’t related to feedings.

8. Your baby wakes to feed all night long.

Eating all night long is normal for newborns, but once your baby is about 4 months old, he should start to shift the majority of his feedings to daylight hours, and begin sleeping for longer (4ish) hour stretches and feeding less often at night. However, if your baby is feeding often at night, it may be that he has this backward, and is napping more and feeding less during the day and then making up for it at night. In this case, you just need to work on shifting the schedule by shortening naps and offering more daylight feeds.

9. Your baby sleeps fairly well, but wakes incredibly early and is up for the day well before you’d like him to be.

Oh, early-waking….this is such a frustrating problem! In this case, the problem can be one of several things. This can be due to a too-late bedtime for babies – if your baby is going down too late at night, she may be getting overtired and waking early as a result. Or, it can be a case of too much nap time sleep during the day, which means less sleep at night. Finally, if your toddler is waking too early, it may be that you are putting her to bed too early, and that you need to push bedtime back. This is especially true for toddlers who still take an afternoon nap. Check out our members-only e-book, Shift Your Child’s Schedule, as well as a case study presenting solutions for early-waking, for tips on how to solve these problems

10. Your baby was sleeping great, but has suddenly stopped and is now sleeping terribly.

This can be due to a lot of factors, honestly. This may be due to health and developmental factors, like sleep regressions, illness, or teething. In these cases, it’s best just to wait out the phase. However, it may be that you’ve had big disruptions in your life that have blown your usual sleep schedules apart – moving to a new house, having a new baby, or extended traveling tend to do that. For toddlers, it may be that a big change like potty training or moving to a big kid bed is to blame. In this case, either complete the transition or change and then get back on track once things are back to normal, or pause the transition (in the case of potty training or moving to a big kid bed) and wait until your child is a little older.

How To Get Personalized Help For Tough Baby Sleep Problems

Solving your baby’s tough sleep problems may feel impossible…you may wonder how on earth you’re going to get from sleepless nights and erratic naps to better rest for your whole family. But progress IS possible – especially if you have the right help! One of the easiest and fastest was to solve even the toughest baby sleep problems is to try a personalized consultation from The Baby Sleep Site®? Your consultation will allow you to work one-on-one with an expert sleep consultant. Your consultant will craft a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for your family, walk you through each step of implementing the plan at home, and then will support you throughout the process.
Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and get started right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers.

What tough baby sleep problems have you made it through? Share your tips and comments below!

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11 thoughts on “10 Tough Baby Sleep Problems, and How To Solve Them”

  1. Our 12 month old had been doing pretty well with sleep following some sleep training. We put him down for naps and bedtime awake and he falls asleep on his own, and he had settled into a good (or at least better!) routine with waking only once during the nigh. However, a couple of months ago we moved house and he now shares a room with his 3 year old brother. He seemed to be fine with the transition, but in the last few weeks he has started waking multiple times during the night, seemingly very distressed, and because leaving him to cry for really anything longer than a few mins results in his older brother waking up, also very upset, I have fallen into the habit of soothing him by picking him up and often nursing him. In the last few nights he’s been awake 5/6 times per night and has struggled to settle even with nursing. I’m exhausted and don’t know what to do!

    • Hi @Naomi, thank you for writing to us. Moving house can be so difficult on babies, I just went through the same thing and it really rattled my little one for a while. It may require a bit of a “reset” for him and since you have the 3 year old sharing in the room you may need to take a more gentle approach. Here is a link to a free guide with tips to help your little one sleep through the night: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-through-night-free-ebook/
      And just an idea (don’t know if this is even a possibility without it causing more stress for you) I don’t know if you could potentially move your 3 year old out of the room for a week or so either to your room or another room while you work on your 12 month old’s sleep in their room, but maybe that would work for a reset.
      Let us know if you need anything else! We have a ton of other resources that I’m confident can help if you need more info. Hang in there!

  2. Hi Emily-

    I have a question about putting baby in his crib completely awake. Why is it so bad to put baby in the crib when he’s drowsy? I personally cannot go to sleep when I’m completely awake, and feel like I can’t blame my 5-month-old for getting mad if I do this to him.
    Thank you! I

    • @ Johanna – You can absolutely do drowsy! You just don’t want so “drowsy” that your baby is actually asleep 🙂 We often tell parents to start with quite drowsy, but slightly awake before putting baby in the crib; from there, you can work your way towards putting your child in the crib very awake. That’s a nice place to work towards as your baby gets older, as it means you can set a pretty definite time limit for your bedtime routine, and that you don’t have to keep “working” until you get to the perfect drowsy state. But given how young your baby is, putting him down very drowsy is fine 🙂

      Hope this helps! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  3. We have problem #9! My son is almost 14 months old. He sleeps through he night, but is up almost every single morning between 4:30-4:45 and ready to go for the day. We have tried to leave him in his bed until after 6:00 in hopes that he will self soothe himself back to sleep but he thinks it’s play time. I watch him on the monitor and he is rolling, walking around, talking and laughing. His bedtime is 7:00 and he is usually asleep by 7:20-7:30. He takes 2 naps and each nap is at least 1.5-2 hours on average. I think he naps about 3.5-4 hours total during the day and I am guilty of letting him sleep more than a total of 3 hours, but I am just so exhausted. I usually end up napping during one of his naps as well! We are at a loss of what to do and I’m so worried he’s not getting enough sleep for his growth and development. Any ideas on how to help him sleep a little longer through the night?

    • @ Lindsey – you might be looking at too much nap time plus a too-early bedtime. Based on what you describe, he’s getting about an hour more nap sleep than he probably needs, plus is going to bed on the early side based on how much nap sleep he’s getting. I’d try shortening the naps as a first step, and see what that does to wake-up time. Then, you could try bumping bedtime back gradually, and see what that does. While we like early bedtimes for babies, toddlers sometimes need later naptimes to optimize sleep.

      We have an e-book designed to help you shift your child’s schedule; it’s part of our member’s area. You can read more about it here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/diy/

      Hope this helps, Lindsey! Good luck to you 🙂

  4. Also, would sleep training involve intentionally waking my baby to feed him at specific times so as not to “reward” crying?

    Thanks in advance!

  5. Hi there – my 19 week old is primarily suffering with #7 (which is likely a combination of problems 1, 3, and 5) and with #6 to some extent as well. Mostly, we’ve just run into the 4 month sleep regression – his pre-existing troubles seem to have multiplied in intensity. We’ve started trying to coach on our own with the PUPD method, and when we do let him cry himself to sleep after we put him back down, he’ll cry for about 5-8 minutes, “fall asleep”, and then wake up again 3-5 minutes later to start the process over again. We eventually just stop putting him back down on his own to end the cycle. It’s as if he can’t get a good rest if he “fell asleep” while he was all worked up from crying. If we proceed with a sleep training plan that allows him to cry himself to sleep, won’t we be faced with the same cycle? Will sleep training not work for us because he can’t fall asleep properly after he’s been crying?

    • @ Jessica – great questions! We have a few resources that can help you sort this out. For starters, it may help if you download our free e-book, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Thru The Night (https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/) That has an overview of 5 sleep coaching methods and how they work with different ages and temperaments. You may also want to consider a membership to our Members Area. It sounds like yo are ready to do this yourself, which is awesome! But it’ll no doubt help to have a lot of resources at your disposal. Our Members Area is a virtual library full of sleep coaching resources that you can access 24/7 to help you with sleep coaching. You can read more here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/diy/

      Hope these resources help, Jessica! Best of luck to you 🙂

  6. We definitely have problem number 1, but with the bottle. That aside, once he is asleep he is generally fine. My son just turned 12 months and has typically been a great sleeper (12 hrs at night and two 1.5 hr naps a day). The last few weeks have been a little rough though – fighting naps (especially the afternoon nap) and waking 1-3 times a night. Not sure if he is going through a regression, transition, growth spurt, having sleep association problems or what…

    The bottle to sleep problem has been a gradual thing over the last 6 months. My son has always been picky about where and when he will take his bottle. It started by rocking him in the chair, giving him a bottle, then putting him in his crib awake where he would settle and go to sleep (naps and nights). A few months ago he refused to take the bottle in the chair (or anywhere for that matter), and as a last result I laid him in the crib a gave him a bottle. That then became the new routine – he would drink his bottle (I have to hold it), then when it was empty he would roll over, settle and go to sleep. Now even that isn’t reliable. Sometimes we go through 2 bottles in the process and it can take a while to coax him to nap. Sometimes after 2hrs of fighting I give up and drive him in the car to get him to fall asleep. Both are bad habits, I know.

    How do I teach him to nap without doing either of these (bottle and/or car)? Getting him to bed at night was the same but has been better the last 4 nights (even though he has still been having occasional issues with night wakings – overtired?). I can deal with the nights, but we are about to start him in daycare so I need to teach him to fall asleep for naps better ASAP.

    His morning nap has been getting pushed back further (on his own) and he seems to be fine, but the afternoon nap has been near impossible. We usually have to drive him to get him to fall asleep for this one, then put him in his crib. Sometimes he flat out refuses but is exhausted.

    He is starting daycare for 2 days a week at the end of the month and I am terrified that he won’t nap there. To make matters worse, the daycare want to put him in the toddler room that only takes one nap (on a cot), and doesn’t allow bottles. 1) How do I fix the bottle association?, 2) Do you think he is ready to transition to one nap?

    Thanks for any advice!

    • @ Danielle – wow, sounds like you are facing some tough problems! Sorry to hear that you’re struggling 🙁 Re: the bottle – sounds like this is a pretty major sleep association. The main thing will be to gradually wean your son away from needing this to fall asleep. You can do that in a few ways – you can go “cold turkey” and switch to a sippy cup overnight (which will probably work fast but will likely be a tear-filled process). You can also try to move any bottle feedings up earlier in the bedtime routine, which will help disassociate the bottle from sleep. Finally, you can offer the bottle before sleep but shorten the feeding, removing the bottle before your son is asleep.

      Re: the car and naps – sounds like you have a scheduling problem, if he’s pushing his morning nap back. While a little nap strike is normal at this age, you don’t want to go to one nap too soon; we usually recommend waiting until a child is 15 months old before making that transition. You can see our recommended 12 month schedule here – this may help you troubleshoot your son’s schedule: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/toddler-schedule/ Now, that said, if you know that daycare is going to want him to take just one nap per day, then it may be advisable to go ahead and transition to one nap now, and save yourself the grief!

      Hope these tips help, Danielle. You may also want to download our free toddler e-book; that has lots more tips and tricks in it: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddler-sleep-training-secrets-free-ebook/

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