It’s 3 a.m. and your baby has been up for the past two hours, crying and fighting sleep. You’re exhausted and don’t know what to do.
Lack of sleep is one of the biggest challenges new parents face. When your baby fights sleep, it can feel like you’re stuck in an endless cycle that never ends. We’ve been there, too.
There are several reasons for your baby fighting sleep including separation anxiety, overstimulation, and overtiredness. These changes to your baby’s sleep habits usually occur at around 8 to 18 months old. Fortunately, there are many ways to help your baby stop fighting sleep.
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Why Is Your Baby Fighting Sleep?
So, why does my baby fight sleep? There are many possible reasons why your child may be struggling to sleep.
By understanding the reason, you can work on addressing the issue and helping them get that much-needed rest.
Here are a few reasons for your baby fighting sleep:
Most of the time babies fight sleep because they become wired and have difficulty settling down at night.
Babies are often primed to fall asleep during a specific window of time. If you miss this opportunity, they can become overtired and irritable which can lead to them fighting their sleepiness even if they want to fall asleep. Additionally, a baby who is overtired might take short naps. How To Help An Overtired Baby Catch Up On Sleep
Noisy toys, bright screens, and a busy household can leave babies overwhelmed. This often results in overstimulation and makes babies fight sleep. New moms and dads should provide a quiet, dark sleeping environment and avoid any stimulating activities and too much noise before going to sleep.
One of the most common reasons babies fight sleep is separation anxiety. Babies who experience separation anxiety often fear that a parent will leave them and not return.
This fear can also happen when it’s time to move on from co-sleeping.
In the presence of parents, babies feel secure and when they don’t see their parents around, especially at night, they feel anxious.
Most babies often resist sleep because they don’t want their parents to leave them. This can happen anywhere from 8 to 18 months old.
The 24-hour cycle of changes in the body’s physical, mental, and behavioral states is called the circadian rhythm.
Infants develop their circadian rhythms around 6 weeks old, and these rhythms become more mature by 3 to 6 months old, allowing for a true sleep schedule.
Sleep regression affects a baby’s regular sleeping time routine. This setback usually happens at different points before they reach their first birthday. These sleep regressions usually occur during 4 months, 6 months, between 8 and 10 months, and at 12 months.
During sleep regressions, babies will have trouble settling down and will fight sleep constantly to stay awake.
Not Tired Enough to Sleep
This is less common in younger babies but more common in toddlers and older babies. Most toddlers are capable of staying awake for longer periods of time. If your toddler is fighting his urge to sleep, he may not be tired enough to sleep.
How Do You Get the Baby to Fall Asleep and Stop Fighting Sleep?
So, how do you get your baby to stop fighting sleep? There are several to help your baby who fights sleep.
Here are some of them.
Adjust Your Baby’s Bedtime Schedule
If a baby is resisting sleep, it may be because the current sleeping time doesn’t work well with his or her natural rhythms. So, one thing you can do is experiment with different bedtimes to see what works best. For instance, you can set sleep time based on your baby’s last nap.
If your baby seems extra fussy in the evening, it may be because she’s not really tired yet. Moving to a later bedtime may help.
Alternatively, if your baby seems cranky and unable to settle down at night, it may be because she’s overtired. In this case, an earlier bedtime may do the trick. How To Put a Fussy Baby To Sleep
How much sleep your baby needs depends on his age so make the necessary adjustments to his sleeptime schedule as well.
Establish a Nap Routine
Most parents often overlook the importance of establishing a consistent nap routine for their children. A well-defined nap time routine can really help a baby or toddler go from full-on playing to falling asleep quickly.
If your baby is still resisting sleep during nap time, it might be because he or she is having trouble transitioning from an exciting play time to nap time and is not tired yet. If this is the case, try implementing a short calming nap such as telling one bedtime story and a quick lullaby.
Plan Longer Afternoon Nap Times
If your baby is resisting sleep at night, you may need to adjust their nap schedule. When Do Babies Drop Morning Nap
Plan for long afternoon naps and move lunchtime up a bit. This can help them be more tired at bedtime and be less likely to fight sleep.
Make Sure Your Babies Are Getting Enough Food
A hungry baby is more likely to fight sleep. Make sure they are getting enough to eat during the day, especially at night before going to sleep. A full belly can help a child sleep during bedtime, you can even try dream feeding if they are young enough.
Create a Safe Sleep Environment
This means a quiet room with a comfortable surface on which to lie down.
Use blackout curtains or blinds to create a dark room and a restful environment. Should Newborn Sleep In Dark Room?
Make sure the room is quiet. You can do this by using a white noise machine or playing calming music. Loud noises can make it difficult even for an older baby to stay asleep.
The surface on which your baby will be sleeping should be comfortable. A firm mattress with a soft blanket is ideal.
Be Patient and Calm
Babies feed off of their parents’ emotions, so staying relaxed while dealing with your baby’s sleep problems can help them to calm down as well. If you’re feeling frustrated, try taking a few deep breaths before you go into your baby’s room.
Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine
Parents can help their baby sleep by creating a bedtime routine that is soothing and consistent. This may include taking a bath, reading books, and cuddling in a favorite chair.
By doing the same things in the same order around the same time each night, parents can help their babies develop healthy baby sleep habits.
Be Familiar With Your Baby’s Wake Windows.
All babies are different, but most follow a similar schedule. There are usually two wake windows during the day, with naps in between. It’s vital that you understand your babies sleep cues, so can put them to sleep when they are ready.
But of course, babies’ wake time varies by age. A 1-month-old can only be awake for about an hour at a time, while a 3-month-old can handle being up for up to two hours.
Getting yourself familiar with these wake windows can help you create a plan or sleep routine that is suitable for your little one.
In some cases, sleep training can help your baby stop fighting sleep. It also helps your baby girl or baby boy develop good sleep habits at a young age. When To Start Sleep Training
However, some sleep training methods may not be suitable for your baby’s reason for fighting sleep. For instance, the cry it out method can do more harm than good if the reason why your baby is resisting sleep time is separation anxiety.
Pay Attention To Baby Sleep Cues
Each baby gives different cues when they’re sleepy. But it’s important to pay attention to your baby’s own sleep patterns and cues including constant eye-rubbing and yawning which could indicate that she’s ready for some shut-eye on her own bed.
Do Babies Outgrow Fighting Sleep?
Around 8-10 months old, babies start to become more independent and realize how bedtime works and that it means saying goodbye. This can cause some good sleepers to suddenly start fighting sleep. It’s a developmental phase that happens as your baby grows older.
Parents can’t stop this but the whole family can offer support and make this entire phase easier for their children.
Conclusion on What to Do if Babies Fight Sleep
Why does your baby fight sleep? Babies go through many changes as they grow older and sleep is one of them. It’s important to be patient as you work through these changes together. If your baby is fighting sleep, try some of the tips we shared and see if they help.
Remember, it may take a little time but eventually, your baby will start sleeping through the night again.
Of course, you can always talk to your pediatrician or a licensed sleep consulate for baby sleep advice.
This article was written by: Gian MIller – Full-Time Writer, Baby Whisperer & Dad of 3.
Gian spends a lot of his time writing. A self-proclaimed baby whisperer, Gian has been through it all with his own children and is passionate about sharing his hard-won wisdom with other parents. When he’s not writing or changing diapers, you can find him playing the guitar or watching baseball (or preferably both at the same time).