Why Do Babies Fight Sleep? Why Is Baby Not Sleeping?

Baby Sleep

Why Do Babies Fight Sleep? Why Is Baby Not Sleeping?

Just when you think you have your baby’s sleep figured out, it changes. Sound familiar? You’re not alone! Even babies with consistent and predictable sleep schedules can experience regression. Why do babies fight sleep? Why is baby not sleeping?
Here are 5 common situations that you need to know about to prepare yourself and what you can do to get back on track.

  1. Room conditions

Many parents overlook the importance of setting the stage for sleep. This is particularly true for older babies who are more aware of their surroundings and are more easily engaged by noise and light. Ensure that you create a calm, relaxing and safe sleep environment for your baby by addressing the following:

  • Is it Safe?

    Make sure that your child’s sleep space follows current recommendations established by the Canadian Paediatric Society.

  • Is it Calm?

    Our sleep patterns are regulated in part by light and darkness.  Melatonin is released as we are exposed to decreasing levels of light and is responsible for initiating and maintaining sleep. Coritsol, on the other hand, helps to prepare the body to become alert and active and is released when we are exposed to light. Keeping your baby’s room dark by avoiding both natural and artificial sources of light is an important step to ensuring a restful sleep.


  • Is it Relaxing?

    Respect the fact that your baby is trying to sleep. Consider using a white noise machine or fan to block out environmental noises. Evaluate the room temperature to ensure that heat or cold aren’t a factor. The optimal sleeping temperature is 20oC (68oF). Lastly, make sure your baby is sleeping in comfortable, non-restrictive clothing.

  1. Nap timing – when and how to put a baby to sleep

If you put your baby down for a nap too early, they won’t be tired enough to sleep; put them down too late for a nap, and you risk the possibility that your baby is overtired. It can be tough to navigate nap timing, but your child’s sleep needs are typically based on their age. Use a sleep log to monitor your baby’s naps and bedtime to determine their optimal schedule. Use the following as a guide:

  • 0-3 months: Awake for 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • 3-6 months: Awake for 1 to 2 hours
  • 6-14 months: Awake for 3 hours
  • 14 months +: Awake for 5-6 hours
  1. Developmental milestones

Each new age and stage in your baby’s life brings with it some incredible milestones. New skills such as rolling, sitting, standing, walking and talking result in major changes to your child’s mobility and communication skills. This is an exciting time in your baby’s life! Be prepared for changes in sleep habits such as increased fatigue and an interest in practicing their new skills in the privacy of their sleep space. Give your baby plenty of opportunity to practice their new skill while they are awake to help master the skill and help minimize their newfound disinterest in sleep.

  1. Nap transitions

As you baby grows and develops more stamina, the number of naps they will need through out the day decreases. Because developmental milestones often coincide with the timing of nap transitions, it can be difficult to determine how to handle the change in sleep habits. Allow two weeks to ensure that your child has had an opportunity to overcome milestones before transitioning to fewer naps.

The most difficult transition is moving to one nap per day (usually around 14 months). Naptime will likely hover between 12:00 PM and 12:30 PM for several weeks. It’s important to not let your child become overtired by providing opportunities for rest throughout the day. Be prepared for dinnertime meltdowns. Try bumping mealtime and bedtime earlier until your baby has adjusted to their new schedule.

  1. Ear infections

Did your perfect sleeper all of sudden start waking up in the middle of the night and crying for hours? Ear infections are a common cause of sleep regression, often occurring after a cold of sinus infection. The build up of fluid in your baby’s ear(s) may have not yet reached the point where typical symptoms such as fussiness, fever, reduced appetite and tugging at ears are present, but lying down can trigger pain, causing frequent and/or lengthy night wakings.

If your baby has suddenly started to fight sleep, there is a reason. Do your best to evaluate possible causes and try to address them as soon as possible. If you are unable to determine why your baby is fighting sleep, speak to your physician or a trusted sleep consultant.

The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes and is not medical advice.

Do NOT use this Website for medical emergencies.

If you have a medical emergency, call a physician or qualified healthcare provider, or CALL 911 immediately. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-treatment based on anything you have seen or read on this Website. Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed and qualified health provider in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

Rebecca Earl

About Rebecca Earl

Rebecca is an infant and child sleep consultant and founder of The Sugar Plum Sleep Co. She is an only child (because she never slept as an infant), a mother of two young boys and an HGTV addict.

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