Moms, are you exhausted with your baby fighting sleep during the day and at bedtime? Learn how to get him to stop fighting sleep once and for all.
If there’s one thing all new moms struggle with, it’s sleep. From not getting enough of it to managing erratic patterns, it seems there’s never any end to these issues.
Perhaps the biggest headache? A baby fighting sleep all day.
My son seemed to have it worst. He never liked to nap (and would wake up cranky each time). Putting him to sleep would take up to an hour each time. No matter how tired he looked, he still fought going to sleep.
I even used to rock him in my arms to sleep, but instead of closing his eyes, he tried to keep them wide open and look around the room. It got to the point where I’d cover his eyes with my hand to see if that would do the trick.
And that was on the good days.
Other times, he’d stir and squirm in my arms, or scream and fuss when I lay him down. Then I’d have to repeat the whole process all over again.
The longer he was awake, the fussier he got, and the harder it was to put him to sleep. I remember panicking when I realized he had been awake a full six hours straight because he kept fighting sleep.
How to stop your baby fighting sleep
Babies fight sleep for many reasons. They’re overtired, they can’t put themselves to sleep, or they’re frustrated with the way they’re being put to sleep.
The good news is, there are certain techniques that can help your baby transition into sleep willingly, all without a fight. Try these tips and you’ll notice a considerable difference in how he falls asleep:
1. Give your baby a chance to self soothe
Why is your baby fighting sleep in the first place?
Many times, it’s because he struggles with putting himself to sleep. He may have gotten used to being held or nursed to sleep, so if he wakes up in the crib, the unfamiliarity can distress him.
Instead, each time you put him to sleep, do so when he’s drowsy but still awake.
He might not fall asleep the first few times you try this (in fact, he might wake up shrieking and crying for you). But this will at least give him a chance to fall asleep on his own.
How can he learn to self soothe when he has never had a chance to?
So for now, put him down drowsy but awake as a first resort each time he needs to sleep. Then down the line, you might find he’s better able to sleep on his own without your help.
Free resource: Want to teach him how to self soothe and sleep on his own? Discover the 5 mistakes that are keeping him from self-soothing!
Whether you’ve tried to teach him to self soothe in the past or are just now considering it, take a look at the 5 key mistakes to avoid. Download my PDF below—at no cost to you. You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:
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2. Reduce stimulation
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Babies are like you and me: we need the right environment to fall asleep.
A few minutes before naps and bedtime, start reducing the stimulation your baby might see. Turn any loud sounds off, keep blinking lights out of the room, and draw darkening curtains to keep out extra light.
This also goes for how you speak and handle him. Talk in hushed and subdued tones, carry him slowly around the house, and be gentle as naps and bedtime roll around. The less stimulation, the less he’ll resist going to sleep.
3. Put your baby down by the clock
Has anyone ever told you that you’ll “know” when your baby is tired? That you’ll figure out his sleepy cues and know instinctively when to put him down for a nap?
Except if you’re like me, you have no idea what those sleepy cues are. This can make you feel even more terrible that you can’t decipher what your baby is communicating.
In fact, I thought babies just fall asleep when they needed to. No wonder I ended up having an overtired baby instead, one who couldn’t get himself to fall asleep no matter how exhausted he was.
Here’s the thing: parenting takes practice, and as a first-time mom, it shouldn’t come as a shock that you can’t always tell when he’s sleepy. In fact, I eventually stopped relying on sleepy cues to decide it was time to put my baby down.
Instead, I put him down by the clock.
I kept track of how long he’d been awake, and based his next nap from the time he woke up. For instance, if he woke up at 9am, I’d put him down at 10:30am. The younger the baby, the shorter the time he should be awake.
And wow, what a difference this made. Now, I no longer had an overtired baby fighting sleep — instead, he’d fall asleep much quicker and with less resistance.
4. Experiment with your baby’s bedtime
Does your baby fight sleep at bedtime? You might want to experiment with when he goes to sleep for the night as well as the time he wakes up from the last nap.
Watch the video below where I share three ways to experiment with bedtime and naps:
See what happens if you fiddle with nap times and bedtime so he’s comfortable and ready to go to sleep for the night.
5. Do the opposite of your current strategy
We often hear the importance of consistency and routine—I’m a big fan of doing the same things in the same order.
Except… sometimes, as with all things in life, we also need to be flexible.
Your baby, who might have always taken to the pacifier in the past, now spits it out each time you put it in his mouth. Or rocking him on the yoga ball—no matter how vigorously you bounce—isn’t getting you anywhere anymore.
Stop doing what it is that he’s fussing about. He’s complaining about something, a sign that what you’re currently doing in that moment isn’t making him happy.
Sure, he might drift off eventually after an hour of rocking. But the chance of him waking up the minute you put him down is pretty high if he started his sleep fussy and upset.
So, try doing the opposite.
Instead of rocking him on and on, see what happens if you put him down on a blanket—maybe he’s tired of being held. Instead of insisting on a pacifier, see if he could be hungry. And if he keeps stretching himself out of a swaddle, put him down unswaddled or partly swaddled.
He’s resisting the current way you’re putting him to sleep, even if for today or the last few days. Use this as an opportunity to try new strategies and see if he takes to one of them.
6. The fussier your baby gets, the calmer you need to be
The first time I got truly upset at my baby—to the point where I felt guilty and ashamed—happened when he was only eight weeks old.
He wouldn’t nap, no matter how long I tried rocking him, and he fussed the whole time. At the end of my rope, I laid him down only for his eyes to fly wide open the second his head touched the crib mattress.
And I lost it. I yelled at my little baby, so upset just because he wouldn’t nap.
What happens next shouldn’t surprise you: he cried even louder, and looked upset and even afraid. I scooped him up, apologized at my unreasonable reaction, and vowed not to get upset anymore.
You see, our babies pick up our mood and energy. They know when we’re upset versus when we’re soothing and compassionate. And if you had to pick between the two, you can imagine which mood would be more conducive for them to fall asleep.
After all, can you imagine falling asleep when someone with a furrowed brow and a down-turned mouth is looking at you? Not exactly calm and soothing.
The next time you put your baby to nap, remind yourself that he needs you to be patient when he’s at his fussiest. You can’t only be happy and calm when he is—he needs you to be the calm anchor through all his emotions, good or bad.
Think of yourself as helping him through a hard time. The fussier he gets, the calmer you need to be. If you’re too upset, pass him off to someone else (who’s calmer) or take a quick break alone while you collect yourself.
You’ll find that he’ll usually fall asleep with someone calmer, or with you once you’re calm as well.
One of the biggest challenges of being a new mom is handling a baby fighting sleep. You’re not used to the sleep deprivation that comes with parenthood, so it’s easy to get upset when nothing seems to work.
The key takeaway? Stay calm and keep trying. Do the opposite of your current strategy, since your baby might be resisting it. Put him down for naps and bedtime by the clock, and not based on sleep cues.
When you do, put him down drowsy but awake each time he goes to sleep to establish good sleep habits. Spend a few minutes reducing stimulation and gearing him up for a calm, restful environment. And finally, remind yourself that the fussier he gets, the calmer you need to be.
By applying these tips, you can help him stop fighting sleep once and for all.
Get more tips:
- How to Get a Sick Baby to Sleep
- The Biggest Reason Your Baby Will Not Sleep (Even After All This Time)
- Baby Only Wants Mom? These 6 Tips Will Solve It!
- Baby Not Napping? Here’s What to Do
- How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Don’t forget: discover the 5 mistakes that are keeping your baby from self-soothing! Whether you’ve tried to teach your baby to self soothe in the past or are just now considering it, take a look at the 5 key mistakes to avoid. Join my newsletter and download my PDF below—at no cost to you: