Wondering why your baby won’t sleep through the night, even after all this time? Discover the biggest reason your baby will not sleep — and how to get past that hurdle.
This isn’t getting any better, I thought.
Our usual go-to strategies—swaddling, bouncing on a yoga ball, nursing—were no longer working. My baby was fast outgrowing the swaddles, or simply bursting through them within minutes. Bouncing on a yoga ball now had to be a serious workout instead of subtle movements. And nursing worked only if he didn’t stir the minute I put him down.
Had this been happening during the earlier months, I’d have been more forgiving. After all, he would’ve been a newborn, still unable to sleep through the night. It’s when your baby has been long past that stage—without sleep getting any better—that you start to worry and feel exasperated.
It didn’t help when I’d hear other babies the same age who napped in longer stretches. And as a first-time mom, I had no idea what to expect, or what I had gotten myself into. I’d think, Is THIS what life is going to be like from now on?
When your baby will not sleep
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you can relate.
Maybe your baby cries and screams until you sit next to her crib and constantly pat her back. She still wakes up twice a night (or more!) for feedings, even though you know she’s not really hungry. No matter how much time and effort you put into getting her to sleep, she’s still waking up throughout the night.
And forget about naps—you’re lucky if she sleeps 20 minutes, much less two hours. Sure, she sleeps longer in the swing, but she’s fast outgrowing it (plus you know it’s not exactly the most sustainable sleeping arrangement).
You’re hoping this would’ve gotten better by now, but it seems to only get worse. And several months (and sometimes even over a year) later, you’re beyond exhausted and see no way out. No doubt about it: the lack of sleep is taking a toll on you as a family.
The biggest reason your baby still won’t sleep
If you’re like me, you’ve tried just about everything to get your baby to fall asleep. The problem is, that actually might be contributing to your sleepless nights.
You see, the biggest reason your baby will not sleep is this:
Your baby has never had the opportunity to fall asleep on her own.
Night after night, you’ve always helped her fall asleep. She relied on you to rock her to sleep, to put a pacifier in her mouth throughout the night, or to feed her to sleep (never mind that she’s not even hungry).
This goes for other sleep aids that you may not need a direct hand on, but are becoming unsustainable ways of falling asleep. The swaddle that comes undone after mere minutes, the swing she’s outgrowing, the motion of the car seat or stroller to fall asleep.
Now, these strategies were necessary in the newborn stage, when she was too young to learn how to fall asleep on her own. When frequent feedings were needed because her stomach was still too small. And when she had no patterns to her sleep, whether that meant sleeping 20 minutes or five hours.
When sleepless nights have gone on too long
But now… now she’s past that age. Even your pediatrician is saying she can sleep through the night and take in all her calories during the day, like you and I do.
So much so that these days, all the ways you’re helping her fall asleep or “rescuing” her from frustration are actually doing her a disservice. Because the longer you “help” her sleep, the more you deny her the chance of learning this skill on her own.
“But she doesn’t fall asleep if I just put her down awake,” you might say.
Well, who could blame her? She’s only doing what has now become an ingrained habit for her. If, for months on end, she has only experienced being held to sleep, then it’s only natural she’ll cry when you introduce something new.
And that’s exactly why it’s not getting any better: she has had no chance to fall asleep on her own without you holding or feeding her. And it only gets worse—the longer or harder you rock her in your arms, the more it cements that habit even further.
That’s what made me realize—me, the first one to swear never to let my baby cry—that something needed to change. That there had to be a way to give my baby a chance to sleep on his own, without feeling like I’m subjecting him to the worst nights of his life.
Breaking unsustainable habits
At some point, you’ll need to choose to break these habits as well and replace them with new ones. To question whether what you’ve been doing up to this point could be holding your baby back. And to realize that helping her learn to self-soothe can actually be what she needs the most.
The problem is, most parents (like me) do try. We patch together things we read online, give it a try for a night, feel guilty, then swear the whole thing off. They have no idea—I certainly didn’t—that there has to be a process in place.
The thing that finally convinced me this wasn’t getting any better? I saw what could’ve been the “future me.” You see, I spoke to a cousin who admitted that she still needed to rock her 18-month-old to fall asleep. Another one said she needed to sit by her three-year-old’s bed until she fell asleep.
And there I was, with a six-month-old, horrified at the thought of doing this for years.
That’s when I decided to research, read, and apply everything I learned about helping babies sleep. I had “known” something needed to change, but it wasn’t until I was in the right mindset that things finally started to work.
How to teach your baby to self soothe
If this resonates with you—if you’re nodding your head or feel relieved knowing you’re not alone—I’d like you to join my newsletter and download the first chapter of my guide, How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe.
This chapter shares the mindset change that has to happen in order for you to get over your limiting beliefs. These are the thoughts that are preventing you from getting the sleep you and your baby need. Grab it below! As one parent says about the guide:
“Helping our son sleep was MUCH easier than we expected. On the third night, it only took 3 minutes until he fell asleep, and then he slept for 12 hours without any interruption! We had to wake him up in the morning—it’s a miracle! His naps have also improved, no more rocking or bouncing, and no more back pain. And most importantly, he’s in a better mood during the day. This guide has all you need to know how to get your baby to fall asleep independently. I’d recommend your guide to every parent who wants a happier, well rested child.” -Karolina Duricova
You know more than anyone that your little one isn’t getting enough sleep, and neither are you. That perhaps all the ways you’ve been trying to help her sleep are actually making things worse.
But at least now you know where to go from here: that you need to give her a chance to actually fall asleep on her own, instead of doing it for her. And who knows, hopefully you’ll be able to put away the yoga ball and the outgrown swaddles once and for all.
Get more tips:
- A New Mom’s Guide to a Baby Fighting Sleep
- How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
- What to Do When Your Baby Wakes Up Crying Hysterically
- Baby Not Napping? Here’s What to Do
- How to Get Used to Life with a Baby