Is your newborn awake for 6 hours straight all day and won’t sleep? Learn how to get your fussy and overtired baby to stop fighting sleep.
This can’t be normal, I thought.
Apparently, my baby decided not to nap. I tried rocking him to sleep, but he’d scream as soon as I put him down. After several tries, I gave up and fed him instead, completely skipping that nap. The worst part? This happened again at what should’ve been his next nap.
The next thing I knew, I realized he’d been awake for 6 hours straight.
In hindsight, it sounds silly to feel anxious about a long stretch of time for your newborn to be awake. But in that moment, I knew that 6 hours of awake time was beyond long. It felt like he was awake nearly all day, and fussy because of it.
This lack of sleep wasn’t just limited to the day, either. He was so overtired that he woke up more frequently at night. Then the next day, the cycle would continue.
Newborn awake for 6 hours straight? Here’s what you can do
It’s the conundrum many first-time moms face. If you’re like me, you assumed that babies fall asleep when they’re tired. You never thought about putting him on a schedule or making sure he fell asleep after a certain time.
Or maybe he actually naps for hours during the day, giving you a well-deserved break. But then, he’ll stay awake for just as long, too.
His lack of sleep is exhausting for both of you, and also messes up your feeding schedule. It’s worse at night, so much so that you dread bedtime. You don’t know why he won’t sleep or let you put him down all of a sudden. How can you soothe him to go back to sleep?
As you likely know by now, newborns shouldn’t be awake for 6 hours straight. In fact, a new baby can be ready for his next nap in as little as 45 minutes. And even at 6 months old, he shouldn’t be awake for longer than 2 hours. So yes, your newborn awake for 6 hours straight likely means he’s overtired.
As always, the best place to start is with your pediatrician. She knows your baby well and can diagnose medical issues you might miss, like an ear infection. But if all seems to be okay, what can you do to reset his sleep and avoid these long stretches?
1. Be intentional about putting your newborn to sleep
As a first-time mom, I figured that babies would fall asleep whenever they were tired. Only later did I realize that they actually need our help falling asleep. Waiting for them to fall asleep on their own doesn’t often happen, and they become too tired to feel rested.
Instead, be intentional about putting your newborn to sleep. Don’t wait for him to just conk out when he’s tired. Take note of when he wakes up, either for the day or from his last nap. Then, limit his awake time and start putting him to sleep soon after.
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2. Have an early bedtime
The best way to reset your newborn’s overtired cycle is to have an early bedtime. As in, really early.
If he’s been awake for a long stretch, he needs to “catch up” on lost sleep. Rather than waiting until your regular bedtime to put him down for the night, start it much earlier so he can finally rest for the day.
If you normally put him down at 8pm, try 6:30pm or even 6pm. You can even avoid the infamous witching hours by putting him down during the time frame he’s usually extra fussy.
3. Follow the EASY routine
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Do you feed your newborn as a surefire way to get him to sleep? This might backfire, especially if he won’t sleep any other way.
And while newborns shouldn’t follow a strict schedule that’s by the clock, you can still create a rhythm or routine that will teach him to sleep on his own. The “EASY” routine was coined by Tracy Hogg in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, and she encourages you to feed him after he wakes up.
Your baby would wake up and eat (E), spend some time awake (A), and finally sleep (S)—at which point you’d have time for yourself (Y).
Let’s say he woke up at 6:30am for the day. Feed him (E) as soon as he wakes up, then have him spend time awake (A). Put him down for his next nap—without feeding (S), and rest yourself (Y). After he wakes up, that’s when you’d feed him again.
4. Watch for your newborn’s yawns
One of the telltale signs that your newborn is ready to sleep is a yawn. But don’t wait until he’s yawning up a storm. In fact, some say that you should put your baby down for a nap before his third yawn—any more than that, and he’s already overtired.
So, watch him during his awake time, especially after he’s been alert for a stretch. As soon as he starts yawning, start transitioning your environment into one conducive for sleep. Wrap him in a swaddle, turn on the white noise, rock him slightly, and insert the pacifier.
Do your usual rituals to signal that it’s time for him to sleep.
5. Let your newborn nap in a swing
Does your newborn rely on motion to fall asleep (like the stroller or car rides)? See if he’ll nap in a swing. The constant motion can lull him to sleep, even if he has been fighting naps.
Even better: offer him a pacifier while he’s in the swing. The sucking motion combined with the movement of the swing can be all he needs to finally conk out.
And if he doesn’t take to the swing, try carrying him in your arms and walking around the house. Rock your arms slightly and sing a nursery song. Some moms even swear that walking up and down the stairs—complete with the “thud” of each step—puts their babies to sleep.
6. Use a swaddle or wrap
Before your newborn made his grand entrance into the world, he stayed cocooned in your womb, comforted by its tight spaces. No wonder sleeping flat on his back on a wide mattress can feel unfamiliar and make it difficult for him to sleep.
A simple solution is to mimic how he had slept in the womb. A swaddle is a fantastic way to keep him nice and snug, especially if he still has the moro reflex that makes his arms jerk and flail randomly. Get one that’s already fitted, rather than using a blanket to wrap him in (so it doesn’t come undone easily).
Besides a swaddle, a baby wrap works wonders for a baby who needs to be held to sleep. With a baby wrap, you can “wear” him close to you so he feels like he’s in your arms. Meanwhile, your arms are still free to get things done or even be out and about.
At this stage in your newborn’s life, going on 6 hours straight of being awake is too long. What can you do to help him sleep longer and more frequently?
Be intentional about putting him to sleep, being mindful of when he last woke up and putting him down again soon after. Have an early bedtime to help him reset and catch up on lost sleep. Feed him after he wakes up, not go to sleep.
Keep an eye on his yawns, and put him down ideally before he yawns more than three times. Let him nap in a swing so he can get lulled to sleep with the rhythmic motion. And finally, use a swaddle or baby wrap to mimic the snug environment he’s familiar with.
In hindsight, fretting about naps and wake times can seem silly, but know that you’re not alone, mama—and that you now have a way to shrink those hours down.
Get more tips:
- 5 Things to Do when Your Newborn Wants to Be Held All Night
- Newborn Feeding Every 2 Hours? Top Solutions That Will Help
- Top 5 Reasons Your Newborn Wakes Up Screaming
- How to Get Your Baby to Adjust Using a Newborn Schedule
- Why Your Newborn Is Constantly Hungry and Crying
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