Is Your Newborn Awake for Hours on End? Here’s What to Do

Is your newborn awake for hours on end, all day or night? Learn how to get your fussy and overtired baby to stop fighting sleep.

Newborn Awake for 6 Hours StraightThis 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 in the crib. 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.

As you likely know, this pattern isn’t ideal. Babies shouldn’t be awake for this long, especially when they can be ready for their next nap in as little as 45 minutes. And even at 6 months old, they shouldn’t be awake for longer than 2 hours.

Thankfully, I was able to get his wake times much shorter than 6 hours. He stopped fighting sleep, especially when I discovered different ways to help him nap. Most importantly, we were both feeling more rested than before.

Take a look at what helped me avoid these long stretches of being awake. Hopefully, they can work for you, too:

Overtired Baby Keeps Waking Up

1. Be intentional about putting your newborn to sleep

As a first-time mom, I figured that young babies would fall asleep whenever they were tired. Only later did I realize that they need our help falling asleep. Doing so on their own doesn’t often happen, and they end up 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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One Mistake You're Making with Your Baby's Awake Time

2. Follow the EASY routine

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Do you feed your newborn as a surefire way to get her to sleep? This might backfire, especially if she won’t sleep any other way. You can imagine how difficult it can be to put her to sleep if the only way she knows how is through feeding.

So, what’s the alternative? Follow the “EASY” routine.

Coined by Tracy Hogg in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, the EASY routine encourages you to feed her after she wakes up, not to go to sleep. It’s not a “by the clock” routine where you have to put her down at certain times. Instead, you simply follow the rhythm depending on when she woke up.

She 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 she woke up for the day. Feed (E) as soon as she wakes up, then have her spend time awake (A). Put her down for the next nap (S) based on how long she had been awake, and rest yourself (Y). After she wakes up from that nap, you start the cycle over again with a feeding.

3. Have an early bedtime

The best way to reset your newborn’s sleep is to have an early bedtime. As in, really early.

If she’s been awake for a long stretch, she needs to “catch up” on lost sleep. Rather than waiting until your regular bedtime to put her down for the night, start it much earlier so she can finally rest for the day. If you normally put her down at 8pm, try 6:30pm or even 6pm.

You can also avoid the infamous witching hours by putting her down before the time frame she’s usually extra fussy.

4. Watch for 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. 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 out for yawns, especially after he’s been alert for a stretch. As soon as he starts yawning, start transitioning your environment into one conducive to 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.

How to Get an Overtired Newborn to Sleep

5. Use a swing

Does your newborn rely on motion to fall asleep (like the stroller or car rides)? See if he can nap in a swing. The constant motion can comfort him to sleep in a way that lying in a crib doesn’t.

And if he doesn’t take to the swing, try carrying him in your arms and walking around the house. Rock him slightly and sing nursery songs. Some parents even swear that walking up and down the stairs—complete with the “thud” of each step—puts their babies to sleep.

Expert tip

Offer him a pacifier while he’s in the swing. The sucking motion combined with the movement can be all he needs to finally conk out.

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 difficult to sleep.

A simple solution is to mimic how he 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, especially if he needs to be held to sleep. You can “wear” him close to you so he feels like he’s being carried. Meanwhile, your arms are still free to get things done or even be out and about.

Learn what to do when your newborn fights sleep.

Newborn Fights Sleep

7. Engage during the day

Does your newborn take long naps during the day, only to be awake all night? Use the daytime hours to engage and play with her and keep her from taking another lengthy nap.

For instance, you can do tummy time, sing songs, make faces, or place her on a play mat or infant seat. Then, when you see her showing signs of feeling tired, you can get ready for her next nap. The longer you can stretch her wake time, the more she can sleep longer at night.

That said, don’t keep her awake times longer than 90 minutes—this ensures that she also doesn’t get overtired.

8. Wake close to bedtime

Does it seem like your newborn gets good sleep the whole day, including close to your bedtime routine? This could be preventing her from settling for bedtime and sleeping long stretches at night.

I’m not normally a fan of waking a sleeping baby, no matter how long the nap has been. That said, the exception I’d make is the one close to bedtime. If your baby is supposed to sleep soon but her latest nap is running long, cut it short to give her time to be awake.

With my baby, I aimed for about 45-90 minutes of wake time between his last nap and bedtime so that he had enough time to feel tired by then.

9. Keep nighttime quiet and dark

One obstacle that could be keeping your newborn awake at night is that it’s simply too “exciting.” Maybe you turn on the lights to change a dirty diaper, or your evenings are filled with loud sounds.

To get her in the mood to sleep, start your evenings off calm and quiet. Turn off the television and other distracting noises. Draw darkening curtains to block out the light, and turn on a white noise machine to muffle startling sounds.

Then, when you get up with her at night, keep your engagement minimal to encourage continued sleepiness. Use a small nightlight or your phone to see during diaper changes. Don’t engage or talk to her in lengthy stretches, and make the focus all about going back to sleep.


At this stage in your newborn’s life, he shouldn’t be awake for hours on end. What can you do to turn things around?

Be intentional about putting him to sleep, and feed him after he wakes up, not before. Start the bedtime routine early to help him reset and catch up on lost hours of 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.

Now you know what to do when your baby decides not to nap for 6 hours straight.

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  1. Hi Nina, My 4 week old daughter fights sleep. Multiple resources, including yours, have emphasized not keeping a newborn up longer than an hour. However by the time she eats, burps, and has her diaper changed, it’s already an hour and she is not tired. Then I spend the next hour trying to soothe her with a pacifier, shushing, putting her in a dark room, swinging, swaddling, but she continues to fight it. I tried today to start putting her down at 45 minutes and she was wide awake. So by the two hour time frame I agree she is overtired but I have tried putting her down when it’s around the hour timeframe and she also does not seem ready at that point. I’m feeling so helpless as I’m actively implementing all the things most resources are informing me to do. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Alissa! I can so relate to what you’re going through, especially with doing everything “right” and still nothing works. Obviously nothing I or anyone says can magically change things, but one thing that did pop in my mind was thinking about your energy. I remember when my eldest was that age, I was so stressed out and frustrated that all of that just transferred to my son. You can imagine that it wasn’t exactly relaxing to fall asleep when the person holding you is sighing and in tears lol.

      If I could talk to myself again back in those days, I would focus more on how I feel and relax my mind and body. Eventually, the baby follows and can be more likely to be relaxed. I know it’s hard to implement, especially when every skipped nap can feel like a failure, but it’s worth a shot focusing more on being calm and confident and seeing where that goes.

      If anything, just know that you’re not alone mama <3 Hang in there!