Baby Fighting Sleep? An Expert Helps You Solve The Struggle

Baby no longer fighting sleep, and sleeping peacefully in mother's arms, while wearing a Woolino sleep bag.

A baby fighting sleep can be seriously challenging for parents to deal with. You’ll end up worried about your infant and stressed about bedtime, which is detrimental to both you and your child.

Fighting sleep often takes the form of the infant wriggling, shouting, and crying. Getting too little sleep can slow your baby’s development, and may even contribute to learning problems. It’s also likely to trigger low moods and frustration.

In the article below, we take a look at why your baby is fighting sleep and the steps that you can take to solve this.

Why Is Your Baby Fighting Sleep?

Babies fight sleep for a whole range of reasons, which will vary between infants. These can include things like day-night confusion, sleep regression, overstimulation, and more.

Day-Night Confusion

Human bodies are governed by an internal clock, the circadian rhythm. This is regulated by the day-night cycle of light and darkness, and it triggers sleepiness when night falls.

Infants take time to develop a circadian rhythm. They’re much more likely to be awake during the night, or to sleep in short bursts. This often leads to the baby fighting sleep.

You can help your child’s circadian rhythm develop by making sure their room is dark at night, and exposing them to natural light during the day.

Sleep Regression

Sleep regression often occurs several times throughout the first year, usually at 4 months, 6 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, and 18 months. It’s also not uncommon for your toddler to suffer bouts of sleep regression. Many people notice that sleep regression accompanies growth spurts, milestones, teething, or other life disruptions.

It generally only lasts between 2 and 4 weeks. If you’re wondering “why is my baby fighting sleep all of a sudden?” when they were previously a good sleeper, it’s probably because your little one is going through sleep regression.

Often, sleep regression will sort itself out, but keeping your baby to a regular bedtime routine, providing extra attention during the day, and making sure your baby is napping enough can all help.

Sleep regression generally disappears as your baby gets older.

Change In Schedule

A schedule change can be something as simple as the changing seasons or something in the environment being altered. Even unusual daytime activities can affect your baby’s sleep.

If your baby keeps fighting sleep, consider whether you have a stable enough routine, and whether you could do more to make your little one feel secure.

Change In Location

Changes in location may also affect your baby’s sleep. Fighting sleep is a common response to being in a new environment, perhaps because your infant doesn’t feel safe when their surroundings change.

Traveling can also trigger this sort of stress-related reluctance to sleep, so don’t be surprised if your baby is fighting sleep after a long journey, even if they’re in their usual sleeping space.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is common in young children and something that you should consider if your newborn is struggling to sleep.

Separation anxiety in babies is very normal. You might see it if your child cries when you leave the room, if your child won’t sleep without you, and if your child clings to you and is afraid of strangers.

You can reduce separation anxiety by having a good routine, practicing brief periods of separation, and regularly cuddling your child. Don’t worry if the anxiety continues, however; some is perfectly normal.

Too Much Noise

You may see a newborn fighting sleep if they’re in a loud environment. Things like traffic, noisy conversations, telephones, etc., can prevent your baby from sleeping.

You can tackle this by providing a quiet space in the house, rather than having them sleep near occupied living spaces (especially during the day). Keep the noise in the house low when they’re asleep.

Baby yawning, getting ready to sleep.

How To Stop Your Baby From Fighting Sleep

    Babies fighting sleep is normal behavior – but hopefully, the tips below will encourage your child to sleep well every night.

    Watch For Sleep Cues

      Sleep cues indicate your child is getting drowsy. These vary between babies, but common ones include:

      • Closed fists
      • Yawning
      • Ear pulling
      • Eyes fluttering or crossing
      • Frowning/concerned expression
      • Sucking fingers
      • Arching backward

      These indicate your little one is getting ready to sleep, so you should start the bedtime routine.

      Stay On Schedule

        Having a regular schedule reduces the risk of your baby fighting sleep, because their internal body clock will regulate their sleep patterns more effectively.

        You don’t always want to conform to the clock if your infant seems sleepy, but having a schedule is important. One of the best ways to do this is to regulate their feeding schedule. If your baby always sleeps after a feed, time their feeds to create good sleeping patterns.

        Be consistent about your bedtime schedule, too. Familiarity will settle your baby and encourage them to doze.

        Make Them Comfortable

          The baby’s room should be dark, quiet, and a comfortable temperature – ideally around 68-72 degrees F. Talk to your baby in a gentle, calming voice, and set them on their back on a firm mattress.

          Make sure your baby’s crib has a fitted sheet on, and opt for soft lighting, such as a dim lamp or nightlight.

          Swaddle Your Newborn

            Swaddling your little one involves wrapping them in a breathable blanket. This makes them feel calm and sleepy, and may reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). You need to swaddle your baby safely, however.

            The hands-up swaddle is used for newborns and keeps the baby’s hands near their face. The “burrito wrap” can be used for slightly older babies. Finally, the “simple swaddle” keeps the hands against the sides. 

            Place your swaddled child gently on a firm mattress to sleep. You can also use a wrap instead of a blanket for swaddling, which can be easier.

            Create A Bedtime Routine

              A bedtime routine will often include bathing the child and changing them into a fresh diaper. You might read a story, dim the lights, provide cuddles, and sing a lullaby. You can do these in almost any order that feels right to you.

              Put Your Baby Down Sleepy

                Your infant should be ready to sleep when they’re set down, or they will grow restless. Wait until you see the sleep cues described earlier, and then settle them down. 

                Don’t wait until they’re already asleep; learning how to doze in the crib increases the chances of them falling asleep independently later.

                Try Sleep Training

                  Sleep training involves getting your child to fall asleep without you, and often starts when the baby is 4 months old. It’s key to teaching your child to sleep independently.

                  Sleep training involves multiple methods, including cry-it-out, which means meeting all your child’s needs, then letting them cry until they fall asleep. A less extreme version involves checking on them when they cry, but only after a set period, with longer and longer intervals.

                  You can also try the chair method, which involves sitting nearby but moving further away each night, until your baby can fall asleep without your presence.

                  Different methods work well for different babies.

                  Maintain Day-Night Rhythms

                    As discussed earlier, day-night rhythms tell your baby when it’s time to sleep. You can regulate these rhythms by using things like blackout curtains for bedtime, and making sure your baby gets lots of natural light during the day.

                    Offer A Pacifier At Night

                      Pacifiers can be controversial, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons. They have several advantages; they soothe fussy infants, help babies doze, and can reduce the risk of SIDS.

                      However, pacifiers are associated with dental problems, especially if used for too long. They can disrupt breastfeeding, and may increase the risk of ear infections. 

                      Keep Your Little One Active During The Day

                        Like adults, babies sleep better if they’re active during the day.

                        Fresh air is one of the best ways to tire your baby. Take your infant outside and let them enjoy new experiences to wear them out.

                        Babies can start swimming from a young age, and many love it. Sensory activities stimulate the mind and will make your baby more tired too.

                        For walking infants, an outdoor stroll or indoor games like hide-and-seek can be tiring.

                        Move Or Eliminate Naps

                          Naps are important, because babies are more likely to start fighting sleep if they’re overtired – but they must be used carefully.

                          Napping has several advantages. It ensures your baby is relaxed, and it can teach them good sleeping habits (such as sleeping after feeding). Babies need a lot of sleep, so regular naps are necessary.

                          However, if your infant naps too much or too close to bedtime, they won’t sleep well. Many parents find that naps should be shifted gradually when they need to be moved or got rid of. Try shortening nap time, and doing it earlier in the day.

                          Bathe Your Little One Before Bed

                            Bathing your child before bed can be very soothing. Body temperature drops after a bath, and this stimulates sleep.

                            In terms of bath products, babies don’t need much, but all must be baby-friendly. Childs Farm Moisturizer is a popular, cruelty-free option. Babo Botanicals Bubble Bath is another gentle product, with a soothing lavender scent.

                            Give Your Baby A Massage

                              Massaging your baby’s body with baby lotion or almond oil can be very calming and highly soothing. Rub your baby’s feet, gently pulling the toes out, then gradually move their knees up toward their tummy. 

                              Stroke and stretch your baby’s arms, and rub their tummy in a clockwise motion.

                              Try A White Noise Machine

                                White noise machines create gentle, rhythmic sounds that drown out other noise. They’re enormously beneficial for a baby that is disturbed by sound.

                                You might want to try this White Noise Machine, or a LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Machine.

                                The drawback of using a white noise machine is that your child may become dependent on it.

                                A baby, lying asleep on its back.

                                Ready to Try These Tips Out?

                                  Hopefully, you’ve found these answers to “why is my baby fighting sleep?” helpful, and you’ve got a better understanding of how to help. If you think a swaddle blanket could benefit your baby, check out Woolino’s gorgeous merino wool swaddle blankets. A side note, studies have found that wool helps babies to sleep.

                                  You can also buy soft organic cotton crib sheets and footie pajamas to help your little one achieve ultimate comfort in bed. Pay attention to how comfortable your baby’s room is, thinking about temperature and light levels.



                                  How do I get my baby to stop fighting sleep?

                                    To stop your baby from fighting sleep, make sure they’re rested. An overtired baby will struggle to drop off. Provide a quiet, dark room.

                                    How do you know if a baby is fighting their sleep?

                                      You should look out for your baby’s sleep cues, including yawning and fluttering eyes. If you see these, do things that will relax your baby, like baths and cuddles. Story time and singing can also help.

                                      At what age does a baby start fighting sleep?

                                      This can happen at any age, but it’s particularly common between 8 and 18 months. Your child will grow out of it, but hopefully these techniques will help. Don’t underestimate the importance of routine, and a comfortable sleeping space.


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