How To Get a Baby to Stop Fighting Sleep

How do I get my baby to stop fighting sleep?

You can tell they are tired just by looking into their eyes. No matter the age, a parent knows when their child is overtired and needs some sleep. For example, my son’s eyes look red and he becomes very emotional, while some babies pull at their ears, yawn, fuss or cry.

Did you know that by the time your little one starts to exhibit signs of being tired, you have most likely already missed their sleep window, increasing the likelihood that they will fight Sleep?

Little ones who are overtired have a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep, which is the exact definition of “fighting sleep”, and the number one reason it occurs. This is true for older
children as well.

How do babies become overtired?

While it is important to know that being overtired results in fighting sleep, it equally as important to understand what causes a little one to become overtired. This is key to solving the problem and preventing it from happening in the future.

Babies older than 4 months of age (the age when you can start sleep training) most often become overtired because they lack the ability to self-soothe or put themselves to sleep. This ability is extremely important because babies who are unable to fall asleep independently have difficulty connecting their sleep cycles. And the older they get, the bigger of an issue this becomes.

Babies who rely on someone else to connect their sleep cycles, such as a parent or caregiver, are not getting consolidated sleep. Instead, they are getting fragmented sleep which often leads to them becoming overtired and fighting sleep. Sleep training helps baby learn to connect sleep cycles, become less reliant on sleep associations, and helps them to obtain consolidated sleep - meaning they are less likely to fight it.

While it is normal for newborns (birth to 4 months) to not be able to self sooth, that doesn’t mean you can’t start the process of building a healthy sleep foundation for them at that age. How do you do this? Newborns start to pick up on social cues starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age. For instance - you smile at them and they smile back. Once they are able to do this, you can begin on working on “drowsy but awake” and establish a solid nap and bedtime routine for your little one.

What if your baby is already falling asleep independently?

If your baby is over 4 months and already falling asleep independently, you are ahead of the game in helping to prevent your baby from fighting sleep! However, independent sleep is not the only way to prevent it; schedule plays a major role.

Making sure your baby is on a solid nap schedule, meaning they are getting the correct number of naps and their waketimes are not too long, will go a long way in helping to prevent your baby from fighting sleep and becoming overtired. The wrong nap schedule, too long wake times or not adjusting waketimes for short naps, is a recipe for fighting sleep.

Let’s take a look at recommended schedules for each age.

Four months old:

  • This is the earliest age that I recommend sleep training your infant.
  • Baby should be on a four-naps-a-day schedule, transitioning to three naps per day toward the end of 4 months.
  • All naps should be finished by 5:00 pm each day.
  • No single nap should be longer than two and a half hours.
  • Maximum daily sleep should not exceed four and a half hours daily.
  • The goal for night sleep is 11 to 12 hours (with up to two night-feeds).
  • Average total sleep in a 24-hour period should be 15.5 hours.

Five months old:

  • Baby should have completed the nap transition and be on a three-naps-a-day schedule.
  • All naps should be finished by 5:00 pm each day.
  • No single nap should be longer than two hours.
  • Maximum daily sleep should not exceed four hours.
  • The goal for night sleep is 11 to 12 hours (with up to two night-feeds).
  • Average total sleep in 24-hour period is 15 hours.

Six months old:

  • Baby is still on a three-naps-a-day schedule, but toward the end of six months you may notice the transition to two naps start creeping in. You want to hold that off until your babe is closer to eight months!
  • All naps for the day are still ending by 5:00 pm.
  • No single nap should be longer than two hours.
  • Maximum daily sleep is three and half hours.
  • The goal for night sleep is 11 to 12 hours (with up to two night-feeds).
  • Average total sleep in 24-hour period is 14.5 hours.

Seven months old:

  • Baby is still on a three-naps-a-day schedule. The signs of the three to two nap transition (refusing the third nap and taking a longer time to fall asleep) are now popping up more and more often.
  • All naps for the day are still ending by 5:00 pm.
  • No single nap should be longer than two hours.
  • Maximum daily sleep is three hours and fifteen minutes.
  • The goal for night sleep is 11 to 12 hours (with up to two night-feeds).
  • Average total sleep in 24-hour period is 14 - 14.5 hours.

Eight months old:

  • At eight months we begin the transition to a two-naps-a-day schedule. Babe should be solidly taking two naps per day by the end of nine months.
  • All naps for the day are now ending at 4:00 pm.
  • No single nap should be longer than two hours.
  • Maximum daily sleep is three hours and fifteen minutes.
  • The goal for night sleep is 11 to 12 hours (with up to one night-feed).
  • Average total sleep in 24-hour period is 14 - 14.5 hours.

Nine to eleven months old:

  • Your baby should be on a solid two-naps-a-day schedule. The first nap of the day is mentally restorative, and the second nap is physically restorative.
  • All naps for the day are now ending at 4:00 pm.
  • No single nap should be longer than two hours.
  • Maximum daily sleep is three hours.
  • The goal for night sleep is 11 to 12 hours (night feeds are typically over by 10 months).
  • Average total sleep in 24-hour period is 14 - 14.5 hours.

Twelve to fifteen months old:

  • Your baby should be on a solid two-naps-a-day schedule. The closer your child gets to 15 months, the less restorative the second nap of the day becomes. You may start to see signs as early as 12 months that your baby is trying to transition to one nap, but hold off until they are at least 15 months old.
  • All naps for the day are now ending at 4:00 pm.
  • No single nap should be longer than two hours.
  • Maximum daily sleep is three hours.
  • The goal for night sleep is 11 to 12 hours.
  • Average total sleep in 24-hour period is 13 - 13.75 hours.

Fifteen to eighteen months old:

  • The transition to one nap per day happens in this age range. This can be the most challenging nap transition of all and can take up to four - six weeks to complete.
  • All naps for the day are now ending at 3:00 pm.
  • Nap should not be longer than three hours.
  • Maximum daily sleep is three hours.
  • The goal for night sleep is 11 to 12 hours.
  • Average total sleep in 24-hour period is 13 - 13.25 hours.
Remember, if your infant fights sleep it is a symptom of them being overtired. This can be
caused by a variety of different reasons, but the main two causes are that baby lacks the ability
to self-soothe and/or they are not on the best schedule. Solving these two challenge areas are
key to getting your baby to fall asleep willingly and independently.

Author: Maggie Moore

If you are struggling with sleep and feel like you need more help, please reach out! I offer a
variety of packages and guides to help families of newborns all the way up to pre-school. For
more information visit – www.getmooresleep.com.
 

About the Author

Maggie Moore is the Founder and Head Sleeper at Moore Sleep. She is a certified pediatric
sleep consultant through the Family Sleep Institute, which means her sole focus and objective is
getting your baby on a healthy sleep schedule so the whole family can get the sleep they need.
Like many parents, Maggie and her husband struggled with getting their son on a healthy sleep
schedule and he was unable to fall asleep independently. As a result, her family was losing
precious sleep every night.

Maggie became a firm believer when, shortly after hiring a certified pediatric sleep consultant,
her son began sleeping independently at bed and nap times. It was a turning point that resulted
in not only restful nights, but waking up fully rested with the energy to face the day. Maggie
knew right away she wanted to become a certified consultant herself so she could help other
families struggling to get the sleep they need.

Maggie and her family reside in Southern Indiana (near Louisville, KY). She received her
bachelors in Journalism and a second concentration in Communications & amp; Culture from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.

You can follow Maggie on Facebook and Instagram.