Reasons why baby won't sleep

Why won’t my baby sleep through the night?

If your baby is waking up in the middle of the night on a regular basis, and when they do, they need a lot of assistance to put them back to sleep you are not alone. The interruptions to everyone’s sleep can make it difficult to function. Both the baby and the family are worn out. Now, I won’t claim that this issue has a straightforward, “one-size-fits-all” answer since, after all, if there were, there probably wouldn’t be about 85,800,000 results when you google it..

But I will tell you that in virtually all circumstances, and in about 90% of the cases we deal with, there is just one reason why a newborn or toddler can’t sleep through the night. Let’s clear out a few of the runner-ups, though, before moving on to that.

Could hunger keep my baby up at night?

Babies are note able to sleep through the night because of hunger

If your infant is younger than six months old, there’s a decent chance they could still need 

a nighttime feed to get them through the night. Although there is no hard and fast rule, on average, a baby could physiologically be ready to start sleeping for a solid 11 to 12 hours without eating by the age of six months.  I usually look to see that the baby has doubled their birth weight, they are a minimum of 4 months old and take a look at how many calories they are taking in during the daytime hours.

Could discomfort be keeping my baby up at night?

Babies are not able to sleep through the night because of discomfort.

Babies can wake up at night for a variety of reasons, including indigestion, acid reflux, being too hot or cold, or simply being in an uncomfortable position. Tongue and lip ties can contribute to an excessive amount of air being swallowed while they eat, and that most certainly contributes to discomfort.  Before attempting to “train” your child to sleep through the night, you should try to alleviate any discomfort that you think may be contributing. 

… And, that pretty much wraps up most causes. There is really only one significant reason why your baby can’t sleep through the night if they are content and fed.

Are you ready for it?

It’s because your baby doesn’t know how to sleep through the night.

What do I mean when I say infant wake through the night because they are unable to sleep all night long?

It’s because they don’t know how. But I don’t necessarily agree with others when I see things like:  “It will happen when they are ready”, or “It won’t go forever.”  This tends to aggravate me.  You wouldn’t give up on teaching your child to walk or eat solids just because they didn’t get it on the first try.  Would you?

Aside from not being helpful, it also teaches people to put off resolving a problem that can and should be addressed. 

We all sleep in cycles, whether babies or adults. When a cycle is over, we are no longer sleeping “deeply.” We are on the brink of waking up most of the time, and a lot of the time we do end up waking up. 

Adults like myself fall asleep easily, we have had a lot of practice. When we’re asleep, we can generally glance at the time to see that we still have a few scrumptious hours before our alarm goes off, we close our eyes, possibly turn over onto our other side, and continue sleeping.

Babies haven’t had nearly as much practice, so they frequently—and I do mean frequently—get a lot of assistance when it’s time to sleep. They are rocked, cuddled, bounced, serenaded, put in car rides, pushed around in their stroller, or fed to sleep. As a result, when they wake up after a sleep cycle, which will happen frequently throughout their entire lives, they can’t fall back asleep without that extra assistance.

It becomes part of their strategy around sleep.  As a result, mom or dad must get up and repeat whatever strategy the baby is used to.  They don’t have any other skill sets to pull from. 

That is the problem, and as I mentioned, it affects around 90% of the infants I work with.

How would you approach that problem? The problem is nearly always a dependency on some type of sleep help from a caregiver. This is where things can get tricky because the way you solve them can vary greatly depending on the infant and their parent’s comfort level with various techniques to treat the problem. (We have put a list of some of the top things you can start with here. )

Therefore, it IS accurate to make a comment like  “babies don’t sleep through the night” or “that it’s normal for them to wake up multiple times”. But normal and common do not mean optimal. Your baby deserves a good night of sleep and so do you.  And just like walking, talking, and eating, sleeping is a skill that we learn.  And let me add, that I don’t think it is fair to suddenly one day just end all the support around sleep, there needs to be a learning process that takes place.  Teach them what they need to know, don’t just expect them to know how and scream and cry through it.

If you need help with the how, or strategies that will meet the comfort needs of both you and your child, that’s where the team at Live and Rest comes in.  We can help you put a plan together and put those sleepless nights behind you.  Schedule a rescue call with one of our team today and we can evaluate if your child’s issues fall in line with this, or if there is some more digging to do.

Schedule yours here at

We have helped so many families with a better night’s sleep, see their stories here.

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