Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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Baby Won't Sleep? Top 6 Reasons shared by Baby Sleep Consultant

Baby not sleeping? One of these things could be the cause!

There are many different variables at play that can disrupt sleep.   When your baby is having trouble sleeping we may think there is something wrong with them. 

Some frustrations parents report are that: 

  • Their baby is crying a lot. 
  • Their child takes forever to fall asleep and that they wake up frequently. 
  • Their child takes very short naps, less than 45 minutes. 

So what could be causing all of these issues? There can be different reasons depending on your child’s age and where they are on their sleep journey.  Meaning if they are dependent on you to make them sleep or if they are independent sleepers who can be put down completely awake and they put themselves to sleep.

Common Reasons Your Child’s Sleep is Disrupted:

Your child’s age

  • Newborns will wake more in the night as they have weak circadian rhythm regulation.  This system improves around 4 months and then fully matures at 6 months of age.  Things generally do get much easier around 6 months of age.  

They have a sleep crutch

  • If your child has a sleep crutch that means they are relying on something external to help them fall asleep. This might look like needed a pacifier, feeding or bouncing to fall asleep.
  • Sleep is a learned habit, so new skills may have to be learned in order to fall asleep without something external. 

Keeping them awake too long

  • If you are keeping your child awake too long, or if you're not in tune with their awake times a baby can become overtired, which can make it much more difficult for them to fall asleep. Check out this video on what overtiredness can look like.
  • On the other side of this, if you put them down too soon, their sleep pressure hasn't risen enough and they will fight sleep.
  • You can grab out sleep summary by age to help you with timing here.


  • Reflux is basically child heartburn. 
  • This tends to get better around four and six months of age in the newborn stage.
  • Also be aware of silent reflux. Acid comes up and burns, but then is swallowed so you never actually see spit coming out.

Food Sensitivity

  • This could happen with a formula or breastfed child
  • Many times they will want to sleep on their stomach
  • If breastfeeding you can start with removing dairy
  • If formula fed compare to see if there could be something that is aggravating baby


  • This could be an expression of a food sensitivity
  • Look at demeanor
  • Check for any flare ups
  • An uncomfortable child will wake up more in the night. 

So this can happen to formula fed kids or breast fed kids where there's something they're eating that doesn't really agree with their little immature GI system and they don't like it, it makes them uncomfortable.

Red Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Crying during feeding
  • Arching back during feeding 
  • Refusing to be put down in months 1 and 2.  This often indicates discomfort..
  • Refusing to eat 

Always see the advice of your pediatrician if you are worried about your baby’s health. 

One simple thing you can work on tonight is timing of your baby’s sleep.  You can take our simple 6 question sleep quiz to learn more about appropriate timing at your baby’s age.  

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