9 Common Baby Sleep Problems & How To Fix Them
Sleep is so important for a baby's physical and mental development, so it makes sense that you want your baby to get all that she needs to be healthy. Because of that, however, parents often spend a lot of time worrying about their baby's sleep habits. Although your child's sleep might be just fine — baby sleep is different than the adult variety — you still probably want to know about common baby sleep problems and how to fix them.
Though the specifics of a baby's sleep schedule — how quickly she falls asleep, how often she wakes up each night, how soundly she sleeps, etc. — vary from baby to baby, there are some general similarities that they mostly all share. "A baby's individual personality definitely comes into play and all humans are creatures of habit — whether those habits are going to be conducive to good sleeping skills will also depend on the parents — what behaviors they encourage and discourage in their child," as Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin, the authors of Twelve Hours' Sleep By Twelve Weeks Old and The Baby Sleep Solution, tell Romper by email. "It is important not to fall into the trap of thinking your baby has special issues that prevent him from sleeping through the night." Rather than jumping to conclusions unnecessarily, there might be other, better things that you can do to help your baby get a better night's sleep.
1. Not Adjusting To Travel
Traveling is bound to disrupt your baby's routine to some extent, but it doesn't have to be a difficult experience. In an email exchange with Romper, Trish McDermott, vice president of community at baby gear rental company Babierge, says that there are a few ways that you can help your baby rest easier when gearing up for travel as well as during the trip itself. Bringing along the sheet that your baby slept on the night before you left for the trip will help put her at ease and feel at home while sleeping in a crib that's not her own. Additionally, if you're going to have to change time zones while traveling, gradually adjusting your baby's schedule to coax it closer to the other time zone will make the transition go more smoothly.
2. Not Sleeping Well When Sick
Babies get sick, there's no way around it. Though it might be tempting to move your baby into your room — or bed — while they're sick, it ultimately might prolong sleep issues or encourage one where there wasn't one before. "Instead, keep [your] child sleeping in their normal place — a crib or wherever they’re sleeping — and have the parent move," Dr. Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the chair of the Pediatric Sleep Council, tells Romper. Consistency is key.
3. Waking Up Frequently At Night
Frequent wake-ups tend to stress parents out, but it might not be as alarming as you may think. According to Mindell, putting your baby to bed too late and skipping naps during the day won't actually make your baby sleep better through the night — it'll make their quality and duration of sleep worse. Not what you were intending at all.
4. Struggling To Fall Asleep
Everyone struggles to fall asleep from time to time. If your baby struggles regularly, nearly every night, you may need to institute a more consistent pre-nap and bedtime routine, according to Mindell. Implementing a routine to cue to your baby that it's time to sleep will help with difficulty falling asleep. Singing the same lullaby or reading the same book can be started as soon as just a few weeks after birth, Mindell says. It doesn't have to be anything overly involved or fancy.
5. Dealing With Gas
Very young newborns have tiny, not yet fully-formed digestive systems, which can cause gas, reflux, and other issues, as Emily Silver, family nurse practitioner and co-owner of Boston NAPS, tells Romper in an email exchange. If your baby is fussy and gassy, baby massage, bicycling the legs, and tummy time can all help get the air out of the stomach and give your little one some relief.
6. Relying On Props
If you used to rock or bounce your baby to sleep or give her a pacifier to sleep, that could actually be the cause of her sleep problems. Certified sleep consultant Christine Stevens tells Romper by email that she probably became reliant on those props to allow her to fall asleep, which is why she's struggling to sleep without them. Staying consistent will help her break those old sleep habits and form new ones.
7. Entering A Sleep Regression
When your baby is about 4 months old, they start to go through a lot of developmental milestones that can strongly interfere with sleep, as Hindi Zeidman, infant mental health clinician and founder of the Ollie Swaddle cozy swaddling solution, tells Romper in an email exchange. Try to make them as relaxed and comfortable as possible, and be patient as they work their way through. If it lasts longer than a few weeks, you might need some more help.
8. Not Knowing What They Want
According to Giordano and Abidin, one of the most common baby sleep issues is that parents misunderstand what's going on with their baby. "New parents, while trying their very best to do well by their new baby, often misread verbal and non-verbal cues like restlessness," they say. "Babies are often restless while sleeping and move, stretch, and make noises. Parents misinterpret these natural disruptions in sleep and think something is wrong with the baby. Instead of letting the baby find her own way through this period of natural restlessness and return to a deeper state of sleep, the parent comes to the rescue, swoops in, and picks the baby up." Even though, of course, you mean well, it can teach your little one to wake up more regularly during the night, which is not what you want.
9. Not Having A Routine
What's most important in alleviating or heading off sleep issues before they even begin is to implement a regular, consistent routine and keep things the same as frequently as possible, Mindell says. Routine and consistency can make your baby feel more secure, which — hopefully — should lead to better sleep.