We've all been there, it's 3 am, you know your little one is exhausted and overtired, but your baby is not sleeping. You're both tired, and you just want your little one to close their eyes; you've spent hours googling how to make babies sleep, and you feel like you've tried everything. Believe us, we know what you're going through.
Getting your little one to sleep, and stay asleep, is one of the biggest challenges of parenthood. You're not alone. A newborn not sleeping is a common theme for new parents! In fact, few parents find it easy or have a baby that sleeps all the time perfectly. The thing is, babies don't yet have an established sense of time, day, or night. Instead, they have cycles, which are far shorter than our 24-hour days. Their timing and rhythm to align with 24 hours won't develop until they're about two to six months old.
We know when you're tired, and your baby is not sleeping at night, all you want is the answer, so we've put together a list of some resources and baby sleep support for you and your little one. So, if you've got a fussy baby at night or you've been asking yourself how to make babies sleep, then you've come to the right place!
If you've not slept properly in a while and you're feeling the impact of sleep deprivation, it's essential to get support for yourself too. If your partner can't take a shift, why not see if a loved one can come round to look after the baby whilst you catch up on some much-needed sleep. If you feel like sleep deprivation affects your mood or mental health, make sure you speak to your doctor or health visitor.
If your baby is not sleeping at night, here are our top baby sleep support suggestions
BabyCentre is an excellent resource for parents and parents-to-be, with plenty of resources, guides, and support on a range of topics from pregnancy through to toddlers and teething. They have a great sleep section filled with practical advice and top tips. Plus, take BabyCentre on the go as they even have an app.
Your local children's centre
Several different organisations, including Family Action, Better and your local council, run children's centres across the UK. Children's centres are great places because they're places where families with young children can go to use facilities, receive support and advice, including free health and parenting support. As well as help and advice, they're also great places to meet other parents in a similar position to you. Ask your Health Visitor or Midwife to find out where your local centre is, or you can do a quick search based on your postcode on Family Action, Better and the Government website.
The peanut Peanut app is often described as Tinder for mums because it connects nearby parents. However, as well as providing access to a community of parents, Peanut is a great place to share & receive information and offer valuable advice on a range of different topics and struggles that many new parents face.
Creating a network of mums at different stages in their baby's development, Peanut offers the opportunity to connect, participate in group chats that share specific interests/topics and offer you the chance to get support by asking questions, plus they have podcasts on different parenting topics led by experts.
A quick look on Facebook will reveal many options for groups to join, like Baby Sleep Training Support Group. In Facebook groups like this one, you'll get baby sleep support from parents who are either in your situation or have tackled sleep issues!
Local antenatal classes are excellent if you need any baby sleep support, as they can be a massive source of help and advice. Your Midwife or Health Visitor will be able to tell you about any local antenatal classes. Sleep is a big challenge for so many new parents that there's bound to be a local sleep class. Plus, so many have moved online after the pandemic.
Speak to your Midwife
If you're struggling from the early days of bringing your baby home, then speak to your Midwife. They should provide you with some local community resources or check over your baby for anything that could cause struggle sleeping, such as colic.
Visit your baby clinic
You're probably already regularly attending a baby clinic and talking about your little one, but if you're concerned that they're not getting enough sleep and you're worried something might be behind it, your local baby clinic can check over the baby and talk through implementing bedtime routines with you.
There are many charities dedicated to babies and children's wellbeing and sleep in particular. And they all have loads of great resources to give you baby sleep support and help you tackle any sleep challenges, from safe sleep for newborns to calming fussy babies at night.
Our favourite resources from children's charities are:
- Action for Children have a great sleep resource section that you can access here
- Cry-sis provides online baby sleep support and a helpline to call between 9 am – 10 pm every day.
- The Sleep Charity also has a fantastic range of information and support on sleep and babies available.
Over the last few years, we’ve started to see the rise in sleep consultants for babies and children. Many parents swear by them and believe that a baby sleep consultant helped to resolve their baby’s sleep issues and was an excellent source of baby sleep support.
If you decide to investigate a baby sleep consultant, we recommend that you do your research to ensure their approach aligns with yours. Take a look at their website or blog to get Make sure you align on whether you’re happy or not to try the care or cry it out method, how they feel about co-sleeping or having your baby in your room and other approaches to bedtime.
Four reasons that your baby might not be sleeping
Sleep issues can flare up at any point during your little one's first year, but you might find that there are a few reasons that can suddenly start keeping even the most snooze-baby awake.
1: Disruption in routine can turn your baby's sleep routine upside down, and it doesn't take much. From a cold to one or both parents returning to work, or even travelling can disrupt a sleep routine. Plus, babies hitting milestones like learning to crawl or walk can disturb their sleep routine.
Try to get back into your routine as soon as possible, following the comforting bedtime routine that they've gotten used to.
2: Trouble getting to sleep even though they're tired. When babies become overtired, they can become very reluctant or find it difficult to fall asleep, even though they're clearly exhausted.
Overtired babies that won't sleep can be a classic case of frustration, but you can combat baby getting overtired by putting your little one down for sleep when they're tired but not too tired. Once they start yawning or fussing over little things, that's your cue to put them down.
Make sure you're keeping a log of the amount of sleep your baby is getting each day, as this will give you an idea of how much sleep they need on average and how much they're getting. So, if your baby wakes from a nap earlier than usual, but you know from your logs that they need a set amount of sleep, consider getting ready for bed a little bit earlier than usual to make up for the missed naptime.
3: Struggling with a cold or getting over an illness. None of us sleeps particularly well when we're not feeling our best, and it's the same for babies.
Although once they're feeling better, you might find that your little one is waking during the night and crying for you. This could be because your baby has gotten used to the extra comfort and snuggles during the night. So, once your baby is back to their healthy, usual self, it's time to go back to your regular sleep routine and stay as consistent as possible to get sleep back on track.
4: If your baby struggles with colic, you might find that they sleep worse than you'd expect. A recent study has revealed that between 10-35% of parents of babies with colic reported poor sleep, including the amount of sleep their babies had, as well as how often they woke up during the night.
Even if you feel like you have sleep with your little one in a good place, speed bumps and sleep issues are common in the early days. The good news is that most problems with sleep are easily solvable!
Top tips for safe sleep for newborns and babies
Make sure you have realistic expectations
All babies are different and will sleep in different amounts. It's normal for very young babies to wake every few hours, especially at night, to feed. You'll find that by the time your baby is around 5-6 months old, they'll probably be getting closer to eight hours of sleep overnight. However, there probably will be occasions when your baby suddenly wakes through the night, even if they're not hungry.
Regardless of what anyone tells you, most babies will not sleep consistently through the night, every night, until they're at least a year old. So, you don't need to feel like you're the only parent awake in the world, or you must be doing something wrong. It's totally normal!
Put your baby to bed before they get overtired
You want to lay your little one down for the night before they get too tired. If your baby is rubbing their eyes, yawning, or becoming fussy or crying over small things, then that's a sign that they're ready for sleep. Once a baby becomes overtired, it's harder for them to drift off.
It can be tempting to keep your baby up later in the evening, especially if you or your partner works, and you want some more time with your little one. However, a later bedtime means that your baby has less time for uninterrupted sleep. Try to stick to a consistent bedtime, generally between 6-8 pm, with your bedtime routine beginning about an hour before bed.
Help your baby learn how to self soothe
By the time your baby is about six weeks old, their natural circadian rhythm, aka the sleep-wake cycle, has started to develop, and this is what helps your baby to regulate their sleep. This means they'll start to sleep less during the day and more at night.
By the time your little one is about three months, they might even be able to start settling themselves and falling asleep, although not all babies can do this. Put your baby down once they've had a feed when they're awake but a bit sleepy. See if they'll settle down with you nearby, you could gently stroke them or do something to reassure them that you're still around.
If you find that your little one falls asleep during feeding, then maybe leave a little time between the feed and putting them down, so they don't learn to associate a feed with going to sleep.
Keep things calm before bedtime
This helps you set the tone for sleep and calm your little one down before bedtime. You don't want them to get excited, but instead, you want them to feel very calm. This could mean turning off any televisions or music you have playing and encouraging older children to play quietly.
To create a quiet and calm environment, you could:
- close the curtains and keep the lights down
- talk quietly around baby
- don't play with your little one; sing a song or read a story to them instead
Implement a bedtime routine every night
A consistent bedtime routine will let your little one know that sleep is on its way. This is useful for fussy babies at night because they know what to expect, and it sets them up with a routine.
Aim to introduce a regular time for the bedtime routine to begin and stick to your routine every night as much as you can. The more consistent you are, the better for your little one, so stick to the routine even if you're on holiday, you or your baby is unwell, or a loved one is caring for the baby whilst you're out for the evening.
Just do what works for you and your baby
When we've had a baby, our friends and family love to share their well-intentioned tips and advice. But if your little one isn't sleeping and you're feeling exhausted, all the top tips for sleep training will either feel unmanageable or even irritating. Especially when there's so much information, it can be hard to know the best approach.
This is where you decide what works well for you, your family, and your new addition. Some parents try the cry it out method and are comfortable with controlled crying, which will make others feel very uncomfortable. Some parents will prefer co-sleeping or with the crib next to their bed until the baby is a year, whilst others will be keen to get the baby in their room from six months. It's essential to choose the approach that works for you and your family because you need to implement it.
How much sleep should my baby need?
The amount of sleep your baby will need will depend on their age; for a more in-depth look at creating a sleep routine, take a look at our blog on how to create a sleep routine that works here. But the table below will give you a rough idea of how much sleep your baby should need. Although it's important to remember every baby is different.
Sleep is crucial for both you and your baby, and we know that it isn't always straightforward. It can be tough to get a baby into a sleep routine, or if they regularly wake throughout the night, it can really take its toll on you, both physically as well as emotionally. However, the great news is there's plenty of baby sleep support out there. If your baby's not sleeping, you don't have to go through this alone.
Remember, there's plenty of baby sleep support out there for your baby, but if you feel like the sleep deprivation is affecting you negatively, or you're struggling with your mental health because of it, make sure you speak to someone to get support for you too.