Apr 26, 2024
Apr 26, 2024
April 26, 2024

Why won't my baby sleep? 9 sleep tips for newborn slumber

One of the toughest challenges of adjusting as a new parent is the lack of sleep. When your baby is struggling to doze off, you're wrestling with sleep too, leading to some seriously tough nights and drowsy days. While we all wish there was a magic trick to help babies sleep soundly, the reality is that babies need time to adapt to life outside the womb, and to develop their own sleep rhythm. We're here to share the ins and outs of promoting healthy sleep habits for your little sleep fighter. But before you nod off and turn into a zombie, just know we’re here for moral support and we’re only one text away.
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Written by
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
Jess Ellsworth
Medically reviewed by
Jess Ellsworth
Certified Sleep Consultant

Why do babies fight sleep?

Before we dive into our top tips for newborn sleep, it’s important to understand why babies resist drifting off. While they can’t verbalize their frustrations, here are some potential reasons why: 

They're overtired.

It might sound paradoxical, but overtired babies often struggle to settle down. When babies become too tired, they lack the ability to self-regulate and ease into sleep, leaving you with one cranky, moody baby. Newborn sleep is silly!

They're overstimulated.

Babies can only handle so much sensory input. With new noises, unfamiliar smells, and developing eyesight, there's a lot for them to take in. Similar to how you might struggle to sleep when your mind is racing, overstimulation can make it challenging to put your newborn to sleep.

They're uncomfortable.

If your baby is uncomfortable in their sleeping position or environment, it can make it more challenging to fall asleep. Whether they're too hot or cold, their swaddle is too tight or loose, or they have a wet diaper, discomfort can make it tougher for your baby to settle down for sleep.

How much sleep does your baby need?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), newborns typically require 16-17 hours of sleep per day. While that’s a lot of time, it’s not usually one continuous stretch, and sleep is broken up into shorter periods of sleep or naps. 

What are signs of sleepiness?

An overtired baby usually struggles to fall asleep. That’s why it’s super important to be proactive and look out for signs of tiredness. The key is to put babies to sleep when you first notice these signs. With practice, you’ll become a pro at catching them in that sweet spot, right before they get overly tired. Here are some signs of newborn sleepiness:

  • Yawning
  • Eye rubbing
  • Flushed eyebrows 
  • Fussiness 
  • Staring

Keep in mind that these signs are different from an overtired baby, who typically displays frantic crying, extreme fussiness, or arching of the back.

Safe sleep

When it comes to newborn sleep, practicing safe sleep is key to preventing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Although causes are unknown, there are ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, including:

  • Always put your baby to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of suffocation.
  • Cribs and bassinets should have firm, flat surfaces, without toys, stuffed animals, pillows, or bedding. Fitted sheets only, please. 
  • Never sleep in the same bed as your baby, including co-sleeping. While it may seem cute and cozy, there is a possibility of rolling onto your baby. 

9 sleep tips for better newborn sleep

Here are some sleep tips:

1. Swaddle

Newborn babies are born with the startle reflex, or Moro reflex, which is when babies feel like they are falling, often causing them to spread out their arms with a jolt. This reflex can happen at any time of day, including during bedtime and naptime. To prevent babies from startling themselves awake, swaddling can work wonders by keeping their arms snugly tucked in.


There's a variety of swaddles available, from wrap-style to zippered or velcro. Opt for one that's easy for you to manage, and ensures your baby stays securely wrapped without wriggling free.

2. Lower the temperature 

You may have heard that babies sleep better in cooler temperatures. Many experts recommend setting the room temperature between 68℉ and 72℉ for comfort and safer sleep. Also, be sure to dress your baby in breathable fabrics to help them stay comfortable throughout the night.

3. Make it dark

It’s important to help your baby distinguish between daytime and nighttime. During the newborn stage, babies can get a bit confused, so it’s helpful to create a dark environment to signal sleeptime. Keep daytime or awake times bright with natural light or by keeping the lights on. If you're struggling to maintain a dark room for bedtime, consider investing in blackout shades to ensure the room stays dark when it's time to sleep. Darkness also helps prevent distractions that might keep your baby awake.

4. Try white noise

Speaking of distractions, many babies benefit from a white noise machine to help them fall asleep. Babies may struggle to doze off because they're too distracted or overstimulated by their surroundings. White noise machines play soothing sounds to make it easier for babies to fall asleep. This can be particularly helpful if you have a noisy pet or older siblings running around, since the white noise helps drown out those outside sounds that might be keeping your baby awake.

5. Diaper change before bedtime

It's not uncommon for babies to wet their diapers shortly after being changed, which can make them feel uncomfortable. If your little one is having trouble settling down for sleep, it's a good idea to check their diaper for any signs of wetness or soiling. Additionally, if your baby has a diaper rash, that could be keeping them awake too. Be sure to apply diaper rash cream to soothe their skin and make their little bums more comfortable. If they wake up in the middle of the night with a wet diaper, simply change them and put them back to sleep.

6. Create a consistent bedtime routine

While newborn babies usually march to the beat of their own drum, and don't follow consistent schedules, the secret lies in establishing consistent routines. While you don't need to impose a strict bedtime schedule, routines offer more flexibility and focus on consistency. Engaging in the same calm routine before bedtime can help them prepare for sleep. Let’s be real, babies thrive on predictability and so do we! 


The goal with bedtime routines is to prepare their body, both physically and mentally, for sleep. Physically, this could involve giving them a warm bath, changing their diaper, and soothing them with rocking and cuddling before placing them in their crib or bassinet. Mentally, creating a peaceful environment with gentle sounds, soft lighting, calm voices, and maintaining consistency every day can help set the stage for a restful sleep.

Here is an example of a bedtime routine:

  • Warm bath: Start off with a calming warm bath to help relax your baby.
  • Baby massage: Follow up with a gentle massage using baby-friendly lotion to soothe and unwind.
  • Clean diaper and pajamas: Change into a fresh diaper and cozy pajamas to get ready for bed.
  • Breastfeed or bottle feed while cuddling: Enjoy some quiet feeding time while snuggling closely with your baby.
  • Cuddly time with baby: Spend a few moments cuddling and bonding with your baby before gently placing them in their crib or bassinet for sleep.

7. Space out naps 

While your newborn baby will spend most of their time sleeping during a 24-hour period, it's essential to incorporate awake periods, particularly before bedtime. If your baby wakes up from a nap too close to bedtime, they may not feel tired enough to fall asleep.  While it's never a good idea to wake a sleeping newborn, sometimes you may need to be flexible and adjust bedtime if they woke up late from a nap. The key here is consistency and maintaining a flexible approach rather than rigidly adhering to a strict schedule.

8. Understand it’s just a phase 

Newborn sleep struggles are just a passing phase. Every newborn goes through it, and every parent faces these challenges, so remember, you’re not alone. Recognizing that it’s a temporary and part of the process can provide reassurance during those tough moments. Hang in there!

9. Protect your mental health

Lack of sleep can really throw a wrench in your physical and emotional well-being. It's crucial to reach out for support from your partner, loved ones, or friends if you're feeling like you need a break. It may be helpful to switch off days so that you don’t have the responsibility of a bedtime routine everyday. 


American Academy of Pediatrics: Sleep

Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
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