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Why Won't My Baby Sleep?

This is possibly the most common question asked by mums with new babies. But in reality, all babies DO sleep, but not necessarily where and when we want them to.


When babies are first born, they are highly unlikely to sleep in their crib or Moses basket, on their own for more than a few minutes. If you're lucky, and you get their swaddling just right, you may get a bit longer out of them. But in these early days, they don't just want, they NEED to be close to you. They need time to get used to being on the outside, having spent the last 9-ish months on the inside. Being put down anywhere is likely to trigger alarm bells for newborn babies, and give them a startle reaction and a bit of adrenaline, because the safest place for them to be is in your arms or on your chest. They know that if they are attached to you, you will protect them, and they know their food source is close-by too. Once they start to get used to being in the outside world, this will gradually reduce and they will slowly get used to being put down.


Another reason newborn babies struggle sleeping is because their digestive systems aren't up to speed, and when they are put down, they feel uncomfortable. Sometimes this will be made worse by reflux or silent reflux, or cows milk protein allergy, making it even more difficult to get them down.

Signs of reflux are:

  • bringing up milk or being sick during or shortly after feeding.

  • coughing or hiccupping when feeding.

  • being unsettled during feeding.

  • swallowing or gulping after burping or feeding.

  • crying and not settling.

  • not gaining weight as they're not keeping enough food down.

Signs of silent reflux are:

  • Irritability

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Choking

  • Gagging

  • Nasal congestion

  • Arching the back while feeding

  • Chronic coughing

  • Refusing to eat

  • Pauses in breathing (apnea)

  • Noisy breathing or wheezing

  • Hoarseness

Signs of CMPA:

  • Eczema

  • Reflux – an effortless vomiting

  • Poor growth

  • Swelling in the small bowel

  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea

  • Raising knees to chest with tummy pain

  • Frequent distress and crying

But if your baby doesn't have digestive issues, they may just struggle to fall asleep and then stay asleep because they haven't yet worked out that they can do it without being held, and as a result they startle awake very easily because when they are put down they no longer have the security of warm loving arms around them.


Once you get into a cycle of difficult sleep, it can be really tricky to get out of. The more your baby is awake and difficult to settle, the more tired you feel. And the more tired you feel, the harder it is to work out what you need to do to sort things out. It can feel totally overwhelming, especially when you get so exhausted that you feel irritable and find it difficult to concentrate. You may even find that anxiety about your baby's sleep stops you sleeping when your baby does finally sleep.


There are lots of things that you can do to help improve your baby's sleep, plenty of books you can read, tips you can get from social media. But if you really want to sort things out and feel happy and well-rested again, we can help you. Our plans are created for you and your baby. We look at all aspects of why your baby isn't sleeping and can help you to figure out if they have CMPA, silent reflux or if they just need a different routine and some support at sleep times.


We can give you guidance on what you need to do when you put your baby to bed at night and for naps, and when they wake at night. You can take it as gently as you need to. Just fill in the contact form below and we will give you a call.


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