It can be so frustrating when our babies don’t sleep! Especially when we know they are tired. So if they are tired, why won’t they sleep?! Here's the simple breakdown of baby sleep science.
The two questions most parents have is "WHY won’t my baby sleep?", and "HOW can I get my baby sleeping?" Let's break down the answers below.
Just like adults, when babies are stressed or excited, they produce hormones (such as cortisol and adrenaline) that inhibit sleep. Have you ever had trouble sleeping because you were stressed about work or life? Babies experience that same phenomenon! It’s just that they are more easily stressed and excited than adults, so they are more susceptible to having trouble sleeping. Simple experiences like going to a different place, meeting a new person, or practicing a new skill might incite these feelings and in turn release those hormones. It’s all completely normal, but it might make it difficult for them to sleep, even if they are tired. So the goal is to minimize hormones that inhibit sleep and maximize hormones that promote sleep!
So how do we do this?! You want to encourage the release of "happy" hormones (like serotonin and oxytocin) during the day and "sleepy" hormones (like melatonin) at night. To do this, you want to give baby lots of positive, purposeful experiences during the day. Activities such as tummy time, play time with mom/dad, consistent full feeds, lots of cuddles, and daily sun exposure will all help baby sleep! (Want a more comprehensive list of tactics to help baby sleep? Check out my post: 7 Tips for Sleep Success!) Getting baby outside will help stimulate them in a way that encourages good naps and night sleep. Additionally, increased sun exposure during the day leads to more melatonin production at night. You also want to turn down the lights and turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime, so that their brain recognizes that the sun is setting and it's time to make melatonin! Artificial light from houselights and screens can trick the brain into thinking it's still day time, hence the need to turn them off!
Additionally, you want to minimize stressful situations as much as possible, and attempt to get baby back to sleep during their ideal wake windows. If a baby is up for too long they will become "overtired," which in turn releases stress hormones that make it hard for them to sleep. (See my Watching Wake Windows post for more info!)
Babies (and toddlers!) need your support to sleep successfully. Communicating with your partner/family and getting on the same page about your child's sleep needs is super important. Consistency in how you respond to wake-ups and how you organize baby's schedule plays a huge role in sleep success. You may have to plan your day around their naps, even if it means coming late to a party or leaving an event early. Just remember that this stage won't last forever, and the better your child sleeps, the happier they will be and the easier they will be to care for. When sleep is prioritized, everyone wins!
As always, if YOU want support getting your baby's sleep back on track, please reach out! Remember to check out my sleep coaching packages for 1:1 support!
Wishing you all the best &
lots of rest,