A 5-month-old baby refusing to sleep – is that even possible?

Can such a young baby start refusing to sleep, or is something going on that prevents them from settling? 

5-month-old baby refusing to sleepPin


Mom’s Question:

My 5-month-old baby will not nap during the day or sleep at night without an all-out battle. He cries, screams, yells, stiffens up, arches his back, tears pouring down his face, etc. when it is nap time or bedtime.

I know he is tired as he can barely keep his eyes open, and when he does finally go to sleep, he usually sleeps for about 2 hours.

Any ideas why this is happening or what I can do to help ease him into sleep? My childcare provider fights this battle every day during the week and I know she is getting frustrated (as am I). Help, please!!



What To Do When Baby Fights Sleep

I have a few ideas on how you might be able to help your baby:

  • First of all, one reason why he might be so upset could be that he is overtired. Have you tried putting him to sleep a little bit earlier? I don’t know if you have figured out yet how long he is usually awake between naps (and before going to bed for the night). Many babies at the age of around 5 months or so have a fairly stable 2-3-4 pattern; they are awake for around 2 hours in the morning, then they sleep for a while, then they can stay awake for 3 hours, etc. If you spend a couple of days mapping your baby’s sleep schedule and watch for signs of him getting tired, you might be able to prepare him for sleep before he becomes completely exhausted.One option could be to take him for a walk in his stroller about 15-20 minutes before he’s about to crash. This way he might just stay calm and drift off to sleep.
  • Does your baby use a pacifier? If not, consider introducing one, since many babies find it easier to self-soothe with the help of a dummy.
  • Some babies also get calm if a light handkerchief or something similar is placed over their forehead and eyes when about to go to sleep. (Make sure nothing covers his mouth and nose, though!)
  • Singing, rocking and stroking his head can also be effective.

The key is really to find a way to help your boy understand that it is nice and safe to relax and to help him get in that stage before he is completely exhausted. Creating a calm and cozy routine that you and your child care provider stick to should help him. It might take a little while of course, to help him get into a new habit. And in my experience, especially with babies that refuse the pacifier, it is harder to teach them to calm down if they are very tired and upset, but it is not impossible!

For a few more tips on how you can establish a sleep-routine to help your baby, click here.

I hope this helps,


More Babies Refusing To Sleep

Find comments below.

Comments for “Baby Refusing to Sleep”

Dec 15, 2012 No sleep

by: Anonymous

My son refuses to sleep as well. It is a battle every night to get him to sleep and then when he does he still wakes up very frequently about every two hours. He will not take a pacifier, hates to be rocked, and stiffens his little body up so much that it is hard to hold him. I have no idea how to help him sleep better. He is 5 months old and his sleep problems seem to get worse the older he gets.

Feb 03, 2013 go slowly and have patience
by: Holly
Our daughter is not a big fan of sleep. we are not really into letting her cry it out, and in any case, I don’t think it would work, she is so persistent. anyway, I just wanted to write and say that while we have no idea what we are doing or what to do to make sleep easier for her (and for us!) we are going slowly and gently with her. We don’t want to make sleep a traumatic thing for her, so when it seems like things aren’t working, we back off a little.
Paying attention to her sleepy signs really helps us: even before she starts rubbing her eyes and getting cranky (this is too late). When she is in a state of kind of calm, dazed… that’s when we start getting her ready for bed. I will feed her then we do the jammies etc. sometimes we can put her in her bed when she’s awake, sometimes we have to hold her till she sleeps. It is really hard, I sympathize with you, and it really seems like all the other babies are sleeping no problem!!
good luck!

Feb 27, 2013 Same thing!
by: Anonymous
We are having the same problem. Our 5-month-old does not want to go to sleep and it’s getting worse the older he gets. He has always been this way! Right after he was born, he was so alert and you even had to rock him then. He wouldn’t just fall asleep like other newborns usually do lol! But now he has gotten to where when we sit down to take a bottle he fights me. He knows that if he takes that bottle he will go to sleep. I just don’t get it…we have a routine going and I watch for him to start getting tired. He sleeps great when he does go to sleep and has been for a long while now. Usually only wakes up once a night around 6 then sleeps until 9. And he is even starting to cut out his 6 o’clock feeding on his own. He just doesn’t want to go to sleep.

Mar 19, 2013 No sleep at all
by: Shanay
I have a 5-week old baby who refuses to sleep. Period! In a 24 hour period, she will sleep a maximum of maybe 6-7 hrs in that 24 hour day. She is fine when it comes to feeding but as soon as she is finished and brought up her wind she is content for about 3 minutes and will resume crying. It is next to impossible to get her to sleep. Dummies, rocking, soothing, rubbing her head, singing to her are all useless most of the time. I would love some opinions as we are both at high-stress factors lol we would just love her to sleep but she is stubborn and refuses to and fights us!

Aug 26, 2013 need some help
by: Anonymous
My eight-month-old had his first ear infection and during this time he decided to give up his pacifier…then the refusal to sleep began. He screams like he wants the pacifier but I try to give it to him and he won’t take it. All he wants it seems is a bottle to go to sleep with. That is my fear of what caused the infection in the first place. Sometimes he wakes at 3 in the morning and refuses to go back to sleep even though you can tell he wants to. Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do…we both need a good sleep.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. disqus_Gt5CnNbEaa

    You people wonder why the baby is crying… And you segregated them to a separate place other than the mothers body… Not only that you’ve covered their skin (which is full of all the receptors) – all that they’ve ever known with tight, foreign clothing and bundle them up separated from the mother they are no longer skin to skin this is why you are all having serious problems!!!!!!!! Skin to Skin regulates baby’s systems and moms. Mom needs a break? Dad better help! See you tomorrow… Parents say that they need a break so they quote to put the baby down”… No no no no no you had the baby… This is a big deal you need to take care of it properly… Don’t ever put the baby down and then watch it fuss and cry it knows you’re just trying to get rid of it for a while and make it sleep!!

  2. disqus_Gt5CnNbEaa

    Newsflash people! Babies when they’re born they are NAKED (no clothes!!!) and are not separated from the mother. Keep the baby on the breast!!!!! This is essential bonding! This creates hormones in both mom and baby that makes more milk. So maybe you need more milk than others that is why they’re upset. Not only that they’re upset because they are in these clothes and cannot feel their own skin or their skin against their mothers. Always keep the baby warm and bundled up his skin against yours! It’s not rocket science people it’s nature… if Many parents would understand the simple natural tricks their lives will be easier. Clothing is foreign to a NEW BABY. This weird phenomena of clothing the baby right away keeping them in clothes, always keeping them so bundled up, and then separating them in a separate room is terrifying! Your child should be attached you all the time! If not? You should’ve thought twice before you had a baby. The baby wants and needs the mother for up to a year after being born constant contact! Skin to skin. Skin to skin is best.

    1. Paula Dennholt

      Thanks a lot for sharing your tips on how to make the babies more content. I agree fully on the skin to skin concept. However, depending where someone lives; being naked can actually be extremely stressful for a baby – if the air temperature is not very warm. So it is not as easy as one solution fits all. ;-)
      Regarding putting a baby down or not – certainly especially newborn babies and also when going through various development stages, the child really needs to be close to mom or dad almost nonstop to feel secure. Still – life must function. There may be other young kids that also need the parent for example! Investing in a comfortable baby sling is a great thing to do, to be able to keep baby close as still be able to take care of everything else. Then all of a sudden, the baby will cry when being lifted up instead; so curious on how crawl around the next corner and what will show up there.

  3. adam

    Please help! Our 5 1/2 month old boy refuses to sleep without a breast to put him down. When he finally goes down, he will wake as soon as my wife tries to move. Whe can hold him, sound asleep, for an hour, and he will still freak out. We’ve tried letting him cry it out, but he screams for over an hour, non-stop. He won’t sleep if I try to rock him, even with a bottle. He can be sound asleep, not reacting to my wife or me shifting, but will be hysterical if she gets up to use the bathroom. Neither of us are getting much sleep and it is stressing us out. We’ve tried colic pills, teething tablets, rocking/vibrating beds. We are at our wits’ end.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Adam,
      I am sorry for you – I know very well how extremely exhausting your situation is. Your boy is certainly not the only baby who needs the comfort of being close to his parents to sleep. It’s funny (at least afterward) – babies can have some kind of built-in radar that makes them wake up the moment mom leaves bed. Adults have the same radar, but for us, it prevents us from falling out of bed while asleep.

      There are, however, a lot of small things and bigger you can do to improve the situation. The key is to help your son learn new ways to feel safe. It will not get better overnight and you will, both of you, continue to be exhausted for some time.

      Anyway, from my perspective, it is important to work from to different angles in a situation like yours. One is to maximize the adults’ sleep no matter how much the baby wakes up. You can find some tips on how to help each other here: https://www.easybabylife.com/new-mom.html Read those ideas and start using whatever works immediately. As a first-time parent I absolutely wanted me and my hubby to sleep in the same bed. I didn’t want to “give in” to our new life situation. With our third child all that was gone. We had realized that less exhausted parents mean a happier couple and a happier family and we slept all over the place, took turns, slept with earplugs (one of us), and so on. And life did improve :-)

      For your son, read about the gentle method in this thread: https://www.easybabylife.com/3-month-old-using-breast-as-pacifier.html Helping him learn how to fall asleep without a breast and without the trauma of crying it out will help. But it does take a bit of time, so work on YOUR sleep situation too!

      I hope this help! Good luck and take care. Even if it feels like an eternity, it isn’t. A few years from now, he won’t even want to sleep in your bed (or even stay at home on Friday nights :-) )


    2. disqus_Gt5CnNbEaa

      You suck so much! You people need to be putting these babies skin to skin. The babies want skin to skin contact and they want to be fed a lot. You should be feeding your baby more if they are overly crying and upset. Also you should leave them on the breast. When babies are born there naturally naked and clothes are foreign to them, they want skin to skin skin to skin regulates functions and also lessons anxiety. If your babies are crying and upset strap them to you naked and keep them on the boob! Watch what happens!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!