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5-Month-Old Baby Refusing to Sleep

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by Felicity
(Richmond, VA)

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 child care provider fights this battle everyday during the week and I know she is getting frustrated (as am I). Help please!!

Baby Help Line:

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 over tired. Have you tried putting him to sleep a little bit earlier?

    I don’t know if you have figured out yet for 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 and 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 cosy routine that you and your child care provider stick to should help him. It might take a little while of course, to help him getting into a new habit. And in my experience, especially with babies that refuse the pacifier, it is harder to teach them 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. 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 wont 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 good sleep.

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