Dealing with Common Infant Sleep Problems

Author Name: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Medical fact-check: Dr Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Avoid poor nights due to common infant sleep problems and medical reasons baby won't sleep. The doable sleeping tips in this section will help you tackle teething, relieve a cold, avoid wet diaper wake-ups, deal with night terrors, separation anxiety, acid reflux, colic, gas, etc.

Infant sleep problems and most medical reasons baby won't sleep are usually harmless and temporary - although unfortunately they may seem to last forever ...

Sleeping well is not easy for a young baby and their parents as it is.

Baby crying in mothers arms

A newborn must develop the ability to distinguish day from night. Then later on they must develop both physically and psychologically to be able to sleep for long stretches.

Growing day by day, your baby must learn to settle all by themselves and learn self soothing when waking at night ...

A lot to cope with already, and then there is a number of infant sleep problems to challenge both of you a bit further.

Luckily there are gentle and effective ways to avoid many of these disturbances or, once a baby sleep problem is there, to deal with it at best .

Let's have a look at the most typical infant sleep problems and how to deal with them below.


Teething is one of the baby milestones you do not want to avoid of course. But because it can be painful or uncomfortable, it easily becomes a disturbance during naps and nights.

To avoid all this: learn when babies start teething , how to recognize early teething signs and use simple but truly effective teething remedies .

A common cold

Don't blame your baby

How many of us have not, after yet another sleepless night, felt a bit angry with our child. We know they cannot help it, and they certainly don't want to bug us.
But still we may have a hard time being all cuddly and sweet to our babies. And that can make us feel guilty.

Awful as these feelings may seem towards a tiny helpless infant, they are in fact totally normal and acceptable . Most of it comes from your own exhaustion.

When we are tired, the first thing to change is our mood. It becomes much more difficult to be cheerful and happy. That is also the first outcome of research on sleep deprivation effects.

So, it is OK to feel like that. No need to feel guilty about it. And also ...

No need to take it personal, your baby is not trying to hurt you.

A little experiment you might try is to put yourself in your baby's place. Imagine how they feel and why they feel like that. Then, in stead of fighting over it, you can deal with the issue together, as a team.

Many babies get mild colds from time to time: usually a lightly congested or runny nose.

A few simple cold tips can keep your baby as comfortable as possible and keep sleeping well also during a cold.

Wet diaper

An overfull nappy or wet diaper is a top cause of unnecessary night wakings, hence the crucial dry diaper tips for nights .

And at the same time we prepare the right mindset for dry nights later on.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is an important development phase.

It is when your little one learns that they are an individual person and takes the first steps towards independence .

In the mean time, the fear of losing you is very real and may make it difficult for your little one to settle well and make it through the night independently.

Use these separation anxiety techniques to guide your child through this phase successfully, and with a minimum of tears and night awakenings.

Dreams, nightmares and night terrors

There are many different opinions about if and how young babies dream, and whether they can have nightmares or night terrors. The fact is that something dreamlike can cause your little one to wake up at night .

So it's good to know how to recognize and deal with night terrors , nightmares and dreams .


Infant reflus is one of the most common medical reasons baby won't sleep. Reflux comes in two forms: the totally harmless GER (Gastro Esophageal Reflux) and the less common but more serious GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disorder).

Use the reflux symptoms guide to find out if your child may be sleeping poorly because of reflux.

The infant reflux sleep tips effectively help for naps and nights.

See the newborn acid reflux page for specific help for newborns.

Osteopathy can help with relieving reflux and related digestive troubles. Start at the cranial osteopathy therapy checklist to find out if an osteopath visit would be a good idea.

Colic in infants

Colic is best known for its typical crying pattern: prolonged crying in the evenings that starts at about 3 weeks old, peaks around 6-8 weeks old and gradually disappears towards 3-4 months old.

See the colic in infants page for the best tried-and-tested colic remedies and check for baby gas help as well.

Have you considered seeing an osteopath?

Extensive baby crying and colic are cases where it can help. Carole Chevallier D.O. answers all our questions about osteopathy for infant sleep problems .

Infant sleep problems can be daunting to go through. Your baby is not in optimal shape and you may worry. Most cases, even medical reasons for poor sleep for your baby, are innocent. Of course, always do consult your doctor if you have any doubt.

And all in all, sometimes there is nothing more you can do than just keep being there for your baby.

Don't worry if you feel frustrated with your baby because that is perfectly normal. Remember that most of these issues are temporary - a phase - and things will get better again soon.

Don't hesitate to contact me if you can't seem to overcome it or with any questions on these topics.