Causes and Treatments of Insomnia in Babies


Authored by Amanda Delgado in Child and Teen Health 
Published on 08-03-2009

Newborn babies are known to sleep up to 16 hours, but they don’t have an established daytime or nighttime pattern. When babies reach six months, they generally sleep through the night. However, some babies have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep during the night. If your baby is among those who wake repeatedly, there are several possible causes for this behavior. There are also steps you can take to help your baby sleep peacefully.

Medical problems could be the cause of your baby’s insomnia. If your baby cries for long periods of time while awake, he could be suffering from colic or digestive ailments such as acid reflux. Consult your child’s pediatrician to determine the best course of action to take if this is the case.

Babies crave attention from their parents. Your baby might be experiencing separation anxiety, especially if she is at least eight months old. If she falls asleep in your arms, she’s likely to wake up and panic when she finds herself alone in her crib. This will result in her crying in order to get your attention. She won’t be able to fall back to sleep until she sees you. In order to help her sleep, you’ll need to get her used to falling asleep on her own. The best way to do this is by laying her down when she is drowsy and letting her cry for short periods of time before going in to comfort her. The intervals should gradually increase until she is able to fall asleep without your help.

If your baby is around six months old, teething could be causing insomnia. The pain in his gums could be making him wake up during the night. If he seems fussy during the day, constantly chews on his hands and drools excessively, get the teething toys ready. Since teething doesn’t stop once the sun goes down, your child will be just as uncomfortable at night as he is during the day. There is no treatment that will completely take away the pain, but you can give him an infant pain reliever such as Infants’ Tylenol to help ease it.

During growth spurts, your baby will want to feed more often than usual. She might wake up a few times during the night crying to be fed. Growth spurts generally happen around three weeks, six weeks, three months, and six months of age, but they can also occur anytime. They usually last between two to three days. Other signs to watch for are extreme fussiness and a marked increase in daytime sleepiness, which could also explain why she’s having trouble sleeping at night. If your baby is having a growth spurt, feed her as often as she wants, even if it’s at 3am.

Insomnia can be a frustrating experience for both you and your baby. Some general tips you can follow to reduce the risk of insomnia include giving your baby a pacifier when you put him down to sleep. Pacifiers are soothing and could help him relax at bedtime and during the night. Don’t let your baby nap late in the afternoon or early evening, since this could cause him to be more awake at night. Make sure he takes one or two naps during the morning and early afternoon, but keep him busy the rest of the time. Establishing a bedtime routine could help him feel more secure, leading to a restful night for both of you.


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