Why is my baby not sleeping?

If your baby is not sleeping well it is important to try to find out why this is. Good quality sleep helps your baby to develop and function properly; maintaining healthy development for both mind and body.

Here is a useful checklist which might help to you better understand what is impacting your baby's sleep.


Your baby may be experiencing pain but have no means to communicate their feelings or needs to you. Pain will naturally impact on your baby's ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. It may also cause night time waking.
If your child is in pain you might notice changes in their behaviour, level of activity, temperature or appearance. Signs of pain to look out for include grimacing, squirming, being tense/stiff, unusually quiet or floppy, refusal to eat, restlessness and irritability. Babies may have a different or distinct cry and will often not be settled by their usual means of comfort. Their body posture may also indicate pain, for example pulling in their arms and legs or rigidly stretching out their limbs.
Some common causes of pain in babies and toddlers include colic, teething, trapped wind, reflux and immunization.


Colic refers to a baby experiencing sustained, intense and uncontrollable crying. It is usually accompanied by pain, baby arching their back, pulling their legs up to their tummy and passing wind. Crying most commonly occurs in the late afternoon and evening, although sometimes your baby will also cry intensely during the day and night. Colic is often linked to a baby's development (e.g. digestive or nervous system) and is believed to improve as your baby develops and matures. Other possible causes of Colic include milk allergy, reactions to breast milk and lactose intolerance.
To manage colic you might choose to consider different ways of feeding your baby. For example changing your diet if you are breastfeeding (you will need to talk to your doctor or dietician for further advice), changing the formula you use, keeping your baby upright throughout feeding to reduce wind and using anti-colic bottles which reduce the amount of air that babies swallow. Other ideas for managing colic include swaddling your baby for comfort, reducing stimulation (noise, light etc), baby massage, repetitive and soothing noises (for example using the 'Baby Soother' App available for Windows Phone and Android), giving your baby a dummy to suck on, reducing exposure to cigarette smoke and winding/burping your baby regularly. Some people find it helpful to use different forms of movement to settle their baby, such as rocking in your arms, car rides, putting baby in a sling or swing chair and pushing baby around in a pram. It is also possible to buy colic remedies, anti-gas medications and homeopathic treatments, all designed to improve symptoms of colic.


When your baby's new teeth begin to appear they can be very sore, often causing pain and inflammation before they appear as well as whilst they are cutting through the gum. As well as disturbance of sleep your baby might have red cheeks and increased amounts of dribble.
Some ideas for soothing a teething baby or toddler include comforting touch (holding, cuddling), applying a teething gel to the gums, providing something safe to chew on or giving a dose of child safe pain relief. There are also many natural and homeopathic remedies on the market. Teething rings or toys are also available. Many are designed to be put in the fridge, providing a cooling surface to sooth pain and discomfort. Teethers are available in many shapes and sizes, depending on the stage of the teething process, which teeth are causing pain and the age of your child.


It is common for babies to get reflux when their muscles are not fully developed as food and acid from their tummy comes back up into the oesophagus. It might also come back into their mouth. As the valve at the bottom of the oesophagus becomes stronger reflux decreases. Most babies no longer have reflux by 10 months of age. You might notice that your baby brings up small amounts of milk (known as possetting) or vomit, or has hiccups. For mild reflux you might find it helpful to give smaller feeds more frequently and keep your baby upright for a time after feeding. More severe reflux can be treated, with advice from your doctor, by feed thickeners or infant antacid.

Allergy or intolerance to cow's milk

Some babies are allergic to the proteins in milk or have difficulty digesting the sugar in it (known as lactose intolerance). The symptoms of this can be very broad. Your baby might develop reflux, a rash, watery eyes, stuffy nose, sickness, diarrhoea, eczema, colic or constipation. Breastfeeding mothers may need to stop their intake of cow's milk in food and drinks whilst formula fed babies may benefit from being given different types of formula, usually prescribed by your doctor.


If your baby has a fever their temperature will be high, over 37.5 oC and they will look and feel hot. Baby thermometers check temperature a variety of ways including under the arm, under the tongue, in the ear and on the forehead.

All content within our website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.
Appy-now is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of our website. Appy-now does not endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on our website. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your baby's health.

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