What To Do When Baby Takes a Long Time to Fall Asleep

When baby will not fall asleep for naps or for bedtime, follow these steps to get baby to fall asleep. Help when baby won’t sleep. 

Baby in bed but not asleep

It can be very stressful when baby takes a long time to fall asleep. You are left wondering what to do and how to respond. Do you leave baby there? Do you get baby up? Do you help baby fall asleep? Let’s discuss this situation and how to handle it. 

What To Do When Baby Takes a Long Time to Fall Asleep

When baby is taking a long time to fall asleep, here are the steps to take. 

Baby on a white blanket

How To Handle This Nap or Bedtime

Resettle baby

Repeat your sleep routine. Go in to baby and do your entire sleep routine or an abbreviated version of the sleep routine. Then put baby back into the bed to fall asleep on his or her own. 

This will work for some babies. For others, it will upset baby and baby will never fall asleep independently for this nap. Brayden was the type of baby who did not do well if I went in at all. No way. For all of my girls, I could go in and do a resettle and they would go to sleep.

Some babies will respond to a resettle, but only at the perfect timing for that baby. That might be 15 minutes for one baby and 25 for another. 

This illustrates how important it is to take notes! Do it! Take notes! Keep track of what you try and if it works or not. I promise you will not remember all of the details. Not even those of you with amazing memories. 

You can use a simple notebook and paper. You can also buy my Book of Logs. These are the actual tracking sheets I made to use with my babies. I have tracking sheets for sleep training, dreamfeed, optimal waketime, independent playtime, daily schedules… It is super helpful.

The Babywise Mom Book of Logs cover

Move baby to a swing, front carrier, bouncy seat, etc.

This helps baby not get too tired to sleep. Ideally, your baby will resettle and go to sleep in his or her crib or bassinet. If not, you want baby to at least sleep. Getting sleep in a swing is better than no sleep at all. 

I have several posts with my sleep hierarchy for the various ages of baby to help you decide when it is okay to do a swing or something similar or when it is better to try to get baby to sleep in the crib. 

What to do baby won't sleep for naps or bedtime and picture of baby

Leave baby to fall asleep independently

If baby will not fall asleep after you resettle and baby will not sleep in a swing or other location, you will want to leave your little one to fall asleep independently. 

Get baby up and start the next cycle

If baby will not fall asleep at all, just get baby up and do your next cycle. Wait to feed baby as close to feeding time as possible (unless baby is having a growth spurt — remember to always feed baby when baby is hungry). 

Once you do feed baby, you will likely need to put baby to bed soon after the feeding. You do not want baby getting overly tired. You can let baby take a longer nap to make up for the missed sleep from the previous nap.

If this is happening at bed time, if baby will not fall asleep, get baby up, feed baby, and put baby right back to bed. 

The reason your baby is struggling to fall asleep and what to do about it

How to Prevent This from Repeating

Keep notes

Track sleep cues. Make sure you have cues correct. Look back at your notes and see what things are in common when baby does not fall asleep. Is it the waketime length? Is it the sleep routine? Look at all of the details. 

Make sure baby isn’t sick or in pain

If baby is sick or in pain from something (like an ear infection, reflux, or gas), baby will have a hard time sleeping. 

Consider changing waketime length

If baby’s waketime length isn’t correct, baby will not sleep well. Even a five minute difference can make or break a nap. Read: Optimal Waketime Lengths and The Cornerstone for Good Naps for more information on this. 

Consider changing stimulation levels

Your baby might have too much stimulation or might need more stimulation. Evaluate these and see if baby needs a change. Read Importance of Exercise and Stimulation for Sleep

Consider extending the schedule

Sometimes baby does not sleep well because the schedule needs to change. If baby is on a 3 hour schedule, you might need to move to a 3.5 hour schedule or might need to move to a 4 hour shedule. Read up on when to move to a 4 hour schedule here. 

Consider dropping a nap

Baby might need to drop a nap. Too much day time sleep can lead to a hard time falling asleep at night or falling asleep for naps. 

Read up on these dropping naps tips so you can know if it is time to drop a nap or not. 

Be consistent with daily schedule

Your baby will have a hard time sleeping well if you do not have consistency in your daily schedule. Have a consistent time you start each day. Have a consistent bedtime each day. Try your best to keep a consistent schedule throughout the day.

Changes will come. When there are growth spurts, the schedule will be different. That is okay!

Read up on Getting a Consistent Schedule here. 

What to do when baby takes a long time to fall asleep with a picture of a baby on a white blanket

Have a solid sleep routine

Part of your consistency needs to be with your sleep routine. Have a consistent sleep routine you have before naps and before bedtime. See my Sample Nap Routines here. 

Set up the sleep environment

Set your baby’s sleep environment up for the best sleep possible. See my post on Essential Elements to Any Babywise Bedroom for help setting things up for the best sleep. 


When baby has a hard time falling asleep, follow these steps to get baby sleeping and to prevent future difficulty falling asleep. 

Need more help with naps? Get my Nap Guide eBook:

Baby won't fall asleep graphic what to do

18 thoughts on “What To Do When Baby Takes a Long Time to Fall Asleep”

  1. I have 5 month old fraternal twin boys, who have been very good at keeping to their schedule for about 3 weeks now after their MAJOR sleep regression ended. Now, one of my boys is having trouble falling asleep only at bedtime. It takes him about an hour to fall asleep, he starts off by happily babbling in his crib and eventually gets pretty fussy, after a while. I go in and resettle him every 5 or 10 mins (depending on how his brother is doing, not to wake him!). I am not sure if this is from too much daytime sleep or not enough and he is overtired. What should I do to try and figure out which one it is?
    Recently he has been taking very short, or a couple times no 4th nap of the day..he seems like he’s tired for it but then I try to put him down and he doesn’t sleep… he doesn’t really fuss about it, he just babbles or moves around his crib.

    PS thank you for all your amazing articles, I have read almost every one on baby sleep and schedules since I have 2 polar opposite baby boys – this has made it super helpful for us to get to a schedule that works for both little guys!

    • Hello!

      It must be so tricky to decipher needs of two different sleepers at the same time.

      Most babies drop to just three naps a day around 4 months old, so I would guess he needs to go to three naps instead of 4. In doing that, you might need to move his bedtime a little earlier, also, at least initially while he adjusts.

      Typically speaking if your baby is doing great and there are no changes to the schedule and suddenly sleep gets off, you want to check sickness, hunger, and need to change the schedule. In this case, since he was sleeping great with what he had and is only getting older, moving to poor sleep would mean he needs less daytime sleep. Good luck!

  2. Hi,
    My second little boy is 2 weeks old (almost), and we are having a hard time figuring out why he is waking up after we put him down. We do a sleep routine every nap and bedtime, and he typically falls asleep on his own after a few grunts. 15 mins later though he wakes up wailing. We let him work it out for a little bit, but I just dont like to let babies that young CIO. I have gone back in and tried to settle (4 S’s), I have re-done our routine, and I have tried to burp thinking it may have been gas…but nothing works. At that point, he will only fall back asleep in our arms…a habit I do not wish to develop. Any ideas as to what is making him wake so quickly? At some naps, he works it out over the course of 30 mins…grunting with little cries for 30 seconds or so and then settling back for another 15 mins…and the pattern repeats until finally he is out. When I let him do this he sometimes will sleep until I wake him for his next feeding, and sometimes he is just fussy the whole nap and will wake completely after an hour. Is it better to just move to the swing and avoid him getting over tired? My 3 year was sleep trained with Baby Wise and I dont remember him doing this particular thing.

    • Hello! I would guess he is waking from pain or waking if he is not swaddled and his reflex wakes him up. I would try gas drops and/or gripe water consistently. I would also look into reflux or an allergy.

  3. Hi,

    Our 3 month old is a GREAT napper. She falls asleep independently and now has both arms out of her swaddle. However, bedtime rolls around and she takes FOREVER to fall asleep. We are using the same awake time as we do for the naps. She takes awhile to fall asleep – usually 30-40 minutes, but sometimes up to an hour. Then once she falls asleep, she “sleep cries” for about an hour until we eventually feed her. Then she goes down for the night. What do you think could be wrong in our routine?

    She is getting about 4-4.5 hours of daytime sleep. She is falling asleep independently at bedtime, but sometimes needs a tiny bit of comfort – some shhshing or a little rocking in the bassinet, but never to put her to sleep. I feed her when she wakes up from her last nap, and then offer her a little more before she goes to sleep. However, I separate the feeding with a story and make sure she’s alert when putting her down.

    Any suggestions?

  4. I’m wondering if you have any ideas for me. I followed your blog for my last two children and found it very helpful, thank you. I just had my third child two months ago. I was determined to do the baby whisperer method for sleep training. I believe we did it correctly, but unfortunately each week he was having more and more trouble sleeping through a nap. Finally a week ago we were spending more time shush patting him and resettling him than he was sleeping. A lot more time. he would only sleep 20 minute naps in a 2.5 hour cycle. With two other children this just was not going to work. After much debate my husband and I decided to CIO since he was spending so much time crying with us anyway. We are on day two and so far he has not fallen asleep on his own during his naps. He will sleep for about 20 minutes then wake up and cry the rest of his nap. I have ruled out any illnesses. I am confident I have the right wake time down. I have a routine and a room set up perfectly. When he misses his nap and gets overtired the only thing I can get him to sleep in is his carrier. My other two children did CIO with great success but they did not have such a hard time as this baby is having. Any suggestions or thoughts would be helpful.

  5. My 4 weeks old stays awake for 3,4, sometimes even 5 hours at a time during the day, no matter what we do! She isn’t usually crying or fussy during those times, she’s usually perfectly calm. She is EBF, I feed on demand, and her feedings usually take anywhere from 30-50 minutes in and of themselves. She is actively feeding the whole time, bar maybe the last 5 minutes or so when she starts to doze. As soon as she pops off the breast though, she is wide awake and no amount of swaddling, shushing, or swaying will get her to sleep. (I know I’m missing an S, but she won’t take a pacifier.) She generally sleeps fine at night (2-3 hour stretches) although she does sometimes take 30-60 minutes to fall asleep again. What am I doing wrong?!

    • I would recommend trying to get more of a routine or pattern to your day. Try out a eat/wake/sleep pattern and feed her about every 2.5-3 hours. She is probably overstimulated and therefore has a hard time falling asleep. Babies can’t be awake for very long before they need a nap, and that awake time includes feeding time. Check this post out to see how old your baby should be awake: https://www.babywisemom.com/optimal-waketime-lengths/

  6. My newborn is almost 4 weeks old and we have been having problems getting her to fall asleep from the beginning. From the moment she wakes up until she is fed and falls back to sleep again, an hour (and sometimes more) has passed. This is because she will be crying until we change her wet diaper first before we feed her (she simply won’t eat until the diaper is changed). After her meal, she will have a dirty diaper that I’ll change and then I’ll try to make her sleep. Sometimes, I’m lucky to make her fall asleep quickly. However, she’ll wake up 5-20 minutes later because she has a wet diaper and she won’t sleep again until I’ve changed it. This whole cycle can last longer than an hour depending on how many times her diaper is dirty and will leave both me and her so exhausted. The worst part is the cycles that last so long (2-3 hours) that she ends up being hungry again and the cycle just repeats itself. I feel hopeless and I really don’t know what to do but this is making me slowly but surely lose my mind…

    • Hello,

      She sounds very sensitive to wet diapers. One thing I would look into is changing which diapers you are using. I am not sure what you have, but it is possible that with some high quality diapers, she will tolerate some moisture in them. You can also try a diaper cream rubbed on to help create some barrier.

      It is also possible that it isn’t the diaper being wet is the issue. Is she having some sort of pain? Is she struggling to fall or stay asleep independently? Does she have gas pain or reflux pain? I would look into other factors just to be sure it isn’t just the diaper.

      Also, check out these posts:


  7. My 3 1/2 old boy always seems to wake up so fussy from naps. Any nap that is not in my arms is only 35 minutes long. I am slowly introducing crib naps and will take about 30 min to fall asleep in his crib. Even when his naps are two hrs long in my arms he only wants to be up for about 20-30 minutes and the rest of his wake window he is crying and want to be held only. I am confused because back then he would wake up happy and now that he is 3 months he wakes up fussy from every single nap! I try to make him stay up for 45min to one hr and even that is pushing it! It’s like he only wants to nap and nap and nap, it’s hard when they tend to all be contact naps. But even with contact naps he tends to wake up at the 35 min mark and I have to rock him so he continues sleeping and enters the next cycle.

    Thank you!

    • If he wants to sleep so much, I would wonder about a possible sickness. It is common to sleep more after a sleep regression or a growth spurt, but not for a long time. Does he have reflux or some sort of medical issue? If so, I would look into how to help a baby with those issues. I do have posts on things like reflux. I would rule out the sickness issue and then move past contact naps and work on independent sleep.

      Here are some tips to get baby to wake up happy: https://www.babywisemom.com/waking-up-happy/

  8. I absolutely love this blog. I used it for my first 2 children, now ages 6 and 8 and have been perusing it for my now 3 month old. My LO goes down great without crying for naps 1, 2, and 4 but the 3rd nap is my nemesis. She is on the 3 hour schedule. I have tried different waketime lengths, different stimulation levels and even different thermostat levels (as we live in a warm climate) to no avail. I cannot put her down without crying and the only way to get her to sleep is to hold her. The 3rd nap should be between 3-5PM while homework an dinner are taking place and so you know holding her is just not practical. I am blessed to have my mom here to help, but this one is taking so much longer to be consistent. What can you suggest?

    • That is an odd time of day for her to not nap. It sounds a lot like witching hour, but it is earlier than witching hour typically is.

      It might be overstimulation if the family is just getting home during that awake time and amping things up. So it might be that she needs a shorter wake time then to offset the extra stimulation. Or she might do better if she is more removed from the noise and action. Or maybe people getting home is waking her up.

      I would really take careful notes about all of the factors during all naps. What are the temps? What is the noise? How long was wake time? What activities happened during awake time before? Just list it all so you can see if there is a common pattern. And is it all the same on weekends or do things change then?

  9. Hi,

    My baby is impossible to put down for naps. I have a dark room, white noise. I shush, I swaddle, I swing, I bounce. I change his positions, offer pacifier, walk around with him on me. He gets upset if he cant look at the room, but if he looks at the room, he gets overstimulated and wont get tired. He’s 8 weeks old. It often takes me 3 hours to get him down for a nap, and he’ll only stay asleep for 25 minutes. Then repeat. I’m at my wits end. Please help.


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