Baby Will Not Sleep

A frequent question parents ask me is: “Why won’t my baby sleep?” 

The number one reason is the baby or toddler does not know how to sleep. Children must learn many skills after they are born. Sleep is a skill they need to learn.

A newborn baby does not know how to get themselves to sleep. The newborn will cry when tired. They need someone to help them get from the awake state to the sleep state. Around the age of three months, babies learn how to control their hands and bring those hands up to their mouth. Prior to that it is random when they are able to get those hands into their mouth or if they will hit themselves with those hands instead. The ability to get their hands in their mouth is the beginning of the ability to calm themselves. That is an important milestone.

At four months major sleep development happens in the baby’s body and brain. The disorganized light sleep of a newborn changes to sleep cycles similar to adults. The important learning curve for each baby is to learn how to connect those sleep cycles. When a baby has the skill to connect sleep cycles, they are able to sleep through the night. Without that skill, a baby will wake up in between each sleep cycle and cry for help to get back to sleep. In portions of the night a baby might be waking up every hour. Frequent wakings are frustrating and exhausting for parents and babies .

How does a baby learn the skill of sleep?

Parents sometimes accidentally sabotage a baby trying to learn the skill of sleep. Loving parents want to help their child. When a child is frustrated about the inability to sleep, the parent might try to help the child by rocking, bouncing, walking, nursing or holding. All of those parent help attempts might work in the moment but they prevent the child learning their own skills.

I recently worked with a mom who was walking and patting her nine month old to help her sleep. As soon as she laid her little girl in her crib, the child began to scream. So mom would pick her up and walk and pat some more until she was asleep. Mom would again attempt to lay her down. After several tries there might be success for another hour of sleep before the process repeated. The result was a very tired mother and a baby that didn’t feel rested either.

There is a better way to get baby sleeping through the night. The words “Sleep Training” are often used to describe the process of a child learning to go from the awake state to sleeping without assistance.

What is the best way to sleep train?

1)  There are books to read or lots of information on the internet to tell you how to sleep train a child. Some parents are able to use that advice and teach their child to sleep. Some parents feel overwhelmed and confused after reading all that information. One mom contacted me because she was totally confused after reading everything she could on the internet. She said, “I don’t know what would work for my baby.”

2) Some parents use trial and error to sleep train their child. I tried that with my daughter. I tried one method for a few days and then when it did not seem to be going well, I tried another method. It was difficult to be consistent when I was not really sure if I was doing the correct thing for my child.

The biggest mistake is to quit sleep training after a few days due to not seeing immediate results.

3) Some parents hire a professional sleep consultant.


  • A sleep consultant will help find a sleep training method  that fits your child’s temperament and your parenting style.
  • A sleep consultant will write a specific sleep plan to give guidance on how to work with your child. Consistency is the key to success in sleep training. It is very difficult to stay consistent when you do not have a plan to follow.
    • A sleep plan should include four parts:
      • what to do at bedtime
      • how to deal with middle of the night wakings
      • timing of sleep
      • the timing and length of naps
  • A sleep consultant will answer any questions, give support and encouragement to help the parent reach their sleep goals.

Learning the skill of sleep leads to a well rested child. Setting good sleep habits is beneficial for health, development and happiness.

Arlene Fryling

Arlene is a registered nurse and certified sleep consultant for children 0-5 years. She has cared for premature, sick, and many healthy babies. For over 15 years she has taught expectant parents how to care for their newborns through classes teaching basic baby care, infant massage classes, and moderating support groups for new moms as they deal with parenting issues.

Infant Tummy Massage to Relieve Gas

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Alix Kron
Alix Kron
4 months ago
We cannot say enough positive things about our experience working with Arlene!! We were desperate for sleep, going almost 5.5 months with frequent wake ups, nursing back to sleep, nonstop crying during the day, screaming in the car and becoming more and more hopeless as time went on without having success … Arlene changed all of that within no time. She listened to exactly what was going on for us, developed a sleep plan specific to our daughter’s needs/our goals and was so supportive and answered all of our questions along the way. It was very easy to follow the plan that she developed and it included naps and weaning off of night feedings. We saw a difference in our daughter almost immediately! Arlene has absolutely transformed our lives and given us the ability to enjoy each other and feel so much better getting the sleep we all want and NEED! Our daughter is now sleeping 11-12 hours per night, eating only once overnight as opposed to every 1-2 hours, is on a great nap schedule and is so much happier!!! It’s the best money we’ve spent.
Adrienne G.
Adrienne G.
2 years ago
We worked with Arlene to sleep train our 22 month old son who had been bed sharing and nursing to sleep. She helped us develop a sleep plan that was specific to our son's needs. It addressed both his nighttime sleep and his naps. It really took the guess work out of the endeavor, because as a parent, even if you read all the sleep books, there are many different opinions and it is hard to know what is right. Arlene was attentive, flexible and available to answer all of our questions and concerns. I would highly recommend working with her! Our son now sleeps 11-12 hours a night and put himself to sleep on his own. Sleep training him has been a game changer for me (I sleep now too!) and for him. He seems well rested and his development seems to be progressing faster now too. His language skills are flourishing since he is getting better rest.
Amanda C
Amanda C
4 years ago
We just wrapped up our second time working with Arlene, and had another great experience! Arlene helped us sleep train our first baby a few years ago when she was 4 months old at the time. She was a terrible sleeper, waking up once every hour and needing to be rocked to sleep for what felt like hours and hours each day. I was a stressed, exhausted, and worried first time mom, and I was drawn to Arlene’s calm and experienced approach. She gave us an option for a gentler strategy that worked for us at the time, and was detailed and responsive in her sleep plan and attentiveness. Our daughter just turned 2.5 years old and is still a great sleeper. So once our second baby turned 4 months recently, we did not hesitate to work with Arlene again. We now have two rockstar sleepers in our household, thanks to Arlene! It means the world to us that she was there to help guide us, instill confidence, and most importantly, help teach our children such a valuable skill they will undoubtedly benefit from for the rest of their lives.
Begoña Cirera
Begoña Cirera
2 years ago
Arlene helped me first with my first son who was 2.5 year old when I hired her. He slept with me during breastfeeding. He never wanted to sleep in his crib. I was due with my second, and I needed better rest, and had no clue how to get him to sleep away from my bed. I even had to sleep w him during naps, or he wouldn’t sleep. I had to walk him for hours to fall asleep every night. It was awful. Two weeks after Arlene helped us create a program for him, he was done!!! He was sleeping in his own room, all night (12+ hours) and he was SO HAPPY during the day. We learned so much, and all made so much sense. After trying methods and books, nothing worked. My son is almost 6, and he falls asleep at 7:30pm every evening, until 7:00am. As a parent, you know how precious those hours are. With my second one, I didn’t make the mistake of waiting until he was two to train him to sleep. By 3 months, we slowly started, with Arlene’s help. I never had to walk him or be there for him to fall asleep. He’s now 3, and he is a great sleeper, much better than his big brother ever was, still takes 90-min naps, and sleeps 11 hours a night. Every penny I spent to hire Arlene’s expertise is worth it. My only regret was not to look for her sooner. Lifesaver, 100%.
Abbey Stidam
Abbey Stidam
6 years ago
Arlene Fryling at Gentle Touch Sleep Time helped our son sleep, which helped us sleep! We were having trouble transitioning our son (4 months at the time) from his rock-n-play to the crib and our amazing sleeper since birth was all of a sudden not sleeping very much. Arlene talked with us about what was going on with his sleep and why the change in his sleep pattern. She answered all our questions and calmed our worries and frustrations. She came up with a sleep plan that worked for our family. She guided us every step of the way. He is now an amazing sleeper again! He is 18 months old and sleeps 12 hours at night and takes a 1 1/2 - 2 hour nap. He loves to sleep and never fights sleeping. I am so thankful we had Arlene Fryling help us and we were able to teach our son to sleep.