1- Your baby eats RIGHT before going to sleep. If you feed your baby (4 months and older) too close to bedtime, they could learn that sleep is always preceded by food. If you find that the only way to get baby back to sleep is by nursing them a little bit, they may be tied to nursing as a crutch to help them get to sleep. Separate this crutch by feeding them at least 20-30 minutes before bedtime. If you do need to feed them at night make sure they're awake before you put them back in the crib, so they can fall asleep on their own.
2- Your baby has a sleep association with a prop. When a baby falls asleep using sleep prop and they don't have it in the middle of the night, they will be unable to fall asleep by themselves! A prop can be rocking, shushing, swinging... even just having you by their side! Baby has to know how to fall asleep on their own so that when they wake up at 12, 1, 2, 3 am, etc, they can go right back to sleep on their own without needing your help.
3- You have tried 'literally everything for weeks!' Babies LOVE consistency. If you have tried many methods in the past couple weeks, you haven't given your baby time to learn that you're teaching them a new habit. You need to pick a method and stick to it for at least 2-3 weeks before giving up.
4- You may have unrealistic expectations. "Sleeping Through the Night' does not mean 7pm-7am for all babies of all ages. For some babies (especially younger infants), a 7 or 8-hour stretch is all they can reasonably go without the next feed. Speak with your pediatrician before trying to get baby to sleep 12 hours straight.
5-Your baby may be uncomfortable. Some babies are more sensitive than others. Some can sleep in any temperature, with any kind of diaper, with any amount of light... but most can't. Make sure your baby has an appropriate sleep outfit and diaper, and that the temperature and light are controlled to a perfectly cool and dark environment.
6-You don't want your baby to fuss. Babies sleep in REM cycles (just like adults): they go from a very deep sleep to a light sleep to start the next cycle. This transition is when babies wake up and then (if they know how) go right back to sleep. Some babies need to cry out or even scream momentarily before going into the next sleep cycle (babies are weird). If you run to them whenever they fuss, they won't ever learn how to transition without you! If your baby cries out for you in the middle of the night, let them cry for 5-30 minutes (depending on age) before responding.
7- Your baby is sleeping too much during the day. Long naps are awesome for us parents, but any nap longer than 2 hours or a cumulative nap time of more than 4 hours a day (infants older than 3 months) is not good for night sleep. Depending on age, infants and babies have different sleep needs, if they use it up during the day, they may be waking up for an hour or two at night to make up for it! Make sure you know your child's appropriate wake times and that you help them stay on track.
8- You have tried "Cry it Out" but ended up feeding your baby after a hours of misery. If you let your baby cry for a long time and then give in to what they are asking for, you've taught them that they need to cry for that long before they get what they want! Once you have a plan for the night, be sure to stick to it.
9- You think your baby is "just a bad sleeper." I don't believe there are bad sleepers. If you resign yourself to having a bad sleeper, there's little motivation to find the magic schedule/environment/method combination to help your child sleep better. There are definitely Great Baby Sleepers out there, and also babies that don't like to sleep as much, and even hate to sleep, but labeling your baby as a 'bad sleeper' won't help get closer to a good night's rest. (Trust me at one point our baby was waking up every 2 hours at night and taking three 31 minute naps during the day... I wanted to label him and resign to a life of sleeplessness, but thank goodness I didn't!)
10- You haven't reached out for help. If your baby is not sleeping and you are sleep deprived, it is easy to fall into dark tunnels and to feel helpless. Don't be afraid to reach out! Seek help from friends, family members, or even a sleep consultant. Remember you are not alone, and your baby is not the first to seemingly refuse a good night's sleep.
If you have any questions about this list, be sure to send me a message!