You are here:

Pediatrics/baby fights sleep and refuses to sleep


recrystal wrote at 2008-07-27 00:48:15
I don't have an answer to give you, but I want you to know you are not alone.  Our baby is 7 months and refuses to go to sleep.  She's so tired she can't play, she just gets fussier and fussier.  Putting her to bed results in screaming and crying louder than I've ever thought possible from a child so young.  She won't let us hold her and give her a bottle either.  She certainly won't let us rock her.  I understand what you are going through.  It makes it hard to have outings and company doesn't it.  I guess we can just say, "This too shall pass..."  Hang in there, we're trying.

I feel your pain wrote at 2008-09-06 00:50:04
I think the doctor responding to this question obviously does not understand the situation.  The child does not just want her mother, she is still fighting sleep even when the mother is holding her and trying to sooth her.  She just doesn't want to go to sleep.  I have been dealing with the same situation since my daughter was 3 months old.  She is now 14 months and it has only gotten worse.  Yes you have started a bad habit by holding your child until she falls asleep, but if she is like my daughter there is honestly no way to break this habit.  I hope you find a solution, I have tried everything including letting her cry it out and nothing works.  I wish I could give you a more useful answer but I don't think their is one

Mommy wrote at 2009-06-19 16:00:31
Sounds like your baby is overtired.  Put him right to bed at the 1st sign of tiredness (rubbing eyes, ear pulling, yawn.)  For his age, this should be no longer than 3-4 hours after his last nap.  And don't stress about holding your baby.  You will miss that very "habit."

mommy2anAngel wrote at 2009-07-09 03:22:12
i agree that the doctor who responded doesn't understand. my 8 month old fights his sleep a lot (not every time, but a lot). he didn't start this until he was 5 months old, but it has gotten really bad now that he is 8 months. a lot of the time if the security of a bottle, rocking, etc. doesn't work, i will walk and slightly bounce with him and it seems to help. also, he started wanting a bottle in the middle of the night and would fight then as well. so i started feeding him a small amount of cereal an hour before his bedtime and then gave a bottle and he stayed full through the night. also, a bedtime bath helps relax him before bedtime feeding. hope this helps those who are going through it!

Courtney wrote at 2010-10-04 20:59:56
I find Dr Olsen's response to be unhelpful and even condescending. The article addresses none of the mother's concerns, only gives vauge 'text book' answers. Her child is fighting going to sleep like I've never heard before. I hope she finds the answers she is looking for.

jenna wrote at 2011-03-20 23:58:11
have the same issue and the doctors answer makes me want to smack him; specifically with my VERY loud/angry/tired baby. answer was NOT helpful.  

happy mom from Taipei wrote at 2011-04-14 08:48:50
Thank you Dr. Olsen, your answer saved my life. I was struggling with my newborn, I kept feeding her as her pacifier and it only made things worse. You are right, I let her fell asleep in my arms. I followed your instructions and tt worked the second time I put her down!! She fell asleep by herself. I am so glad. In fact, I am thrilled. Thanks again for the helpful tips.  

Erin wrote at 2011-05-03 16:16:09
"Crying won't hurt her and in the long run will make everyone's life more pleasant."

Unfortunately, Dr. Olson, you are wrong.  Extinction crying (letting your baby cry until they pass out/vomit/bang their head on the side of the crib, all of which the parent above posted) is extremely damaging to children.

I highly recommend that you do some research on this one:


  1. P. Heron, “Non-Reactive Cosleeping and Child Behavior: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep All Night, Every Night,” Master’s thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Bristol, 1994.

  2. M R Rao, et al; Long Term Cognitive Development in Children with Prolonged Crying, National Institutes of Health, Archives of Disease in Childhood 2004; 89:989-992.

  3. J pediatrics 1988 Brazy, J E. Mar 112 (3): 457-61. Duke University

  4. Ludington-Hoe SM, Case Western U, Neonatal Network 2002 Mar; 21(2): 29-36

  5. Butler, S R, et al. Maternal Behavior as a Regulator of Polyamine Biosynthesis in Brain and Heart of Developing Rat Pups. Science 1978, 199:445-447.

  6. Perry, B. (1997), “Incubated in Terror: Neurodevelopmental Factors in the Cycle of Violence,” Children in a Violent Society, Guilford Press, New York.

  7. Schore, A.N. (1996), “The Experience-Dependent Maturation of a Regulatory System in the Orbital Prefrontal Cortex and the Origen of Developmental Psychopathology,” Development and Psychopathology 8: 59 – 87.

  8. Karr-Morse, R, Wiley, M. Interview With Dr. Allan Schore, Ghosts From the Nursery, 1997, pg 200.

  9. Kuhn, C M, et al. Selective Depression of Serum Growth Hormone During Maternal Deprivation in Rat Pups. Science 1978, 201:1035-1036.

 10. Hollenbeck, A R, et al. Children with Serious Illness: Behavioral Correlates of Separation and Solution. Child Psychiatry and Human Development 1980, 11:3-11.

 11. Coe, C L, et al. Endocrine and Immune Responses to Separation and Maternal Loss in Non-Human Primates. The Psychology of Attachment and Separation, ed. M Reite and T Fields, 1985. Pg. 163-199. New York: Academic Press.

 12. Rosenblum and Moltz, The Mother-Infant Interaction as a Regulator of Infant Physiology and Behavior. In Symbiosis in Parent-Offspring Interactions, New York: Plenum, 1983.

 13. Hofer, M and H. Shair, Control of Sleep-Wake States in the Infant Rat by Features of the Mother-Infant Relationship. Developmental Psychobiology, 1982, 15:229-243.

 14. Wolke, D, et al, Persistent Infant Crying and Hyperactivity Problems in Middle Childhood, Pediatrics, 2002; 109:1054-1060.

 15. Stifter and Spinrad, The Effect of Excessive Crying on the Development of Emotion Regulation, Infancy, 2002; 3(2), 133-152.

 16. Ahnert L, et al, Transition to Child Care: Associations with Infant-mother Attachment, Infant Negative Emotion, and Cortisol Elevations, Child Development, 2004, May-June; 75(3):649-650.

 17. Kaufman J, Charney D. Effects of Early Stress on Brain Structure and Function: Implications for Understanding the Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Depression, Developmental Psychopathology, 2001 Summer; 13(3):451-471.

 18. Teicher MH et al, The Neurobiological Consequences of Early Stress and Childhood Maltreatment, Neuroscience Biobehavior Review 2003, Jan-Mar; 27(1-2):33-44.

 19. Leiberman, A. F., & Zeanah, H., Disorders of Attachment in Infancy, Infant Psychiatry 1995, 4:571-587.

Fi wrote at 2012-12-06 06:22:40
This Is the best article I have read on baby sleep. Our baby is nearly 11 weeks, we were at our witts end as he was waking ever 1.5 hours, not settling, crying, we had the whole 'to use or not to use .... A dummy' nothing was working for us as every night was just the same variation on the fact the he just wouldn't settle.

The key points that worked for us last night, and this is a major breakthrough;

- putting the baby to bed at 10.30, he'd been up since 4pm and fighting sleep from 7 but would not go down, so we just kept him up for longer rather than forcing him to stay in the cot, he was in his pjs, downstairs in a chair not facing the tv, with a blanket around him, we checked he was ok but didn't engage or try to stimulate him

- fed up from 7 til 10 on and off until he started yawning and really drowsy

- made sure he was drowsy getting into the cot, not fully asleep, so within 10 secs of going down he was in fact asleep

- fed him at 1pm when he woke

- put him straight back into the cot, where he objected with whinges, but I just said nothing and just gave myself 20 mins to let him settle as he wasn't actually crying ..... He put himself back to sleep within 10 mins

- he woke at 5.30 and I took the same approach, he was more awake going back into the cot, and 30 mind to settle, I would have interviewed before but not today! He's now asleep.

I am elated!! 30 mins to settle, BUT without a dummy ..... No more jumping up and down all night trying to put it back in his mouth, if we've done it once hopefully we can keep it up. For me it's about giving the baby space, and taking a step back instead of trying to fix it for them if the don't go asleep immediately  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


David Olson, MD


I would be happy to attempt to answer any questions about general pediatric topics, either medical issues or behavioral issues. This would include all the various questions one receives in a busy pediatric practice. I`m a board certified pediatrician in northern Michigan and have been in practice for over 15 years. I enjoy the teaching role I have in our practice and would enjoy the opportunity to help others with their pediatric problems.

©2017 All rights reserved.