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13 Worst Baby Sleep Mistakes New Parents Make and How to Fix Them

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What is the most common infant sleeping problems?

I wanted to write this to help you avoid many of the common baby sleep mistakes I made as a new mom. And give you the help I wish someone could have given me.

My baby was a horrible sleeper. I didn’t think he would ever sleep on his own or that I would ever sleep again.

The biggest problem I had was getting him to sleep through the night without being held.

Then getting him to sleep in his bassinet. Then napping on his own.

I’ve used the pick-up, put down method (which did not work for us). I settled on combining the Ferber method with the cry it out method, which finally got results (with minimal tears).

I’m not saying you have to use any sleep training methods if you’re not comfortable with that. But please keep reading to find out what common baby sleep mistakes you may be making with your baby and how to fix them.

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baby in crib
Photo by Alicia

What are safe sleep practices?

Before we jump into the common sleep mistakes new parents make, let’s make sure you’re practicing safe sleep.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a list of safety standards for preventing SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and should be followed each time your baby sleeps (nighttime and naps):

  • Place babies in their own beds on their backs
  • Use a crib, bassinet, or portable play yard with a firm mattress and fitted sheet
  • Avoid sleeping on couches, chairs, baby swings, or in a car seat (unless traveling)
  • Remove blankets, pillows, soft toys, crib bumpers, or other soft and loose items from the sleeping area

To easily remember this, follow the ABCs of safe sleep:

  • A – Alone in his own bed
  • B – On his back
  • C – In a crib (or other approved safe sleep space)

What are the most common baby sleep mistakes new parents make?

baby sleeping with plush animal
Photo by Georgia Maciel

Baby Sleep Mistake #1: Creating a Dangerous Sleep Area

The biggest mistake you could be making as a new parent is creating a dangerous sleep area for your baby. This is also the easiest of the baby sleep mistakes to fix.

When putting baby to sleep, you should always:

  • Place babies in their own beds on their backs
  • Use a safe sleep space with a firm mattress and fitted sheet
  • Avoid allowing baby to sleep on couches, chairs, baby swings, or car seats (unless traveling)
  • Remove any soft and loose items from the sleeping area
  • Avoid falling asleep while holding baby
baby stretching and yawning
Photo by kelvin agustinus

Baby Sleep Mistake #2: Not Recognizing Baby’s Sleep Cues

Just like you had to learn those early feeding cues, it’s just as important to learn your baby’s sleep cues. It will be the difference of putting down a tired baby or wrestling a cranky, overstimulated, overtired child into bed.

Common sleep cues to look for include:

  • Yawning
  • Eye rubbing
  • Slowing down
  • Becoming quiet

And if you’re one to use a baby nap schedule, check for how much time your baby is awake. Wake windows change as your baby grows. Where newborns typically stay awake for only 45 minutes between naps, at 3 months of age, your baby can go about 2 hours between naps.

baby asleep in woman's arms
Photo by John Finkelstein

Baby Sleep Mistake #3: Putting Baby Down Asleep

One of the most common mistakes a lot of parents make is putting baby down after he has fallen asleep. That means you either fed him, rocked him, or in some other way comforted him to sleep and you’re making your baby dependent on you to fall asleep. These sleep crutches can be hard to overcome and the most common reason many parents try some sort of sleep training method.

This was one of the biggest mistakes I made when trying to get my son to sleep. But unfortunately, he wouldn’t sleep any other way. It really caused a lot of negative sleep associations for many of the early months of my son’s life.

And it helps baby to form better sleep habits of comforting themself on their own if you put them down while they are tired but still awake. From my own experience, I know this is easier said than done.

baby sleeping in stroller
Photo by RODNAE Productions

Baby Sleep Mistake #4: Not Letting Baby Sleep Through Cycles

We all go through a set of sleep cycles each night we sleep. And we routinely wake between cycles, without even knowing it. As adults, we have been sleeping so long that we know how to connect those cycles and get back into a deep sleep without becoming fully awake.

However, newborns are learning about everything in the world around them. And that includes how to sleep.

When they wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, they will most likely cry out.

So, what do you do?

Resist the urge to rush to them as soon as they wake. Let them cry a bit to see if they can fall back asleep themselves. Cause once they see you, that’s it. They’re awake for sure.

Also be aware of the time you put them down for a nap. If it has only been 30 minutes and they are waking, they most likely need more sleep. It’s best to keep a log to track your baby’s sleep schedule.

woman rocking her baby in nursery
Photo by Vicki Yde

Baby Sleep Mistake #5: No Bedtime Routine

Starting a bedtime routine for young children is a good idea to let your baby know what to expect when bedtime rolls around. Using a consistent routine every night gets your little one accustomed to winding down and lets him know that bedtime is coming.

Continuing to use your bedtime routine through toddlerhood is more likely to prevent meltdowns about bedtime.

You can even do a shortened sleep routine at naptime. A story and a little bit of rocking is enough to calm an overtired baby and prepare him for what’s to come.

baby asleep on bed with blanket
Photo by Yan Krukov

Baby Sleep Mistake #6: Thinking a Later Bedtime Means a Later Wake Time

A commonly held myth about babies and sleep is thinking that your baby will sleep later, if you give them a late bedtime. Unfortunately, it’s just not true and will actually have the exact opposite effect.

Babies generally start to get sleepy around 6 or 7 pm, and they need 8 to 9 hours of sleep at night. Although they won’t be sleeping through the night early on.

baby sleep mistakes: baby sleeping

Waiting until later in the evening to put your baby to bed will only result in an overtired baby, who will have a harder time getting to sleep. And the next day, your little one will wake at their regular time, and your baby will not have had enough sleep during the night.

This results in baby sleeping more during the daytime to make up for the lost sleep, which only causes more problems in differentiating night from day and cause more sleep deprivation for already tired parents.

woman asleep with baby on her chest
Photo by RODNAE Productions

Baby Sleep Mistake #7: Not Consistent with Bedtime or Naptime

Babies like routines. They rely on them to figure out what is happening during the day. It’s why a bedtime routine can be so helpful in getting your baby a good night’s sleep.

And it’s also why not being consistent with bedtimes and naptimes can be so detrimental to babies’ sleep. It may not be glamorous or exciting to spend your evenings at home, so your baby can to bed at a decent hour. But it is the best thing you can do to reduce bad habits surrounding sleep in the future and avoid this baby sleep mistake.

clock in baby nursery
Photo by Augustas P

Baby Sleep Mistake #8: Napping Too Late

Everything I read about baby sleep during my son’s newborn stage said not to let them nap past 4 pm. And I thought that was crazy. Why would you ever wake a sleeping baby?!

But I’m here to tell you, do not let your baby nap past 4. You do not want your baby to get too much daytime sleep.

If your baby’s bedtime is between 6 and 7, he will not be ready for bed if he sleeps past 4. And since putting your baby to bed later does not mean he will sleep in the next day, you will have an overtired child the following day.

baby asleep wearing noise cancelling headphones
Photo by Rene Asmussen

Baby Sleep Mistake #9: Skipping Naps

What’s worse than napping too late is skipping naps altogether. I’m not saying you can’t miss a nap here or there, but naptimes should be as consistent as bedtimes, especially when setting up your newborn to have good sleep habits.

Naps should take place in baby’s crib or bassinet, in a darkened room. When moving my son to nap in his crib, the only thing I found to work was getting the room as dark as could be. You may need to invest in a good pair of blackout curtains to get baby to sleep better during the day.

While napping on the go is convenient for parents, your baby will get better sleep if he is in the same place when taking naps.

baby wrapped in swaddle blanket
Photo by Laura Garcia

Baby Sleep Mistake #10: Not Swaddling

Swaddling your baby prevents them from startling themself awake, which is a natural reflex for newborns (source). It also keeps them warm, so you don’t have to worry about having a loose blanket in their crib or bassinet.

Not knowing how to swaddle is no reason to not swaddle your baby. The nurses at the hospital are experts at this and can teach you how to do it properly.

And if you’re still having trouble, grab a set of these swaddle blankets for a proper swaddle each time. (I loved knowing that my baby was swaddled correctly and didn’t have to worry about the blanket coming loose.)

baby sound machine

Baby Sleep Mistake #11: Not Using a White Noise Machine

Before babies are born, they are used to hearing all the sounds of your body: your heartbeat, your breathing, your tummy rumbles. So, it makes sense that they are comforted by white noise.

White noise machines recreate the noises baby hears in the womb. Babies are calmed more quickly, fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer when using white noise (source).

A sound machine also helps to drown out other noises around your house: the vacuum, the dishwasher, the neighbor’s dog. And that leaves you time to get things done while baby is sleeping.

Related: Best Sound Machines for Babies

woman feeding her baby
Photo by Sarah Chai

Baby Sleep Mistake #12: Not Feeding Baby Enough During the Day

Newborn babies need to eat approximately every two hours. If you’re not feeding your baby enough during the day, he’s going to make up for those lost calories in the middle of the night.

And while you should still be doing middle of the night feedings, he won’t have as many night wakings if he’s well fed throughout the day.

baby crying
Photo by Laura Garcia

Baby Sleep Mistake #13: Over Stimulated When Awake

Babies that are overstimulated during the day will have a harder time getting to sleep at nighttime and during naps, as it causes them to become stressed (source).

It’s best to keep the noise if your home low (TV off, music low). And as it gets closer to naptime or bedtime, lower the lights to create a calm atmosphere. It’s much easier to get baby to sleep if they are calm and comfortable.


There you have it: the 13 worst baby sleep mistakes you could be making as a new parent. The good news is they can be fixed! And now that you know what the common baby sleep problems are, you can make the adjustments to start getting your baby a better night’s sleep and developing healthy sleep habits.

Good luck! I know it’s not easy and if you’d like any other advice, just leave a comment below. Even if I can’t help you, sometimes it’s just nice to have someone in the trenches with you.

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