Anxiety About Baby Sleeping? Why it Happens and What to Do

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Picture of Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, PMHNP

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Anxiety About Baby Sleeping? Why it Happens and What to Do

If you’re reading this you are likely exhausted.  We feel you mama and are sending a proverbial coffee your way! For new parents or those who are expecting, the concern about their baby’s sleeping patterns can be a significant source of anxiety. It’s not just about the number of hours your little one sleeps but also about the consistency and quality of their sleep that can lead to a complicated mix of fear and feeling anxious. This article is intended to help you coping and grow a healthier mindset around your baby’s sleep. This post is NOT about tips to get babies to sleep. We’re betting you’ve read a lot of those already. You know what to do, we’re just here to help you stay sane while you do it!

Is Your Baby’s (And Your) Sleep Schedule Stressing You Out?

Newborns don’t come with instruction manuals detailing their sleep habits, leaving many new parents understandably anxious as they navigate the uncertain waters of what constitutes “normal” baby sleep. However, the desire for establishing a consistent sleep routine can sometimes stir up more anxiety than the unpredictability it aims to tame. Is the pursuit of a consistent sleep pattern making you more anxious than the lack of it?

Racing Thoughts

During those late nights of feeding, crying, and attempting to get your baby back to sleep, your mind may be racing with concerns—Is my baby sleeping enough? Should I be doing something different? Am I doing something wrong? These thoughts can often manifest during the day, too, leading to a cycle of worry. This relentless cycle can leave you without any mental rest, as the problem consumes all your thoughts, making it challenging to find a moment of peace. The constant questioning and self-doubt can be exhausting, as your mind becomes a never-ending battleground of worries, leaving you feeling mentally drained and unable to enjoy the precious moments with your baby. It’s important to recognize this pattern and seek strategies to break the cycle, allowing for much-needed mental rest and clarity.

Information Overload

With so much information at the tips of our fingers it’s easy to get caught in an endless research cycle resulting in information overload.  Navigating through endless advice and online forums can become overwhelming, particularly when much of it may not directly relate to your specific circumstances. This constant quest for answers can lead you to spend all your waking hours scouring the internet for solutions, depriving yourself of much-needed rest. The inability to disconnect and step back means you’re caught in a cycle of searching and reading, never allowing yourself a moment’s peace to simply be present with your baby or to rest, both of which are crucial for your well-being.

Dreading Nap and Bedtime

The approach of nap time or bedtime for your baby should be a serene transition, but for some, it’s a time of dread. The expectation of a struggle or a seemingly endless night ahead can trigger anxiety or a sense of depression.  If you’re nodding your head, know you are not alone, mama!

Give Yourself a Break

The first step in dealing with baby-related anxiety is to cut yourself some slack. Acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can, and that is enough. It’s important to try not to catastrophize; you’re not ruining anyone’s life, and you will get through this. Remember, a lot of mothers go through this—you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed or anxious. If you find yourself at a point where it feels like you’ve tried everything, consider getting some outside help. Sometimes, your baby might pick up on your anxiety, and they could potentially find it easier to sleep with someone else performing the same routines you’ve attempted. This doesn’t reflect on your abilities as a parent but is a common experience for many. Asking for help when needed is a sign of strength, not failure, and can provide you with the break and support you need to regain your balance.

Accept the Unknown

Sometimes, focusing on what we don’t know can lead to unnecessary anxiety. Learn to sit with the uncertainty and know that it’s okay not to have all the answers.  You and your newborn are learning together!

Breathe Through it

When anxiety peaks, take a moment to breathe deeply. This simple act can help calm your mind and body, allowing you to return to the situation with a clearer perspective.  Practicing breathing exercises when you’re able to relax so you can lean on these exercises when you’re experiencing anxiety. 

Engage in Self-Care

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Make it a priority to take care of yourself as much as you do your little one. Whether it’s a warm bath, a walk outside, or just a few moments of quiet, self-care is essential for managing anxiety. When the baby is sleeping, allow yourself to rest.  Remember, rest is also productive.

Structure Your Research Time

It’s common for new parents to spend hours poring over sleep training techniques and developmental milestones, but this can often lead to more anxiety rather than solutions. Before you go googling, try setting timers for doing your research or thinking through the issues, and make a point to stop and do something else when the timer goes off. This can help prevent you from falling into rabbit holes of endless information. Stick to trying to answer one question or researching one topic at a time. By limiting the scope of your research and giving yourself permission to take breaks, you can manage your information intake more effectively, reducing stress and making the process more manageable.

Limit Screen Time

While the internet is a valuable resource, the sheer volume of information can be overwhelming. Limiting your screen time and exposure to social media can help reduce information overload around sleep.

focus on reliable parenting sources

When you do turn to the web for advice, ensure you are consulting reputable, evidence-based sources like a certified sleep consultant. This can help filter out some of the more outlandish claims and give you peace of mind that the advice you’re following is based on research.

Consult Pediatric Professionals

Your best source for information about your baby’s sleep is often closer than you think – their pediatrician. They can provide tailored advice that matches your baby’s age, health, and other individual factors and confirm there is nothing wrong with your baby.

Don’t Pivot too Early

Babies are constantly changing, and just when you think you’ve figured something out, they might pivot to a new phase. Remember that any sleep “regressions” or changes are temporary and often part of normal development.  Don’t implement too many changes at once, it will be hard to track which adjustment helped your infant sleep.
tired baby yawning

Understand Stages of Development

Knowing what to expect in terms of your baby’s physical and cognitive development can be soothing. It’s easier to accept changes and adapt to new sleep patterns when you understand they are linked to growth.  Many new parents use the Leap App to learn about milestones.

Be Flexible

Structure is important, but so is flexibility. Don’t be afraid to pivot your strategies based on what your baby needs at any given moment.

Create a supportive environment

The sleep environment can greatly impact your baby’s restfulness. Ensure your baby’s sleep space is conducive to good sleep by keeping it dark, quiet or utilize a white noise machine, and at a comfortable temperature (usually cooler than you think).

Prioritize Your Own Sleep

Parental sleep is often an afterthought when it comes to anxiety about baby sleep, but it’s crucial for your well-being and your ability to care for your child!

utilize a support system

Whether it’s a partner, family member, or friend, having someone who can help with nighttime care can give you the rest you need. Even just a few uninterrupted hours of sleep can make a significant difference.  Better understand your sleep patterns and create a game plan to protect a chunk of at least 4 hours.  This might mean going to bed earlier than normal. If your baby tends to sleep best from 8 pm to midnight you should sleep at this time also!  Our guide to How To Get Sleep With A Newborn includes a sleep plan, tracker, journal and effective sleep support strategies written by our own psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and mama of three!  When we say we understand how important sleep is in postpartum, we mean it.

don't be afraid to seek professional help

If anxiety about sleep is impacting your daily life, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. They can provide strategies to manage your anxiety and improve your sleep quality.


The anxiety about baby sleep is a common, yet painful experience for many parents. However, with a combination of self-compassion, learning to balance information with intuition, and ensuring you look after your mental and physical well-being, you can alleviate a significant portion of this worry. Remember, you are not alone in this; there’s a massive community of parents out there who have navigated these waters successfully. Take each day as it comes, and trust that you will find your rhythm, one nap time at a time.

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Picture of Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren was a licensed and trained registered nurse in the NICU and has since made a career shift to focus on mental health. Lauren is now a board certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, focusing on women’s health and wellness. She is a mom of three precious little men who has turned her pain into passion.

mother with eyes closed pressing her face up against her infant to calm her anxious feelings

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