How little sleep is too little?
April 25, 2010 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Baby is 15 days old. Due to bf-ing troubles, we have been feeding him pumped milk from a bottle. Friday night we switched to all breast. Now he doesn't drop off to sleep immediately after a feed like he did for the 1st two weeks.

I'm pretty sure he's getting enough to eat from the breast, so is this just coincidence? And since we're supposed to feed him every three hours from start to start, it means he's only getting about an hour's sleep between feedings, unlike the two or two-fifteen he was getting before. My SIL, who is a mother and a ped, says it's fine if he fusses in his crib for a while before sleeping, but when it's just me here I can't get him to sleep AT ALL unless I'm holding him, which is going to drive me bonkers. SIL was here Fri-Mon and when she was on duty he went to sleep pretty easily--had about an hour of awake time and then an hour of sleep and then we'd wake him again to feed. It's 6:03, he JUST fell asleep on me and he'd due to eat again at 6:30 (started last feed at 3:30) I don't know what I'm doing wrong? any suggestions? I want him to learn to go to sleep on his own but I can't bear to hear him cry. A squawk or two I can manage but not full on crying. Pacifier helps but I have sit by his crib and hold it in his mouth. (ped says paci is fine, btw)
posted by pipti to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you swaddling? That helps a lot even though for me, it was a bear to learn to do.
posted by GaelFC at 3:13 PM on April 25, 2010

yes, it helps. i haven't quite got the hang of it but my husband has.
posted by pipti at 3:20 PM on April 25, 2010

Even though it probably seems like foreeeeever since Friday, things do move pretty fast at this age, so it's entirely possible your baby will figure out better sleep habits on his own any day now. It may just be the unfamiliarity of the breast that's bothering him, or maybe he's not getting quite as much milk as you think he is, or maybe it's the difference in rate of flow between breast and bottle.

In any case, you might consider doing some nursing in a baby carrier, wrap or sling (good info on which ones allow hands-free nursing here). That'd allow baby to nurse himself to sleep as gradually as he'd like, while you still have some freedom to move around and get things done. Baby Bjorn and a Moby Wrap were the two that worked best for nursing my little one at that age, but everyone's mileage seems to vary with these things.
posted by Bardolph at 3:37 PM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Could you feed him from the bottle for one of the feedings for a little while until he gets fully used to the breast feeding?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:38 PM on April 25, 2010

I don't have advise to offer on the BF thing (total agonizing boob failure) but I do know what it's like to have a 15 day old infant. What you do is whatever you have to do to get baby to sleep. Whatever. Maybe you can't do anything. Do that. Never wake a baby. I can't stress that enough. You don't have any control over timing or how much or anything--he's only been on the job 15 days. If he's awake and will eat, he's hungry. If he's sleeping, he's okay. If he pooped, and he's asleep, leave him alone.

Very tiny babies eat very little--they're really small.

Seriously -- unless you have reason to worry about this, and take him to the pediatrician if you want reassurance -- a healthy baby is a machine set up for survival. All you have to do is respond to what he wants and try not to interfere. We let baby sleep in the comforting arms of a boppy. A lot of parents let baby sleep in car seats. Again--whatever it takes.

I wouldn't let a baby cry either, although our pediatrician said it was okay, too. Trust the baby, trust your instincts, and then the pediatrician. And after that, trust random people on the internet.

I can't remember who wrote about the flat earth of infancy but it was a concept that helped me during that time, having heard that other women had described it as well: you don't know if it's been ten minutes or ten years.

Oh! And their feet and arms are distressing to them sometimes. They flail into the open air and it's weird -- they've been hitting a soft wall and now there's nothingness. Sometimes just your hand gently holding his feet or arms down might help if swaddling is out of reach (And swaddling -- put blanket down, diamond-shaped. Baby's head at the top of the diamond. Right side over, tuck under baby's body. Left side, wrap around, bottom part--up and underneath baby. Maybe there's a better way to do it, but that bought me about 20 hours sleep total and if it's a crap technique, I'm still not giving back the 20 hours.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:38 PM on April 25, 2010 [10 favorites]

And since we're supposed to feed him every three hours from start to start...

Babies will let you know when feeding time is. You needn't impose a strict schedule like that. Honest. The strict schedule may just be what's causing the fussiness. Just let him sleep however long he wants. He'll tell you when it's meal time. You are on his schedule right now. It will become manageable in a little while. 15 days is still brand new.

On to the sleeping and fussing and not sleeping...That's how babies are. He's a new life and is dealing with a lot of new things. They will go through periods of fussiness. Not able to sleep without being held is perfectly normal. It will pass. Yes, it's going to drive you bonkers. Sorry.

You know that stereotype society has of the frazzled, sleep-deprived, on-the-edge new mommy? It's pretty-much true.

This will pass, I promise you. In the meantime, look upon every opportunity you get to hold the little guy close and fall asleep in your arms as one of the greatest blessings life will ever bestow upon you. There will come a time in your life when you look upon your now-adult son and think back to those times. You will smile.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:38 PM on April 25, 2010 [13 favorites]

The first three weeks are the hardest, and I wouldn't worry yet about setting patterns to fall asleep quite yet. If he wants to be held, hold him. Have you tried a swing or a bouncy chair? Some babies love them, some don't.

Ask Moxie is a great resource for baby-rearing questions. To wit:
in the first 12-14 weeks of parenthood you should take your lead from Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary. If your baby only sleeps on your chest with his/her head wedged up into your neck*, do it if you can sleep that way. If your baby only sleeps in the swing or sling or Amby hammock thing or car seat or car or front carrier or laundry basket or between you in bed or holding onto the cat's tail or on the bathroom floor or in a tent in your backyard, do it. If you have to run the hairdryer, clothes dryer, white noise machine, "La Vida Loca" CD, or any other noise, more power to you. Whatever gets the maximum number of hours of sleep for the maximum number of people in your household, that's what you should do. And when anyone asks you how your baby's sleeping, just lie and say everything's great.

My lactation consultant suggested that I take baby to bed with me for a nap every afternoon, and to sleep topless and just let baby nurse. A nap in the early afternoon helps improve your milk supply later in the day, she said. Doing that for the first six or eight weeks saved my sanity.

Good luck!
posted by ambrosia at 3:41 PM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you decide to let him sleep himself out and then feed, record which side he's feeding on, for how long, and at what times ... it'll help you reassure yourself that he's eating enough (or suss out if he's sleeping too long and not eating enough).

Eurotrance music put my infant to sleep, without fail. (I swear it was the white noise + "heartbeat" of the music.) Some women use breast pads that smell of them/their milk to help a fussy infant be calm and sleep.

But yeah, in 3 days it'll all be different again. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:53 PM on April 25, 2010


I was never a "baby wearer," but some people swear by it. Maybe that would help him doze off and allow you to get something done. Or at least have one hand to yourself.

Brand new babies can be pretty snoozy, but at two weeks old he's kind of waking up to life. Eating every three to four hours is a typical pattern at this age, but it's not a necessity. The kid won't let himself starve.

How long does he breastfeed? Was he actually eating from 3:30 to 6:00, or just fussing for a long time afterward? LLL and others say to let them eat as often and as long as they want to. I had one kid who could slurp for 10 minutes on each side and then be perfectly satisfied for a full four hours. So, that's what I thought was "normal" breastfeeding. My second child fed more frequently - every 2 1/2 - 3 hours - and I hardly had enough time in between to do a thing. She didn't sleep much during the day. We put her in one those crazy baby recliners so she could check things out, and she seemed satisfied.

All babies are different. You'll figure him out pretty quickly. Even though your SIL is a mother and a ped, he is your kid and his parents will be the experts on him very shortly. Be observant, and if you are truly sleep-deprived yourself, make notes if that will help in any way. (My kids were born in a hospital that asked the parents to keep charts of how often and long they ate, as well as how many dirty/wet diapers they had. We actually continued this at home, because I was so tired I couldn't remember when I'd fed her unless I looked at my little notebook! Patterns soon emerged, and eventually we lengthened the time in between feedings. One day we both woke up in a total panic because it was 6:00 in the morning and she'd never woken up to eat and we were so tired we hadn't noticed... Naturally, we went to check on her fearing the worst. She slept another hour, and then we crowned her the most considerate baby in the world!)

It's not an easy time, but you'll all get the hang of things soon. But don't wake him up!

Good luck!
posted by troubleme at 4:16 PM on April 25, 2010

I was going to suggest a sling or Moby wrap, in case that helps. My third baby was the easiest baby in the world to take care of, ate well, dropped right off to sleep--so long as you didn't try to put her down. For the first three months of her life, she was literally on me or my partner about 23 1/2 hours a day (at three months, she suddenly started being OK with being put down, and then she became the kind of baby you could just set down in the crib and walk away from when she was sleepy). If I hadn't had a sling for her, I don't know what I'd have done.

As others have said, unless you have a real medical reason to feed him on a schedule, don't wake him up to eat. He'll settle into his own routine (though it may not be the one you prefer, or as regular as some babies' schedules).
posted by not that girl at 4:26 PM on April 25, 2010

I just wanted to pop in and commend you for having him be able to soothe himself to sleep as a goal. In the first couple weeks, baby sleep patterns are all over the place, and as others have commented there's no need to wake him to feed (unless there is a medical concern). He'll pretty much sleep when he needs to. As he gets older more distinct patterns will emerge. All that being said, don't make the mistake of conditioning him to sleep only in your arms or only at the breast, or only _______. Try as much as possible now, and especially after six weeks to put him down to sleep groggy but awake.

Infant sleep is one of the most misunderstood and overlooked aspects of parenting. I'd heartily recommend Dr. Marc Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

I've got two six month old girls. Everybody tells you "it will get better."

It really, really does. Promise. Hang in there.
posted by werkzeuger at 4:28 PM on April 25, 2010

Never wake a baby. I can't stress that enough.

You could carve it in granite letters ten feet high covered in gold leaf and illuminated by burning magnesium and it still would not be stressed enough. If you can ask people to knock instead of ringing your bell, do. If you can mute your phone's buzzer, do. Don't let people wake the baby, even aunt Alice who is so good with children and wants to see if he looks like uncle Harold.

But remember that it takes months for babies to get regular sleep habits.

I found the soothing advice and swaddling techniques in The Happiest Baby on the Block to be very useful. Everybody was impressed by how quickly our kids started sleeping through the night - it might be genetics, it might be those techniques, but our youngest has been sleeping through the night since he was around four months.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:29 PM on April 25, 2010

I'd heartily recommend Dr. Marc Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

Yeah, we liked that one too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:30 PM on April 25, 2010

We had the same problem. My mom was here and she kept saying "don't wake the baby" and I kept saying "but, every three hours!!".

My mom, mother of five, she is a wise wise woman. As long as your baby is gaining weight, let her sleep. I was a big fan (eventually) of sleep-eat-play. I think the book is the baby whisperer? Which I found annoying in some ways, but helpful with the idea that sometimes "play" means five minutes, but if you separate the eating from the sleeping, that's better in the long run. I don't know if it's better for most people, but it at least helped me think "feed her when she wakes up, whenever that is" especially in the early weeks when I wasn't doing much else. Later, I would wake her up if I needed to go somewhere, because I'm a big believer in not letting the baby's schedule schedule my life (most of the time). But really, let the baby sleep a little longer. She'll wake up if she's hungry.

Also: everything will be totally different in two more weeks, and then two more weeks after that, and so far, that's been true for 11 months. So, hang in there, it gets better, then worse, then better, then WAY better, then even awesomer. And eventually, if you're like me, you'll miss the tiny tiny crying non-sleeping monster.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:36 PM on April 25, 2010

Boy do I know what you are talking about. BF went terribly and babyman was never a good napper. You know that supposed like 18 hours or something they are supposed to be getting. Yeah, we were lucky if we got 9 hours. He just didn't nap. At that age we would have killed for an hour nap. He was 20min at best most times. We also had to wake him up to feed him at times (he was quite jaundiced, but just under the needing the lights cut off, and sucked at BF (or actually didn't suck, which was the problem) so we needed to feed him every 2-3 hours). It was a pain and I spent many a day crying, but they and you will survive, and like others said, in a couple days, it will all be different again.

Also, you said you "hadn't gotten the hang of swaddling". May I recommend these: Swaddle Mes, all the benefits of swaddling, but with the simplicity of velcro! We (and everyone else I know) loves them.
posted by katers890 at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2010

May I recommend these: Swaddle Mes

Yup, products like these make the swaddling much easier; blankets are total fail unless they are the right size, shape and material. The velcro ones work good but you can't undo velcro without a lot of noise that will wake him. The "Miracle Blanket" product worked better for us.
posted by werkzeuger at 4:57 PM on April 25, 2010

Awesome advice here. I struggled with bf at first and exclusively pumped for two months until my son could latch properly. It was hard as hell to go from bm in a bottle to an actual, latched-on baby. I was shocked. Seriously, my kid would just attach to me and nurse for an hour. Sometimes more. That felt crazy to me because he would suck down a bottle in just a few minutes.

But it's different to nurse, because they are getting (and needing) not only the nourishment, but also the physical closeness and the smell, sounds, feel of you. Babies will nurse until they're full, then sleep happily, then wake again when they're hungry. There's no reason to wake a child to feed him, unless he's not gaining weight. I'd be pissed if someone woke me just because a book/pedi/friend told them I'm probably hungry.

I was a pretty avid baby wearer. Actually, ds was strapped on to me pretty consistently until he was about 18 months. Life was soooo easy that way. He'd sleep and I could do chores or take a walk or just watch TV. My favorite sling (and I had about 5 just to start off) was the padded Maya Wrap, although for a beginner I would recommend a hotsling (which you can now get at most Targets!)

Life gets a lot easier when you stop listening to others and just listen to the baby. All he wants is you and all you need right now is to be close to him. Let the dishes pile up, ignore the clock, and just cuddle and nurse. Keep a water bottle and a remote next to you and just exist. If he's crying in his crib, there's probably a reason, so trust your gut and hold him or nurse him.

If you need any sling/bf support, please don't hesitate to mefi mail me. I was alone with ds from day 1 and had to go through the whole pumping/latching crisis. You'll totally find your rhythm for this after you're more used to nursing.
posted by Lullen at 5:47 PM on April 25, 2010

You don't say how long he's nursing for when he's on - but from what you've written about the former bottle use and the need to hold the pacifier, I'm thinking you might just want to check his latch. Even if it doesn't hurt you, even if he seems like he's getting enough - if he's a bit, well, as they put it with my daughter - lazy - he may not be getting the satisfying hind milk and getting enough of a work out from nursing to be really satisfied and sleepy.
posted by peagood at 5:48 PM on April 25, 2010

Oh, hugs hugs hugs. You're only 2 weeks in, but it does get better, really.

I'm a mom of 3 kids (in less than 4 years!), and every child has his/her own temperament and sleep issues. Yes, it's good to trust your instincts, but if it's your first kid, you sort of have to educate your instinct, if that makes sense. Look to moms of many kids if you can, and moms who have really worked at making good sleep a priority, and ask for advice. I only say this because moms with more than 3 kids will probably have experienced That Child, the one that didn't fall neatly into any particular book's strategies, and will have some humility and a range of trial and error that makes their advice good to take.

Your baby is just a little mite of a thing, but it's okay to move (slowly) toward the hope of sleeping through the night. You don't have to let him cry, but there are things you can do to settle him without resorting to sleeping with him or hovering and holding the pacifier in. (I have co-slept and not, and used a sling and not, paci'd and not.) My motto is that I do what I need to do to get sleep, and yet I orient myself toward getting the baby to sleep through the night, as independently as he or she can.

I like the Baby Whisperer book -- I'm reading the one for older kids (I think it's the 3rd book) now, to do some sleep correction for #2 who is still having problems at 2 years old, and to get my 7-month-old on a good routine. It's less prescriptive than BW, and takes temperament and other factors into consideration -- an excellent book and one I recommend highly. It's long, but you can sort of skip around and find what suits your baby easily.

If you nurse, then play with him for a bit, and then he drops off to sleep, he'll get in this habit and it will help him learn to drop off to sleep on his own. This is the gold standard of sleep for babies -- that drop off. Then it's just a matter of extending sleep as their tummies expand and can hold more milk.

I'm a staunch advocate of breastmilk but woman, if you need a break, get a can of formula and mix up the occasional bottle. Or pump, but that takes up time you may need to rest. Do what you can, do what feels right, do what seems to work. Avoid moms who sit on the poles of anything -- breastfeeding, attachment parenting or its opposite, etc. You don't need judgment -- give yourself room to make a few mistakes and learn from them and learn all about your new little one.

Best of luck. Wish I could bring you a casserole!
posted by mdiskin at 6:06 PM on April 25, 2010

It gets better!

And, unless your baby sleeps longer than three or four hours (during the day) do NOT wake to feed. The baby will wake when it's hungry.

And here's some other advice, for free. Don't keep the house quiet while baby sleeps. Watch tv, run the vacuum, talk normally, whatever. This trains the baby to sleep thru regular household noises. Trust me on this. (I had three children by the time number one was two and a half. So I KNOW.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:29 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Instead of putting him/her in a crib, have you tried co-sleeping?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:44 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I want him to learn to go to sleep on his own but I can't bear to hear him cry.

I wouldn't worry about teaching him to sleep on his own just yet. I'm a big believer in conditioning babies to self-soothe, but it's just pointless when they're this little -- 15 days. Start the conditioning stuff at 6 weeks if it seems right: the way I do it (on the instructions of a family member with 7 children of her own) is to nurse, then change the diaper and swaddle, then put to bed sleepy but a little bit awake. For now, the best way might be to just get him warm and dry and swaddled, and then nurse him to sleep and put him down already asleep. (Maybe even in his car seat or similar, since they really seem not to like being flat on their backs.)
posted by palliser at 7:34 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

You've received lots of good advice above, so met me just address this: You asked what you're doing wrong and the answer is NOTHING. You're a brand new mommy learning about her baby. Cut yourself lots and lots of slack, sweetie, and hang in there. Take the parts of the advice above that seem right to you and your partner, and right for your situation. Work on these issues in ways that seem right to your own personal mommy instincts, and ignore peeps who disagree -- we all have our own styles and part of having a brand-new first baby is that you haven't figured out your style yet. You will, and I bet you'll be brilliant at it!
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:43 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Another vote for cosleeping.

My 18 month old has never had a sleep problem. We cosleep. Data point of 1. Correlation? Maybe.
posted by k8t at 7:59 PM on April 25, 2010

Just as a contrary point, sometimes you DO need to wake a sleeping baby, especially one that's tiny or underweight. Two weeks is probably right around the cut-off but definitely under that, I don't think it's wise to say NEVER wake a sleeping baby to someone who's medical circumstances are unknown. Just-newborn babies WILL sleep through feedings and it's super easy for them to get dehydrated and/or get to a low blood sugar state that makes them even more lethargic and make it even harder for them to stay awake and eat, leading to an ever-worsening problem where the baby doesn't have enough energy to feed itself despite needing it to survive. I think once the baby has regained birth weight and feeding is well-established, it's probably okay to let him sleep as long as he wants (and I know that's not really the original question but I'd hate for someone else to come a long and read this and not have this point made). So, if your ped said to wake the baby every three hours, then you should do that!

As to the actual question, it's entirely possible that it's just a coincidence that the point at which you switched to breastfeeding exclusively is when your baby did the typical "wake-up" phase where suddenly they stop sleeping constantly. Lots of parents come home with a newborn thinking "Wow, this is so easy, my baby sleeps almost all night. I can totally sleep!" only to find that about -3 weeks later, the baby has arrived at a new phase where it is suddenly sleeping in shorter bursts and needing more awake time. I wouldn't worry too much about it and just do whatever it takes to get the baby sleeping!

Also, congrats on making it back to exclusive breastfeeding! We supplementing our daughter in the first week due to some health issues and never made it back to feeding her at the breast despite months of trying, leading to 6 months of pumping and countless hours of agonizing over what went wrong. Swaddle, side-lying, shushing, swiinging, sucking: Dr. Karp's Five S's worked like a charm for us.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:01 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Everyone who has said listen to your baby is spot on. Babies are really good at being babies. He'll let you know when things aren't right. It sounds like you think your baby is giving off signals of things not being right - it's possible. Trust yourself, and your baby. Of course, if there are extenuating circumstances, that's a different ball game.

Practical advice: don't wake the baby. Feed him when he's awake. If he starts dropping weight, re-assess. If he has fewer than 2-5 bowel movements and 6-8 (5-6 disposable) wet diapers a day, re-assess. (Here's some helpful info from La Leche League: Is my baby getting enough milk?

You're doing so great - good job! It sounds like you're pretty stressed out right now. It's not for everyone, but I'm a big fan of La Leche League (I say that as the daughter of a LLL leader and lactation consultant, so I am biased.) You might be able to find a local group through LLL. I've been so impressed by the women I've met there.

Good luck.
posted by punchtothehead at 8:35 PM on April 25, 2010

Yes, unless YOUR child's pediatrician has concerns about the baby's weight or growth, don't wake them up to feed. Don't go by a helpful family member who is also a ped. Trust your own ped.

If it were an older child, I would immediately think maybe they were overtired, and that's why there's no rest between feedings. Not sure if that directly applies to such a tiny infant, but it was my first reaction (mom of 4 - including breast-fed triplets!).

Also, keep tabs on the diapers. It's maddening that our breasts don't come with gauges and you never really know how much the baby's gotten. Ask your ped or check w/ your favorite, trusted baby book for how many wet/soiled diapers you should get per day.

If the baby has tears and a wet mouth, makes wet diapers appropriately, and their skin doesn't snow signs of dehydration, all is good.

Just keep swimming!
posted by Mrs_Eep at 11:31 PM on April 25, 2010

Another thought - a trick I learned from the nursery and NICU nurses. The hospital used the Nuk brand pacifiers that have an open hollow facing out. They'd tightly swaddle the baby, pop a Nuk in, then gently prop/lodge the Nuk in place with the bulb syringe. Of course, with lots of wiggling the Nuk would get loose, but it least it would buy you a little time.
posted by Mrs_Eep at 11:38 PM on April 25, 2010

I'm pretty sure he's getting enough to eat from the breast

Are you sure about that? Objectively sure? Oftentimes when one pumps and feeds the baby...the demand is greater than the supply.

When feeding from the breast, the milk doesn't come out as quick and effortless as with a bottle.

Your baby may be falling asleep quicker with the bottle because he is getting more milk that way.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:39 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nursing mother of 3.5 year old here. Yup. Still nursing.

In the beginning you hear a lot about what's supposed to happen. I'm supposed to be feeding my child every 4 hours. He should be sleeping a lot. etc etc. Don't worry about it. Once you get the idea that your child is supposed to do EXACTLY WHAT HE'S DOING things just kinda...settle down. To me, your child sounds completely normal. In the first few weeks I remember not getting any sleep beyond an hour of nap in between nursings. Got a sling at about 3 weeks in and that helped a lot with the frequency. Totally recommend it - slings are great for on the go nursing.

Is there a La Leche League in your area? If there is, call up a local leader and attend a meeting. There you get to meet the women who had to feed every 45 minutes for the first 6 month, the kid who exclusively nursed until 2 and now eats anything at 5, and you get to meet the whole spectrum of normal.

Meanwhile, keep track of the diapers. If he's making dirty diapers regularly, you have nothing to worry about. And kudos for nursing your child; the first 8 months are the hardest (the first 4 for the frequency, the next 2 for the teeth, and then the next 2 for all the people saying you don't have to do it anymore) after that it's all easy feedings and bonding time.
posted by Sallysings at 2:08 AM on April 26, 2010

I want him to learn to go to sleep on his own but I can't bear to hear him cry.

I came back to say that this also changes. I was remarking to someone the other day that I remember the early months when any kind of crying was too much to bear. At some point, the baby's cries change. I don't remember when exactly it happened, but at some point it became clear that she was able to cry to demand attention/ask for what she wanted/pretend/because she was mad, instead of just as a instinctive reaction to hunger or temperature or tiredness or whatever else that I needed to address. I noticed this when my reaction to her crying one day was that, instead of rushing to her every need, I laughed.

My ped. had told me, and I thought it made sense, that for the first four months they can't really establish patterns, and they don't have the brain power to trick you/manipulate you. By six months, they should have both. That played a lot into how I treated things like night feedings and putting her to sleep.

Really, the whole parenting this is a great study in how the world sort of takes care of itself. From the pregnancy (which is pretty amazing, I think. How do our bodies DO THAT?), to the way mothering instincts work (when they work, I realize sometimes for some people they don't).
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:03 AM on April 26, 2010

I wanted to say that dpx.mfx has the timing absolutely right: before four months the sleep patterns are all over the place, melatonin production is erratic, etc. Even the most hardcore sleep training advocates say to wait until five months.

One comment about co-sleeping. Sleep experts often distinguish between "reactive" cosleeping and "ideological" cosleeping. The difference is that reactive cosleepers fall into cosleeping as a means to solve a problem; they never meant to before the baby came. Whereas ideological cosleepers believe in it as a parenting philosophy. The distinction is useful in that the reactive ones often are dealing with difficult temperaments or colicky babies, and they are the cohort who really doesn't want a baby in their bed eighteen months later. The problem is those habits can be hard to break and will involve crying. I say this as a former reactive cosleeper myself. This is absolutely not to judge parenting philosophies - if you believe in cosleeping do it safely and have a ball! Just realize that it is not a simple magic bullet as some would suggest.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:18 AM on April 26, 2010

thanks for this. will read more closely later on today. A couple of answers: we planned on co-sleeping, but haven't so far because every sniff wakes us up. So now the co-sleeper is about 10 feet outside the bedroom door so whoever's on duty can hear him cry but not be woken by every chortle. As for waking him to feed, he wasn't gaining enough weight, so the ped said only one four-hour sleep in a 24-hour period. So we wake him to feed.

thank you again. I will read answers more closely.
posted by pipti at 8:26 AM on April 26, 2010

Def. double check with the ped. about how long that should go on -- our breastfed baby lost weight in the first couple weeks (turns out I had no idea what I was doing, there's a shock!), but by day 15 I am pretty sure she was gaining weight and doctor said okay to sleep longer. Our doc was great about letting us show up and have the nurses weigh her anytime we wanted in the first month or so, just so I'd have the peace of mind that she was getting enough to eat.

Also: bookmark this conversation so that in a month when he won't sleep more than two hours at a time, you will remember that at some point, you were worried he was sleeping too long. And then read it in eight more months when he's sleeping 11 or 12 hours at a time, but you're still tired because he starts the sleeping at 6:30 :)
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:33 AM on April 26, 2010

As for waking him to feed, he wasn't gaining enough weight, so the ped said only one four-hour sleep in a 24-hour period. So we wake him to feed.

Good, listen to your pediatrician. The people here who say "never wake a sleeping baby" are (or should be) talking about babies that are on track with weight gain. It's definitely true that a newborn who's not getting enough food can get into a lethargy state, where they're sleeping heavily all the time, rather than a fussy state, where they're asking to feed constantly, which is why it's important to wake for feedings.
posted by palliser at 11:24 AM on April 26, 2010

You learn to be better at co-sleeping. I promise.
posted by k8t at 10:34 PM on May 2, 2010

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