Please help my newborn sleep more than 3 hours total per day.
November 28, 2010 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Please help my newborn sleep more than 3 hours total per day.

He won't sleep more than 40 mins at a stretch, even when he gets sleepy after food. I've burped, swaddled, let him suck a pacified, my finger, changed him, fed him... all to no avail. He's supposed to sleep between 14 and 16 hours a day (1 week old) ... he sleeps about 6 hours in a 24 hour period... any help gratefully received.
posted by Metheglen to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Is he just awake or is he awake and fussy?

If he's just awake I suggest trying a swing or one of those vibrating baby chairs.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:45 PM on November 28, 2010

What is he doing while he is awake? Does he seem content?

Things that might help: white noise and rocking movement. I'd try to take him on a car ride, or to put him in a car seat on top of the running dryer. The Happiest Baby on the Block book recommends swaddling, shushing, giving them something to suck, putting them on their side, and swinging to help sleep.
posted by procrastination at 6:46 PM on November 28, 2010

How old is he exactly? Is this new, or has it been going on his whole life? Are you his mom or his dad? Is the other parent there too? Breast or bottle? Is he sleeping in a crib? What seems to be waking him up?

My first thought is reflux, because my son had reflux and he would jerk awake screaming after sleeping about an hour or so. Until we could find a longer term solution, our short term solution was to sleep in the recliner while holding him, so he was sleeping more or less upright.

More details will help, though. I'm sorry you're going through this.....
posted by anastasiav at 6:49 PM on November 28, 2010

The Happiest Baby On The Block should be consumed in DVD form; there's only about 20-25 minutes of information there. Don't get me wrong, it's incredibly valuable information, but that's as much of it as you need.

You may want to try one of the Fisher-Price "bouncer" chairs, basically a battery-powered vibrating cradle with which we had some success, and a white noise maker of some kind. You don't really need a specialized white-noise device, anything that makes regular muted noises will probably do. (We used a Nintendo DS running Electroplankton, for example, that worked better than anything else we tried.)
posted by mhoye at 6:55 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

14-16 hours a day seems like a lot to my admittedly shaky memory. 40 minutes at a stretch sounds familiar though.

One week is too early to tell a lot...he hasn't had time to do a lot of growing/gaining weight. But you could still call your pediatrician. Don't worry about what baby books say in terms of exact hours; your real metric is growth/weight gain/lots of pooping and peeing.

So here's some things that might cause undersleeping:

1. Hunger--because he's growing fast. He might just need to eat, a lot.
2. Allergies: is he formula fed, does he seem to spit up or throw up a lot? If he's on dairy formula, you might try soy. If he's breastfed, you might try cutting out dairy for you.
3. Congestion--can he breathe ok? If not, try him sleeping on you while you are propped up (recliners are good for this).
4. Anxiety: maybe he can only sleep next to you. Have you tried skin to skin and cuddling on a mattress, or if that seems too risky, on a pallet on the floor? Some babies demand cosleeping.
5. Inability to cut out stimulus: traditional measures are driving the baby (vibration plus white noise) or even swaddling plus running a vacuum or dishwasher (noise washes out other stimulus).

Hope you have lots of help, too. Call his pediatrician, though, to ease your mind.
posted by emjaybee at 6:55 PM on November 28, 2010

Congratulations, and I'm sorry that this is happening to you!

My first thought is also reflux. Do you know if he is getting enough to eat (breast or bottle?).

I found it really, really helpful to write down everything for the first six weeks - times of sleeping, eating (or amounts if bottle fed), diapers. Sometimes I thought our baby was sleeping 40 minutes a day, when really I was just delusional from exhaustion and it was more like 14 hours :)

Will he sleep on your chest? Maybe try baby wearing?
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:55 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry you are having this trouble. It's so exhausting.

Baby wearing worked wonders for us.
posted by gomichild at 7:04 PM on November 28, 2010

Most of my memory of that period involves lying in bed looking over at somebody about to wake. Just buckle down and do it; get everyone else doing things for you, let everything else go to hell, nod off when he does. Lie down with him on top of your chest -- cuddling releases soporific hormones in mum; you'll be rested even if you don't sleep.

In re. the somewhat inexplicably common worry: ultimate page for Is my baby getting enough milk?

If this is fussy wakefulness -- my other memories are of slings and of long car rides (and nursing in parking lots at wee hours in neighbouring towns). Either was a sure-fire de-fusser and putter-to-sleeper and remained that way for a long time.

This will all pass so quickly...
posted by kmennie at 7:08 PM on November 28, 2010

The best thing you can do for him is get him on a schedule and stick to it no matter how inconvenient it might be at times. I know these first weeks can be completely overwhelming and difficult, but scheduling is a must. Plus, note-taking.

Write down when he eats and how much. Write down diapering activities. And write down how much he sleeps and when.

Good luck!!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 7:08 PM on November 28, 2010

My initial thought is reflux and/or protien intolerance/allergy. This is what both my kids suffered through until they were diagnosed. Write down everything- it will help you get tacken seriously by the pediatrician. Ask for referral to a pediatric GI if reflux is suspected.... A regular peed may be somewhat helpful, but this is whY a peed GI does day in and day out.

I totally feel for you. Call in reinforcements - grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. YOU need support and sleep in order to be able to help your child. To help make it through try wearing baby in a sleepy wrap. They are cheap, easy and comfortable. Good luck! If it does end up being reflux, memail me, i could totally write a book on the subject and I'm happy to share what I've learned about treatments and tricks.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:11 PM on November 28, 2010

Ugh, taken seriously.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:12 PM on November 28, 2010

He's breast fed, I'm Dad, Mom is also here. He's awake and fussing. He just won't go down at all. He seems better at night, and apparently last night got 6 hours, so he's on course for 9 hours total today. I'm just frustrated because he'll get calm on my chest and seem to be asleep, but Mrs Metheglen says his eyes are open. Then 15 minutes later he'll move around.

I'm probably bring paranoid, but I just want him to be happy.
posted by Metheglen at 7:13 PM on November 28, 2010

A swing like this saved my life when my boy was little. You need a swing that's got a seat that's very cradled, and that goes side to side, not back and forth. And Nthing Happiest Baby on the Block.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:26 PM on November 28, 2010

pediatrician first, moby wrap second. I hate the moby for an older baby, but for a lil one it can be a lifesaver.
my heart aches for the beauty and terror of those first weeks.
posted by kristymcj at 7:30 PM on November 28, 2010

Probably the last person who should advise on this but only a little tidbit because this reminded me of something a friend went through: It is apparently not impossible for infants (or even adults) to sleep with their eyes open sometimes. There was a name for it, but I do not remember it off the top of my head. Something to look into, though.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:37 PM on November 28, 2010

Definitely use the information from Happiest Baby on the Block. It worked wonders for my son. I also recommend Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Mark Weissbluth, though that information is really for kids who are of sleep-training age (4 months and up).

I'll also second SoftSummerBreeze's suggestion to get your baby on a sleep schedule as soon as possible. At one week, he isn't quite ready for a schedule, as he hasn't really developed his own internal clock, but this is definitely something that should be done sooner than later. I wish I had started sooner.

The only way I could get my baby to sleep for long stretches when he was little (newborn until about 8 months) was in a swing with a radio set to static (or some other white noise). I also put a thick blanket over his window to make his room totally dark during the day, so naps were easier. I'm not sure the type of swing matters, but I recommend getting the kind with a timer. It'll swing for 30 minutes, which is plenty of time for baby to fall asleep, then stop. Hopefully, baby will stay asleep, and stopping the motion will get him used to sleeping without the swinging. It was really hard to get my baby to adjust to not swinging at all, so this seems like a good way to make the transition easier.
posted by lexicakes at 7:39 PM on November 28, 2010

40-minute sleep cycles is pretty spot-on for little ones ... ours would also fuss awake after 45, but would usually go back down for another 45 if we held our breath really hard and soothed him gently. You may need to soothe him into the "second half" of the nap when he gets near the surface of sleeping after 40 minutes in his sleep cycle.

When ours would only sleep upright on someone's chest and was super-fussy (he had reflux), my husband would just park him on his shoulder, slouch a bit, and go work on the computer. My obstetrician told me with his youngest he'd sit up half the night playing video games because the little dude would only sleep upright at first, and video games are a good "hold the baby while doing something fun" thing to do.

But definitely call the pede and get help there. And call friends who would love some baby snuggle time, even with a fusser, so you guys can go take naps while the friends hold him and soothe him.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:43 PM on November 28, 2010

Sling + breastfeeding?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:44 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Father of a 5 week old, and brother, I feel you right now.

Here's where we were about 4 weeks ago, and in a similar state after a 3 day labor and all the associated lack of sleep:

- Pediatrician to check weight, latch, etc, moms milk should be in at this point.
- Write down soiled diapers and track feedings, but you're probably going to be fine here - there is a white board above the babies bed to track feedings, naps and diapers to try to get a handle on all of this and find patterns, but in the last week we've moved to an android app that can do this on both of our droids. Newborns (at least ours) couldn't stay awake without being really unhappy for more than 45 or so minutes.

- Burp them, as I recall this was about the age ours started to need to be burped, not a lot but it took a bit to figure out what position she would burp in and where she would be comfortable.

- Hold them upright for 30 minutes or so after a feeding, this will help with any reflux, it's probably the hardest to act on advice we got because you're just so damn tired at this point.

- Happiest Baby on the Block DVD (skip the book), use all the techniques, they aren't foolproof but they might help.

It's so hard right now when you're tired, ours would sleep with her eyes open at that age and that took us a while to figure out. If they aren't wiggly and seem content, let them be where they are even if it looks like they are wide awake. Get friends and family to help and be on your program, even if it's just holding an awake baby.

Ours still tries to pull the 45 minute deal, which now looks like she's just shifting sleep levels, often if you can get them through that it's fine and they'll hunker down for a better stretch.
Anecdotally, skin to skin with my little one laying on my chest seemed to help tremendously with her getting in some longer sleep periods, especially at 1-2 weeks. Swings, rumble chairs, etc haven't worked for ours but swaddling does, as does white noise and swaying/rocking. Email is in profile, or memail, happy to offer what I can.
posted by iamabot at 7:47 PM on November 28, 2010

Okay. Here's the secret.

Go to Target or wherever and invest in one of those 20 dollar yoga balls. Inflate it. Now cradle your boy in your arms (swaddled tightly), sit on the ball, and start bouncing.

We invested in everything else -- wraps, swings, carriers -- but my son hated it all. But not this.

He loved this.

I've given this secret to many people and most have reported back with success stories. Hopefully you will too.

Good luck!
posted by ryecatcher at 7:47 PM on November 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sing "go to sleep, go to sleep" over and over in your deepest baritone with the baby on your chest. They seem to like that low hum.
posted by PSB at 8:00 PM on November 28, 2010

Try lying in bed, maybe a little propped up with a pillow, and let your kid fall asleep on your chest. The warmth and your presence may create sufficient sleep-rays to put your little one out for longer.
posted by zippy at 8:04 PM on November 28, 2010

Of course, I post this and he goes to sleep. Iamabot, what's the app?
posted by Metheglen at 8:12 PM on November 28, 2010

Nth-ing the recs for the Happiest Baby on the Block. A tight swaddle, some firm swinging and loud shushing, as well as a binky, were usually required to get my daughter to sleep. I can't recommend the Miracle Blanket highly enough. It makes a tight swaddle and so much easier than using a large flannel cloth (though, that worked quite well too).

I firmly believe that until a baby is 12-16 weeks old, you should do Whatever It Takes to get them to sleep. My daughter slept best when someone was holding her, so we held her. Constantly. We co-slept, we wore her, or we swaddled her tight and nestled her on the couch between us.

I promise it gets better. Hang in there, papa.
posted by sutel at 8:21 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your baby is doing what he is supposed to do. Everything is new and weird to him right now, and he needs to eat really frequently.

Others have mentioned this, but the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD is gold. Google "double swaddle" if you're already swaddling him and he can break out of the wrap.

I think that trying to schedule anything with a newborn is rolling a boulder uphill and totally unnecessary. He just got here. He'll develop a day/night rhythm soon enough. In the meantime, nurse him whenever he seems mildly interested and hold him all the time. He'll sleep when he needs to sleep and eat when he needs to eat. If he can't stay asleep very long at night, give serious thought to bringing him into bed with you or at least putting him in a sidecar-type-setup. A lot of babies who can't stay asleep when they're out of contact with mama do fine when they can feel their mother's warmth and hear her breaths.

The first few weeks are crazy whether you try to schedule your baby or not, and they also get better on their own. Not getting any sleep yourself is very, very hard. But it will improve.

Two things that brought me solace early on:

Trixie Tracker, the ultimate in parental nerd action. You can track your baby's sleeping/waking and see patterns start to emerge.

Ask Moxie's sleep archives. Her motto for baby sleep is "by any means necessary". She is very sensible.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 8:22 PM on November 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Happiest Baby on the Block DVD STAT

Get a SwaddleMe blanket STAT.

Baby + mom in bed, boobfest.

I also highly recommend co-sleeping.
posted by k8t at 8:35 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh - now that I am on a computer rather than a phone:

1) Happiest Baby on the Block - we have.
2) He loves his hospital given blanket... loves to be swaddled in that
3) I understand the co-sleeping thing - we aren't doing that. (and we'll take our lumps from that side of the community)
4) I think that tonight he just wanted to watch the Chargers win... Seriously. They get the interception in the endzone, and Little M is asleep...
5) Thanks for ALL your help. It's been so good to see that I am not alone (even though I knew I wasn't, it's still nice to have it proven)...

We're aiming for a couple hours now... See you all at 3am! ;-)
posted by Metheglen at 8:44 PM on November 28, 2010

Do you put him down in a darkened room? Blackout shades, heavy curtains...try it.
posted by Riverine at 8:45 PM on November 28, 2010

I used the total baby app on the iphone to track everything.

I disagree, sort of, with the scheduling people. We did a sleep-eat-play-sleep-eat-play "schedule" where we didn't so much time things. The "sleep" was ofter 45 minutes during the day. "play" was sometimes 10 minutes of dancing or cooing. I think this might have been the baby whisperer book. I was a fan of letting the baby sleep when and where she would. Others are big fans of the-baby-sleeps-in-the-crib-only "sleep hygine" kind of people. You need to figure out what is going to works best for you and your baby.

In all seriousness, I think babies feed off the feelings of their parents. So if you're nervous and agitated, he will be too. I think that's part of what makes the first couple weeks so hard - of course your anxious.

Just wait - soon he'll sleep a whole bunch and you'll wonder if you should wake him up! Which is to say, it's all gonna change, and then again, and then again.

Good luck :)
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:00 PM on November 28, 2010

My 5 week old will not sleep for long periods without his SwaddleMe blanket. He was breaking out of the hospital blanket swaddles on day 2 like a little ninja. We sleep with the baby in the bassinet part of his pack n play at the end of the bed when dad is home at night, but now that he's going back to work tonight (3rd shift, so I'm on my own!), I am keeping him in bed with me in a Snuggle Nest. It keeps him near me, but safe from rolling into blankets, pillows or me.

Good luck. I got a 4 hour stretch of sleep las night for the first time in a month and we snoozed all afternoon between feedings and I feel like a new person. It will get better!
posted by chiababe at 9:13 PM on November 28, 2010

We had something similar. A swing made life a ton easier and allowed her to get a lot more sleep, as did swaddling (it's not cruel!). However, they effectively masked what the real problem was for a while: dairy allergy. Some time later and entirely on a soya milk diet, everything went to 100%.
posted by wackybrit at 9:15 PM on November 28, 2010

My nephew's son slept a mere 4hrs/day for the first 4-5 months of his life--until he was diagnosed lactose intolerant. As with wackybrit's baby the switch to soymilk made all the difference. The intolerance vanished by age 3.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 9:33 PM on November 28, 2010

You might find this thread interesting (about why babies need help sleeping), especially the kmennie's link -
posted by zia at 11:07 PM on November 28, 2010

i have a six week old, so solidarity, brother. i was totally against co-sleeping and had tiny vine in a sidecar crib arrangement, wherein he would sleep for about 45 minutes at a stretch. three weeks ago i gave in and started co-sleeping. i nurse on my side, and tiny vine and i sleep for eight blissful hours, only occasionally waking up to switch sides or change diapers. it's wonderful, and i am a better mama for it.

however, just this week he started sleeping for a two or three hour stretch at least once during the day, so even if you don't decide to cosleep, hang in there - it will get better.
posted by woodvine at 12:20 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Very odd question --- but at some points when he seems sleepy but his eyes are open, are you sure he might not be asleep?

Toddler Zizzle had this creepy habit from newborn to about four or five months where with some regular but unpredictable frequency, he would fall asleep with his eyes open. The only way I at first was able to tell the difference was to notice the rapid eye movement. If I disturbed him during that phase, he'd wake up, but once he was out of it, his eyes would close and then I'd be able to lie down with him.
posted by zizzle at 3:08 AM on November 29, 2010

We put our baby in the baby bjorn and she slept a lot longer there... this was for naps during the day; at night we did a tight swaddle using the miracle blanket or the kiddopotamus swaddler and she slept well, but for some reason during the day she didn't want to nap, so getting her to sleep in the bjorn helped a lot. The drawback was that sometimes we needed to keep moving in order to keep her asleep.

Once we were able to get her to nap in her cosleeper (we had her in the arm's reach cosleeper, which I highly recommend, particularly for a mom that is nursing) we used white noise (ipod with speakers playing sounds from a website that had a bunch of white noise, just google and you'll find it) and blackout curtains. Hugely helpful.

I can't recommend Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child enough, either. Although some people don't agree with letting the child cry it out at all, he doesn't advocate doing that when he or she is tiny, and if you follow the tips in the book you may not ever need to do that regardless. Our daughter is almost 9 months and she almost always goes to sleep on her own happily.
posted by miss tea at 4:35 AM on November 29, 2010

The New Yorker had an excellent article on infant colic and on quick preview, the wikipedia article looks useful. My son had severe colic, and it seemed to be caused by overstimulation. Keeping things quiet and calm in the late afternoon/evening seemed to help a little, as did swaddling, holding, nursing, quiet music, swinging chair and bouncing.
posted by theora55 at 7:54 AM on November 29, 2010

Things that turned our little monster into a good sleeper:
  1. Hold it. If he won't sleep unless he is being held, hold the little guy so he can sleep. If you aren't sleeping when he is, start trying to do so, because you probably need it too. Start wearing the little animal if you really need to do something. Watch some TV. At this age, he won't focus on it and there's no danger of turning his brain to mush, so don't feel guilty about it, but keep the volume low to avoid startling him awake when the commercials blast on.
  2. White noise. Specifically, this. He's 1.5 years now and still sleeps with it on. Actually, he sometimes turns it on himself when he is ready for bed, which is majorly cute.
  3. Schedule. Mrs. Frogs threw the tadpole on a schedule as soon as she could. It helped a lot. Took a bit, but keeping his feeding, naps and bedtime as regular as possible as soon as possible really helped him learn that night time is for sleeping. The schedule will be erratic at first but it gets better. I promise!
  4. Bath. A nice warm bath before bed was part of our scheduling trick. Helps calm him down and get him ready for bed. Of course, this is more for the older babies, not so much for the newborns since they HATE being cold and wet, but keep it in mind once the bellybutton stump falls off!
  5. Get a room - for him. We did the bassinet by the bed for the first few weeks, but baby went into his own room as soon as possible. It helped everyone involved. We weren't waking up with every tiny movement he made, and he got used to putting himself back to sleep when he did wake up. Everyone slept better as a result. Baby monitor was on, at a low volume. Trust me, the parent radar will be on high alert and you WILL hear when the rugrat needs you. But you won't hear every tiny innocuous sound, and as a result you, your wife and your little guy will sleep better in separate spaces.
  6. Blackout shades. Dark room = better sleep. If you don't have any in your room, get two sets. :)
  7. Get tough. As the little guy starts sleeping on his own, start resisting the urge to rescue him every time he whimpers. Again, for the first few weeks every sound he makes will mean he needs something, but once he starts to figure out how to be a person, you need to help him figure out how to do this on his own. If you always rescue him, he will always NEED to be rescued. Tear that band-aid off quickly. Hearing our little guy scream in his crib when he woke up was some of the most painful experiences we have had so far - but the pain lasts about 10 minutes at most before he realized "hey, nobody's coming, and gosh I am still safe in my crib, and man am I tired..."
Again, some of this is more for later on, 2-4 months instead of 2-4 weeks, but it helped us IMMENSELY and we are really proud of our baby's sleep habits. If there is any way we can help some other parent learn from what worked for us, we feel we're duty-bound to share. Solidarity, man. Welcome to the club, and know you have support out there on the Internets.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:17 AM on November 29, 2010

re: your disinterest in co-sleeping...

a word to the wise about parenting decisions. Never rule anything out or use the word never.

'I'll never give my baby formula'
'My baby will never chew on BPA-filled toys'
'My kid will never watch a Disney cartoon'
'We'll never drive around to get him to sleep'
'We'll never cosleep'

It locks you into a morality trap that is hard to get out of and you're making these claims based on others' experiences, not your family's needs.
posted by k8t at 8:46 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Mathegan, app is Baby ESP, we swear by it now.
posted by iamabot at 1:06 PM on November 29, 2010

...he's on course for 9 hours total today.

Oh, that can be normal for a one week old. Fourteen hours is wildly optimistic. Our kid is now 3 and she never slept nearly as long as the books said, from the time she was born until now. She's fine. But we didn't catch up on our own sleep for over a year. (Hopefully that won't happen to you. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.) You can mention the problem to your pediatrician, though, just in case.

Newborns have this sleep/arousal pattern that is pretty fast and light, as you've noticed. Their 15 minute catnaps are actually doing them good. They sleep longer and deeper as their brains mature. People would always tell me "sleep when the baby sleeps," which is the most asinine advice that I got. Like I can magically fall asleep when she does and be refreshed after 15 minutes. Plus, every time I set her down, she would wake up.

The one thing that helped our daughter sleep longer when she was a newborn was having her sleep on top of one of us - this felt scary and unsafe to us as new parents but when you are about to pass out from exhaustion, sometimes it happens. So I'm not advocating it, just saying that babies seem to need that human connection very, very badly so soon after leaving the womb.

It will get better!
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:57 PM on November 29, 2010

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