In the last 48 hours we’ve been contacted by 4 mums with babies from 3 – 6 months who all have the same problem. They say;
“My baby will only sleep on me”.
“My baby will only fall to sleep on the breast/bottle”.
“My baby only naps for 30 minutes”.
“I’ve resorted to co-sleeping as it’s the only way I can get any sleep”.
“My baby rarely sleeps longer than 90 – 120 mins at night”.
If this sounds like you – our hearts go out to you. This is the true definition of parent exhaustion!
Post birth your midwife will have impressed on you the importance of feeding baby on demand, particularly breast feeding mums. This is to promote breast milk supply and accommodate the vast amount of growth babies achieve in the first 6 – 8 weeks of life.
The problem with babies and indeed all human beings is we love to snack. Our job as parents is to teach babies and children what is good for them rather than what they would like. Setting a boundary around feeding schedules will also improve length and quality of naps and night sleep.
OK – enough waffle! You’re fed up and tired – so let’s give you the key points and not waste any more of your time.
1. If you haven’t already started a feeding schedule gather any last remnants of strength and begin creating a schedule as soon as your baby hit’s 3 months. (As long as your baby has been gaining weight as expected). Start a daytime schedule first for a few days before implenting a feeding schedule at night. Very often this will happen naturally at night once baby has got used to spaced feeds during the day.
2. Never refuse your baby a feed if you truly feel he is hungry BUT TRY and schedule feeds by the clock. To do this you can gradually sapce feeds out by 10 – 15 minutes every 2 – 3 days. For example if your baby normally feeds at 1 pm and 3 pm – try not to feed him until 3.15pm – then 2 days later space this out to 3.30pm. This is easily done by distracting your baby through play.
3. During the feeding schedule teaching don’t let your baby miss a feed during the day. It may be very tempting to let baby nap longer (finally) but you will put his little body out of “sync”. An upset to routines won’t matter once you have fully estblished feeding routines for a few weeks. Just hang on in there.
4. The most common reason for short naps in babies over 3 months (under 3 months it maybe hunger) is having too long awake time. Overtiredness leads to short naps. These short naps often start around 3 months of age as baby’s sleep cycle changes. In turn – short naps lead to night waking. What a viscious cycle!
5. Remember that life itself is very stimulating for a baby. Quiet, wind down time is essential for baby before naps and night sleep if you’ve both been busy such as attending a group.
6. From 3 months some babies become more aware of outside stimulus such as light. Put baby in a darkened room for naps.
7. To stop your baby feeding to sleep try this excellent advice;
ELIZABETH PANTLEY’S – HOW TO STOP BABY FEEDING TO SLEEP
“When your baby wakes, go ahead and pop his pacifier or his bottle in his mouth, or nurse him. But, instead of leaving him there and going back to bed, or letting him fall asleep at the breast, let him suck for a few minutes until his sucking slows and he is relaxed and sleepy. Then break the seal with your finger and gently remove the pacifier or nipple.
Often, especially at first, your baby then will startle and root for the nipple. Try to very gently hold his mouth closed with your finger under his chin, or apply pressure to his chin, just under his lip, at the same time rocking or swaying with him. If he struggles against this and fusses or roots for you or his bottle or pacifier, go ahead and replace the nipple, but repeat the removal process as often as necessary until he falls asleep.
How long between removals? Every baby is different, but about ten to sixty seconds between removals usually works. You also should watch your baby’s sucking action. If a baby is sucking strongly or swallowing regularly when feeding, wait a few minutes until he slows his pace. Usually, after the initial burst of activity, your baby will slow to a more relaxed, “fluttery” pace; this is a good time to begin your removal attempts.
It may take two to five (or even more) attempts, but eventually your baby will fall asleep without the pacifier or nipple in her mouth. When she has done this a number of times over a period of days, you will notice the removals are much easier, and her awakenings are less frequent.
If your baby doesn’t nap well, don’t trouble yourself with trying to use the removal technique during the day for naps. Remember that good naps mean better nighttime sleep — and better nighttime sleep means better naps. Once you get your baby sleeping better at night, you can then work on the naptime sleep. The most important time to use Pantley’s gentle removal plan is the first falling asleep of the night. Often the way your baby falls asleep will affect the rest of his awakenings for the night. It seems that the way in which your baby falls asleep for the night is how he expects to remain all night long”.
Another good resource is The Baby Whisperer by Tracey Hogg. If you have the sort of baby who will let you implement her E.A.S.Y routine it also helps to stop the feed to sleep problem.
8.Remember that this is a good time for dads to help re-settle baby if he wakes before a feed is due.
9. Make sure your baby isn’t too hot or too cold. The best way to check is by placing your hand on your baby’s neck or tummy.
10. ALWAYS give baby time to re-settle himself. Sometimes we parents are unwittingly the cause of disrupting baby’s sleep by intervening too quickly.
Lastly – CHILL! Whatever you are going through remember it will only be for a short while (although it can feel like forever). Babies grow into teenagers who almost never want to get out of bed in the morning!