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10 Baby Sleep Questions

10 Baby Sleep Questions

Interested in more “how to” and “how not to” cry it out posts? Good because I’m working on them. I’m also working with some awesome local postpartum doulas on the ultimate “Newborn What is Normal” list. There are a ton of newborn baby questions coming up in email/comments that come up that are 100% normal. Thus parents are freaking out over things that they shouldn’t and I hope to help remedy that.

However none of these posts is ready because I’m too busy freaking out about the Tough Mudder which I’ll be doing this weekend. In fact here’s me with my Tough Mudder crew (I’m on the left in purple) doing some race training. Which mostly consisted of slogging up and down the mountain while wheezing, sweating, and questioning the wisdom of doing events such as these.

So in the interim I’ve pulled together a list of 10 baby sleep questions that have come up a lot in email/comments. If you have a medical or safety question I am happy to share my opinion, but I want to be very clear that in all cases my default answer is this:

The Default Answer*
I am not a pediatrician so if something is worrying you ASK YOUR PEDIATRICIAN. If you don’t feel comfortable asking or don’t trust the answers your pediatrician is giving you GET A NEW PEDIATRICIAN.

10 Common Questions on Baby Sleep

01

I can’t tell if my baby is asleep!

I’ve developed a highly effective technique to deduce if babies are sleeping. I look at them and I use this specialized method of determination. Eyes open = asleep. Eyes closed = asleep.

02

Is the swing going to mess up my baby’s back or head?

There is precious little research on baby swings (insert default answer here*). However I have not seen or read anything that suggests that modern swings (not some old bucket-like swing your mother-in-law got at a yard sale 10 years ago) cause any developmental problems or negatively impact the head/back.

03

Weissbluth says that motion sleep is not as “restorative” as non-moving sleep. Thoughts?

I love Weissbluth. I hate that he put this in his book. He asserts that because he sleeps poorly when in the car or on airplanes, thus babies sleep poorly when moving. I also don’t sleep well in the car. Nor can I sleep while swaddled or with a pacifier in my mouth. So I don’t believe the adult/baby sleep comparison is a particularly good one. There is no research to support the idea that babies sleep poorly when in motion. And anecdotal evidence from thousands of swing sleeping babies suggests they a) sleep great and b) are much happier and well-rested then they were previously.

04

I’m afraid my newborn baby will get addicted to the bouncy seat with the vibrator.

When you have a newborn you need to embrace what is working right now. Corollary: what works today will not work tomorrow.

05

My 6 week old baby is still eating 3-4 times every night, when will this end?

Newborns eat a lot at night. This is one of the many things that make parenting a newborn baby so challenging. You can’t “fix” a hungry newborn baby – you just feed them.

06

I’ve been reading Babywise and I can’t seem to get the schedule worked out

I’ve edited the remainder of the question. The answer is: stop reading Babywise.

07

I read a study that white noise causes brain damage. Should I be worried?

In 2003 there was a now-famous study where baby rats were effectively raised with deafening white-noise throughout their entire lives. These rats did not develop properly. If this concerns you (insert default answer here*). White noise is certainly something that would benefit from further study. However nobody is suggesting you raise your baby in a sound-deprivation chamber of deafening white noise. But there is ample evidence that mild (50 dB – the volume of a shower) white noise, especially when they are sleeping, has numerous benefits for babies.

08

My baby makes a ton of noise when they sleep. Is something wrong?

Babies are noisy sleepers. They grunt, clench their legs to their chest, fart, burp, etc. None of this indicates a “problem”. It’s also one of the many reasons white noise helps everybody sleep better. If you are waking up every time your baby grunts in their sleep you will never, ever sleep.

09

What is a good sleep routine?

It’s whatever you like that is a) calm b) quiet and c) you can live with doing it for the next 5 years. Ideally the nap routine is simply a shorter version of the bedtime routine. The “classic” bedtime routine is bath, books, boob, bed. If you’re trying to break the nursing to sleep habit, then you would restructure your routine to separate boob from bed (or bath, boob, books, bed.) Your short-version nap routine would be boob, books, bed. Feel free to add whatever fun soothing activities (massage, songs, kiss the dog, etc.) that you enjoy.

10

When should we start using a sleep routine?

Now. It won’t hurt you at any age and it may help you. For newborns your routine might be diaper change, nurse, sleep. But it’s still something you do consistently. You can add to it as your baby gets older.

Hope these help. More to come when my brain is back in the game 🙂
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36 Comments


  1. It’s nice to put a face to ur blog… I apologize in advance for saying this, but I always pictured an old lady in her late sixties typing on her laptop while sitting in a rocking chair!!! You are too wise to be this young! Love the fact that u race… I ran until my 36th week n slowly regaining my pace 3 months post pregnancy. You should blog about racing and being a mother.

    • So you imagined me as something like Mrs. Santa? Yowza! Actually there have always been pics of me over here: http://www.troublesometots.com/about/

      I put my actual name there and everything 😉

      3 months postpartum good for you! I’m not actually a “racer” these events are more about “finishing.” While I can run a decent distance you’re 3 month postpartum speed would probably crush my current speed.

      For me, I didn’t want my entire existence to be about the kids so a few times I year I get nervous, put on my under armor, and head into the mountains with the marines. Everybody’s got to have a hobby right? ;P

  2. I really enjoyed this article (and have asked pretty much all of these questions in the last 2 months since my son was born), but I do have a clarifying question on #1.I know babies can make a lot of noise in their sleep and I’m learning to ignore most of that, but what if the baby’s eyes are closed, but he sounds like he’s full-on crying? Asleep? Awake? Trying to still be asleep but about to be awake? I never know what to do in these situations: leave him alone? try to give him the pacifier before he fully wakes up? pick him up because he’s about to wake up anyway?

    • That is a toughie. Some babies will sleep cry and THEN fall asleep in which case the answer is leave well enough alone. Other babies will sleep cry themselves awake in which case a brief proactive paci might be the answer. If you don’t pick him up and 100% of the time he wakes up anyway then I guess you have your answer!

  3. Jennifer Alvasin

    This blog has help a lot … thanks for sharing blog of this type ….

  4. So glad these help 🙂

  5. Love love love your site. Your blog has been a saving grace for us after our babymoon ended two weeks ago! At the time, we didn’t know what a ‘babymoon’ was, but after a little reading, we realized what it was and that it was over! We have a 4-week old who, after several days of being cranky, fussy and overtired and after me getting over the ‘I-should-be-able-to-rock-my own-child-to-sleep’ self-imposed guilt trip, now sleeps mostly in his swing. I have been able to rock/shhh/pat him to sleep on occasion, but we have had greater success (and longer naps) with the swing. My question is about the most stressful part of the day: bedtime. What works today may or may not work tomorrow. We are trying to maintain consistency from night to night with a routine of nursing, bath, jammies, then bed (bassinette), but it seems every time it’s different with regards to whether or not it works. Sometimes it takes so long for him to tire out (usually about 1.5-2 hours after he wakes up from his previous nap), I nurse him again. We have had to resort to car rides when it gets out of control after several hours of trying to get him to sleep. If he sleeps better in the swing, should we just be using the swing for every nap/bedtime, rather than trying to put him to bed in the bassinette on occasion? We want to maintain a routine but not sacrifice his well-being in the process. Thanks in advance.

    • 1) I wouldn’t sweat consistency yet. You did say 4 WEEK old yes? So yeah – whatever works for you is TOTALLY fine for now.
      2) I’m guessing that the mess at bedtime you are describing is really called the Witching Hour. Babies are uber fussy, won’t sleep (or won’t sleep long), are over tired, cry a lot, and nobody is happy. We used to resort to long car rides at that time too.
      3) Yes on the swing. It may not solve the witching hour problem but almost ALL 4 week olds will sleep better in the swing then the bassinet. Again see point #1 – don’t sweat the consistency yet. You have time to worry about that later. Now it’s all about soothing and sleep for everybody.

      Fussiness peaks at 6 weeks. I tell you this not to freak you out (yes it could get worse) but to suggest that it only get’s easier from here and so just focus on what works TODAY. Yes?

  6. Remember, you are not alone. Helping your baby sleep through the night requires trial and error.

    • Absolutely – you are NOT alone. Everybody struggles with this stuff and babies are mysterious. It takes a long time to figure out what they and you need because at this age, they simply won’t tell you regardless of how nicely you ask 🙂

  7. Hey this are really helpful questions and answers ..i really appreciate this blogging topic …

    Thanks for sharing …

  8. i am really grateful .. this helped a lot …

  9. My problem is not getting my child to sleep, it’s getting her to STAY asleep. I’ve read the “healthy sleep habits…” book too and he doesn’t mention the babies who frequently wake. My daughter at 4.5 months will sleep 2-3 hour blocks maybe 3-4 times a night but the rest are all 30-40 min power naps, especially in the first and latter half of the night. She wakes happy for the most part. I know she’s not hungry and doesn’t need changing but she gets cranky quickly if we don’t go to her. Do I let her cry herself *back* to sleep? She’s outgrown swaddling (she hates it now). The moving stroller keeps her sleeping longer, but when baby sleeps it’s supposed to be mommy’s time to get work done! Nothing gets done when I’m on sleep patrol too!! Any thoughts are welcome!!

    • I’m not entirely clear on what is happening. So you put your baby down to bed and she wakes up 30 minutes later. Then what? You put her back down then she’s back up again in 30 minutes? How many times does that happen? Can you tell me more specifically the times? Such as – goes to bed at 7:00 – up at 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 then sleeps till 12:30?

      How do you get her to fall asleep? When she wakes up in 30 minutes is she up for a while or do you soothe her right back to sleep? Where is she sleeping now?

      • Wow, I wish I could hug you for responding in the first place. Thank you! Thank you for caring!

        So here’s the greater detail:

        She’ll be breastfed to sleep at say 9pm, be put in her crib and wake again at 9:40 and then can sometimes be put back to sleep with a soother and back pats, but occasionally is up for another 20 minutes just talking to herself and kicking her legs and happy as anything. Then she’ll either be soothed with a soother or be put back on the breast for 3 minutes and be out again. This will sometimes happen 3-4 times before midnight and then she’ll sleep for perhaps 2-3 hours without waking (or if she wakes, she goes back to sleep really quickly.)

        When she wakes at around 3am, I’ll feed her fully on both sides and then she’ll sleep another 2-3 hour block, if I’m lucky, but sometimes in those longer blocks, as I mentioned above, she’ll still wake but these periods are the ones where she is easily put back to sleep by just plugging in the soother and patting her back for less than a minute. Last night, for instance, she woke up twice between 3 and 6, but not to play or talk with herself.

        Then, she might sleep another hour or so, but is generally back to the 30-40 minute habit in the early morning until around 9am. When she wakes each time in the morning, she’s happy and talks to herself for awhile before really wanting attention, but rarely seems to self-soothe back to sleep. In fact, I’m not sure she ever has self-soothed back to sleep and I don’t know how to teach her how!

        Also, during the day, she’ll nap for longer stretches in the stroller or on me in the carrier if there’s constant movement, but otherwise still holds to her 30-40 minute power naps. She may have 4-5 per day and is consistent with needing to nap after around 2 hours of wakefulness like all the books say, but still…

        WHAT I’D GIVE FOR A LONGER *UNINTERRUPTED* BLOCK OF INFANT SLEEP!! Either for my own sleep or for actually getting anything done! 🙂

        Any advice you have is so appreciated. Thank you so much, once again, for responding and caring and having this blog in the first place!

        [Also it doesn’t seem to be sound related. Loud noises don’t seem to wake her during her deep sleep periods. They’re renovating in the apartment next door and that has done nothing to improve or influence these statistics, for instance.]
        *THANKS AGAIN*!

        • I don’t have a magical answer for you but here is what is jumping out at me from what you shared.

          1) Her bedtime is currently ~midnight and her “night” is effectively from 12 AM – 9:00 AM.

          This is both too late and too short (I’m sure you aren’t keen on parenting a baby till midnight either, am I right?).

          2) She’s not getting enough soothing in her bed.

          I think lots of people are hung up on when their baby will learn to self soothe. Why? Because baby soothing is EXHAUSTING and we ALL want them to do it for themselves! This is a developmental milestone that will largely happen when it happens. Although there are a few things you can do to help coax it along….

          What would I do?
          – More soothing. You say she’ll take longer naps with constant movement. Whenever somebody says things like this the obvious answer is – put her in a swing! She likes constant movement so GIVE her constant movement. That alone would probably get rid of those hourly wakeup sessions in the early AM.

          Also? Loud white noise. I know she’s not waking up with the hammering next door but that’s not the point – it’s MORE SOOTHING than silence.

          You might want to loose the paci. If the paci popping out is waking her up it may hurt more than it helps at this age. Even if you decide not to loose it you’re on the home stretch because I guarantee you that in ~1 month the paci will become your mortal enemy (seriously).

          – Shift bedtime up SIGNIFICANTLY. You baby is now a bit older so you’ll want to establish an earlier consistent bedtime that you will defend religiously. This means you’ll be managing late afternoon naps so that they don’t infringe on her ability to fall asleep at your new earlier bedtime. Ideally you want bedtime to shift from midnight to something a lot closer to 7:00 PM.

          How to do this?
          Well you could TRY just putting her to bed far earlier. I suspect much of the difficulties at bedtime come from her being overtired to begin with. This may be the simple answer and it’s definitely worth a go.

          You’ll very likely need to start waking her up earlier. Her current wakeup time is 9:00 AM when it should probably be about 6:30 AM. I know you don’t want to wake her up earlier but trust me – this will help on multiple fronts (read the article linked below for more on that). So tomorrow wakeup at 8:45, 8:30, 8:15, etc.

          This will shift everything else up and you should concurrently be moving bedtime up. Keep in mind that it sound like her current bedtime is really midnight (you start at 9:00 PM but she’s not really “sleeping” till midnight, right?).

          How long is she awake in the evening (last time till midnight?). I suspect this is a HUGE chunk of time right? I would work on vastly shortening this. So moving forward you’ll want to work towards a system where she really isn’t sleeping much past 4:00 PM and goes to bed closer to 7:00 PM. Given where you’re at this may take a week or two but that would be the goal.

          This should extend her night sleep, keep her from being too sleep deprived (which helps improve quality of sleep), align her sleep with the sun (yes this actually helps), carve out some baby-free time for you in the evening, and increase the amount of sleep she gets throughout the day.

          The short napping thing is pretty normal but again, based on what you’re telling me, I think the swing would really help here. Even if you’re opposed to her sleeping in it at night, I would at minimum have her take naps in there. THis would result in longer naps which would also lead to better nights for everybody. Win win yes?

          Anyway I hope that helps. I feel pretty confident that if you take my advice things will be significantly better in a week or so. Sometimes it’s scary to make a change because nobody wants a bad situation to get worse. But I think things could be sooo much better. Especially to get you a bit of a break int he evening 😉

  10. My 6 week (almost 7 week now) old is actually a pretty good sleeper, however she’s getting hard to put down for naps. She’s super aware of the world around her, and even if the room is not distracting (she naps in her swing in the living room, whereas she sleeps at night in her swing in our room; I want to keep an eye on her, and I want our two dogs to continue getting acclimated to her being around under constant supervision), she absolutely fights going to sleep, even when she’s so tired she has to work to stay awake. She will roll her eyeballs to look as high up to the ceiling as possible to keep her eyelids open, she will almost fall asleep and then let out a little wail or start crying to wake herself back up, it seems like she thinks she’s going to ‘miss out’ on something.

    Even though she’s pretty happy, even overtired, I know she’s getting overtired and fussy. And being overtired is truly needless with a comfy place to nap and a pretty decent sleep schedule!

    Swaddling works beautifully with her. We use the miracle blanket, because she’s ridiculously strong, and escapes every other swaddler (and yes, they’re definitely tight enough; she was escaping swaddles in the hospital, wrapped by the pro nurses!), our trick is to fold up the leg part and swaddle it to her back to keep her legs free for the swing. A double swaddle would also work well, but since we haven’t mastered it, the miracle blanket suits our purposes and is relatively quick.

    Now to my question, I try to keep the swaddling to just night time, because that’s her big sleep and I want that to be the longest and most restorative. I also want the swaddling to be a part of her bedtime ‘routine’ until she starts to be able to roll. I have read you should limit swaddling so that the baby isn’t swaddled for too big of a chunk of the day, so we don’t swaddle for naps during the day at all. I know she would go down SO much faster if we swaddled her, but I don’t want to overdo it (especially with the tightness of the swaddle) and risk any sort of issue. I am concerned, though, that she is taking a million years to get down for a nap, and then not staying asleep for as long as she may need. Should I just swaddle for naps, and basically have a straitjacketed baby for 16+ hours a day? Is taking longer to fall asleep for naps just ok?

    (As I type this, she has been trying to go down for a nap for 40 mins, so tired her eyes are rolling back in her head and she’s all floppy, but if she could prop her eyes open a la Alex in A Clockwork Orange, I think she would. I think she’s finally out, fingers crossed!)

    p.s., This blog has helped my sanity and happiness dealing with my newborn more than any parenting book or blog or ‘helpful’ advice by family, friends, or strangers (including SO MANY PEOPLE telling me to allow my 3-4 week old baby to ‘cry it out’ because I hadn’t figured out how to use the swing, and she wouldn’t sleep anywhere else but on me). Thank you so much, I recommend you to everyone.

    • Well thank you for all your kind words 😉 And as you are being so nice and complimentary I hate to be mean and yell at you but…well…I’m going to anyway.

      SWADDLE THAT BABY FOR NAPS!

      OK no more yelling – promise 🙂 Seriously, there are SOOO many reasons to swaddle your baby WHENEVER they sleep. Especially as a newborn (your baby is a scant 6 weeks old! In the bigger scheme of things he was born 2 seconds ago).

      Also 6 weeks is when fussiness peaks so she’s not really fighting sleep per se, it’s just a really rough patch for newborns. I don’t know why exactly (developmental?) it’s just that sleep tends to diminish and fussiness peaks right at that time. So you want to use every tool at your disposal?

      Lots of bad information about swaddling but your baby does not have the neuromuscular control at this age to really do any sort of “exercise” (98% of their movements at this point are just random) so swaddling doesn’t prevent them from practicing anything. Also they aren’t moving when sleeping anyway so they can flop their arms about to their hearts content when they’re awake.

      Chances are that within 2 more months you will be done with the swaddle for the rest of her life (some babies are swaddled for 6+ months but if she’s so hard to swaddle at a mere 6 weeks I doubt this will be the case for you) so the window when you can even consider this powerful sleep aid is relatively small. Use it. Naps and night.

      PS. I’m so glad to have been helpful too you. Sorry about the yelling 😛

  11. Thank you so much for this site! You have already changed my life! What Sophia said in her post script? Yeah, I could copy/paste that right here and mean every word.

    I’d like to ask you my version of Question #1. My 16 week old (who was born 6 weeks early… not sure how that computes with all of this) has been a marathon nurser from day one and will often nurse for an hour or two at a stretch. Much of that nursing time, she seems like she could be sleep nursing… still actively sucking and swallowing, but her eyes are rolled back, closed, and her arms are limp. Should I count that eyes-closed time towards her daily sleep total? Please say yes.

    • The answer is yes!

      For starters every Dr. & conference I’ve attended about babies suggests that preemies should be counted as their adjusted age from anywhere from 1-3 years so I would count your baby as a 10 week old.

      Second almost all babies can finish up a nursing session in ~10 minutes per side so after about 20 minutes of nursing she’s sleep suckling/soothing. There may be a trickle of milk involved but she’s probably not getting a whole lot of sustenance after the initial 20 minutes, it’s more about soothing and suckling. But she’s probably also asleep while this is happening too.

      Which is totally OK as long as it works for you. But I would suggest that you might want to start working on helping her learn other ways to sleep because she is right in the zone where it’s likely to be easiest (note I did not say EASY) and by the time she’s 6 months old (adjusted) it’ll be really hard to get her to sleep without being attached to your boob. I know people who literally sleep every night with a baby attached to their boob. If that is an OK scenario for you, best of luck. If not then the next 2-3 months are the window where you want to gradually get her off your boobs when she’s sleeping.

  12. Wow! Thank you so much for the quick response! Yes, I do plan to gradually get her off the boobs, and now with the magical wisdom of this site and power of my new Fisher Price swing, I can see a way forward! I’m actually buying a second swing for my day care. (Thank you, craigslist!) Meanwhile, I’m so very relieved to know that the past few months of marathon nursing have not caused my baby the level of sleep deprivation that I had feared. Thank you, thank you!!

  13. Hello! Your website is amazing and so very helpful for new moms! 🙂 My 4.5 month old daughter has (thankfully) been a great sleeper from ~5 weeks until recently we’ve had a little difficulty. I have read a lot of about a 4 month sleep regression, teething, etc., which could contribute. However, about a month ago, she’d pretty much sleep 9ish-7ish straight (10 hours about) with no night feedings. A few weeks ago, she started waking up multiple times throughout the night (4-6x; most of the time, a pacifier would help soothe her right back but we’re afraid of the suck-sleep association; sometimes it would not and nursing/mommy would be the only solution). We don’t want to cry-it-out. We will let her fuss for a few minutes, though, and she will sometimes go back to sleep. She has started to cry immediately when I walk out the door, so I’m not sure if she already has the object permanence thing.

    Needless to say, it has gotten better this week and now she’ll only wake up once or twice in the night. After a nursing, she’ll go right back down for a total of 11-13 hours. For naps, she used to sleep 1.5-2 hours in the swing and 45-1 hr in the crib for naps, but now her naps are ~30-45 minutes in both. I’d rather discontinue the swing altogether and implement naps in the crib if she’s sleeping the same. I’ve read too many sleep books to get consistent advice and was wondering why the naps have worsened and night awakenings have increased.

    When I started moving back the bedtime (from 9 to 8:30 and so on), is when she’d start waking up more but I know that 9ish is way too late for a 4 month old. Lately, she’s been exhibiting very sleepy signs at around 6 pm. Our bedtime routine includes bath, massage, nursing, sleep (she will go to sleep in crib half-awake with no pacifier)… she’ll sleep until 2-3am straight, will need feed, and up at 6 am for the most part. During the daytime, we pretty much follow her cues but eat, play, sleep for the most part.

    If she could go 10ish hours before without feeding at a young age, is it normal that she is needing the middle-of-the night feed now? Should we try to keep her up later (past 6) in order for her to wake up later? We don’t even know where to start with naps as she really won’t go longer than 1 hr. (at most) in crib.

    Hopefully that all made sense! We are trying to start and keep good sleep habits 🙂 Thank you so much for any help or guidance you could give!

    • So is she going to bed at 9:00 PM or 6:00 PM? Well regardless, as a general rule keeping baby up LATER so that they sleep LATER in the morning rarely works. Some kids (generally older kids) will sleep 11 hours from whenever they go to bed so with THOSE kids you can push bedtime to when you want it in order to manage their wakeup time.

      But with babies the later the bedtime the EARLIER they wake up and the CRAPPIER they nap. Also? 6:00 AM is a totally normal and reasonable wake up time for a baby! This is how babies are wired. It may not suit you (it definitely doesn’t suit me) but it’s normal.

      I don’t know exactly why she is now waking up at night but it could be any combination of the following:
      1) She’s growing and just needs more food (it’s not unreasonable for a 4 month old baby to need to eat 1-2X at night even if she didn’t used to need to).
      2) The multiple night feedings during the sleep regression just got her in the habit of eating at night so she’s used to eating then.
      3) She’s older and more aware so instead of blithely navigating her partial awakenings, she’s now waking herself up fully.

      If this were me I would probably do all of the following:
      – Make sure her room is dark and use loud white noise whenever she sleeps.
      – Move to or stick with the earlier bedtime.
      – Feed her when she seems hungry but “test” her a little by trying to gently wean off the night feeding using these techniques: http://www.troublesometots.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-sleeping-through-the-night-part-3/

      If she’s really resistant, I would drop it and try again in another 4-6 weeks.

      – Remove nursing from bedtime so the new routine would look more like boob, bath, massage, book (always throw a book in there!), bed.

      Will this solve the shorter nap issue? Possibly. That could simply be a matter that as she gets older and more aware she is rousing herself from sleep because she wants to be with you. If I had a magic answer for short naps I would bottle it and sell it. And as a result I would be an extremely wealthy woman 😉

  14. Alexis,
    Thank you so much for all of your valuable information, it has been life changing for me! My question is very similar to Stephanie’s, with a few variations.

    My son is 6 months old and I have been working with him on falling asleep on his own. We had one night of CIO, and now he goes to bed fairly well at night (6:45-7:30pm). Sometimes he fusses a little, but not for long. Naptime, however, is different. He fights falling asleep without being latched to the boob. When he finally does sleep (usually after 5-10 minutes of screaming), it’s usually only 30m- 1hr on average.

    When I first got him to fall asleep on his own last week, he slept 9-13hrs straight for the first three nights. After that, he has started waking up 2-3 times per night again. It is so frustrating, because I KNOW he can sleep, but he just won’t. The only way I can get him to sleep again is to nurse. I often find myself falling asleep in the chair with him, so pulling him off a minute or two early is difficult.

    Do you have any advice? I am a walking zombie again! I would appreciate anything! Thank you!

    • Alyssa,
      Well I’m sorry but I didn’t see your post until now and I believe your baby is just about ready to go to college. But just in case somebody else is reading this and struggling with the same issue here it goes…

      For starters, check the post I link to below, as I believe it probably explains what happened after the first 3 nights. Unfortunately yes now he has a new habit so weaning off it is key. I hear you about falling asleep in the chair and my advice is….

      Don’t. I KNOW you’re a zombie – I do! But a commitment to a few days (5-7) of not sleeping while nursing and you could be done with night feeding. And now you know why he went back to wanting to eat so much you might respond differently (PS. It would have been OK to offer some soothing, just not the boob).

      Also it sounds like he’s got a REALL strong boob/sleep association so you’ll want to make sure you separate nursing from sleep time by at least 20 minutes. This will help make the separation at night go more smoothly. So even if you’re “putting down awake” you don’t want to nurse right smack before you put him down.

      Naps are a whole separate function and yep – you have a problem. If you kept him latched on the boob he would probably nap for hours. CIO for naps can be a rough prospect but if he’s only protesting for 5-10 minutes that’s actually pretty awesome. Some babies protest for 5 minutes whenever they go to sleep just because that is what they do!

      30min-1 hour is actually pretty decent. It’s not amazing but even the occasional 1 hour nap means he’s successfully navigating a sleep cycle and going BACK to sleep. So I would keep doing what you’re doing, with a great consistent routine, in a dark dark room with loud white noise and I think you’ll see the 1 hour naps become more common.

      Will he drop the 5-10 minutes of screaming? Hopefully. Probably. But regardless your path is clear, yes?

  15. I think in the two days since I discovered your website I’ve read everything you’ve posted, trying to make sense of whether I’m doing things “right” or not. Some posts I’ve read more than once. I’m still not sure if I’m doing anything right. All I know for sure is that being a first-time parent is hard. It’s even harder with a preemie who doesn’t seem like a preemie and who doesn’t seem to have developmental delays (i.e., she started rolling over at 8 weeks [2 weeks corrected age]), which confuses me on if I should treat her as a 9-week-old or a corrected age, 3-week-old (okay – let’s be honest, it feels harder because my sister didn’t seem to have these problems with her baby who is 8 months older than mine).

    My daughter was born 6 weeks early but at a whopping 6 pounds! Biggest baby in the NICU in quite a while, I do believe. She was in NICU for two weeks and during that time they got her adjusted to eating every four hours, so I’m very grateful for that. She’s been on that pretty consistently since we got her home about seven weeks ago.

    I feel like I’m lost, though. She will go through a period each day (the time differs pretty much every day) where she will only sleep for about an hour and then wake up. She does this for about three or four hours (I guess this is her “witching” hours). Typically what happens is she’ll fall asleep so I’ll put her down and then she’ll wake up about an hour later. I know she can’t be hungry because she just ate. I’ll try to soothe her back to sleep but after 10-30 minutes (depending on my nerves) I’ll break down and nurse her and she’ll fall asleep on the nipple. She does this basically for the duration of the witching time.

    Holding and soothing her doesn’t do anything to help her stop crying. Swaddling doesn’t work (she hates her arms bound and will work them free no matter how we have her swaddled). The swing typically doesn’t work, during this period, because she’ll start crying within five minutes of being placed in it (she’s asleep or nearly asleep when we put her in it). Therefore, when she’s in the swing (after she’s starting to fall asleep or is asleep), do I just let her cry herself to sleep or do I get her back out of the swing and soothe her and try again, ad nauseum?

    I also read that I should work toward getting her to soothe herself to sleep (and I do realize it’s maybe a bit too early/young), and I want to because she uses me as a human pacifier (hates a regular pacifier; hated it in the hospital, too). However, when I try to pry her off the nipple she’ll wake herself up and start crying inconsolably. What do I do?

    She sleeps pretty well at night. She normally goes to sleep around 10, although it fluctuates because her schedule changes daily based on how long she sleeps at different periods, and will stay on her every four hour schedule (wake and nurse from 2-2:30/2:45, wake and nurse from 6-7ish), so there’s not a lot of nightly feedings (thankfully!). Sometimes she’ll sleep longer than four hours at a go at night (yay!), but it’s not the norm. She will sleep in her crib (we keep her propped up, per doctor’s instruction, due to reflux) and we put her in a sleep sac, but her arms have to be free.

    What I’m ultimately asking is, am I doing something wrong or is her 4-5 hour period each day, where she’ll only sleep for an hour at a go and then wake for 30-60 minutes, normal? Any help would be appreciated!

    Thank you so much for having this wonderful resource. There are so many points where I start laughing and read it aloud to my husband because it’s just wonderful! I can’t say it enough – thank you!!!

    • Emily,
      There is nothing NOTHING worse than being a first time Mom. It is terrifying, overwhelming, you have -0- confidence in your ability to do the right thing when doing the right thing is now the most critical thing in your entire world. Nobody likes the first few months of being a first time Mom. Everybody struggles through this phase. And amazingly we all seem to come out the other end with some idea of what we’re doing.

      And you will too.

      Even though she’s big I would consider your baby a 3 week old. A big healthy 3 week old baby.

      I’m a little bit confused by your question but I’ll try – it is totally normal for 3 week old babies to be generally unhappy little critters – hard to soothe, fussy, etc. This peaks at 6 weeks then get’s gradually easier.

      So at some point in the day there is a 4-5 period of time where she will only sleep for an hour at a go. This is my confusion – a 1 hour nap for a newborn baby is actually pretty awesome. Then she’ll wake for 30-60 minutes and…..what, then take another 1 hour nap? From a sleep perspective even this “rough patch” sounds pretty good! Although I gather she’s fussy and hard to soothe during the 30-60 minute non-sleeping period, right?

      Here’s what I would do.
      1) Don’t let her cry. She’s a 3 week old baby she needs your help. Even if you’re trying and nothing is working and she’s crying ANYWAY, that’s far better then just leaving her alone.

      Sure if you’re super frustrated and you need a few minutes to regroup it’s OK to leave a fussy/crying baby somewhere safe while you get a breath of fresh air. But don’t put her in her swing crying and wait for something magic to happen.

      Try something new! When babies are inconsolable try one of these things:
      – car ride
      – baby wearing
      – warm bath (no soap – if it works when the water cools, empty the bath, refill, and have another bath)
      – infant massage
      – change of scenery (sometimes babies are distracted out of their fussing – go to the grocery store, a walk, change rooms, etc.)

      Because your baby has reflux AND is a preemie (and reflux is super common with preemies anyway) I would STRONGLY encourage you to keep swaddling. I don’t care how strong she is – find a product that works, talk to your pediatrician, try double swaddle (people swear by the double swaddle). For starters it’s the BASIS of all the other soothing.

      So even if she’s screaming bloody murder when swaddled it’ll make everything else you do that much more effective.

      Secondly there is TONS of research about how swaddling is even BETTER for preemies. So please please please don’t give up on the swaddle – find a way.

      Also? Make sure you’re using loud white noise whenever she sleeps AND whenever she’s inconsolable. Preemies are at higher risk for SIDS and white noise + swaddling have both been shown to have lower that risk significantly. And white noise will help soothe her so if you’re struggling, even if she’s awake, use the white noise.

      In a few weeks when the fussing calms down, go back to white noise only when she sleeps.

      Also? Try going dairy free. It blows but lots of preemies have issues with milk protein so it’s worth a week or two of no dairy (nothing with casein in it, which is almost everything you buy at the grocery store that isn’t a fruit or vegetable). See if her fussing decreases substantially – if you don’t see a dramatic difference then go back to bagels with cream cheese.

      Last bit – don’t sweat self soothing. She’s a 3 week old baby (yes I’m sticking to that) – start worrying about self soothing when she’s 6-8 weeks. Get serious at 2-3 months. Now she needs all her soothing to come from you.

      And also? I’m glad you think I’m funny 🙂

      • Thank you so much for your help and advice!

        I will go back to trying to swaddle her (and hope she can’t get her arms out). I’ve never heard of double swaddling, but understand the concept and will try it. I haven’t used the white noise because she normally sleeps so well (and hadn’t heard that it was connected to reducing the chance for SIDS) but will give that a go, too.

        We’ve switched her from a milk-based formula to a whey-protein based formula for when we give her a bottle and that seems to have helped.

  16. I have a question about how long is too long to let a baby cry it out for a nap.

    So here the basics of my situation: Baby is 18 weeks old. We sleep trained him at 14 weeks, Ferber method. A little early I know, but I had LITERALLY been sleeping in 45 min-2hour naps since he was born. So those 14 weeks were basically one long day to me with approximately 12,000 short naps. Ok, so it worked GREAT. Within a couple days, maybe even by the 2nd night, he was well on his way to going to sleep within 5 minutes. Now, 4 weeks later, he goes to bed at 6pm without crying at all. Just smiles and falls off to sleep. I wake him for a couple feedings during the night, just because I felt that at 14 weeks he still needed that (and still do), but am hoping to get rid of that one middle of night feeding soon. Nonetheless, he doesn’t wake for these feedings. He eats and I put him back in bed and off to bed I go. So night times are great, with the exception of that always cruel 330am feeding. But that’s part of the deal right? Additionally, he finally learned to nap (sorta). He was the 30 minute napper prior to the training. Immediately following the training, his morning nap lengthened to about 1 hour 10 minutes – 1.5 hours and everyday, without fail, it takes him only 3-6 minutes to fall he sleep (he cries during this time). 3-6 minutes I think is well worth it.

    But that’s where good naps stop. After that, his naps tend to get shorter. 45 minutes for Nap 2 and then *maybe* 30 minutes for the last afternoon nap, if that. Now, I know you’re going to say that’s normal and I accept that. My problem is not with length of nap but with how long it takes him to get to sleep for his 2nd or last nap. Sometimes 25 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes (crying the whole time). And no, he’s not (usually) overtired — I rarely wait longer than 2 hours to put him down, and usually its 1 hour 45 min. When he doesn’t seem tired (happy, giggling, able to play on his own), I don’t force the issue. I wait until I see that yawn or that sudden onset of crankiness (so it’s also not an issue of being left alone and not really being tired enough). The compounding issue is that he does NOT want to be rocked to sleep, put in his bouncy chair, or swing. He really does prefer hands off and being in his bed (something we discovered by realizing it would take 30-45 minutes for him to calm and fall asleep in our arms, but only 5 in bed alone). The one thing that does help at naptime is to coordinate feeding time with that one hard-to-get afternoon nap. He gets nice and sleepy and I can slip him into bed. But not always… (arrghh). So, if he can only get himself to fall asleep in his own bed (rather than being rocked by me), my only option is to put him down. But is 25-30 minutes too long to let him cry? I feel like doing that everyday is a bit much (and extremely difficult to put it lightly). But i’m not sure what my options are at this point. I put him down when he is at the 2 hour (or 1hour 45min) mark or when he suddenly has rapid onset of sleepy symptoms (whichever comes first). Regardless of which it is, that afternoon nap is ALWAYS preceded by significantly longer crying. What to do…?? Thoughts?

  17. I just want to say thank you for writing this! It’s so hard to find no-nonsense advice or information about newborns and their sleep habits. I kept reading fluff and getting nowhere. Write more stuff!

  18. Hi! I am so glad to have found your website! My head is spinning from listening to babywise audio book while reading 12 hours of sleep by 12 weeks and moms on call. This may be a shock but NONE of these are working for us and I find myself mocking them as I try to follow the “rules.” I know there are no rules but my one question is, what are your thoughts on this eat, play, sleep routine? My son would nap like a champ if I put him down after eating! But I keep trying to do the playtime in between which equals him getting hungry waaaayyyy before the nap time. On the rare occasion that I nail the schedule (this means I get nothing done) he will sleep blissfully for 4 hours sometimes! But the next night is usually 2- 2. 1/2 hour cycles. I forgot to mention he is 9 weeks old. Anyway this is lengthy but my point is what’s up with eat, play, sleep and is it the golden rule? Thanks so much!

  19. Hi Alexis,

    I’m a first time mom to a now 5 1/2 week old baby girl and I’m really enjoying your blog. Thank you.

    Currently our daughter is sleeping safely with us in our bed and, like clockwork, each night she wakes us up with grunts and squirms. If we let it go long enough she will begin to have cry bursts. We have responded routinely by breastfeeding when this occurs (around 2am, 4am, and 6am). Sometimes the 2am wake up does not occur. Question: is feeding her the proper response to these nightly occurrences? Ultimately I expect her to sleep through the night. Are we preventing her from learning how to do this?

    • Hey Jess,

      So the AAP just issued (as in today!) new recommendations so if you’re going to co-sleep with a newborn I would encourage you to check it out (http://dnr.vnr1.com/2016/10/13/aap_safesleep/) they advocate for no pillows, blankets, or sheets of any kind. This is different than what McKenna suggests BTW.

      Babies are hugely squirmy and generally make terrible bedmates. Sleeping through the night is for a variety of reasons, far more challenging when co-sleeping. Now truthfully it’s totally NORMAL for a 5 week old to eat 2-3X a night so I Would consider breastfeeding at those times pretty standard and reasonable.

      “Are we preventing her from learning how to do this?”
      The issue with STTN is far more linked to co-sleeping (it’s hard to not eat when the food is right there staring you in the face) and HOW she falls asleep at bedtime. THOSE things are most likely to make STTN a challenge for you guys in the future, far more than nursing a 5 week old at 2 AM. Hope that helps – good luck!

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