My 5 week old hardly sleeps and wakes constantly

by An.

Question: I have a 5 week old baby who is healthy and well behaved in every aspect... aside from his sleep rituals. He has never slept a lot, even when we first brought him home from the hospital. On average he will sleep about 4 hours throughout the day and about 5 hours throughout the night and none of it is in a row. ALL of his sleep is chopped up and tends to wake every 20 minutes throughout the day and every hour throughout the night.

The worst part about all of this is that he needs someone to rock him to sleep and refuses to sleep anywhere but in bed with me and my fiance. I have tried everything to get him to sleep in his bassinet or his crib but he wakes as soon as i put him in there and starts to cry until I bring him to bed with me.

I am at my wits end, I don’t know what to do anymore, I have tried everything to help him sleep more and in his bassinet, none which have worked. I worry that he is not getting enough sleep and that he has become reliant on sleeping with us in order to sleep at all. Any help or advice would be great as I don’t know what to do anymore!!

Heidi’s Answer: Hello there,

So sorry to hear you are having such a hard time with your little boy’s sleep, I know these are tough times to go through. On the positive side, you need not worry about his becoming reliant on you for sleep or not sleeping enough. He is so very very young, and it is not easy at all on most babies to sleep well at this age. (Of course, the natural born sleepers or babies who will easily settle for a few hours do exist, but they are not the majority.) You still have several months where you can help him as much as he needs without “spoiling” him.

I would like to suggest a gentle way to have him sleep more and independently, that will be most effective in the long run. First off, you will help him get into the habit of sleeping regularly and in longer stretches. Only after that will you need to start working on him sleeping independently.

Start with these sleep schedule recommendations.

To work on longer stretches you have two options:

- Keep him on the move – a good thing to do at naptime. Being on the move makes it easier for him to stay asleep and not wake in between two sleep cycles (which are very short at this age). If you do this for most of his naps for a while, his body will get used to it, and he may do it more easily when down in the crib or in your bed. A baby sling is perfect when you are around the house, or also for walks of course. Of course long walks in the stroller are good as well, whichever you and him prefer.

- Alternatively, since you know more or less when he’ll wake, after 20 minutes during the day and after an hour at night, go to him about 5-10 minutes before he wakes up. Hold him or simply stroke his head or belly to comfort him for a while (stay there for about 10 minutes). This gentle reassurance is often all a baby needs to be able to continue sleeping. It may take a bit of patience several tries but it's usually very efficient.

For now, as longs as he screams when you put him down awake, it is also OK to put him down well asleep.

Work on the above for a few weeks. The whole idea is to get him to sleep more, regularly and for longer stretches (say 2 to 3 hours in a row). You will then have a better rested baby and – even if it takes extra tending from you, probably also a more relaxed and rested you.

And this will be important when you start working on the self soothing by putting him down less and less deeply asleep.

Good luck!

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