My 6 week old baby doesn't like to sleep!

by Wendy

Question: My 6 week old baby girl has great difficulty sleeping and staying asleep. She was born with her head coming out sideways, so it was somewhat of a difficult birth (no meds used by mommy, though). She sleeps in a bassinet and also gets some sleep in a sling. Breast fed with 1-2 bottles each day (using pumped milk). We hold her for 30-40 mins before putting her down (soothing her until she is sleeping well) and during the days she'll only sleep maybe for 15-30 minutes and then wakes up wide awake. At night, it is hit or miss with a total of 4-6 (6 if lucky) hours adding up the hour here, 2 hours there, etc.

She is a gassy baby, but no medical issues. She cries and is fussy a lot for no apparent reason. I have tried a chiropractor with no luck. It seems like she fights sleeping. She'll be almost asleep and then be wide awake with no possibility of going back to sleep for a few hours. During one day, she only slept 30 mins total ALL DAY! I worry she is not getting enough sleep, but am struggling to find ways to help her sleep. Even with the sling, she'll get tired of it and cry after awhile. I've tried the sling, chiropractics, holding her in bed all day, co-sleeping, etc. I just don't know what to do.

Heidi's Answer: Hi Wendy, You've been trying a lot of good things. Especially the chiropractor was a good idea, after the somewhat difficult birth. I am supposing you went to a pediactric specialist for this. It may be worth getting a second opinion or slightly different treatment if her crying stays in spite of my suggestions below.

The sling is really good too, but have you made sure she is absolutely comfortable in it? She may fall asleep in it at first because she's tired but if it is too tight, or itches, or she's lying in an awkward position, that may be enough to have her wake up in stead of keeping asleep. If you carrier is pre-shaped then there is a good chance that the latter is the issue. But if it is a cloth wrap, or well adapted ring sling, made of good strong fabric and you have no doubt she's wrapped correctly, then that's absolutely fine.

I would like to refer you to this post where I explain why it's very common for a young baby to wake up that frequently after only 50-60 minutes of sleep.

To improve this, you can help her (body) get used to sleeping for longer with these two ideas:

1. Are you carrying her around the house in the sling? It could help to go out for a walk instead: you're out in fresh air and your movements will be more regular and consistent. If you could take her out on a walk for two naps a day, keeping her asleep for 1,5 hour or more that would be a great help (see the baby sling pages for more).

2. At other moments, when she sleeps in her bassinet, you should try to 'catch' her before she wakes up: when she has been asleep for 45-50 minutes (that includes the time you hold her before putting down), go to her and sit near her quietly. Place your hands on her tummy, stroke her forehead, hold her hands, ... something that you know can soothe and comfort her. The idea is that you help her through to the next sleep cycle without waking up. Do this as often as you can, it takes some effort and patience (probably won't work the first few times) but it can be very efficient.

Lastly, have you tried leaving out dairy from your own diet? It can be a good way to decrease her gas problems - and in turn help her sleep more restfully. It's an easy experiment, do not have any dairy products for the next week or two. If you see improvement, keep at it. It can help to write down her wake, sleep and cry times in a sleep log during these two weeks as well. It will help you assess things more easily.

Other than the dairy and gas link, many foods also have a stimulating effect through breast milk. So if you have any of the following regularly you may want to try and avoid them for now:

- coffee
- tea (except for pure herbal, relaxing teas - remember that even white and green tea have caffeine)
- nicotine
- alcohol
- fizzy sugary drinks
- chocolate
- sugary snacks

If you add what you eat to your sleep log, you may find out if other foods/drinks are playing up.

Good luck,
Take care,

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