Sleeping FAQ: 0-8 weeks – Daytime Sleep

My 5.5-week-old daughter is unable to settle to sleep at all in the morning

My daughter is completely unable to settle for naps in the morning or at lunch time. For the first couple of weeks we followed the routines, and she settled at least at some naps, but now she is unable to settle for any, screaming on and off for the entire time. I have read the similar FAQs on your site, and have been taking her to her room at the first sign of tiredness. This is often an hour and a half (maybe less) from when she last woke. I swaddle her, top her up with food if she wants it, wind her, and sit quietly with her in the dark until she is ‘heavy’ and her eyes are ‘staring’ and getting droopy. I then put her in the cot, pat her lightly, check she is dozing off and leave. Sometimes there’s a lot of snuffling and stretching going on, but she does go quiet for 20 minutes, but then she starts to fuss and then cry – gradually escalating to hard screaming. She never goes off for longer than this. Sometimes she is reluctant to even settle in my arms, so starts crying quite quickly. I leave her for ten minutes (or longer if she is just ‘grumbling’ crying, but not actually sounding distressed) and then go in to comfort her. For a while we tried just patting her, but it didn’t work. Sometimes she calmed down, but would quickly start crying hard again, often before I had fully calmed her. Or she just cried on through the patting / stroking. So we pick her up, calm her and put her back down the moment she is calm and dozy. But any where between 2 and 10 minutes later she cries again. This goes on for the entire nap time, often until she is then too tired to settle anyway, or hunger is setting in for her next feed. I have stayed in the room and watched her before to see what is happening, and she seems unable to go off into a deep sleep, and starts to stretch, wriggle, fuss and then cry, just when I think she seems to have finally drifted off. I am now swaddling her arms again, as she seemed to be fussing more with them out, and scratching her face a lot. The knock on effect of all this is that come the afternoon, the pair of us are exhausted. She feeds at 2pm, and then conks out by 3pm at the latest. As we often go out in the buggy, she stays asleep until 5pm, but then I find it so hard to wake her to feed then. If I do rouse her enough to feed, she then falls back asleep afterwards, and no amount of changing her nappy, taking layers of clothes off, wiping her face will wake her. This means I have to take her to bath her early, just to wake her up. All of this is all very well at the moment, but I have a toddler (22 months) and a nanny with us for the next three weeks. After this, I am on my own, so will be less able to sit doing the long wind-downs at naps, or bathing my daughter during what is effectively my other daughter’s tea time. Nights with my daughter are OK. Sometimes she fusses and won’t settle at 7pm, but mostly she does. We wake her at 10.30pm and then she wakes for a feed at about 3am. Our day begins at (or just after) 7am. I followed the routines successfully with my other daughter, but she used to cry at the beginning of naps, but once she went to sleep she stayed asleep. I am feeling utterly at a loss to know what to do, and feeling like I have tried everything and seeing no progress. The times that she is awake are a constant battle to keep her awake for a little while after feeding so as to keep her on track for the day, but this is not a very enjoyable way to spend time with my baby. Is there anything else I can do? Could this be a 5.5 week / 6 week blip? I remember my daughter was very unsettled in other ways around this time?
At present she feeds at 7am 4-5ozs expressed milk, offered a top up before nap, may take a few minutes. 10am 3-4ozs formula, top up offered before nap, may take 5mins, 2pm 4ozs formula, 6.30pm 2-3ozs formula, 7pm 4ozs expressed breast milk, 10.30pm 3-4ozs formula, 3am 3-4ozs formula. She weighs over 10lbs.
My daughter naps at 8.30-9am, 11.20-12pm, 3-5pm and 5.30-6pm.

For whatever reason it would appear that your daughter has got into a cycle of fighting sleep until completely exhausted. As you have tried in the same way at every nap to put her down in the day with no real affect it would be best to change the way she is settled to sleep. A lot of babies of this age are ready to go down for a nap an hour to an hour and half after being woken. If they do become overtired they will resist the attempt to fall asleep. Your daughter may also have a very strong Moro reflex. Around 20mins of appearing to doze off a baby enters a second stage of deeper sleep. The Moro reflex can jerk in at this time which causes her to startle herself awake. She then has to try to settle down again, and as you have seen it becomes a vicious circle.

In the article about the lunchtime nap Gina explains about assisting a young baby such as your daughter to sleep. In the next few weeks whilst you still have help this would be the best thing to do. You find a way to get your baby to sleep and stay that way for the length of time she needs. Either take her out in the pram or car or lie with her in your arms and let her sleep. You need to do this consistently at every naptime in the same way. You may decide to make the morning nap a time when you take her out in the car or pram and then spend the time at lunchtime with her being held. Whatever you decide to do it may be a week to 10 days before you can see her sleep cycles have readjusted themselves. Make sure you get her into the pram or the room where you will lie with her before she is showing any sign of sleepiness, bearing in mind that this may only be an hour since she woke up. She needs to learn how to relax enough to fall asleep without becoming overtired.
Then you need to start to put her back in her cot, putting her down when quite sleepy to begin with, and gradually working down to her being less and less so. It may be best to start with one naptime a day at first and see how this goes. If the morning nap falls into place then begin to settle her in her cot for the one at lunchtime. Try not to rush this stage, but accept that there will probably be some crying down for 15 -20 mins at the beginning as she learns to settle alone. When you have adjusted her body clock so she is used to a short morning nap and a longer one at lunchtime she should take less time to settle herself.

Continue to offer her a top up feed before she goes down until she is regularly settling and sleeping through both naps.

Continue to swaddle her when she is back in her cot, but try to do this with one arm out, or giving her the means to get it out should she want to. Because of the dangers of overheating it is best to gradually wean your baby off needing to be swaddled by 8-12 weeks. Again you may find it best to attempt half swaddling at the morning nap first and once that is accepted begin to do so at the lunchtime one as well.

The times when your daughter has been unsettled at 7pm are most likely due to the long deep sleep in the afternoon. Once her naps are more in place she should become a much happier and easier baby, who you can begin to enjoy.