Sleeping FAQ: 0-8 weeks – Daytime Sleep

My 5-week-old baby is very reluctant to nap in the morning

My 5-week-old daughter is a very alert baby. She is not one for being comforted. Independent lady!

From the start I have found it difficult to get her to nap in the morning. This is now almost impossible – she will cry for the whole hour while I try to get her down – I go in and soothe her every 5/10mins; I usually do not pick her up. She seems to get into a complete state so that sleep is nigh impossible. I have never known her to cry herself to sleep. She naps OK if I am going out and about with her in the car or buggy, but the home naps are getting harder and harder. However, I am going out less and trying to face this problem head on.

At night she is OK – she has her ups and downs, but generally she will do the 7-10pm sleep and then wake up at either 1/3am and 5/6am. We have only had one night where she slept through (the night before last) from 12 midnight to 5am then I woke her at 7am. However, that night it took us ages to get her to go down in the evening – she slept from 9pm-11pm. We had been rocking her to sleep a bit for a week or so and did not even realize we were doing it so we thought we must stop – hence the time it took us to get her down without rocking that evening. Last night she went down fine at 7pm without rocking. I have never rocked her to sleep for daytime naps, only she does every other day have at least one nap in her pram or the car.

She feeds as per the routine but the naps are a nightmare. She seems so alert in the morning and is quite happy to sit under her play mat for an hour or more looking around and kicking about. Then I take her to her room to get her to nap and she goes mad crying.

The afternoon nap is also a nightmare – I always take her for a walk and she often cries for 10-20mins before falling asleep so she never gets a full hour then – usually half an hour at the most. The couple of days it has rained and I cannot go out, she will not go down to sleep in her room – she cries constantly for the hour.

Today has been awful. She skipped the 9-10am nap despite my efforts to get her down, calm her and leave her crying. Then I fed her at 10 (25mins then 10mins after expressing). She was very sleepy and I tried to rouse her with no luck so I put her down in cot at 11am – again I tried to rouse her but she was totally asleep. At 11.30 she woke up crying her lungs out. I left her for 10mins then went in and tried to console her. After half an hour of her screaming, I brought her downstairs to try and calm her but she was so worked up. I walked around with her in my arms but she was moving about loads and rooting to be fed. I put her in her moses basket in the lounge and she was OK for 2 mins then started crying again. At 12.20 I thought I have to feed her because she was still crying and nothing I could do would console her. So I fed her for 10mins and she got really sleepy so I took her upstairs into dark nursery and fed her another 10mins. I re-swaddled her in a lighter blanket and did not put a blanket on top of this (I did put rolls down sides to stop her moving though). I thought she might have been too hot earlier. I put her down (12.45) and roused her slightly before leaving the room. At 12.50 she started making noises and at 12.55 she started crying loudly. I went in to soothe her and held her in my arms as she was screaming again. Her eyes were very sleepy and she did stop crying this time. I put her back in cot, roused her slightly and left room at 1pm. At 1.05 she started crying for a couple of minutes and then I think in sheer exhaustion she stopped and has been asleep since. It is now 2pm and I am not sure whether to wake her now or leave her for a bit longer seeing as she has only 1.5 hours nap time so far… I think I will leave her until 2.30pm.

If she does not go down at the required time, am I supposed to move her wake up time forward so she gets the required sleep? I tend to meet half way on this and so if she goes down two hours late, I will push her wake up time 1 hour forward. Am I right to do this?

Also, I can keep her awake for a period after feeding but then I find it difficult to get her to go down to sleep. She goes down fine when I feed her then put her down shortly afterwards, but anything longer than half an hour later after her feed and she starts expecting food again. I have been expressing and my milk is plentiful, she eats loads generally, is quite a “sicky” baby (I burp her very carefully), but has been putting on weight well. She weighed 7.14lbs on 19/09.

Would it be wrong to let her skip the morning nap?

Which routine do you think she should be on? I am trying to do the 4-6 weeks one now.

What can I do to get her to sleep in the daytime?

At present she is breast fed at 7.15am: 20-25mins one side, 15-20mins on second, 10am: 20-40mins depending how sleepy, 12.30pm: 15mins if not willing to sleep, 2pm: 20mins if I am out, or 20mins on both sides if at home, 5pm: 25-30mins, 6.15pm: 25mins, 10.45pm: 20mins one side, 10-20mins second [can be sleepy], 3.15am: 20mins, 5.30am: 20 mins.

Some babies as young as yours are not ready to stay awake for two hours between naps. Learning to read your daughter’s signs of tiredness will help you get her more settled at these daytime naps. Once she has fed at 7.15am, taking both sides it will be around 8am.

She may be able to manage another 20mins of lying on her mat before the first signs of tiredness will be apparent. She may begin to fuss or cry, or she may go still and “stare” into the distance. You may see a yawn. This is the sign you need to take her to her room for “wind down” time. Even if she is not showing these signs it is time to take her away to her room to begin to wind her down for sleep. By 8.30am you should be sitting in her room with the blinds down and curtains drawn. This will help your daughter to learn how to clam down and settle to sleep with out fighting it. Alert, bright babies need this calming period sometimes more than those who are sleepy in general and not so interested in what is going on around them.

It can take a baby 20mins from being awake to being in a sleepy state. Hold her, swaddled – if you are doing this, against you but with no eye contact. You are helping her to relax into a sleep state before she goes down. Although you don’t want to get into the habit of putting her down when fully asleep, she is still a young baby who needs you to help her towards sleepiness. Hold her and try to relax yourself. Make yourself breathe deeply and calmly, possibly using the exercises you were taught when pregnant. She may wriggle and fuss and moan. Resist the temptation to rock or pat her but getting into the routine of singing one song to her as a signal it is naptime may help you and her.

Once you feel that she is heavy and relaxed in your arms have a brief peep to see if her eyes are heavy and then put her down. Tuck her in as quickly and tightly as you are able and then leave the room. She may fuss and cry for 10 mins or so but it will still be well before 9am. Leave her 10mins to see if she can settle herself down. If she is still crying quite strongly then go in and reassure her and yourself with a quick stroke and “shush” before leaving again. At this age it is best to check her every 10 mins unless you are aware her cries are getting less and she is drifting off. Look in Gina’s Complete Sleep Guide p 39 for more about “crying down”. Leaving a small baby to cry for any length of time is not recommended.

If you use this technique before putting her down in the morning and for her longer sleep in the middle of the day you should begin to see an improvement. The problems you encountered with the lunchtime nap could have been a combination of hunger and tiredness. This is why you need to work at getting her settled for 45 mins-1hr by 9am, rather then starting to settle her at this time. Once she is having a proper morning nap you will find her next feed easier. Again watch her for signs of tiredness. She may be ready for her quiet wind-down time by 11.30am. If this nap does not fall into place check she is not hungry by offering her a small top-up feed before going down. Hunger can often be the cause of waking early.

Once you are settling your daughter better at the morning and lunchtime naps you can not worry so much about her having a full hour in the afternoon. This is often a much lighter sleep, or two cat naps – especially if in the pram. Make sure your daughter is comfortable in her pram, not too hot and not lying on creased-up blankets or sheets. If you know she is down on her daytime sleep then leave slightly earlier than you have been doing to again avoid her getting overtired and fighting sleep.

Until your daughter is settling better in the day don’t expect her to be following the 4-6 week routine to the letter. Use it as a guide to work towards but realise that every baby has different sleep needs and not all are able to keep within the times stated until at least 6 weeks, sometimes even longer. The most important thing to work on is settling your daughter so she begins to fall asleep with less resistance. Once you are aware of the signs she shows that she is tired and you learn how to calm her and put her down to settle, the other parts of the routine will fall into place.

Should she miss some of her nap times because she is slow to settle adjust things a little to help her get through the day but be aware of how long she is sleeping. If she sleeps deeply in the late afternoon she is unlikely to settle well in the evening. Keep trying each day to get her down before she really is fighting going to sleep, and letting her sleep on later will not be such an issue.