Sleeping FAQ: 0-8 weeks – Daytime Sleep

My three week son is really sleepy in the day and so is awake in the night

My son is very hard to settle after at least one of his feeds during the night.  The other night he would not go to sleep again after his 10.30pm feed and was up until about 4am which left me with 2 hours sleep as I also have another son of 27mths. I find it very hard to keep him awake during the day, he sleeps so much and I try changing his nappy often but even that doesn’t do the trick. He often falls asleep on the bottle too! I would like to know what method is best to use on a 3 week old baby who is putting good weight on, either controlled crying or the crying down method? Also how can I keep him awake more and get him into a better daytime routine?

At present my son feeds at 6.30am 2-4ozs, 10am 2.5-4ozs,1pm2.5-4ozs, 4.30pm 2.5-4ozs, 6.30pm 2.5ozs, 10.30pm 3-4ozs, 2am 2-3ozs. He weighs 9.3lbs.

He naps at 10.30am -12.30pm, 2-4.30pm, 4.45-5.30pm and settles around 6.30pm.

Getting a small baby to be more awake by day can take time. Many babies of this age are quite sleepy and may only be awake for an hour or an hour and a half before needing to nap again. By beginning to structure your son’s daytime naps and feeds his nights should improve.

As you are coping with a toddler as well, look at Gina’s Routine for Toddler and Baby which helps you see how it is possible to cope with both children.

Although it is tempting to let a baby stay awake for longer than two hours if they seem to wake up a bit, putting in the three daytime nap periods around the feed times will help.

Consistently start your day at 7am/7.30am, no matter what your son has done in the night. If you find he is waking at 6am/6.30am then treat this feed as a night time one. Feed in a dimmed room and try to get him back to sleep again. You may have to cuddle him to do this but it means he will then be ready to start his day at 7am/7.30am. Wake him then, even if he has only slept for a short while after his last feed. Depending when he last fed, you may need to offer him a small top-up feed at 7.30am to get him back on track for the day. If he fed earlier than 5.30am then offer him a full feed and let him take as much as he wants. By 8.15am he will be getting tired, having been awake for over an hour. He needs to be taken to his room, swaddled and settled to sleep. This is not always easy to do with another small child around. If you can do this without having to include your toddler, do so, but most mothers will have to have their toddler with them. Make your first son a “busy bag” which only comes out at these times of needing quiet to settle your baby. Let him be in the room with you, or play by the door so he has some light to see whilst you calm and wind down your baby. The bag should have a small selection of toys which are new to your son. Things you could include are a magic drawing slate, an easy tray puzzle and a few simple cars.

Hold your son until he is calm and sleepy. This can take 20 minutes if a baby is wide awake but you are teaching him how to settle to sleep on his own. Once your younger son is relaxed and sleepy then put him in his crib and tuck him in well. He can sleep for 11/2 hrs until woken at 10am. Having had a nap before this next feed he should be less sleepy and able to take his full amount of milk.

Feed him at 10am and make sure he is not too warm when feeding, as this can make a baby sleepy. If he starts to nod off whilst feeding you need to put him down so he wakes up again. The safest place to do this, when there is a toddler around, is in a playpen or travel cot placed in the room where you are feeding. Put him down on the firm floor of the playpen and, if needed, undo his sleep suit so he is more exposed to the air. In a very short time he is bound to come round again. Once he is well awake then continue his feed. A small sleepy baby may need to be put down two or three times during a feed. It can be slow to feed this way but you will know he is getting a full feed and so will settle better. Change him halfway through the feed and give him a small time on his mat, with no nappy on, to help him stay awake enough to finish his feed.

If you can, encourage your son to stay awake after his feed, even if only for 10-15 minutes. This way he does not learn to associate feeding with falling asleep. Put him down on his playmat in a safe place and let him have a short kick. Putting this mat inside a playpen or travel cot does allow him to be put down without the worry that his brother may fall over him. Even if he is sleepy after his feed keep him in a light room until he is due to be put down for a nap. By 11.15am he will be getting tired again. Settle him to sleep in his room after a wind-down time with you. This nap will become the longest in the day. If a small baby is unable to settle, or often wakes during this nap, then offer a small top-up feed before he goes down as hunger is one of the main reasons why this nap goes wrong.

If your elder son is still having a daytime nap then you, too, can have a break in the middle of the day, with some time for yourself before feeding your baby again at 2pm. A young baby will need a further nap in the afternoon but this is best taken before 5pm to ensure he settles well for the evening.

If you split the feed at 5pm/6pm it will help your son have a slightly larger overall feed. Offer him 2-3ozs at 5pm then let him have a time of kicking before his bath and final feed around 6pm/6.15pm. This can be another 2-3ozs.

Splitting the next feed too can help you give your son a good daily intake, most of it between the hours of 7am and 11pm. Wake him at 10pm and again offer him 2-3ozs. Often small babies can be quite alert and awake at this time. Encourage this by giving him a time to kick and have some one-to-one contact with you until around 11.15pm. Keep him in a lit room with some background music to help him stay awake. Then offer him a fresh feed of 2-3ozs. This slightly longer awake time and bigger feed should help him settle well in the night. Have a look at The Contented Little Baby Book, bottom paragraph on page 138, where this method is explained.

At his age and weight it is not unusual for a baby to be waking twice in the night for a feed. As he begins to take in more milk and get bigger his sleep should gradually stretch out so he is only waking once for a feed. All feeds before 7am are considered night feeds.

If you look at the routine for a baby of one week in The Contented Little Baby Book you will see the framework of the day to work towards. The routines are a guide, as every baby’s needs are different. Your baby may be older but he should not be pushed onto a routine for which he is not ready. If you always start each day at 7am, and put the framework of three naps a day into place, you will find your baby will become more sociable and awake by day. At this age 51/2 hours of sleep during the day – between 7am and 7pm – is what you need to aim for.

It is hard work, especially with two small children, but if you keep trying each day things will begin to get better. You may need to wake your baby from his daytime naps but this will become easier once he is sleeping better in the night.

A small baby should not be left to cry for any length of time. The most common reasons for crying are hunger, wind or tiredness. Controlled crying is never used on a baby under the age of six months. It is used as last resort, usually when there are sleep associations involved.

Have a look at Gina’s Complete Sleep Guide, page 39, which describes crying in detail. This is used when all other factors such as hunger, wind and just not being tired have been eliminated.

There is also a section in this book about settling a baby under the age of six weeks, page 26, which gives some helpful pointers about dealing with a very young baby who cries before settling to sleep.