Sleeping FAQ: 0-8 weeks – Daytime Sleep

How can I get my 6 week old son more settled and content in the daytime?

I used the Contented Baby routines for our first son and within 3 days he was within the routine – it was brilliant.

I have now been trying to get out second son into a routine for over two weeks and it is being a nightmare. A typical day is as follows:

My son of six weeks will wake in the night anywhere between 3.30am and 6.30am – the time he wakes is not related to either the amount of feed he takes or what time he goes down after his 10.30pm feed. I only give him a maximum of 2 ounces and then settle him back down to sleep – he generally settles back down quite well. I wake him at 6.50am and give him his feed but he quickly loses interest and rarely takes more than 4 ounces. The feed finishes at about 7.40am.

My son will then sit in his chair for about 20 minutes and look relatively content and alert. After a maximum of 20 minutes he will then start to cry and then to scream. If I give him a dummy, he will immediately fall asleep (this is despite the fact that we have been very careful not to let him have his dummy in his cot or to fall asleep with his dummy). If I remove his dummy just before he falls asleep, he will scream again. If I do not return the dummy, he can scream for up to an hour. If I do return the dummy, the cycle starts again. Rocking him in his chair does not settle him and even rocking him myself only brings temporary and imperfect relief – the minute he goes back in his chair, the screaming begins again. When he falls soundly asleep, he is impossible to wake.

At 9am it is then very difficult to settle him and the day degenerates from then on. Waking times are spent with an initial 30 minutes of feeding and then only up to a maximum of 10 or 20 minutes play before the screaming begins.

I have used Infacol and gripe water in case he has either reflux or wind. Neither had any effect.

I have taken my son to the doctor who was very helpful and has prescribed Baby Gaviscon in case Oliver has reflux (although she did not think this was the case). She said she was happy to see him again if the Baby Gaviscon did not work (which it hasn’t) and she would try other things (e.g. seeing if he has a urine infection) but she didn’t see that there was any physical reason for his behavior – he is an extremely healthy baby and is putting on the right amount of weight. She thought he may just be a difficult baby.

I have also taken my son to a chiropractor who carried out an hour and a half physical examination and came to the same conclusion as the doctor, that he is an exceptionally healthy baby and there is no physical reason for his screaming. Again, he thought my son may just be a difficult baby and that he would eventually grow out of it.

I am now reaching the end of my tether. Although my son sleeps quite well during the night, I am constantly on tenterhooks as to whether he will start screaming and how I will placate him if he does. Listening to your baby scream practically constantly during his waking hours is extremely upsetting and it is beginning to really take its toll on me. It also cannot be good for my baby to have such unhappy waking hours.

My son feeds at 5.30am 1.5ozs, 7am 5ozs, 10.30am 4ozs, 2.30pm 4ozs, 5.15pm 4ozs, 6.30pm 1.5ozs, and 10.30pm 3.5ozs. He weighs 10lbs.

He naps at 7.30-10am, 11.30-12 midday, 1.30-2.30pm, and 4.50-5.30pm. He is settled by 7pm.

Babies have different sleep needs. It would appear from your description that your son may be screaming because he is tired. It is not unusual for a baby of this age to only be able to stay up for and hour and a half before needing to sleep. Every baby is an individual character and whilst some may just doze off in their chair when tired, others become very upset if the “window “of tiredness is missed and they are not tucked up in their cots. The more overtired they become the more they fight sleep.

It is not easy settling a second baby into a routine which takes into account all his needs as well as caring for your first child. If your first son is still quite young himself it can be a problem trying to meet two sets of needs. Have a look at Gina’s Routine for babies and toddlers to see how you could help yourself in the day. You might also look at Structure without Stress which explains how to adapt the routines for your own individual child.

Hunger could also be causing your son a problem and it may be worth beginning to split his feeds a little, to see if he can slightly increase his daily total. Although he may not have full-blown reflux he may be a baby who does better having his feed in two parts, with a break in between.  Many babies of this age do prefer to be fed this way.

When he is woken at 7am offer him 2-3ozs and then give him a break. Let him sit in his chair for 15 minutes, perhaps whilst you and your other son get dressed, and then offer him his feed again. He may well be interested in taking a little more than his normal 4ozs by this method.

By 8.10/8.15am he may well be getting tired. Don’t wait until he starts screaming; begin his settling time earlier to prevent this. Give him some time to wind down, by holding him and letting him calm himself, before putting him down for his nap. He may need 15-20mins of this quieter time in order to relax gradually into sleep. He may still like to be swaddled for his naps as this will help him feel secure. If it is not easy to keep taking up to his room, settle him in his pram in a quiet corner of the house. You may need to place a blanket over the top to give him a really dark sleeping space.

If your son is asleep by 8.30am and doesn’t wake around 9.15am then let him sleep to about 9.45am before waking him. If he does wake after 45minutes, then you will have to fit in another cat nap after his feed at 10am to help him through to his lunchtime nap. See page 136 of the Contented Little Baby book to see how this works.

Offer him the first part of his feed at 10.15am then give him another 15- 20 minute break before finishing the feed. This should take to him to about 11am. Encourage him to have a short time of kicking on his play mat until 11.15/11.20am then begin to wind him down for his next nap. Again, if possible, take him to a quiet room and hold him until he is calm and ready to sleep. This nap ideally should be taken on most days in his cot in a darkened room. As he will have had his feed split, and therefore taken slightly more, he should go down happily and sleep for about two or more hours. From your notes it would seem that this longer nap has not been happening. Hunger is often the reason why the lunchtime nap goes wrong. You may need to offer him a small top-up bottle before he goes down to sleep, to help him get through to 2pm.

Follow the same method for feeding your son at 2pm/2.30pm and then try to get out in the afternoon. Being in his pram will help your son have one or two catnaps or maybe one longer sleep to help him be refreshed for his bottle, bath and bedtime routine.

Your son may well be ready for his bed before 7pm, especially if he naps before 5pm rather than after it. If you feel you are keeping him up too long and the result will be him fighting sleep, then put him down earlier.

As your son grows he will become more interested in his surroundings. At his present stage of development his eyesight is still quite blurry and restricted. Once this is more refined, you may find that your son is more interested in what goes on around him and is able to remain happy whilst awake. You may also have noticed already that your new son is a different character from your first born. He may be a child who needs more reassurance and an adult who can anticipate most of his needs will prevent a lot of frustration and upset as he grows.