Sleeping FAQ: 4-6 months – Daytime Sleep

17 week old Joe’s daytime sleep is very poor – he cannot settle for more than 45 mins

My son Joe is 17 weeks old and has problems sleeping. I could not get him to sleep from day one. He would be awake for hours then eventually drop off from sheer exhaustion then be impossible to wake up for a feed. He fed little and often and I was informed he had colic as he cried all the time. I later discovered he had a lactose intolerance which is now resolving itself.
I bought your book when Joe was about 4 weeks old but it took weeks before I managed any sort of routine. From about 7 weeks he went to sleep at about 7pm and would not wake at 10.30pm for a feed. He was totally exhausted as he was having no sleep in the day. I felt this was an improvement though. He slept through to 5am then he would have a feed and go straight back to sleep until 7.45am, when he would need a top-up. By having the room blacked out I eventually got him to sleep with the aid of his dummy during the day but he would wake after 45 minutes.
For the last 4 weeks I have woke him at 10pm for a feed where he takes about 3oz and now sleeps through to about 6.30am, sometimes waking at 5am and cooing for about an hour before he will go back to sleep. The main problem his is daytime sleep: he will have about 2 or 3 daytime naps of 45 minutes at about 8.45am, 11.30am and 1.45pm, sometimes at 3.15pm, though the last week he is only having 2 naps. I am feeding exactly to the routine in your book for a 4 -5 month old although some mornings he will only have about 5oz. I am currently weaning, feeding solids at the 11am feed and at 5.40pm.
No matter what I do he cannot seem to settle himself after coming into light sleep after 45 minutes. I find it very difficult to keep him awake in the mornings as he is still exhausted because he is often awake for an hour at 5am. When I put him down at midday he wakes after 45 minutes. I have tried controlled crying for about a week and had no change. I then decided not to go in at all – he would go back to sleep after about 45 minutes of screaming, then do the same again but I would have to get him up for his feed at 2.30pm. I tried this for about 5 days with no change.
I have now ended up putting him down when I can for 45 minutes at a time but I have got to constantly entertain him the rest of his wakeful day and he is very restless and tired. The poor boy looks so exhausted and has bigger bags under his eyes than me. I am desperate to get him to sleep longer than 45 minutes at a time.
Joe had a traumatic birth, born by emergency Caesarian after 80 hours labour. He weighed 6lb10 oz, gained weight quickly in the early days and now weighs approximately 14lb 10oz. I formula feed him with Farleys second. I settle him to sleep with a dummy but am currently trying to get rid of this as he cries for it when he drops it. For the last 10 days he has not gone to sleep on his dummy.
I really hope you can help with this not just for me but for my beautiful, grumpy, tired boy.
Thank you with anticipation.

Unfortunately there is no “magic” answer to your problem. I wish there was but some babies do have a problem with stirring from a light sleep and being unable to settle again. Once your son is well established on solids you may begin to notice an improvement. Also when he begins to crawl and be more active you may notice a difference.

But meanwhile I suggest you keep trying at lunchtime to give him a longer sleep. Make sure he is has enough wind-down time with you in his room, before settling him to sleep. As soon as you are aware that he is stirring from his 45 minutes of sleep go into his room and try to resettle him before he wakes too much. I often found that the firm pressure of a hand on the tummy, coupled with a few minutes stroking on the head will stop the baby from thrashing around too much and waking himself further. Does Joe wear a sleeping bag? Babies of this age can still have quite a strong Moro (startle) reflex and need to be tucked in securely with a sheet or lightweight blanket over a 0.5 tog bag, which will prevent them from jerking so much. If you can keep him in “sleep mode”, by keeping everything low-key, dark and quiet, even though you are having to stay with him you may find he is more able to cope in the afternoons as he is more rested.

If there is no sign of improvement after trying this consistently for several days try taking him out in his pram at his sleeping time. Although you obviously don’t want to end up with a baby who needs to be pushed to sleep, walking with the pram for an hour can sometimes help a baby settle into a deeper sleep. This can help him get into a better routine in the day and gradually you can try to get him to sleep for longer in the day at home in his cot. Again, you will need to find out what is best for you. Some babies will settle happily to sleep in their prams after 10 minutes of walking and remain so even when the pram is stopped. Some need more pushing to keep them asleep, so they go past the 45-minute-cycle and settle back into a deeper sleep.

Gina has just written a lengthy piece about The Lunchtime Nap on the website. Have a look as it gives you a checklist and then talks you through the options available as you try to get this part of the routine into place.

I would also suggest that you visit a cranial osteopath. Your son (and you) experienced a traumatic birth. The effects on your son may not be visible to you but could well be seen by someone who specialises in treating babies for this kind of problem.