Establishing a healthy sleep/nap routine for a 12 week old(37 Posts)
My DS is now 12 weeks old. He's always slept really well at night, a few weeks ago we did have a wonderful period of him sleeping 12 hours. He would do a long 8-10 hour sleep and then wake for a feed and would then go back down for a further 2-4 hours. This was short lived, and he does still sleep well, but he now tends to do 6-8 hours and then he will do a further 1 or 2 1 hour sleeps. Overall, not too bad for nighttime. We do feed him to sleep though - my partner gives him an expressed bottle before bed and there is a lot of use of white noise, and I do worry about the long term use of that. But for now I'm just going with it.
Where he isn't so great is daytime naps. There's some days where I cannot get him to nap whatsoever, and on those days he's obviously very cranky by the end of the day and just wants to feed and feed and feed. When he feeds he does often fall asleep at the breast, but will wake within 5 minutes. The ways in which I get him to nap vary - they work some days and not on other days. The times also vary because it can often take a long time to make a nap happen:
- I take him for a stroll in the pram along a busy road, this can take up to 40 minutes of whinging, but eventually the noise of the cars can send him off. He does also have white noise in the pram too on an old phone I have. This is where he will do his longest sleeps, but it does involve me walking with him for over an hour sometimes, and then he will often sleep so deeply that he will stay asleep when I'm home.
- in the car seat, but we live in London and don't drive anywhere, and I have to be in the back with him or he cries.
- I feed him until he's asleep, and then rock him for about 20 minutes and then I can sometimes put him in a cot, but sometimes he wakes straight away.
I read mixed things about napping - some people say to just keep doing anything you can to get them to nap, but others encourage self settling. But I genuinely cannot imagine a time where I'm able to put him into cot drowsy but awake and for him to actually go to sleep.
What is the key to getting them to self settle? Does anyone have any experience of a similar baby who then managed to get a good nap routine, and what did you do? Are there any good books - I know he's too young for controlled crying at this point.
I have just posted pretty much the same thing! Have an 11 week old who wouldnt sleep in the day... however he's managed to drift off in the sling this morning so I'm stood swaying in front of the tv for fear of any change waking him!
He always used to have a good sleep in his pram but decided this week he hates it and sends him into a huge meltdown... he seems very interested in looking at stuff so not sure if he's having problems blocking everything out to sleep?
Yeah, my son is the same, so I started covering the pram so he can't see out. It sometimes helps to keep him asleep.
My DP says that I shouldn't worry about a nap routine, but that's easy for him to say. If I am here on my own and I'm not going out, the day just becomes more and more insufferable as my DS gets more and more cranky. Then he just feeds and feeds, and it makes me really resent breastfeeding.
Everywhere seems to advise just putting a baby drowsy but awake in a cot, but that would never ever work at the moment. He just cries, and I don't see a point where I'd get it to work. And I also don't see friends just magically putting their babies in the cot and them going to sleep.
Today has just been awful. I managed to get him to have a 1 hour nap at 9.30 this morning, where I spent half an hour of that rocking him, and then he went down for half an hour in the cot. Then I tried to take him out in the pram and he just cried and cried, so I came home, fed him and tried again and he slept for 15 minutes. That process took 4 hours just to get a 15 minute nap.
Drowsy but awake doesn't work with bf babies in my experience! I'm fact neither do routines in general until they are much older. The best advice I had was to get out and about in the fresh air with a sling and if they are tired they will drift off. A 12 week old has no capacity to learn or remember so you just can't teach the ability to self sooth. Believe me I tried! It just made my life so stressful and looking back I wish I had just ditched the pressure to get into a routine as my mental health would have been so much better.
Having said all that my dd suddenly found her own routine with naps twice a day at about six months and that was quite nice. Then it all changed again about 11 months.
So my point is just relax about it if you can, get a sling and they will naturally start getting more predictable as they mature. Incidentally my bf baby started sleeping through at 12 months but has only just learned to self settle at 15 months so it is not the holy grail everyone thinks.
I would definitely suggest getting a sling- it's the only way ds will sleep now. We got the sling last week and I'm not sure if using it has made him only want to sleep that way or if we got it just in time for this weird phase.
He hates it to start, I think because he can't see out of it, but after crying a whining for a few minutes he's normally asleep. It's not the best way to spend the day as I find I can't really do much and don't think he sleeps that deeply but at least he's not getting overtired and upset.
I'm still trying out his pram everyday but so far this week each walk has ended up in a meltdown until I pick him up.
I think babies are just fickle!
In my experience you need to establish the habit of quality and quantity sleeping first. So get baby used to having lots of deep sleep, however that happens.
So I up until naps extend (about 6 months old) I'd do naps in a way that allows baby to fall asleep easily, stay asleep as long as possible, be resettled as often as possible and ensure naps are very frequent.
To do this Id go for bouncy chair daytime naps with a dummy. Foot bounce to sleep, reinserting dummy as needed. Gentle foot bounce at any stirring to keep baby asleep. Dummy reinsetion and bounce when beginning to wake to try and resettle. Then limit awake time between one nap and the next to as short as possible - about 40 ish minutes at 12 weeks old.
Lots of sleep
As often as possible
For as long as possible
Anyhow you can make that happen
Once baby has good sleep habits in terms of quality and quantity of sleep, learning to settle independantly is much easier.
Once daytime naps grow from the usual 20-40 mins of the young baby and start lengthening to over 90 minutes and spacing out more (usually over 6 months), That's when I'd start moving to cot naps. Little point in cot naps while settling is difficult, resetting is often required and naps are naturally short anyway.
I forgot about the bit about routine. A healthy baby-led routine at this age would be repeated cycles. You make the cycke length suit your baby but I would be doing cycles of 90-120 minutes at 12 weeks old:
● Wake - note the time
● Full feed
● Happy/awake time - limit total time awake to avoid over tiredness. I'd say 30-60 minutes at this age. It will lengthen naturally as naps lengthen
● Extra feed (breastfeed or finish bottle from full feed) to help sleep and ensure belly is full.
● Settle to sleep (include this time in awake time, so reduce happy/awake time if settling to sleep takes longer)
● Sleep - expect 30-45 minute naps at this age. They will naturally lengthen with age.
Then baby wakes and you start again at the beginning of the cycle.
So every hour and a half ish you just keep repeating the same patterns over and over again all day every day.
Thanks FATE, I understand I need to get him to sleep more, but it's how to get him to sleep that is killing me. As I've said, I have a few ways, but these do not always work, and every day it feels like a battle. He doesn't take a dummy - he gags and screams, and I've tried a sling in the house and he screamed also, I think if I used the sling I'd have to be going somewhere, and to be honest, I'd rather use the pram for that, because currently all the options I'm using to get him to sleep are just exhausting me as they require me to either be walking with him, or rocking him. But I will try to give the sling another go in the house.
And as I say, settling him to sleep for 15 minutes yesterday took over 4 hours. So limiting his awake/happy time and reducing it to include the settling period would be exhausting, he would never play and I would be mentally unwell. He is such a happy boy and so inquisitive when he's not cranky and overtired, and I believe this is why naps are such a struggle. He would much rather be awake learning new things.
You sound like you are getting yourself stressed by naps. The book that changed my whole outlook was written by a GP and infant crying researcher called Pam Douglas - the discontented baby book. It was so refreshing to read her scientific breakdown of baby sleep needs. Some babies need half the amount of sleep as others she says. That opened my eyes as if you have one of those babies who needs less sleep you will only send yourself and your baby mad trying to enforce routines and sleep which you're baby is just not biologically programmed to have. I have a lot of time for trying to get some kind of routine later on but 12 weeks is very early.
I would put the sling under the pram and if he cries you have it as an option. Pam Douglas talks a lot about sensory stimulatiin and being outdoors as it tires them out and helps their body clock adjust to night and day. Plus it is better for the mum's mental health than to be tethered to a strict routine indoors.
I gave up trying at 5 months with my routine resisting baby and just had sling/buggy naps for a while or let her fall asleep while feeding. I wish I'd done it earlier. Like I said she then found a natural routine a couple of months later.
Feeding to sleep, especially if you are breastfeeding is not only fine and ok, it's also natural and normal.
OP - sucking really is the most soothing thing for a baby, with rhythmic movement a close second. With she feed to sleep? If not, sometimes a dummy takes a fair amount of persistence until baby "gets" what to do with a dummy. It is so worth it for independant sleeping.
Any sleep. Any how is key when in an over tired cycle.
Don't worry about how baby gets to sleep. Sleeping on you is fine, Or cosleeping for naps. The stress comes from worrying how baby gets to sleep, drop that worry.
I really vividly remember the stress of naps during mat leave with my first. As others have said, it doesn't really matter how your baby gets to sleep at this age - if you can get him to sleep in some way that doesn't drive you mad, do it. I would plan trips out / meet ups with friends / baby groups, to take your mind off it. Yes your baby might sleep through the baby group but that's ok, they're sleeping and you can have a tea!
For what it's worth I had a daughter who would only sleep in our arms for ages. I eventually got her to start sleeping when lying in the crook of my arm on our bed. When she was a little older, I could transfer her to her cot (I think about 8mo). Then at about 12m I managed to get her to settle in her cot bysitting next to her and calming her. Now at 18m I can put her in her cot for naps and she's mostly asleep within 5mins. My point is that if you want to, you will get there, but you have loads of time to do it. Just because he isn't sleeping independently now doesn't mean he never will. Things will change so much over the next year. It's hard to imagine! All the best.
Dd was like this. Great at night but over tired by mid morning and eventually wouldn't even nap in the car or pushchair, only when feed I g and only for a few minutes at a time.
I tried so many things! What eventually worked for us was
- breastfeeding to sleeping cuddling her in my bed, and just holding her through the whole nap
- feeding her and then holding a dummy in her mouth whilst cuddling her to sleep
- just the dummy, a cuddle, and slowly moving away once asleep
- lieing next to her but not touching, and just giving her a dummy
This all took about 2 months. At 6 months we moved her into her own room and dh cracked naps in her cot over a weekend. Within a week she was sleeping an hour in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon. It's like something just clicked and suddenly she could nap!
Try not to worry too much. It's exhausting dealing with an over tired baby without adding all that worry. Work out the best way to get him to sleep, by whatever means possible, and stick with that for a bit. You can gradually change how and where that happens later.
So how did you get your babies to take a dummy? I have bought around 8 different types and he gags and screams on all. I just tried to feed him until drowsy and then swapped in a dummy and he just gagged and started thrashing his body around. I'd love him to take a dummy I really would and I do regularly try
Basically he will feed to sleep in the day and then he will let go of the nipple, but he will then wake 5 minutes later (or less). The only way I can then keep him asleep in that scenario is if I stand up and rock him for about half an hour, which obviously isn't ideal and not feasible forever
That does sound exhausting.
It won't be forever. I would do whatever you can to help him nap now - he won't always only nap for 5mins. This is a phase and it will pass.
which obviously isn't ideal and not feasible forever
It won't be forever, so it not being feasible forever isn't relevant at this point. You just need baby to get used to getting plenty of sleep, however that happens.
Rocking to sleep can give achy arms which is why I preferred the bouncy chair. Park myself on sofa, bouncy chair at my feet, foot bouncing and reinserting dummy as needed.
but he will then wake 5 minutes later (or less)
This would suggest over tiredness. Good sleep promotes better sleep. So a baby getting lots of sleep is easier to get to sleep, sleeps more deeply so wakes less frequently and so sleeps for longer.
A baby whos in an over-tiredness cycle is harder to get to sleep, is a light sleeper so will wake at the slightest thing so sleeoa for less time. It ends up spiralling into worse quality sleep.
The good news is you can get out of over tiredness cycles. The key is "Any sleep. Anyhow." Just get baby sleeping as much as possible however that happens. A reasonable approximation at this age would be:
30-60 minutes awake
20-40 minutes sleep
Repeated from 7am ish to 11pm ish.
So a baby spending 4 hours solidly awake (as mentioned earlier) and having no sleep at all during that time would be well into the realms of utter exhaustion on the baby's part. But if baby had a few 5 or 10 minute powernaps in those 4 hours then while that isn't much sleep, it is at least some semilence of sleeping cycles.
Thanks for the advice. I'm going to aim to get him to do more frequent shorter naps - if he does nap he can sometimes do very long 2.5 hour naps towards the middle of the day. He would do this in the pram, and I'd usually have to walk for over an hour to get a lengthy nap like this, then I'd be able to go home and he would sleep and wake naturally.
But the only method with which I can reliably get shorter naps would be rocking him, which does really hurt my arms, but it is the only method I've found that works. I tried dummies and the sling again today and neither worked. I have two bouncy chairs and he has never once fallen asleep in them. I did buy a swing which he did nap in a couple of times but then screamed for around 30 minutes every time I tried it after that, so I sent the swing back as it was too big to keep without getting much use.
If anyone does have a similar baby to mine - one who won't take a dummy, and has any methods they have used indoors that would be amazing. As winter approaches I really can't face having to go out with the pram quite so much. Though I don't imagine there are many more options that haven't been mentioned.
Have you tried swaddling? You are in the outer limits of introducing a swaddle safely (nhs recommend if you are going to use a swaddle you should have started using it under 3 months old).
I found having it tight around the arms and shoulders recreates that enclosed, squeezed feeling of being in the womb. A cot sheet cut in half along the short edge (or single bed sheet cut into quaters) works fine as a swaddle, no need to buy anything especially for it.
Also worth mentioning feeding. Calorific need will have just shot up for baby. Make absolutely sure baby isn't hungry or he will struggle to sleep.
I swaddled him for the first couple of days of his life, but since then it's never really worked. He's always managed to wriggle free. We were given one of the zip up ones and he didn't like it.
And I'm pretty sure he's not hungry. When he's over tired all he does is feed, so for the last few days he's been feeding between 4 and 5 hours a day.
If you feed in a darkened room lying on your side for naps would he drift off. I had a dummy refusing DS who would feed to sleep in the day if we both were lying in my bed and I fed in my side. Has he been checked for silent reflux? Babies who are very hard to settle can often be in pain.
My dummy refusing dd slept for naps next to me in the bed after a lying down breastfeed. It meant I had to lie there and spend the time in my phone as I was paranoid about her waking up and rolling off.
I do sometimes feed him like this to give myself a rest, but he only really dozes as he feeds. Again, as soon as he has finished feeding he wakes 5 minutes later. He does actually take ranitidine for suspected silent reflux, but our doctor has asked us to start weaning him off that over the next two weeks to see how he is without it.
He's pretty much good as gold at going down at night though, and during night feeds. There's only been a handful of times where he's not gone down straight away (weirdly tonight is one of those times), but we have a really set routine that we've had virtually since day 1 - he has a bath at 8.30pm, then I take him to our bedroom where the room is very dark (blackout blinds), there's just a small light from a light projector, lots of white noise, then I breast feed him until he is calm and then my partner takes over and tops him up with an expressed bottle so I can go and have a shower.
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