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Worried my baby is not getting enough sleep - is 'baby led' ok? Or should I try to structure sleeps for him?

(7 Posts)
Mapal Thu 30-Jul-09 13:45:14

Hi there, this is my first ever post on Mumsnet, so hello to you all.

I have a 9 week old baby (my first) and I have NO IDEA what I'm doing!!

Up until about 6 weeks I had been doing everything 'baby led'. I'm breastfeeding on demand (still doing that), and had just been letting the wee one sleep whenever he wanted. However, as the nights were so grim I started looking into various books for advice on getting him to do more of his sleeping at night.

Most books say a baby needs about 15 hours of sleep a day. This has got me really worried as my DS is only getting an average of about 12 hours I think, and yesterday only got 9 which has been the worst day ever. The most he's ever had has been 14 hours and that's just been the once.

I know all babies are different & he may just need less sleep than others, but I do feel DS has not been getting enough sleep as sometimes he is awake for hours at a time and just gets more & more upset. I sometimes think he's desperate for sleep.

Extra spanners in the works are the cluster feeds in the evenings which can go on for hours, and he has also been quite colicky which keeps him awake, and makes him impossible to get back to sleep after a night feed.

He had been doing one 4 or 5 hour stretch at the start of the night, but now I'm lucky to get 3 hours. And then after his initial sleep it's anyone's guess!

I am finding this SO HARD! I'm really worried he'll be damaged psychologically/emotionally in some way if he doesn't get enough we'd like some more too!

So do babies need help to get enough sleep? Or can I rely on the 'baby led' approach?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. THANKS!!

sockonmyhead Thu 30-Jul-09 14:02:28

Do not worry about him not getting enough sleep, I firmly believe he will sort himself out. When he starts to get upset, do you take him some where quiet for a sleep or does he just sleep where ever you are?

Reading this "I'm really worried he'll be damaged psychologically/emotionally in some way" makes me want to give you a great big patronizing mum-of-three hug! He has a mum who obviously loves him, he will be fine! smile

DrCosyTiger Thu 30-Jul-09 14:55:40

Hi Mapal,

Welcome to the first time mum "I have no flippin' idea what I am doing" club! My DD is 4.5 months now and I still have this feeling most of the time. What I would say though (and I know it's easy to say) is try not to worry too much. Your LO will be fine. And it should get easier as the weeks go by. I was in a very similar position to you at 9 weeks. LO was very reluctant to sleep in the day and was waking up at all sorts of random times in the night. She got nowhere near 15 hours sleep. She was also cluster feeding in the evening and when she wasn't feeding screamed for what seemed like hours on end, getting more and more over tired. But things did eventually improve. There was a real chance for the better around 3 months. She now has a fairly predictable habit of two long naps during the day and usually sleeps for a good stretch during the night too (although unfortunately not always). The best book we read was Dr Marc Weissbluth, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. While he can be a bit of a CC advocate (only as an option - he's not pushing it) what he says about the way babies' sleep habits develop over time made so much sense and reassured me our DD was normal and that things would probably improve with time.

What helped me a little bit at your stage was (a) not under-estimating how much food they need - I think usually when DD cried she was genuinely hungry and (b) trying to make sure she got good sleep in the daytime any way I could. For me this meant taking her out for endless walks in the pram. Doing this seemed to make her night time sleep better - odd I know as you think if they sleep too much in the day they won't sleep at night, but this wasn't my experience.

I don't think there's any magic answers I'm afraid. Being a parent is just very difficult, especially when you are sleep deprived - you're not alone in finding this. Try and hang on in there, do what you can to survive and get as much sleep as you can yourself, by sleeping in the daytime if necessary, or by getting your DP (or others) to help out.

WhatFreshHellIsThis Thu 30-Jul-09 15:08:10

Don't worry Mapal, I'm on DS2 who is now 4 months, and even though I'd already had a child I still worried at about your stage that DS2 would never sort himself out! Your DS is still very little and is still settling down to life outside the womb, and colic can really play havoc with a baby's sleep patterns.

My strongest possible advice at this point is to go with the flow, if he wants to feed all evening then feed him, and if he needs cuddling because he's upset and colicky, then cuddle him. The only thing you can do to influence it is make sure he has the opportunity to sleep, i.e make sure home is relatively peaceful, don't have the TV up too loud or music too loud, and give him a cosy comfy place to sleep. Some babies like quiet, some like to sleep in the middle of the lounge where they can hear everything going on around them, so experiment to see what works best.

And if he yawns, then don't let well meaning relatives keep playing with him, but put him down for a sleep soon after that first yawn, or cuddle him to sleep. Even if he's having tiny catnaps throughout the day, it will stop him getting overtired.

He will just settle down without you needing to do much more than this, honestly - it seems like it will never change and then suddenly you'll find he's going to bed at 7pm for a long stretch, and you won't be able to remember when it started happening.

Take courage, it's not easy but it sounds like you're doing brilliantly smile

Mapal Thu 30-Jul-09 18:16:25

Hi again, thanks so much all of you for taking the time to reply & for the encouragement, it feels so much better just knowing that there are others who understand!!

Up until now I had been letting him nap in the lounge with me - TV off & low noise levels, but obviously not as quiet as the bedroom. So I will see if he will sleep better somewhere else. He does always fall asleep if I take him out in his pram so I have used this tactic a few times!

I am going to go with the flo as much as poss think - thanks, nice to hear this advice as that's what I want to do really, but had been considering a Gina Ford style routine......but I just don't think that would work for me, I'm out & about too often.

Oh, I just can't wait to get more regular sleep, this is so hard. I knew it would be hard but you just don't realise until you're living it do you?...............I'm a total cliche!! I don't want to wish away these special times either though - he'll never be this small again.

Thanks again, here's hoping.

ches Fri 31-Jul-09 03:31:56

9 weeks is a fairly classic age for a growth spurt, hence more night waking. If he's colicy (huge sympathies) you might talk to your HV about things you can give to ease the colic. E.g. if it's caused by gas, some colic drops containing simethicone are safe for newborns, even at every feed. (The simethicone is not absorbed, it merely acts as a surfactant on the gas.) It could also be caused by an intolerance to something you're eating, usually dairy, and cutting it out for 2 weeks can show an improvement.

DrCosyTiger Fri 31-Jul-09 09:02:50

Hi again Mapal, I would second that. Using Infacol helped a bit with my DD I think. And I know it doesn't help when people say this but it will get better if you can just hang on in there. Totally think you're doing right thing in not trying to impose routine at this stage. Me and 4.5 month DD have kind of fallen into one now - of sorts - but there's no way I could have imposed it before she was ready. You have my total sympathy, I know from experience exactly how hard it is for you just now.

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