Are You Making these Baby Sleep Mistakes?

November 2, 2011 |  by  |  0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, featured, naps, new mom, newborn
Are You Making these Baby Sleep Mistakes?

Giving birth is a big deal. Even an easy birth leaves most Moms feeling like wet cat food. Your house is probably full of meddling relatives and your living room is awash in baby blankets and burp cloths. Baby care and feeding is significantly less straight-forward than it seemed in that New Baby class you took a few months ago. And you are so fatigued that you get winded opening the fridge.

Your plate is probably pretty full so I don’t want to send you into panic mode about newborn baby sleep (hint: newborn=0-3 months), but here are some common potholes for babies you want to avoid. Actually everything here applies to babies from birth to 6 months.

10 Common Newborn Baby Sleep Mistakes

01

Keeping Baby Awake Too Long

Most new parents are confused by how long their newborn baby should be awake because so many believe that they’ll simply fall asleep when they need sleep (some will, most won’t). Truthfully most newborn babies can only stay awake about an hour. For the first few weeks your newborn baby may only be able to stay wake for 30-40 minutes. Even if your baby SEEMS content to stay awake for longer periods of time it is in your and your baby’s best interest to help her sleep more frequently. Overtired babies cry more and sleep poorly at night so managing sleep throughout the day is a great way to make the first few months a happier time for everybody.

02

Keeping Baby Awake During the Day

Most newborns are surprisingly awake at night. Horrifyingly this “playtime” often happens between 1:00 am – 4:00 am when no civilized parent has any interest in playing (and the TV selection is limited to infomercials and Who’s the Boss). It is a commonly held myth that keeping baby awake during the day will solve this problem (this is the “tire them out so they sleep better” theory). This is patently untrue. Keeping baby awake during the day will simply make baby more tired and potentially exacerbate your night party problem. What will fix it?

Time.

When baby is up at night keep the lights dim and activity to a minimum. No loud, blinky, bouncy toys. Most babies will organically sort out this day-night sleep reversal by ~6 weeks of age.

03

Trying to “Fix” Baby’s Sleep

I love it when families take their children’s sleep seriously. I really do. However while there are many things about newborn sleep that parent my not love (awake at night, short naps, frequent feedings, etc.) part of being the parent of a newborn is accepting that for now, baby is driving the sleep bus. Trying to force a schedule, getting frustrated with cat naps, feeling anxious about how much your baby sleeps, etc. are all loosing strategies when you have a newborn. Which leads me to…

04

Forcing the Crib

About 0% of newborn babies will sleep happily in a crib. I know you just spent $1000 on that delightful Pottery Barn crib and can’t wait to see your little peanut sleeping in it. But you and your peanut will be much happier and will get a lot more sleep if you accept that most babies aren’t sleeping in the crib until sometime between 2-6 months of age (and sometimes later). For a newborn, the crib is huge and flat which is pretty much the opposite of what they are used to. Where do they sleep? In co-sleepers, with Mom, in car seats, or my personal recommendation, in a swing.

05

Letting Baby Cry it Out

Listen tired peeps, there are definitely times and circumstances where CIO is the answer. This is not one of those times.

06

Worrying About Sleeping Through the Night

Your newborn baby might be sleeping through the night at 8 weeks. Or it may be 8 months. You may get a lucky night where she sleeps all night and then be horrified when it never happens again. I know how tired you are. For a year and a half I would fantasize about leaving my baby home with my husband so I could go to a hotel and sleep blissfully uninterrupted for AS. LONG. AS. I. WANTED. Newborn sleep bounces around like an angry snake. You’ll have hideous nights. Wonderful nights. And you’ll never know what you’re going to get. Don’t worry about it. It won’t be like this forever.

07

Not Accepting Help

I see MANY couples who have convinced themselves that there is only one parent who has the skills to care for baby during the night. This is ridiculousness. If your partner can’t care for baby at night then show them how. Put them through baby boot camp. Whatever you have to do to enable them to take some night parenting duties off your shoulders. If you’re nursing and feel like it HAS to be you, start working on getting baby to take a bottle (it doesn’t get any easier as they get older so best to introduce this now). Let Dad take 1 feeding a night while you get some uninterrupted sleep in the guest room. Don’t allow yourself to be the sole baby zen master in the house.

08

Not Sleeping When Baby Sleeps

After a few weeks you’ll probably notice that there are general times of day when your baby is more likely to sleep in larger chunks. One of the first good chunks to develop is when they go to bed at night (generally after being awake for a longer period of time). So if you aren’t going to bed when your baby does, you’re missing out on the biggest window of uninterrupted sleep you’re likely to get all day. I know the house is a mess, you haven’t showered in a week, and the grass in your yard is so high that your neighbor’s 5 year old got lost in there. Forgetaboutit. Go to bed.

09

Not Using Sleep Aids

Parents will also express their concerns about baby getting “addicted” or becoming “dependent” upon sleep aids (swaddling, white noise, pacifiers, swings, etc.). So their solution is to not use them and thus avoid sending their baby to White Noise Anonymous to deal with their sleep aid addiction. If your baby is under 6 months old, sleep aids are your friend. Embrace them. I promise you, your kid will be out of the swaddle by kindergarten.

10

Comparing Your Baby to THEIR Baby

In every new baby playgroup there is the blessed child who starts sleeping through the night at 4 weeks and takes huge chunky naps during the day. You will look at this well rested, recently showered parent and start to feel like you must have failed in some significant way. You haven’t, they just got lucky. About 33% of babies are “easy” – they are easily soothed, fall asleep easily, sleep longer with less frequent night wakings, etc. It’s just the way of the world. Your baby will get there too. Eventually

If you haven’t already checked it out, Baby Sleep: What is Normal is also a really great resource on how much sleep babies need by age.

So did I miss any? Feel free to share any stumbles you’ve had. I promise you, you aren’t the only one!

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{Photo credit: Emery Co Photo}


70 Comments


  1. The swaddle was the best. I used to try and swaddle them even when they were too big for it because it worked so well. #8 was also a favorite, mainly because breastfeeding sucked and I felt like I was always hanging out with my boobs hanging out. Going to bed with baby just made everything easier.
    Mary the Oinkteller recently posted..Daily Rant: The Morning AfterMy Profile

  2. I agree with just about everything you said here, except the idea of baby sleeping in swings. Swings hard backs are not very forgiving to baby soft heads and most doctors do not reccommend it. It can create or exasperate flat heads
    Annemarie recently posted..It’s Just MeMy Profile

    • Hi Annemarie,
      Thanks for visiting! However I’m afraid I have to respectfully disagree with your concerns about swings. Dr. Karp (I’m a big fan, check me getting inappropriately grabby with him on my About page) is major proponent. Also I had the pleasure of attending an AAP conference a few years ago for a talk on sleep and swings were almost unilaterally supported by the large # of pediatricians there. The local pediatric sleep specialist I consult with (read: bother with stupid questions) is also supportive.

      I checked your lovely blog today and MY you have your hands full. Best of luck with everything!
      Alexis recently posted..The Ultimate Baby Swing Sleep Guide For Swing Hating BabiesMy Profile

    • you can always create a soft cushioning for the babies head.

      my baby loves his swing. i don’t want him sleeping in it all the time however he sleeps most comfortably, quietly, and at a good length of time. so i used his little blankets to cushion underneath him.. wait till he gets fussy for sleep, strap him in and he is out like a light.

      they also say dont let your baby get used to those nipple shields. well i had a difficult delivery which forced by newborn to have 2 full days of bottles before i can breastfeed him. He was super fussy, wouldnt take my nipple for more than a 20secs – 2 minutes and finally i used the shield. the shield allowed him to take him time and become ready when he was ready. the simple solution for me was to always try the real nipple at least once a day while using the shield AND ONE DAY AROUND 8 WEEKS! We are breast feeding champions! He doesnt even want the nipple shield EVER :)) People will have lots of ADVICE, but try things and use what works for YOU BEST!

  3. The only thing that worked out well for my children when nothing seemed to help was to put them into their prams and push-pull them really fast back and forward over a little bump. This often happened inside the house :). Haha
    Anna recently posted..What is so controversial about root canal treatment?My Profile

    • Yes but you must have had rocking biceps from all that pram shuffling. Our “go to” desperation move was a car ride. Before we figured out my youngest had reflux you might have spotted us pulling out of the garage at 3:00 am to drive around the countryside for hours (literally) because nothing else would work.

      Ah….good times ;)
      Alexis recently posted..5 Reasons Your Baby Hates the CribMy Profile

  4. As my wise sister of 4 always said, “Sleep begets sleep.” A child that sleeps during the day will sleep at night. Not so true for adults, but I digress. Also, every child is different but you have to figure out how. My 9yo was a terrible sleeper as an infant and she now has bouts of insomnia. All those nights of wondering what I was doing wrong and maybe she wasn’t wired to be a good sleeper to begin with. Who knows. I am just glad those nights are over.

    • Hey Molly,
      ~2% of kids genuinely have sleep problems so it’s a bummer that you got one. Ever run it by a pediatric sleep specialist? I’m sure she would be excited to spend the night in a lab with all sorts of sensors attached to her head (cue sarcasm) but seriously it may be worth a consult?

      Yep – sleep begets sleep. Another sleep truism? Daylight savings blows.

      Thanks for visiting ;)
      Alexis
      Alexis recently posted..Baby Sleep: What is Normal?My Profile

  5. Our latest challenge (Arthur is 8 weeks old) is that he goes down for a nap around 5-7 and ends up sleeping for his longest period of the night. I think it has something to do with it getting dark between those times so he thinks it’s nighttime. Anyway, I keep reading you shouldn’t wake a baby so I haven’t, but I cant fall asleep at 6pm, nor do I want to, which means I’m missing out on that long sleep. He still sleeps until about 7am overall, but in smaller increments for the rest of the night. Should I wake him so that he goes to bed later?

    • Hi Dominica,
      Arthur is definitely a bit unusual in that he goes to bed early, but I would NOT suggest you wake him up. 7:00 AM is a reasonable baby morning time (many parents are up at 5:00 AM or even 4:30 and are probably desperately jealous of you). Yes he has a long night but for now, that is just how it is. He’s only 8 weeks old, things are changing so rapidly at this age his sleep pattern could be entirely different 2 weeks from now.

      The upshot is that you are missing out on the fussy evening period (most babies are awake and miserable from 5-9 in the evening). The downside is that you can’t logistically pull off bedtime when he goes down. If it were me, I would roll with it. See if your husband can take one of the night waking sessions to give you a longer stretch at a later time. Things will change – by 3 months he’ll probably have moved on to a totally different pattern ;)
      Alexis recently posted..Are You Making these Baby Sleep Mistakes?My Profile

  6. Boy am I glad we’re past all this. Right now, it’s our three year old we’re having troubles with. Suddenly, he’s scared of sleeping in his room alone and wants to sleep in his sleeping bag on our floor (which we put there for when he comes in to our room in the middle of the night, which he’s been doing lately, so he doesn’t get in our bed and wriggle around all night). Sheesh. Exhausting.
    Laura recently posted..I’m A Day Late And A Dollar Short, But Then Again, That’s Nothing New.My Profile

    • You and me both sister. Things were so ugly with my first (reflux does not make for a good first-time-parenting experience) that I swear I still have a little PTSD about it.

      Sorry you’re having a round of “up at night with your preschooler.” It’s a common and generally unpopular game. I hope yours is very short :P
      Alexis recently posted..5 Reasons Your Baby Hates the CribMy Profile

  7. I agree with what you have said here… This what will I be following for nurturing my upcoming baby.. I am 3 months on its way. Thank you for sharing…
    Shalani recently posted..Dating Tips for MenMy Profile

  8. As a side note, and something else to think about with baby sleep; also think about the mattress and pajamas that your baby is sleeping in. There are a lot of new studies that show dangerous chemicals are used to make baby crib mattresses and baby clothing and pajamas. This is especially dangerous with mattresses and pajamas since your baby is exposed to and breathing in these chemicals for long periods of uninterrupted time. This was something that I never considered before doing a little research and shopping around. I think this topic might be just like BPA is to baby bottles and feeding….
    NLS recently posted..How to Choose the Best Formula for BabiesMy Profile

  9. The biggest mistakes I have ever made with my little man was 1) Kept him awake for way too long,2)Overheating him.The number 1 I resolved after reading your post,you saved my sanity and my baby’s sleep!THANK YOU! The number 2 took some time to figure out.I could never understand why my baby would sleep like an angel one day and turn into devil the next and i did everything the same.And then on one very cold day he fell aslep with no fuss whatsoever and slept for 4 hours and woke up all smiles.Next day was hot and humid (was crazy summer in Australia) I did everything the same and he screamed,fussed and when he eventually did fall asleep he slep for miserable 1 hour and woke up hungry for some revenge! Only when I picked him up I realised thet his little head was soaking wet!!! From then on I make sure not to overdress him,I swaddle him in a muslin wrap on hot days and make sure the room is not too hot.He just hates being hot. I sometimes still make a mistake,I’m very paranoid about him being cold,but he lets me know big time.So just make sure your babies are nice and comfortable,I’m not saying that all babies are like mine,but just something to consider,it sure was a big issue with us.

    • Here in Vermont (US) it’s cold for most of the year and like you I have this desperate “THEY’LL BE TOO COLD!” fear that makes me want to wrap up all the kids constantly. Ironically enough it’s MUCH safer for them to be cold then too hot (from a SIDS perspective). So when in doubt, colder is better.

      And muslin wraps are AWESOME – highly recommended! Somehow they work out to be not too hot & not too cold, all at the same time :)
      Alexis recently posted..30 Practical Parenting Tips You Will Never Learn from the MoviesMy Profile

      • but how do you know when your baby is too cold.

        sometimes i swear he wakes up because of the AC. we share a bedroom with our new born..

        when i pick him up in the middle of the night his arms feels chilly..

        we wake up when were too hot or too cold..

        so how do you stabilize there comfort all night.
        he sleeps in a onsie with blankets. he hates being swaddled however once swaddled i do notice some benefits. but even when its cool he tends to sweat as well.. its really confusing

  10. First of all, thank you so much for all of the great tips on your site. They’ve been so helpful!

    I had a question I’d love to get your help with. Our son is almost 4 weeks old and is a fairly good sleeper once we take the time to get him down (especially now that he’s been sleeping in his swing), but our biggest issue is that he wakes up crying for every wet diaper! We’re not sure if it’s the sensation of urinating he doesn’t like or being wet, but he’s peed on us before without seeming like he’s in pain, so I’m pretty certain it’s not an infection. It interrupts almost all of his naps, since we’ll feed him, cuddle a bit, and then spend 20 minutes (at least) trying to put him down only for him to wake up (now overly tired) 30 minutes later. Do you have any advice?

    Another quick question about swing sleeping, I’m concerned that the angle of the swing makes his head tilt too far forward, putting his chin on his chest (and thus increasing the risk of the ever-present SIDS). Any thoughts? Do you recommend buckling the baby in the swing at night? (That seemed more dangerous to me since our little one likes to squirm around. I didn’t want him to get tangled.)

    Thanks again for the wonderful site! Any help would be very much appreciated!

    • Use bigger diapers! Also if this is an issue than cloth diapers are not for you (you didn’t specify but….). Maybe even size 2. Or try overnight diapers which are extra exorbitant.

      BTW – all babies will pee on you. This doesn’t mean anything other than you have a naked baby.

      I would talk to your pediatrician about any swing concerns you have. If you have a new swing (not some old hand me down – old swings are strange) that is fully reclined, I’m not concerned. There is unfortunately no research on swings (which we REALLY need more of) and safety but neither is there major cause for concern. There have been studies that suggest that uber-preemie babies can run into issues with car seats (ex. leaving the hospital with a 5 lb baby) which has caused people to worry about swings having the same issue. But I’ve not found anything that suggests that a modern/new swing is unsafe for a full-term healthy baby.
      Alexis recently posted..The Ferber vs. Weissbluth CIO SmackdownMy Profile

      • Hi Alexis,

        I stumbled into your website today while searching for means to reduce the number of times a baby wakes up in the night. I’ve to admit I was literally laughing and crying while reading this particular post. I’ve a 5 weeks old baby boy and he’s not having difficulty sleeping. The one suffering from serious sleep deprivation is me. But he, like the baby boy of Caitie, doesn’t like wet diapers and will cry when he gets it. We’re using disposable diapers on him and he’s already wearing a bigger diaper. It’s pretty bad during the wee hours of the morning when he wakes up (say) at 2.00am for a feed, then 3.30am because of wet diaper, then 4.30am for the next feed and so on. So you see the numerous times I’ve to wake up to feed and change his diapers. FYI, his diapers are already changed after a feed but I still have to change it again when he pees. Is this normal or is there something I can fix? I’ve also tried to put him on the Gina Ford’s Contented Little Baby routine where the goal is that he’ll only wakes up twice between 7.00pm and 7.00am for feeds. But so far that’s a pipe dream. Even giving him a bigger feed doesn’t seem to prolong the time to 3 hours or longer. Of course, the wet diaper also throws a curve ball at longer sleep time. Is there any way to enable the baby to sleep longer at night or is this something I just have to accept for the time being? Thanks.

        • This is totally anecdotal, but our daughter (now 4.5 months) was very particular about wet diapers until she was about 2.5-3 months old. Now she rarely fusses over a wet diaper. When we change her first thing in the morning, sometimes it’s so saturated it’s softball sized :) We also use the baby dry kind at night (in one size up) and those worked well even in her more sensitive phase.

        • An idea for those babies who hate wet diapers, This is a trick that the cloth diapering people use but should work just as well in a disposable. Place a swatch of fleece (cut to size) between your baby and the diaper (make sure it doesn’t hang out of the diaper in any place). Fleece lets liquid through really well but doesn’t retain it so it will be a dryer layer between your baby and the diaper. Then either toss the fleece or wash it for another use. I say if it means a better nights sleep it will be worth the extra steps! Good luck :)

        • Maria,

          I wouldn’t be so focused on trying to “manage” feeds with a 5 week old (who I know isn’t 5 week old anymore but still) – I’m generally not super supportive of books that try to schedule or “fix” eating habits of babies that young. Which isn’t meant to be unsympathetic because I know how exhausting it is!

          I have no “sensitive to wetness” solutions. I have lots of hints on how to keep babies from leaking and thus waking up but that isn’t your problem.

          Theresa’s idea of using fleece sounds great so I would definitely give it a try!

          Also if you haven’t already, definitely give the night diapers a try. They’re way more absorbent and might suck up enough liquid to make him believe he’s actually dry.

          As far as getting longer windows of sleep at night, my core philosophy at 5 weeks is to:
          1) Do all of this: http://www.troublesometots.com/newborn-baby-sleep-survival-guide/
          2) Feed them when they’re hungry all day long (but especially during the day)
          3) Give them LOTS of soothing – they need it and it will help you get more sleep
          4) Try not to let baby get overtired as tired babies sleep poorly
          5) Get help – this is not a time to be stingy. If you can, get a house cleaner, a postpartum doula, takeout, whatever you can to help support your family because yes the first 6-8 weeks are rough and everybody is going to be tired for a while!
          Alexis recently posted..Why CIO isn’t WorkingMy Profile

          • Thank you all for your suggestions. My baby is almost 3 months old now and thank God he has gotten over the sensitivities to wet diapers. I’m using Pampers and it’s pretty good. Unfortunately we don’t have overnight diapers available here.
            Anyway we’ve put the baby in a rocker (as he doesn’t take to the swing well) and it works pretty well to put him to sleep. But he does get up a couple of times in the wee hours of the morning for feeds. I guess he’s still rather young at this time to sleep through the night.

    • if your baby is a squirmer BUCKLE HIM!

      he can slide out or kick himself to high up where his head can hit the bar behind the swing (the bars are for fisherprice cradle swings)

      i watched my baby at 9 weeks kick himself so high up he was nearly going to fall out from behind the swing!

      be careful and use straps

  11. I love this site, because it’s the only one that isn’t making me feel bad that my two and a half month old can’t fall asleep on her own. Mostly, I can accept that she is a newborn, and that her sleep will be irregular and inconvenient for my sleep, and all of that.

    In the last week, though, her sleep has gotten much worse, and I’m wondering if we need to do something differently. She used to sleep in our arms, in the swing, in our bed, or even in her co-sleeper, for up to four hours, but usually more like 1.5 hours. Lately, though, she is waking up after twenty minutes, even if we’re holding her, rocking her, playing white noise, the whole shebang. She won’t take a pacifier, and she won’t fall asleep in a carrier (we’ve tried Ergo, Moby, and Bjorn, thanks to friends’ loaners). She seems tired all the time, and I’m spending up to 50 minutes bouncing her to get a 20 minute nap. She’s also very heavy–14 pounds or so–so all the bouncing is really getting to me (and my back).

    Any advice?

    • Karen,
      I don’t know exactly what is going on (2.5 months is not a traditional time of a sleep regression or anything). But it does sound like things are unusually rough at a time when things start to get gradually easier. And you’re doing lots of great things (swaddling, rocking, swing, white noise, etc.) and it sounds like they’re not working. So I might start to wonder if there is some underlying issue that is tripping you up?

      The #1 guess would be a diary intolerance which happens to 10% of babies. Could make her just a bit unhappy and muck up sleep. You can read more about that here: http://www.troublesometots.com/what-to-do-about-infant-reflux/

      How are her nights? Does she sleep well during the night but like crap during the day? Reflux is another possibility:
      http://www.troublesometots.com/reflux-101-when-baby-cries-too-much/

      Lots of babies with very mild reflux don’t really show symptoms until they are 2-3 months old.

      I hope I’m not being alarmist. It could totally just be that she is an unusually challenging kid, she’ll outgrow it, and we’ll all have a good laugh about how little sleep you got when she was younger. But most babies respond really well to the trifecta of swaddle, swing, white noise. So if that isn’t getting you anywhere, perhaps it’s time to chat with the pediatrician just to rule some other, benign, issues out?
      Alexis recently posted..Why CIO isn’t WorkingMy Profile

  12. Dear Alexis

    For the second time we need your help and advice.

    Well once upon a time as you said we had a sleeping champion at 10 weeks old

    Now our baby girl is six months old and it seems to us that we are making all the mistakes possible as she no longer sleeps through the night

    She has started eating solids but she is still being breast fed

    We have managed to move her bed time forward to nine o’clock and we still follow the same bedtime routine

    This is bath, baby massage pyjamas and breast feed.

    For the last two months we have thought it was down to a number of different reasons . growth spurt sniffles sore gums tummy aches etc. that she was waking up frequently during the night she would only go back to sleep with a breast feed. She often falls asleep on the breast now during daytime naps as well.

    I place her in her crib after the feed and a max she will sleep is about 3 hours then she will wake roll around and start crying till she is picked up and put back to the breast.

    All night long this continues

    Could you please advise us on what we are doing wrong?
    Could she be addicted to the comfort of the breast?
    Is she hungry?
    Should I keep feeding her whenever she wakes
    Should we give her water instead or an extra bottle of milk before bedtime?

    We look forward to your answer

    Thank you so much

    Monika Grace and tim

  13. Hi! Love your site and thank you for sharing your wonderful articles with us poor sleep deprived new moms!

    Just a quick note on #4, my LO has slept in a crib, firmly swaddled, from the day she was born, and has been a pretty good sleeper, so perhaps 1%?

    PS:Now feel the need to justify why I’m snooping around here – just looking for ways to GET her to sleep without rocking my spine to oblivion ;)

  14. Just came across this site and love it! I just wanted to say to the moms with nit so good sleepers, don’t beat yourself up about it it very well may be just the way that child sleeps. With my new 3 year old I had to do all the tricks to get his to sleep tricking, bouncing, white noise, swaddling, crib toys to look at, and the best if all running the vacuum. We literally ran the vacuum in his bedroom to get him to sleep or if it was a particularly bad night baby in swing mom on couch with finger on the on off button of the vacuum and sleeping with it running right next to my head;) He’s almost 3 and still sleeps horribly. My daughter who is 9.5 weeks old is an amazing sleeper, I swaddle her turn on white noise and put her down completely awake and she’s looks around then falls asleep for 7-8 hours and has been like this for weeks! It amazes more and made me realise they are all since different bad really show their personality early on. My son still high needs and bad sleeper it’s just the way he is hopefully my daughter will stay so calm and laid back its refreshing! I’m honestly up with my 3 yr old more than the baby it’s just not right!I love them both to pieces but boy is it nice for one to be a lot less needy. Basically it may not be your fault you just may have a less than optimal sleeper on your hands. Good luck to all the moms trying to get some sleep!

  15. Hi Alexis,

    So here is our situation. Our ds is almost 12 weeks. He was/is colicky and high needs. Practically from day 1 (or at minimum day 8) he has needed to be held 24 hrs a day. For the first 8 weeks I slept either sitting up in a chair or sitting up in bed with baby in my arms. at about 8 weeks, I found that I could lie him down next to me in bed and he would sleep. So we got the “Snuggle Nest” which lays on your bed and has little walls around it so that you don’t roll on baby. That sort of worked, except that each time he woke up to nurse (EBF), I had to spend an hour making sure he was soundly asleep and wrapped in a thick blanket so that he didn’t notice when I moved him. I know he shouldn’t have a blanket, but it was the only way to get him out of my arms. So I was getting 45 min- 1 hour of sleep at a time for a total of4-5 hrs per night. I couldn’t really sleep during the day because the only way that he would sleep during the day was in the moby wrap and I HAD to be moving. Finally I learned to nurse lying on my side and lately he has been sleeping on my arm next to me. Now, Whenever I try to put him down he fusses and cries and then sleeps crappy the rest of the night and has a rough day following. I can now get a nap out of him during the day in my lap in the rocking chair with several interventions to keep him asleep, sometimes involving long stretches with my boob in his mouth! I would dearly love to get him sleeping in his own space, particularly for naps, but I also don’t want to sacrifice his sleep too much. I have PTSD from the colic, so avoiding getting him over-tired is paramount. Btw, he hates the swing and pacifier, although swaddling SEEMS to help. Any advice?

    • Lisa (or anyone),

      I know it’s been several months since you wrote this – I was just wondering how things worked out for you. This sounds SO FAMILIAR to me, we’re in pretty much the same boat with our baby girl – now 8.5 weeks. She doesn’t necessarily nurse to sleep but she needs to be held to fall asleep and will wake up either upon being placed in crib/ bouncy chair/ bassinet, or within 15 mins max. I’ve tried elevation, swaddling, white noise, patting to sleep, rocking (in a rock and play sleeper), etc., but she refuses to sleep unless we’re holding her. I am doing the sleeping-sitting-up and can get 2-3 hour stretches that way, but it’s definitely not sustainable!

      Any thoughts would be so appreciated, even if it’s just to hear that your little one grew out of this eventually (either on their own, or via sleep training?)

      Michelle

      • Hi Michelle,
        I don’t know if you’ll find this info useful, but it might help. My lo (now almost a year) would only sleep “in arms” at first, too. He slept in a rock and play at night. This was the only thing we could put him in. We reserved it for night for a while but by 10 weeks were using it for naps, too. We had to rock/bounce him to sleep and slide him off our arms to get him in the sleeper. Some nights this was easy and some nights it took hours. Naps were also variable and usually got worse as the day went on. If I held him for a nap, he would sleep great. Around 12 weeks I started rocking the sleeper instead of him. It took a long time of me crouched behind it so he couldn’t see me, muttering to myself that this must be why people sleep train. But it did work and it became easier-less rocking. Around 18-20 weeks he started going to sleep by himself in the sleeper with no rocking. By 6 months he was in the crib at night. At 7 months he was in the crib for naps, too. It was a long road but we got there. My #1 advice is don’t nurse to sleep. It’s the best sleep advice I got.
        I would try rocking the sleeper. Alexis says motion is the easiest sleep crutch to wean off. At night I would lean over the side of the bed and rock it. Sometimes it would work and other times he needed to be picked up. The other option is the swing. I know you said your lo doesn’t like rocking, but you could always try. She might cry in the swing at first b/c it’s new/different, not b/c she doesn’t like motion. The protest might be worth it if it means you can sleep without fear of rolling over!
        Jen

        • Thanks, Jen. It’s good to hear that it does get better. I hold or put my lo in the Moby wrap for naps during the day as well – sometimes I try to put her down, either drowsy or asleep, and she’ll nap for a while but wake up after some minutes, and then cry to be picked up. Most of the time that messes up the nap schedule, because she won’t want to go back to sleep (even when I’m holding her) after that, even if she only slept a few minutes. If I’m holding her, she’ll sleep for 1-2 hrs.

          What you’re suggesting with the Rock and play sounds like a good idea, I think we’ll try that. Unfortunately, my husband travels 4 days a week for work so most of the time it’s just me, which makes it hard for me to experiment with things that are likely to mess up either nap or sleep time (because it just makes it that much worse for me, with no support when it’s bad). My Mother in law is coming for a few weeks though, so maybe that will be a good time for us to try some of these things.

          LO loves sitting in the swing when she’s awake (we have a chair-swing, not one of the newborn saucer type ones – which are you talking about?) but does not like it for sleeping – when she gets sleepy in it she starts to cry, and has never fallen asleep in it. She will fall asleep in her bouncy chair if we’re bouncing her and the vibration is on, but wakes up soon after either motion stops.

          As for nursing, she does fall asleep on the breast but rarely stays asleep after that – usually she’ll stir after a few minutes and then I’ll soothe her to sleep.

          Everyone keeps saying that it gets better… I can’t wait!
          Michelle

          • Hi Michelle,
            We have a saucer swing-the fisher price snugabunny. I’m not sure if the chair swings are good for infant sleeping. I did put LO in the swing around 4 months because I was so tired of rocking him to sleep. He did a “mini-version” of CIO in the swing. He cried for 20 minutes the first nap, 10 the second and then just a few minutes. For about a month, he slept in the swing (motion on) for naps and for going to bed. After the first night feeding, I would put him in the rock and play. He would stay asleep in the rock and play; it was the going to sleep that was hard.
            You can use the varsity swing techniques in the rock and play. I’m not proud to say this but when LO would wake from a nap early, I would sneak into LO’s room, crawl behind the RNP and rock it. It didn’t always work and I would sometimes be rocking for 10-20 minutes. Sometimes I would bring my pillow and lay down. Other times I’d bring my phone.
            Just so you know, my LO lived in 30 minute napland for months and months. I could set a timer to it! It wasn’t until he was closer to 6 months that his naps got longer.
            It sounds like your LO likes motion and that’s why she sleeps so well in the Moby wrap. Maybe rocking the RNP or trying a swing for infants will help her.
            Good Luck!

  16. My 9 day old Baby sleeps all day. She wakes up for 30/ 40 mins is this normal? She also sleeps all night wondering should I wake her?

  17. Accept the help!!!! Best. Advice. EVER.

    My wife and I teamed on our son for the first 2.5 months. She had 2.5 months of vacation saved and I quit one job for another and took a few months off in between.
    At night we would trade off taking care of him. Every once in awhile it would take a long time to get him to get back to sleep and the person rocking/feeding/changing him would get upset. When the other came in to relieve her or I from duty, the upset person wouldn’t want to give up. “I almost have him.” Or “I got him.” were the responses to the help. Sometimes you just don’t want to quit; maybe you feel like a failure, but it is best for the both of you.
    My mother came and took care of my son for 2 nights. My wife and I slept for 8+ hours each night. Just that little help made us feel so much better. The feeling of doom or “this is never going to end” go away when you are a little more rested.
    Accept help.

  18. Fantastic tips. Wondering to get your advice about my almost 6 week old. She is a fairly typical newborn night sleeper (prob about 8 hrs total broken by 2 feeds) but is not really sleeping during the day with the exception of catnaps (30 mins-1hr) maybe 3 times a day usually during pram strolls. I have been having great success using the shush, pat, swaddle technique to get her to sleep but she seems to have trouble staying asleep! We get to 5-7pm and she is utterly exhausted making my attempts at offering her a relaxing bath futile! Up until now, she was sleeping for 3 hrs in the late morning and sometimes another 3 in the afternoon, but alas, not anymore! I guess I want to know if this is just a developmental thing/phase or a larger problem?

    • Just read ‘Are you keeping your baby awake too long?’ and I think most of my questions have been answered, so thanks! I am watching for her sleeping cues and attempting to put her down for naps more frequently despite their brevity; ill just have to accept that she is on the lower end of normal newborn sleep averages! Brilliant analysis of the Witching Hour; so spot on!! By far the best explanation of the enigma of newborn sleep I’ve found on the Internet, bravo to you!!

  19. My 6 month old daughter sleeps in her swing all night and will generally sleep for two 4-5 hour stretches per night (eating in between). My wife and I have been trying to crib train her, but she usually wakes up every hour and we eventually break down and go back to the swing. I have two questions:
    Is sleeping all bight in a swing bad for a baby her age?
    How should we go about trying to transition her to her crib?
    Any help is greatly appreciated!!!

  20. Thanks for the time and effort you put into this terrific site.

    My little birdie is 7 weeks old and I have definitely been guilty of #3. It’s far too easy to get sucked into the black hole of the sleep books which say that if you have not trained your baby to self-soothe in a crib by the time they are, say, 16 hours old, then you have BLOWN IT and they will never sleep well. Ever.

    I am beginning to suspect that this is not quite true. Happy news for all.

    P.S.
    I made a $20 donation/payment today, ’cause sister, you deserve it. I hope you find a way to monetize the wisdom and humor you offer as a service to parents in need. As an independent business consultant, I know how hard it can be to price one’s services accurately (I say: Don’t worry about going too low — this is a valuable service and worth the price for your time and experience). It’d be a shame for you to burn out when you’ve got so much to offer. I have no doubt that I’ll be back here again and again.

  21. I am a new mom to a 10-day old. I have zero ideas of getting him on a schedule or anything but feel like I am doing something wrong. My little one refuses to sleep almost ever. We have swaddled, used the swing/bouncy/crib, we have given him a paci and tried the 5 S’s. He just never wants to sleep. Dirty diapers keep me from thinking he isn’t getting enough to eat, but I could be wrong. Any suggestions on how to get him too sleep? Right now I just feel like a total failure :(

    • This sounds like me! I have a 9 day old and I have no idea what I’m doing. He will only fall asleep while feeding and then I tip toe in to put him in his crib. He’ll stay asleep sometimes but if he wakes up and it’s too soon to feed again it’s impossible to console him. I’ve tried paci, rocking, walking, sshhing, the swing, laying against me, the car seat, swaddling, white noise and none of it works. He’s only getting 12-13 hours of sleep max and I’m worried about that. He does eat really well but I’m worried about the sleep and worried he’ll never be in a routine!

    • I have a 9 day old and I have no idea what I’m doing. He will only fall asleep while feeding and then I tip toe in to put him in his crib. He’ll stay asleep sometimes but if he wakes up and it’s too soon to feed again it’s impossible to console him. I’ve tried paci, rocking, walking, sshhing, the swing, laying against me, the car seat, swaddling, white noise and none of it works. He’s only getting 12-13 hours of sleep max and I’m worried about that. He does eat really well but I’m worried about the sleep and worried he’ll never be in a routine!

  22. Oh my goodness! I’m loving your blog and plan to tell all my new mommy friends about it! Super helpful! thanks!

    My question is this: I have a 6 week old who has terrible gas. (I’be already eliminated foods and burping more frequently). So at night I put her down and she can sleep for a large chunk of time–about 5.5 hours or so, but she she seems to be in a light sleep due to her writhing around in discomfort (i doubt in pain bc im sure she would be cryig loudly!) so she writhes arous and occasionaly lets our a wimper or a few seconda of a cry and then can generally fall back asleep. But im wondering if I should pick her up when she has this gas and have her sleep
    In my arms where she may be getting a deeper sleep given all the movement/writhing/straining she has alone in the crib? Or should I just let her do that and pray she stays asleep (which she usually does)? I know it’s may wake her up, but then if she quickly falls into a calmer sleep in my arms, isn’t that better?? Thank you so much for your help!
    Thanks!!!

  23. Hi Alexis, I had a really good sleeper at 6 weeks old. She was sleeping from 10 to 5 for about a week, swaddled. For the past couple of nights she is very restless sleeping – thrashing and waking herself up every 10 to 30 minutes or so without any deep rest (yes I watched the monitor while I pumped). I change her, snuggle her, offer her to nurse (which she is not interested in) and then put her back down. She needs her pacifier to fall asleep usually and I think the thrashing is due to trying to get the paci after it falls out. Should I try to leave her unswaddled? Thanks for the input!

  24. Hi. It’s 4:15am, and I’m up with our two week old infant. He sleeps a lot of the day, but is awake in the night for 4-7 hour stretches. I am completely exhausted, often getting less than two hours of sleep a night. Is it odd for him to be awake for such long periods? Anything I can do? I know he should sort out his days and nights by six weeks or so, but I don’t know if I can survive on such little sleep for that long.

  25. Molly is 7 weeks old and on the spectrum of baby sleep, usually does pretty well, but even a baby sleeping well isn’t exactly the degree of sleep I would prefer. I am chomping at the bit for her to be old enough to sleep train! Baby sleep patterns are the pits! I have read a lot and heard wonder stories about swadlding, but the hospital was very clear when we checked out that new research showed that it is a bad idea. They said that it has been linked to SIDS and, even though it will almost always prompt better sleep, it just isn’t worth the risk. They said the same thing about co-sleeping. This is a bummer since so many people recommend these 2 things to help babies sleep. What is your take on this?

  26. Justin and hannah

    Hello

    Me and my wife have a 1 week old. She is so precious and such a joy.
    During the me day our little one sleeps like a champ. She sleeps for about 3 hours. She is usually awake for around 15-30 minutes after feeding and the. Goes down easily for a nap. At night we follow a similar routine but we keep all the lights low and keep the movement down. After she feeds before we put her down everything seems normal and then she loses it. Tonight is a great example. She work up hungry at 12:15 and it is now 3:45 and she just went down (fingers crossed) finally. I just wanted to see if we were doing thing correctly or if there is something we are missing. I feel like she is gassy but we give her drops after feeding. We could just use the sleep. :-)

  27. I stumbled onto your page when I googled babies that only sleep while held and thought maybe you would know something I can try. I have a wonderful seven week old son who sleeps well in his bassinet at night but during the day will only sleep if he is being held. When I feel he is sound asleep and put him in a swing, bouncy seat or his bassinet he wakes up within a few minutes and is hard to get back to sleep. I love having the cuddle time but next week he starts daycare three days a week and I know he won’t be able to be held during the day to sleep do you have any suggestions for me?

  28. Hi Alexis,

    My problem with my daughter is a little different – she seems to be a super light sleeper. Even with the white noise going strong, you only have to open her door and she’s wide awake again. If there’s a noise or a light on in the hall she wakes up. If the neighbours shut the car door she wakes up. If the dog barks downstairs she wakes up. It makes me laugh when people tell me to wake her up a little bit when I put her down to sleep – I have NEVER had to wake her. As soon as I stop rocking and lean over the cot to put her down, she wakes up. So we have to creep around the house like mice and not turn on the light in the hall, and even then chances are a bird will start singing outside her room and she’ll wake up…sigh…

  29. Hi Alexis,
    I think I am starting to lose my sanity. My LO is 14 weeks old. She had been a great sleeper up until a week or so ago. She slept through the night from 10weeks with 11 hour stretches each night and went to bed awake and would just drop off to sleep. She’s a catnapper by day and will only sleep 30-50 minutes 3 times a day
    Now she screams for an hour or so if we try to put her to bed. I’ve tried to let her cry it out for a few minutes before resettling but she ends up hysterical and not even rocking her in my arms will calm her. Should I try and get her into a routine 7-7 or just let her set the pace? HELP!!

  30. Oh my goodness I cant tell you how happy I was to find your website. Our little girl is 8 weeks old today – well, that depends on who you ask apparently. She was born a month prem, so she’s either 4 or 8 weeks, I can never figure out which. For the first 7 weeks she was a sleeping saint – she’d sleep for 3 – 4 hour stints during the day, would wake, eat, and go right back to sleep. We could pop her into her crib and then only hear from her again in 4 hours time. At night she’d sometimes even go for 7 hour stretches before wanting food. Ahh…the good times..

    Welcome week 8. (Or ..4?) She hit a growth spurt and every time I put her to bed she’d cry. Being a FTM, and having a baby who until then barely made a sound, I assumed something was wrong and ended up holding her for nine hours while she didnt cry, but then again, didnt sleep either. Spoke to our Paediatrician who said she’s overstimulated. Put her down, put a sleep cloth over her face and let her get some rest. Hm.. sounds simple enough in theory. It works too – some times. She now falls asleep easily 1 time out of three during the day. When she sleeps, she sleeps for 3 – 4 hours a stretch, and her waking cycle times vary from 1 hour to 2 hours between sleeps. But she’s not loving the being put to bed bit anymore! Did I do something wrong? Am I doing something right? Man I wish I had a manual… Any advice would really, really make my day :)

  31. My baby is 10 weeks old and will only sleep in my arms or in the swing for naps. Sometimes the swing wont even work and its only my arms that so the trick. it takes 15-20 minutes to soothe her to sleep each time but if i put her down she immediately wakes up and the result is a fussy baby. at night she sleeps just fine in the bassinet. Also we have tried swaddling her but she cries until she breaks free (yes even with the miracle blanket) so we just swaddle her from the arms down. I want to create a solid sleep foundation for her and am not sure if this is just a phase or something I should try to fix so that she gets used to sleeping in her bassinet for naps. Any advice is helpful.

  32. It’s such a relief to hear you say these things. My little girl is 2 months old and ALL ANYONE CAN TALK ABOUT is her sleep. They’ve gotten over the fact that I’m not breastfeeding and that she sleeps in her swing, but now they’re all universally obsessed with how long she’s sleeping. When I respond with “oh, about 4-hour stretches during the night, sometimes longer” they always reply with the ever-tactile “Oh, well my kids were all sleeping through the night at 3 weeks.” Are you freaking kidding me? First off, your kid should’ve been eating every 3-4 hours, every 2-3 if they were breastfed. And secondly, how in God’s name do you think that’s helping me in any way? *Cue the face-punch*
    It’s such a relief to know that I’m not a terrible parent for occasionally giving my kid a paci, using white noise, and have yet to successfully crib train (don’t get me started on that nightmare). Thank you!
    Mallory recently posted..An Idiot’s Guide to Newborn PhotographyMy Profile

  33. Our baby loves his pacifier but seems to make a game out of dropping it and the crying for it. He can easily keep us up from 1-3 AM like that. Should we let him cry it outrather than putting the pacifier back in his mouth?

    He has no problem sleeping while being held by mommy or daddy and then the pacifier is less of a big deal (although he’ll still cry for it for the first hour or so)

    Our little darling is five weeks btw. And there are two of them (twins) but only one of them loves his pacifier that much.
    twins)

    Do you have any advise?

    Best, a very sleep deprived mommy and daddy

  34. Hey Alexis, I have an 8 week old boy who just refuses to sleep properly. He wakes up soon after we put him down. He sleeps close to 8 hours in 24 hours. He also has a lot of gas/colic. He wants to breastfeed everytime he wakes up. We are thoroughly worried and sleepless!

  35. Alexis,

    First of all, I envy my 2 year old’s (26 months) sleep. He sleeps from 8:30-8:00 with a 2 hour nap during the midday. And I owe that to your advice. I went to this site for all of my nap and sleep drama with him and I am grateful to you, that he sleeps so well. I currently have a 4 week old, and I somehow either forgot what to do, or this child is giving me my run for my money and sleep!

    She sleeps and feeds well throughout the day. But once night happens to tends to get fussy and not want to sleep. Once I think I’ve got her asleep she wakes up crying. I swaddle her, put her in the swing and the white noise is on. Last night, she fell asleep at 10ish, she woke up at 1 to feed and didn’t want to go back to sleep and seemed really fussy. My husband and I took turns trying to figure out what she wanted. We tried everything. At about 4 she finally got exhausted and fell asleep in my arms after I had nursed her.

    It almost seems like from 9-3 (during the day, she sleeps the most). I have to wake her up to feed her. Seems like this is her night. I know you mentioned not to try to keep her up during the day, because she will get overtired at night. Perhaps I am a little confused. I do try to wake her up by changing her diaper and talking to her after I feed her during the day, but it seems like she’s not even bothered by it. Any advice about what I could do to help us out? Is it just time? Or is there something I can do?? Please HELP. Thank you so much.

  36. Hi there! Thank you for saving my life with this site!! 😃. I have one quick question for you: how do you feel about keeping baby’s room dark during nap time? Is this ok?

    THANK YOU!!
    Doreen

  37. Love this! This have me the confidence I needed to survive the rough nights and not feel like a failure. Sharing this with all my mommy friends!

  38. This article made me laugh a lot. I stumbled upon it while I was looking for some references for ‘sleep begets sleep’ for my blog. We’re going through some horrendous sleep difficulties with our toddler at the moment, totally out of the blue, as he’s always been a perfect sleeper. Everything you’ve written is totally true, and it seems that people have a strange expectation that newborns sleep constantly. As my husband recently asserted to his mother, ‘newborns are designed to feed all the time, because their stomachs are tiny. It is just how they’re designed, and if you’re not prepared to live with this, you shouldn’t have kids’. (He was given baby rice at less than 8 weeks old because it was thought that it would make him sleep. I shudder to think about the damage to his kidneys and digestive system…). Great article!

  39. I absolutely do not respect most of the content here…. the questions and answers do not respect babies and their unique needs.

  40. Oh No! What about SIDS. Babies SHOULD NOT sleep with Mom and also should be limited to sleeping in car seats, swings, etc. I disagree with most of your recommendations. I hope that most mothers reading this article would rather keep their little ones safe and sound rather than sleeping soundly. If you read this PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read ABOUT SIDS right after and decide what is more important to you.

    http://www.parents.com/baby/health/sids/new-ways-to-prevent-sids/

    And, here’s better advice:

    http://www.parents.com/baby/sleep/issues/advice/

    • Hey Alicia,

      I appreciate your emphasis on safety as it’s something that I care a lot about too.

      Yes the AAP official safe sleeping statement says no co-sleeping. But the issue isn’t nearly that black and white. The research is fairly ambiguous and as always, parents need to make their own choices based on what they and their pediatrician think. As with everything, there are definitely safe and UNsafe ways to approach it.

      And ironically you link to an article by Dr. Karp who is a huge proponent of baby swings. Who I’ve in fact interviewed on this site about the very issue of swings and sleep safety.

      As always you want to talk it over with your pediatrician but there is no evidence that putting a full-term infant in a fully reclined modern baby sleep is in any way related to SIDS. And you want to be careful about making alarming statements without backing them up with better science than a Parents.com article.

      Yes safety is paramount and more important than “sleeping well.” But luckily you don’t have to choose between the two.
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..Why Consistency in Cry it Out is Critical: A Case StudyMy Profile

  41. I recently had a baby boy who is now 18 days old (who sleeps through the day and is up consistently throughout the night) I admit I was worried but having read this wonderfully articulate, informative and hilarious article, I feel much more reassured that I have nothing to worry about. Thank you so much for making my day Alexis!! Much love!!

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