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Question:

I am at my wits end with my third son. He is three months old today, and his sleep is a disaster. His problems are twofold:

1) He will only sleep for 45 minute stretches, meaning for naptime he won’t nap more than 45 minutes. (If he actually goes a full 45 minutes, that is actually good. He often will only stay asleep for 20 minutes or even less.) He must be put in his crib completely asleep–he will not settle down to sleep himself. He will generally take 2-3 of these catnaps during the day and that’s it.

2) For bedtime he must be rocked/nursed to sleep and won’t sleep past 45 minutes. Then it is a struggle to get him to go back to sleep. I used to take him out and rock him back to sleep and attempt to do that over and over again until he would stay asleep. For the last 4-6 weeks I have tried to do it without removing him from his crib, since I know I was promoting an awful habit by rocking him to sleep. I will shush him, pat him, etc until he quiets down but then I’ll leave the room and he starts the screaming all over again. This usually goes on for an hour.

Due to my desperation I have tried both ways of putting him to sleep: putting him in completely asleep after being rocked, jiggled, etc, and/or putting him in awake but very drowsy so he gets used to falling asleep on his own. Needless to say, neither one works. If I put him in asleep he wakes up after 45 minutes, and if he falls asleep on his own which he has done maybe two or three times, he still wakes up after 45 minutes.

He doesn’t take a pacifier (I’ve tried them all); he does suck on his hands during the day, so I’ve tried swaddling him with his arms out so he has access to his hands, but he won’t try to use them to self-soothe in his crib.

I breastfeed with supplementation, so I’ve tried cluster-feeding prior to bedtime, and I’ve tried giving him both the bottle and breast at bedtime to top him off. Neither seems to make a difference.

Since he was six weeks old I’ve implemented a consistent bedtime routine to try to “send him a message”. It seems to work–he’ll fall asleep with no problem–he just won’t stay asleep and won’t put himself back to sleep.

People have suggested that perhaps he has silent reflux (I highly doubt it–maalox after feedings didn’t make any difference to his sleep). When he is well-rested he is very happy and agreeable. His only problem is that he has 45 minute sleep cycles that have taken over our lives in the most negative way!!

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Answer:

Its hard when you have a baby that only cat naps. I would suggest that you check out some of my videos and see the movement I suggest for helping a baby to find their sleep.

What we must remember is that babies do not have the tools within themselves to self soothe (self settle) or resettle until between the ages of 12 to 16 weeks so what we are trying to do in the first weeks of a babies life is to help teach them to find their sleep and to stay asleep. This means that if our baby doesn’t fall asleep then we need to intervene to help them. My main advice is never to do something in arms that you cannot replicate in a cot. For you I would suggest that you do ten days of nurturing within arms and then once you understand your sons sleeping patterns then you can start to do it in the cot. As he is your third baby and you are in the states I am not sure whether you have support within the home with helpers, if you don’t then you will probably find that you need to do at least one or two naps as concrete (these can be in arms) and the other naps can be moving naps either in a buggy or the baby worn on you.

It will take TACT – time, acceptance, consistency and touch. It takes a minimum of ten days to see a dim light at the end of the tunnel and the first 3 to 4 days are the hardest.

At 12 weeks ideally his wake times are around 1 hour and he is having naps of a minimum of 1 hour. IF he wake before this then you need to resettle.
His wake time routine will be that he feeds, plays and then top up 15 minutes before going down for a nap. The reason why I suggest this is for a couple of reasons it will help with increasing your milk supply (unless you do the top up with bottles) and also ensures he has a full tummy before going to have a nap. The gastic emptying of a breast-fed baby after 120 minutes is 16% to 18%, so when you are trying to put her down for naps he may be hungry. This will not cause a feed/sleep association as long as you feed, then swaddle/sleeping bag, then into his bed. Also, you need to be aware that he doesn’t fall asleep while feeding unless you choose to do this.
Also some babies cat nap or find it hard to fall asleep as they are light sensitive

Have a look at your baby’s room – is it dark or is there lots of light? To see if your baby is light sensitive, black out the windows and all the little lights on all the electrical equipment in their room and see if this helps. It does not mean your baby will not sleep elsewhere as at this stage it is about encouraging your baby to go to sleep and stay asleep.

Settling and resettling notes over 12 weeks
Sleep is a learned behaviour. Sleep is also a nutrient and walks hand in hand with food. It is healthy for a baby to cry/grizzle before going to sleep. When you go to bed you read a book, meditate, watch TV, or chat with your partner a baby can only do one thing and that is cry. You are not leaving him there to cry it out; you are leaving him there to give him the ability to find his own sleep. In my experience it takes approximately 20 minutes for a baby to fall asleep, however you are not going to leave your baby to do this on their own. Ideally, you will put your baby in their cot awake, close the curtains and leave the room. You will leave your baby for an appropriate time and then intervene with reassurance – I tend to do this in 5 minute intervals so the settling routine will look like this. It also depends on the age of the baby. For babies under 12 weeks, I tend to do the settling in arms. IF doing in arms I never do any movement that cannot be replicated in a cot. into bed, leave for up to 5 minutes (at your baby’s age you will probably only leave for a minute. Also check the crying/grizzling and whether it is off or on)
comfort – reassure (this is normally less than the grizzling time)
this can be repeated for up to 20 minutes with reassurance up to every five minutes (however it will be approximately the same length of time as the first time you left him or shorter NOT longer). You then need to stay in the room and help your baby find their sleep – if you already haven’t. Sometimes babies will not be able to go to sleep if they are light sensitive. I would suggest that you look at your baby’s room and if they are unable to fall asleep then try making the room darker.
It is not about leaving your baby to cry it out, but it is about allowing your baby the right and ability to find their sleep. If they cannot do this in an appropriate time then intervene and help them to find their sleep.

Resettling
Teaches babies how to progress from light to heavy sleep. This is essential to avoid the pitfalls of frequent waking and catnapping. In a sense, resettling is the second stage of teaching baby how to find sleep and does demand more time and patience than settling (TACT).
Most babies stir or wake when progressing from light to heavy sleep and this occurs anywhere between 20-45 minutes. In the beginning the idea is not to let your baby wake fully during this transition; a sleepy baby is easier to resettle than a wide-awake, crying baby.
Resettling is not about calming them down or staying until they just start to drift off, it is about staying with your baby until they go into a deep sleep.

Kind Regards
Dorothy

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