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“Help, My Baby Doesn’t Sleep!” and Weekend Links

admin January 12, 2013

Daily Tip: Remember that it takes around 21 days to adjust to a new routine, so don’t expect things to be easy at first.  Keep pushing through because it will come.

Welcome!  We changed our format a couple weeks ago so that each weekend, in addition to sharing all the awesome links and news from around our network, we also share and answer a reader’s question.  This week we’re talking baby sleep!

This Week’s Question

This weeks’ question comes from an anonymous reader and deals with baby sleep.  I get questions about babies or young children and sleep a lot — some just don’t seem to sleep very well or easily.  Many parents (including me) are opposed to CIO and just don’t know what to do when everyone’s exhausted.  Here’s the question.

“From the time he was 8 weeks old he has struggled to fall asleep during the day. By 4 months he could literally go the entire day without napping, which in turn he would be overtired and wake up every 2 hours all night long. I am adamantly against CIO. So I adopted a schedule with bedtime routines and nursing him to sleep about every 2 hours, watching for tired signs and it would take him about 50minutes to 1hr 10 min to fall asleep. I tried walking him, rocking him, nursing him. Same amount of time. Now he is 10 months old and it has been taking 1:30 to 2hrs to fall asleep. Many times I give up at 1:40 minutes because I can’t take it any longer. He is obviously tired yawning rubbing eyes, I just don’t know what to do. When he falls asleep he only sleeps for about an hour. And then I have to work on it all over again . Lately with him only taking one nap he has been exhausted by bedtime and falls apart. He had always fallen right to sleep at night, but he always wakes up every 2 hours no matter what. We also cosleep.”

When a baby doesn’t sleep, it’s hard on everyone.  The child is fussy, and the parents are sleep-deprived.  It’s rough.  Parents can end up tempted to do anything for a good night’s sleep…including sleep training, i.e. ignoring their child while they scream themselves to sleep.

I don’t recommend this approach, however.  A child who can’t fall asleep or stay asleep is communicating some kind of physical need.  In many people, difficulty sleeping is related to magnesium deficiency.  It wouldn’t hurt to rub a little bit of magnesium lotion on his legs before putting him to bed — it might help him sleep a bit longer.  Think about vitamin D, too.  If there are any underlying deficiencies, it can affect an infant or child’s sleep.

Beyond that, try getting Daddy involved.  Sometimes a baby can fall asleep easier with Daddy because there’s not the temptation of milk right there.  We often took turns putting babies to sleep, depending on their needs in that phase.  Even now my 17-month-old prefers that Daddy is the one to lay him down.

The frequent waking may be a sign of hunger.  Does he eat enough during the day?  At 10 months, you might offer a snack of plain yogurt or avocado or banana before bed.  Something with a little protein and fat is excellent (banana contains some chemicals that can help induce sleep, so pairing that with yogurt may help).  Babies are growing rapidly and may just need more at this stage in order to be able to sleep well.  Cluster feeding (nursing) can help younger babies to get enough to sleep in somewhat longer stretches, although don’t expect a baby under 4 months to do this.

Some babies are teething and would benefit from some teething tea to help soothe them before bedtime.  This can make a big difference in night time sleep.  We’ve used it almost nightly for 5 months and got through molars and incisors with no issues, once we discovered it.  Some babies are really sensitive and any irritation will keep them awake.

Look at the sleep environment too.  Some babies are particular about the feel of their pajamas, their sheets, etc.  Some can’t sleep well if it’s too hot or cold.  Some do better sleeping in their own space, even if it’s next to Mom or Dad (but not right in their bed/arms).  Try some different methods to see what works!  My babies liked to have their space (but co-slept with us for a year or so), be slightly warmer (around 70 degrees was ideal), and wear t-shirts and soft sweatpants to bed.  They did not like fleece, footie pajamas (or anything covering their feet), etc.  Once we discovered the “right” method for them it was easy.

Over time it gets better.  Keep working at it, and nap with baby if you can!

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9 Comments

  1. My son was the same way. I tried most of the things on the excellent list. I kept pleading for answers from my doctor because it was not normal. I knew he needed more sleep and was tired but he couldn’t fall asleep. Our answer was a food intolerance to gluten was disturbing his melatonin/ cortisol balance so he wasn’t making enough melatonin. It could be a gut infection, it could be food intolerance, it could be an autoimmune condition that is causing that, but I would recommend looking into it if the list above doesn’t work. It took some time but after we took him off gluten he was an amazing sleeper. I wish someone had recommended looking into more serious reasons when nothing else worked.

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  2. What you describe sounds a lot like our situation with our first child. Our second is now 4i’m months old and doing really well sleeping. We have been following the principles of the book “The 90 Minute Sleep solution.”And it’s easy to read, short and to the point and they dont talk about CIO methods, just observing your child. It has been a miacle for us. We used to spend hours rocking our son, who would only nap for 30mins during the day, to sleep. It was exhausting. After reading this book, baby girl is now able to put herself to sleep happily!

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  3. How would you go about giving a toddler magnesium? She’s 2 and still wakes at least once during the night. I just got the flakes in the mail so I can make the spray or oil. But doesn’t that need to be washed off? Thanks!

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  4. Or try different positions. I know that for SIDS, you should try to lay a baby on its side. But when I was a baby, I would NOT sleep unless I was on my stomach. I would scream and keep myself awake. A friend just had a baby this week and her little girl won’t sleep unless she’s propped up onto her side. Even when you’re holding her, she won’t fall asleep unless she’s on one of her sides. If you reach your wit’s end, it’s at least worth a shot!

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  5. Typo above – for SIDS, lay a baby on its back.

    Hooray, typing too quickly!

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  6. So I made the teething tea for my almost 7 month old. She’s exclusively breastfed, maybe had a bottle 3 times in her life. I can’t get her to drink the tea….she has no idea how to suck on a bottle. Any suggestions for getting her to take it?

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    • Have you tried a medicine dropper? My baby is 4 months old and drinks chamomile tea that way. First I would take drops on my fingertip and put it in her mouth that way, then I started using the dropper and now she opens up when I bring it near her. She will also drink from a spoon, too. Though, that requires an outfit change afterwards!

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  7. we also had a problem with sleep caused by grains, and we just discovered potato as well! My wee one wasn’t too bad for naps but was always better if I was going to sleep with him. If there is a way he is more likely to sleep e.g. in the car, if might be worth doing that at the same time everyday for a week or so to try and establish a pattern that you can then carry on without that ‘prop’. Good luck.

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  8. oh and we went straight to using a sippie cup instead of a bottle and we put epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) in the wee ones bath which definitely seems to help him sleep better.

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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