Breastfeeding and Sleep

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Getting 7-week-old back to sleep after feedings

Feb 2004

I'm hoping that some of the moms out there will share their strategies for getting more sleep in the early months of motherhood. I have a delicious 7 week old son who does what most babies do at this age (I guess): He wakes up like clockwork every three hours to feed at night. Lately he has not been falling asleap easily after feedings as he did in the early days and it's a matter of bouncing, swaddling, etc to get him back to sleep. He sleeps in a ''snuggle nest'' in between my husband and I. He's also started being very awake from about 2-5 am for the last week. I have heard that some people get used to the sleep deprivation. I can't. I have always been sensitive to not getting enough sleep and this is really hard. I find it hard to nap in the day--he wants to be carried in the Bjorn all the time. This works as long as I'm upright--he sleeps a lot this way, deep long sleep. But if I lie down or lean back and he rests heavily against my chest he roots and tries to eat my clothes and wakes up fussing. If I take him out and put him in his bed he wakes up and fusses.

Is there anything I can do to get him to go longer stretches at night between feedings? Any suggestions for how to get him to go back to sleep quicker? One problem seems tobe that he falls alseap while eatting but when I pick him up to burp him he wakes up. But if I don't burp him he'll have gas, right? I know ''it gets better'' (but when???) but in the meantime I'm SOOOO tired. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. tired new mom

Hi there- this sounds all too familiar... what i would recommend would be to (when he wakes up at night) to change his diaper first, then swaddle him up if you aren't already doing it and then feed him. If he falls asleep at the breast, thats okay! If he's sleeping, you don't need to burp him unless he's not asleep and seeming fussy from gas, then burp him. Otherwise, let him stay asleep because most likely he's not bothered by the gas. Otherwise- stay patient- it is a phase and it will get better- remember he's only 7 weeks old and babies take time to adjust to better sleep cycles.

On the other note about him only sleeping in his Bjorn carrier- I would definitely stop that on the regular basis. Yes its okay if your out and about and he's sleeping, but don't make it a habit ! to get him to sleep like that for his naps- he will only get used to it and then eventually you'll have a hard napper on your hands. I would try maybe a bouncer vibrating seat for his naps- anywhere but on you for naps! It takes time but they get used to it and at least that frees you up to do things or get some sleep yourself while theyre sleeping... email me off list if you want to talk... Shaana

I wouldn't worry about burping your baby after nursing him, esp. if this is waking him up. If you can nurse him to sleep for his naps, and take one yourself, then by all means, do it! I found that I dozed off around the same time as my son when lying side by side...THose daytime naps are crucial right now, so do what you can to get them in. Burping became the norm after bottlefeeding became the norm. Many breastfed babies around the world are NOT burped. If he really does become uncomfortable with gas, then you will know it, b/c he will squirm and fuss. Otherwise, catch some zzz's together ;) Good luck, been there
If he falls asleep at the breast, don't burp him. If he were uncomfortably gassy, he wouldn't fall asleep! It's not unusual for breastfed babies not to need burping at night. Also, don't change his diaper at night unless he's poopy or you're already treating a bad diaper rash. Use super-absorbent disposables or double cloth so that merely wet diapers won't need a change.

Try ditching the Suggle Nest and just letting him sleep next to you. He may or may not sleep any better, but in most cases this will allow you to simply fall asleep (or at least doze) while you nurse him, and you won't have to wake up enough to move him when he's done. If you're concerned about teaching him to sleep alone later, that's fine, but he's too young for it now, so you might as well do whatever it takes to get the maximum amount of sleep. (I know a couple of moms whose babies would not sleep *anywhere* except on mommy's chest for several weeks, and in each case, at somewhere around 3-4 months old, it was as if someone flipped a switch, and suddenly the baby became a classic ''good sleeper'', going down easily and sleeping 10 hours straight in a crib! My son was more generous as a newborn, sleeping a good 5-6 hours at night, in a bassinet, but then he never really improved on that a! s he got older. I'll hope you have the former kind!) Assuming you're not drugged or drunk, you will NOT roll over on him, and you should be able to find ways of keeping pillows and comforters away from his face without too much trouble.

Finally, go to bed when he does. Or earlier, if necessary -- have your husband take over baby duty early in the evening and bring the baby to you only for feeding. That way, even if it's interrupted, you'll get more sleep overall. Try to hit the sack immediately after a late evening feed, so that your first stretch of sleep can be a long one. Remember that this too shall pass; someday you'll be able to stay up past 8pm again, but that doesn't need to be a priority for you right now. If going to bed early is too disruptive to your life, at least be sure you get the baby to feed well just before *your* bedtime. (Don't put him to bed at 8, then go to bed at 10, only to be woken at 11. Either go to bed yourself at 8, or stay up until 11.) That way you'll maximize your chances of a longer first stretch of sleep, which is when you need it most. Holly

Give up the burping!!! I know that hearing that it ''will get better'' doesn't seem that helpful, but it's true! Your baby is still very very young and what you're describing is so normal- sounding for 7 weeks. The periods of night sleep will keep getting a little bit longer, but for now, I recommend working something out with your partner so you can have a period of extended sleep. We did it so that my husband got up in the early morning and gave our baby a bottle of breast milk so I could sleep for a couple more hours, and those 2 hours of hard sleep did wonders. Good luck, and consider joining a new moms' group if you haven't already. The suppport is crucial. Best of luck. Debbie
My experience at that age was that in the middle of the night, you don't have to burp un! less they are fussing. I get the sense that your problem might have to do with letting him ''wake up''. Every kid is different I know, but maybe try just rolling over, nursing, and letting him fall asleep at your breast. I would try not burping him - I actually had read that and it worked. As far as any other suggestions, I found that when I tried to ''fill my baby up'' during the day, she was less hungry at night - in other words be vigilant about the every two hour feedings (maybe even less than that) during the day. Also, I found taking a ''nap'' in the morning - you're still sleepy when you would first ''wake up'' and your bound to go back down easier - - maybe one day a friend or your partner could take the baby for a little while during that ''nap'' time for you. Finally, my friend told me (and I think it helped) to aim for a 4 hour stretch of sleep -- it made a difference for me. G! ood luck, you'll make it! Slept like that before too
You might try him in a sling rather than the Bjorn...I know I got to where I could lay my girl down in her crib, pull her in and out of the car seat, etc. from the sling, without her waking up, but it wasn't until she was about 3 months old. Then I had three relatively easy months until she stopped sleeping so much. What's key is to use a sling that you can put them in the crib or carseat with -- you lose all your hard work if you have to peel the darned thing off the kid! Sara
Your situation sounds very much like my life last year, and I would guess it's quite ''normal''. At some point my daughter stopped falling right back to sleep after night nursings, which was quite disconcerting to me at the time (''Why is she STILL awake?''). What I did was t! ry and keep the environment very low stimulation (lights, movement, talking, singing, etc) and waited it out. We usually had great luck with swaddling but not at those times when she just wasn't in a sleep cycle. It got worse for a short while (up every 2 hours) but then better so that by 5 months she was waking up twice a night. We went through some fairly painless ''sleep training'', and for the past 7 months she has slept 11 hour nights. I would recommend reading the sleep books by both Weissbluth and Ferber which will teach you a lot about the sleep patterns of babies so at least you will know what's going on and what you can expect, regardless of how you decide to ''handle'' it. I hope that this passes soon for you. Good luck! mother of a 12 month old
Buy a swing!! We were given a Fisher Price swing that has a reclined seat and sw! ings either as a cradle (side-to-side) or a swing (back to front). My daughter like the side-to-side motion, and until she was 10 weeks old, it was the only way to get her to sleep. After 30 min, we would transfer her to her basinnette. During the day, she would nap in her swing-- sometimes up to two hours! Around 6 weeks, she began to wake up when I laid her down. As she got older, she has learned to go back to sleep (some of the time anyways). Some nights she kicks around and then falls asleep and some nights I am up and down for an hour, holding her hand, patting her butt, checking her diaper and feeding her (again!). She is 5 months old and it seems to be getting better all of the time. Good luck! anon
I had many of the same problems with my baby who is now almost 9 weeks old. I found that holding her either over my shoulder after! burping (swaddled) or in my arms until she was in a deep sleep helped. I read in the Sears book that deep sleep means no eye movement or expressions. I would hold her for about 20-25 minutes after feedings before putting her down. This was frustrating because it tacked on an extra 1/2 hour to night feedings which then ended up being about an hour long. If I didn't do this, she would wake up and we'd have to start all over again. Some nights, especially around 4-5 am, I would just throw her on my chest and sleep semi propped up. It sounds like this might not work for your baby. She is now going down much easier after feedings at night but still doesn't nap well during the day. It will get better. Hang in there. Another new mom