When Your Baby Doesn't Sleep

For many mothers who have long-dreamed of how perfect their life will be the day they bring their newborn baby into their home, the reality can be somewhat different if your baby turns out to be one of those who just don't seem to sleep much. The typical newborn sleeps a lot-typically from 14-18 hours per day during the first week and 12-16 hours per day by the time they reach a month in age. Most babies will stay asleep for blocks of time from two to four hours at a time, day and night, during the first few weeks of life. But perhaps it feels as though your baby never sleeps for longer than twenty minutes at a time-and maybe he really doesn't! Getting up every fifteen to twenty minutes throughout the night for weeks or even months can take a huge toll on exhausted parents.

Could It Be Colic?

When determining why your little munchkin does not seem to want to sleep, the first order of business is to let your pediatrician do a thorough examination of the baby. Tell the doctor about the sleep issues, as well as whether or not the baby also cries a lot, is eating well or seems to be in some sort of distress. Your baby may suffer from colic, which is a stomach disturbance which affects about one quarter of all babies from around three weeks to several months. Babies with colic will cry relentlessly for at least three hours several times a week, and, for whatever reason, they usually choose the evening hours when both parents are home from work. Babies with colic will usually extend or pull up their legs and arch their backs and their tummies may feel hard and bloated. Most times the cause of colic is hard to determine, although bottle-fed babies are more likely to be affected. An intolerance to lactose or an immature digestive system may also be a potential cause of colic. In any case, most babies with colic will outgrow it by around 12 weeks of age, although that twelve weeks of living with a crying, non-sleeping baby may well feel more like twelve months to you.

Babies Sleep Cycles

The sleep cycles of babies are far shorter than those of adults, due in part to the fact that babies spend more time in REM sleep which is much lighter, hence much more easily disrupted. At six to eight weeks of age, the majority of babies will sleep for shorter periods during the day, and begin sleeping longer at night, although most will still wake for at least one night feeding. Somewhere between three and six months, most babies will finally, thankfully, sleep through the night, although few adhere strictly to an eight hour night-more often it will be five to six hours.

Establishing Good Sleep Habits

What you need to first be aware of is that an overly tired baby is just as likely not to sleep as is one that is not tired enough. For the first six to eight weeks most babies can't stay up much longer than a couple of hours without getting overly tired. Then when the baby is put down to sleep he is "wired" and can't do much more than squirm and cry. If you see your baby rubbing his eyes, or pulling at his ears, put him down for a nap-after a time you will develop a mother's intuition about when your baby needs a nap. Some babies are just night owls, as you may already have determined during your pregnancy. This means that about the time you are ready to fall into bed, your baby may be catching his second wind. Once the baby is about two weeks old, you can begin to teach him the difference between night and day by interacting with him frequently during the day, keeping the house bright when he should be away, and waking him for feedings if he tends to sleep through them. At night, if your baby wakes up, resist the urge to play with him. Keep the lights and noise levels low, and spent little time talking or cuddling and he should begin to distinguish between night and day.

Bedtime Routines

It's never too early to begin a bedtime routine with your baby. This routine doesn't have to be elaborate, in fact it can be as simple as a bath, a change into night clothes, a short lullaby, a feeding and a kiss goodnight. Be aware, however, that children really like routines, so the you will have to repeat your routine literally thousands of times-in other words, make sure it is a routine you can bear to repeat those thousands of times! By the time your baby is six to eight weeks old, you can start giving him a chance to fall asleep on his own by putting him down when he is sleepy, but still awake. Babies learn their sleeping habits, so if you rock your baby to sleep every night for the first eight weeks, there is a good chance you will be doing it for a whole lot longer. Babies who don't sleep can cause frustration and even despair for parents, but if you stay consistent, your baby will, eventually, sleep!