Short Sleeps = Night Owl

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Short Sleeps = Night Owl

Postby lauraalex » Sat 02 Feb, 2013 4:30 pm

My 6 week old boy is great during the day at sleeping although a nightmare at night time. he sleeps perfect from around 8.30pm-12.30am, but then is awake and screaming unsettled every hour until 8am-ish when he eventually sleeps for a little bit. During the day he has 3-4 hour nap and sometimes the same again early evening. When he wakes at 12.30am, i fill him up with a bottle of expressed milk/ or formula and it seems to get him to sleep for an hour or two before he wakes again. When he is waking every hour at night, he seems to get hungry so i give him breast but he only eats for 5-10 mins before falling asleep again... i cant seem to keep him awake to keep going for more. he also wriggles around and screams when eating and seems to get frustrated with him self by taking him self off and on my breast. Its almost as if he is trying to eat but it hurts or he is trying to pass wind and is in pain. its heartbreaking sometimes watching him scream like he does. Im not sure if he is hungry or not, I burp him, and he gets a nappy change so not sure what could be. i have put down to a growth spurt? So really I dont sleep from midnight until 8am when i manage to get in an hour or two when he does. He has only been like this a few days, previous to this he was only waking once or twice a night for a feed. mainly sleeping 4 hour periods... Is there any help/advice you could give me for this? Cheers
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Re: Short Sleeps = Night Owl

Postby NgalaOnline » Sun 03 Feb, 2013 3:08 pm

Hi Lauraalex

Thank you for your post. The behaviour your baby is showing sounds like a very common and normal phase of behaviour that many newborn babies go through, which typically seems to peak in intensity around 6 - 8 weeks of age. Although this behaviour is very common and normal, it can be very draining and tiring for parents, and also concerning for the parents if they are not aware that this is a normal newborn behaviour.

Babies often do not develop a well establishes circadian rhythm or understanding of the difference between day and night until sometime around 3 months of age. It is very common for newborn babies to have their days and night "back to front" and to sleep well in thr daytime but be awake or unsettled during the night time. Exposing your baby to early morning sunlight can help to regulate your baby's hormonal production of melatonin, and this can assist your baby to begin establishing a stronger circadian rhythm. Going for a walk shortly after arising in the morning, or even sitting in the window with your baby can be very helpful. Keeping night time feeding and settling quiet and dimly lit can also be helpful. It is helpful to know though that changes may not happen immediately but may take a few weeks to develop.

Commonly around 4 or 5 weeks of age, many newborn babies begin to experience a period of unsettled behaviour and difficult to soothe crying. These crying and unsettled periods can often last a number of hours. During this time it is very common for the baby to show signs that look like discomfort (such as pulling up his legs, or grimacing), to be unable to fall asleep or stay asleep for long, and to hop on and off the breast - appearing to want to feed but not feeding for very long before pulling off again. These periods of unsettled behaviour often seem to peak between 6 - 8 weeks of age and have usually settled by 12 weeks of age. In a baby that is otherwise appearing well, feeding well, gaining weight, having some settled periods each day and having at least 5 heavy wet nappies a day and soft or liquid bowel motions these unsettled periods are usually not a cause for medical concern. It is not fully understood why babies have these unsettled periods. It is thought that it could be related to their rapid brain development at this age, their immature and developing digestive system which could result in some abdominal pains, or overstimulation and overtiredness now that they are becoming more alert and taking more in whilst observing the world around them.

It can be very helpful to know that under about 12 weeks of age babies do not have the ability to form habits or sleep associations. This means that holding your baby, feeding or rocking him to sleep will not cause him to become dependent on these methods of soothing at this age. Feeding your baby on demand in response to his cues is very helpful but do not be concerned if he seems to only feed for short periods before pulling off - this is normal behaviour. Your baby may be seeking these periods of sucking as a way to help comfort and soothe himself. Due to their immature brain development at this age, babies under three months do not have any ability to regulate their emotions and effectively calm and soothe themselves when they become distressed, meaning he is is reliant on you to comfort him when is becomes distressed. Some parents find that tight swaddling, movement (such as rocking), cuddling or a warm bath help their infant to calm down. Loud white noise louder than the baby's cry (such as a vacuum or loud radio static) is also very helpful for many babies. It is helpful to know that often a baby will not calm despite their parents doing everything they can to help their baby. It is also common for babies to be unpredictable and to soothe with one method one day but but not the next day. It is helpful to know that by providing gentle calming and reassurance to your baby you are helping him even if he does continue to cry. The fact that your baby is going through this unsettled period of behaviour in the middle of the night means that this will be even more draining for you than if he was doing it in another part of the day. Getting as much help and support as you can in the next few weeks is important. Taking self care measures, such as going to bed as soon you can in the evenings and sleeping when possible in the day is also helpful. Simplifying your life such as reducing domestic responsibilities as much as possible and having very quick and easy to prepare meals for a few weeks will help you to get through this challenging phase.

Regarding your baby's daily schedule at the moment, it may be important for you to add some extra feeds into your baby's day if he is having several occasions in 24 hours where he is sleeping for periods of 4 hours or going for long periods without a breastfeed. Breastmilk supply is governed by the principle of supply and demand, meaning that the more milk drained from the breast, the more milk the breasts will continue to produce. The amount of times the breasts are drained each day in the first 2-3 months is important in helping the breasts to lay down a sufficient numbers of hormone receptor sites and "calibrate" how much milk they will need to continue producing over the baby's next months of life. Research has shown that in order to be able to continue to meet their baby's milk requirements in coming months, most mothers need to breastfeed or adequately drain their breasts around 8 times per 24 hours in the first 2-3 months of a baby's life. Often, if a baby is going for lengthy periods of more than 3 hours or so without a breastfeed, or receiving less than about 8 breastfeeds per 24 hours at this age, mothers will find that their milk supply begins to reduce and may not continue to meet their baby's needs. Some mothers find that their supply will maintain until the baby reaches between 8 - 12 weeks of age, but as the effects of postnatal hormones begin to reduce at this age their supply may begin to reduce if the baby is having several lengthy periods without draining the breasts each day or if the baby is having infrequent breastfeeds. Due to the fact that your baby is sleeping for around 4 hours a day several times a day, it would be helpful if you could try to offer a few extra feeds to your baby during his wake periods. Offering your baby a breastfeed when he wakes at 12.30am rather than offering a bottle of formula would be helpful in protecting your milk supply, as often mothers will find that giving their baby fluids other than breastmilk will result in a downregulation of their milk supply due to the reduced demand on the breasts. If you are giving expressed milk during the night it is very helpful if you can express at this time. Draining your breasts regularly also helps to prevent complications such as mastitis or blocked ducts. Mothers are frequently told that giving a bottle of formula will help their baby to sleep longer at night but research does not support this finding. Occasionally some mothers also find that their baby can experience an unsettled stomach in relation to the introduction of the formula. You may find the following link helpful: ... mum/supply

I hope that this information has been helpful. You are in the midst of what many parents find the most difficult time in their adjustment to parenting. I hope that your baby becomes more settled during the night time in the coming weeks. Please ring the Ngala helpline if you would like more information and support.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
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