7 week old non-sleeper

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7 week old non-sleeper

Postby mistymum » Wed 15 May, 2013 10:01 am

Hi I would really appreciate some advice, my 7 week old son has never been a good sleeper from the moment we brought him home. I think the last 7 weeks of sleepless nights has finally caught up with my partner and I, we don't know what to do!
He is breastfed mainly with ebm or formula top-ups as he is always quite hungry. I am worried that he does not sleep the recommended times for his age and he is getting very overtired.
I spend most of my day trying to get him to sleep and when I do he will only sleep for 30 min maximum. At night he is even worse and cries uncontrollably till about 3am when he will fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. He seems to be suffering from wind/colic as he looks so uncomfortable, pulling his legs up etc and will not breastfeed well at night as he is so fussy and wriggly.
We have tried numerous things, all the natural drops, chiropractor, massage every day, bicycle movements for legs, warm baths, long periods of burping and upright time, tilted bassinet, swaddling, white noise, music, rocking to sleep, patting etc.
He does have some contented periods during the day where he is happy and smiling. He is putting on weight well, has lots of wet nappies and is otherwise very healthy.
Just looking for some advice on what to do to improve his wind/colic and hopefully his sleep pattern too, or if there is anything else we haven't tried yet?...
Thank you very much in advance
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Joined: Wed 15 May, 2013 9:47 am

Re: 7 week old non-sleeper

Postby NgalaOnline » Wed 15 May, 2013 9:18 pm

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 worrying for parents.

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 have a lengthy unsettled period that often begins in the evening or early night and continues until a late point during the night (such as your baby is doing until 3am). 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. Changes may not happen immediately but may take a few weeks to develop. This night time unsettledness and crying is very draining for the parents but is very normal for many newborns.

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 around 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 does sound like you have tried all the appropriate things for what appears to be wind pain. Parents usually do find that there is little that seems to ease these abdominal pains for their baby and that it is offer a matter of continuing to offer supportive care (such as the methods you are using) to the baby whilst his digestive system goes through the necessary maturation and he passes through this phase. Wind pain has usually ceased by 10 - 12 weeks. There are some thoughts that what appears to be pain (such as drawing up the legs and grimacing) may actually not be pain but simply the way a newborn shows overtiredness and distress. Some babies respond well to being cuddled or having skin to skin contact with a parent in a dim and unstimulating room when they are very unsettled.

It does sound as though you are feeling very anxious about your baby's sleep and settling. This is very common for many parents of newborns, and getting their baby to sleep can feel all-consuming for many parents. It is helpful to try to get out of the house (even if it is just for a walk) several times a week and to try to continue with some activities that you find enjoyable or relaxing so that it doesn’t feel like your life is being wholly consumed by settling your unsettled baby. Meeting other mums of babies can also be helpful. It is helpful to know that most babies do not fall into established patterns at this age - newborns are typically unpredictable and are usually not in any sort of established routine. It is normal for babies under about 4 months of age to only have short catnaps of around one sleep cycle (20 - 40 minutes) and to not know how to tie sleep cycles together and have a longer nap. Many parents worry that their baby is not getting enough sleep but it is helpful to try not to be too anxious about this, as wakefulness is a normal part of early infancy that is linked to their immature brain development, and there is no evidence that it is harmful for babies. There are many books available on the market that can be rather authoritative, and many parents can become concerned that their baby is not falling into the patterns that the book says they "should" be following. It is helpful to know that many popular parenting books currently available are written by people without qualifications in child development or health, and that many are based on the opinions of the author rather than scientific evidence. It is helpful to select bits that work for you from parenting books and from advice that may be given to you, and to feel free to disregard anything that does not work for you, your baby or your family, or anything that makes you feel pressured or anxious. You and your partner are the only experts on your baby.

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 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 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. You may find the following link helpful: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-inf ... baby/fussy

With regards to your concerns that your baby is very hungry and that he is sometimes requiring formula top ups - whenever possible it is helpful if you are able to top your baby up at the breast or with expressed breast milk in order to protect and maintain an ample milk supply. 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. If you feel that your milk supply is not able to meet your baby's needs, several days of increased feeding will usually sufficiently increase a mother's milk supply to match the needs of her baby. Baby behaviour (as babies are often so unsettled / difficult to soothe and unpredictable), as well as things like the way the breasts feel (soft or hard / empty or full) or the amount of milk that can be expressed from the breast are usually not reliable indicators of what a mother's milk supply is like. When a baby is gaining weight, having soft bowel motions and around 5 heavy wet nappies per day and some contented periods each day, these are good signs that a mother's milk supply is sufficient for the needs of her baby. As breastmilk supply is highly regulated by the amount of times the breasts are drained, many mothers find that if they do offer foods or fluids other than breastmilk their breasts will begin to respond to this and will begin to downregulate the amount of milk that they are producing. This can lead to weaning before the mother wishes, and for this reason it is best to try to offer top ups at the breast rather than with formula when possible. It takes the breasts around 20 - 30 minutes to generate enough milk to be able to top the baby up at the breast again, and this can be a good way of increasing the milk supply for many mothers. Mothers are often told by well meaning helpers 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 breastfed baby experiences more wind and abdominal discomfort in response to consuming formula. If you would like to discuss your breastmilk supply you may like to ring the 24/7 Australian Breastfeeding Association helpline on 1800 686 268. You may find the following link helpful: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-inf ... 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 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
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