Helpline: Should I sleep train my five-week-old baby?

Posted in Sleeping.

Carmen has a five-week-old son who she’s been cuddling to sleep before putting him into his cot during his daytime naps.

This pattern is repeated several times throughout the day as her baby only stays asleep for stretches of 15-20 minutes at a time before waking up distressed, until she cuddles him back to sleep again.

As this problem does not occur at night (baby sleeps between 4-5 hours in a row), Carmen wanted to know if it was too early to start sleep training her little one during his unsettled daytime naps?

“You’re doing a great job”

Carmen rang Helpline to ask mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue for her advice.

“I’ve tried to go back in and pat and shush him but it always escalates to a cry so I pick him up, calm him and put him back down. Once I put him down (awake), he will fuss again, it will escalate to a cry, and then I repeat the process of calming and put him back down. I try this about 4-5 times before I give up and just rock him to sleep in my arms before putting him back down.”

Listen to Chris Minogue on Feed Play Love:

She asked Chris:

“What happens when this goes beyond the 30-minute mark and he still isn’t asleep? And what about when he is going through his bad days or witching hour? I’m honestly feeling there is no chance during those periods. It takes him long enough to sleep on us, let alone in his own cot.”

Chris started by reassuring Carmen:

“Let me tell you that you are doing everything right as your little man is still very young at five weeks,” says Chris.

“Babies at his age are generally breastfed between 2.5 to 4 hours a day. So the first thing to do is the check how well he is feeding.”

Chris asks Carmen to check the following: “Does he need longer on the first breast before offering the second? Are your breasts softened at the end of the feed and is your baby relaxed and calm after the feed?

“These few checks can help tell us whether he is feeding efficiently.”

A good feed equals a good sleep

Chris went on to explain that babies who take lots of small feeds get in the habit of snacking and napping, which means they are not getting adequate sleep or adequate milk.

“The next thing I would check is that when you are putting him to sleep that you wrap him in a wrap. This will help calm him for sleep. Don’t worry about how much you are rocking him at the moment, we need to work out what is going on first.”

Chris says there are five main things to consider with babies under six weeks old.

5 important things to look for in babies under six weeks

1. Routine

Even at this young age, you should be able to establish a clear pattern in the cycle of your baby’s day. It should look something like this: a good feed, followed by some alert time, followed by a sleep. Repeat. 

2. Get the balance right

Understand that to sleep well, a tiny baby needs to feed well; one doesn’t work without the other.

3. Be mindful of tired signs

Learn to read your baby’s signals. When he is tired, he will start to whine, have jerky movements, turn his head and disengage or yawn. At five weeks of age, he will tend to start these actions around 1.5 hours after waking.

4. The baby is wrapped tight

Wrapping calms and quietens the baby, helping him to go to sleep. At five weeks old, he may be too small for a swaddle as it may not fit snuggly enough and this means he’ll take longer to settle to sleep.

5. It’s always okay to cuddle bub

Know that it is completely fine to cuddle your baby until he is calm and quiet. This can take some time if they are not feeding well or are overtired. Once he’s calm, put him down into the cot and then put your hands over his belly so he can feel you. Then rock gently for a few minutes until he falls asleep. You can also tuck him in with another muslin wrap doubled over, providing some extra warmth. 

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