My baby won’t sleep!
Sometimes, if your baby is not sleeping properly, there might be only one simple thing that you need to do to turn things around. Whatever is going on and whatever you’re doing at the moment is probably not completely wrong and you are not far from doing it very well. Trust me on this one! Let me tell you a story that will explain this.
Janet and Lucy
When I met Janet, her daughter Lucy was five weeks old. Janet was agonized by sleepless nights and days and spent literally most of her time breastfeeding. It is normal that young babies feed very often, but it is not normal that they stay on the breast twenty- four hours a day.
Janet and her family were sure that Lucy was one of those children who are generally very high maintenance and not very happy. After spending a few weeks with both of them, I noticed that Janet wasn’t paying enough attention to Lucy’s very obvious cues. Instead, she was desperately trying to search the internet and spent hours on the phone with her mum and friends trying to work out how to make Lucy happy.
Whenever Janet held Lucy, she was either rocking her or trying to stimulate her with smiles and giggles. I was closely watching Lucy and the answers were right there, in Lucy’s behaviour. Janet was waiting for my advice as she was waiting for some sort of revelation. Obviously, she was exhausted and she had no time to do anything else. Her house, as she said, was a mess and she felt very low. All she was thinking was that her baby just won’t sleep no matter what.
Lucy was clearly very tired too. She was fidgeting, moving her head from side to side, as she was very restless and she would cry on and off most of the time. I’ve noticed that, often when Lucy cried, Janet would put her on the breast, where Lucy would spend about 10 minutes at the time, either suckling or having a cat nap. After waking forty-five minutes later, she would do exactly the same. Janet said that this was going on all day and night.
Finally, I told her what I thought the problem was: “I think that Lucy is just very tired Janet and you need to start putting her down for naps.” Janet said that she’d tried, but Lucy just won’t sleep. She’d cry for ages and then she’d end up picking her up again. I’ve asked Janet if Lucy had ever slept in a day for longer than 15 minutes on the breast. “Sadly not,” said Janet.
“Here is what you need to do,” I told her. “First of all, Lucy needs to start having naps. You’ll have to do whatever it takes and forget about bad habits at this moment. You need to settle her and put her down in her cot for a sleep.” Janet has started doing it right away. After watching Janet trying to settle Lucy for about 45 minutes, I’ve picked up on one important message. Janet was stressed.
She was rocking Lucy erratically and changing from shoulder to lying down, on and off the breast, and all over again. Janet had constant worry and disappointment written all over her face. As she followed the routine, she was telling herself that it’s not going to happen. I asked if I could give her an advice. “Yes please!” said Janet. “You need to calm down Janet,” I told her. “You need to start controlling the way you handle Lucy and moderate your touch and breathing.” I asked her to start breathing in and out slowly and try to let go of the stress. As she was doing it, Lucy was still kicking, growling and crying.
I asked Janet if I could have Lucy. As I held Lucy in my arms, I tried to do exactly what I told Janet to do. I held her over my shoulder quite firmly, feeling very confident but I was gentle and calm at the same time. I wanted her to feel safe. I was positive that she would eventually fall asleep. After awhile, although she was still battling me, kicking and arching her back, I stood up and started rocking her from side to side, gently but with a firm hold. When she started kicking or pulling herself away, I rocked her a bit harder with more of a swing motion by bending my knees. When she stopped, I stopped, and rocked her gently again and often I stopped for about ten to twenty seconds. I had to repeat this about five or six times. I would try not to change the position or talk to her, but stayed calm and determent to rock her to sleep. At this point, the aim was to put her to sleep by any other way rather than on the breast and to make sure that she sleeps for longer than 15 minutes. The priority here was for Lucy to get some much-needed sleep in order to start feeding better and sleeping better at night.
So, after about 20 minutes, Lucy managed to relax and she put her head on my shoulder. There were a couple of kicks and stretches, but I ignored that and carried on rocking her. Janet was already jumping in excitement when she saw Lucy putting her head down on my shoulder. Obviously, she kept away, so that she didn’t disturb her.
Lucy fell asleep on my shoulder and she slept and slept and slept. She slept for about an hour and half and I think that she would have slept even longer if my shoulder wasn’t getting a bit sore. This was the first time ever that Lucy slept off the breast for longer than 15 minutes. Even though we didn’t put her in her cot, it was a great achievement.
When Lucy woke up, she was already a different baby. She was happy, smiley and ready to play. I asked Janet to not let Lucy stay awake for longer than maybe couple of hours or even less. I advised her to watch her cues and I asked her to relax and be confident. Lucy needed another nap before her bedtime, so that she wasn’t overtired before her night time sleep.
Janet was fired up and determent to go all the way. She followed my advice and she managed to settle Lucy for another nap. Lucy slept only for about an hour, but later in the evening, she settled much easier and, for the first time ever, she slept for 4 hours straight in her cot. She’s had a 20-minute feed during the night and fell asleep again for another 2, shortly followed by another 3 hours. Janet called this the best night they’ve had in the last three months.
From that day onwards, Lucy was having three naps a day regularly and slept better and better at night. Obviously, she was feeding much better in a day, as she wasn’t exhausted, and therefore fed less at night.
It took less and less time to settle her each time and by now, at the age of one, she can settle herself. Still, I must be honest with you! I will not try to trick you into thinking that all of this was easy and straightforward. But you know what? It’s worth doing it for your baby and yourself, isn’t it? Have faith in yourself and your baby.
From my book – Learn From your Baby and Trust Yourself – just visit my home page to find it.