Agape Chiropractic in Pompano Beach Answers Questions about Breast Feeding and Sleep Patterns

Patient's Question

No Sleep - Too much breast feeding! I really need some advice on how to get my baby (who's 5 months old now) to sleep through the night. If he got up once or twice I'd be OK but he's been getting up 5-8 times a night since he was born!! I'm exhausted and emotionally drained!!! Please help me!

Here's a brief history:

Newborn: slept in a infant carrier beside our bed, nursed on demand every 2 hours
1-3 months: co-slept with me, nursed on demand, every 2 hours.
4-5 months: slept in Arm's Reach co-sleeper bassinet by our bed.
5 months: now is in crib by our bed, still nursing on demand.

I originally wanted to co-sleep with him but he is a VERY active baby and would kick me and flair his arms and constantly wake me up, so when he started fighting his swaddle we had to nix it and transfer him to the bassinet. He also is a tummy sleeper. He has never slept on his back well, because of his strong startle reflex he just wakes up within minutes. He started tummy sleeping at 3 months when he could roll over and was double his weight. He has NEVER slept longer than 4 hours since he was born. It is extremely rare when he's slept 4 hours - I can only think of one time. Now, I'm lucky if he sleeps a 3 hour span through the night. I'm afraid that the 'nursing on demand' has made him have a habit of waking up a lot??? I dunno.

Things I've tried that don't help:

  • Giving him rice cereal and oatmeal at night to keep him full - didn't work.
  • He won't take a pacifier.
  • I give him relaxing baths before bed, doesn't seem to matter.
  • I've given him massages with baby lotion.
  • He's never been on the bottle or formula, just nursed by me.
  • I've tried letting him cry a little to see what he does, he just wakes up 100% and it takes me a full hour of rocking & nursing to get him back to sleep!
  • If daddy tries to rock him to sleep he screams bloody murder and only wants me.

So this is our night schedule now:

7:30/8:00p.m. Down for bed
9:30: Up, wanting to nurse
12:30: Up, wanting to nurse
2:30: Up, wanting to nurse
4:00: Up, wanting to nurse
4:30: Up again
5:00 Up, wants to nurse
5:30 Up, me trying to nurse him back to sleep
6:00 Up for the day, cooing & kicking, excited to be a baby.

So as you can see, the only way I can get him to go back to sleep at night is to nurse him in bed. Then once he's asleep I transfer him to his crib. Once or twice a week he'll get up at 1:00am or 4:00am and be WIDE AWAKE cooing and blowing bubbles and I'll need to physically get up and play with him for a little while till he's tired again, then I'll nurse him and rock him back to sleep - it's these times he shows NO sign of wanting to sleep.

We thought that maybe he was getting to big for the bassinet and that he was waking himself up by hitting the sides. So we got him a nice big crib and last night he slept in it the first time. To my horror, he still woke up almost every other hour like this! So now, I'm thinking it's something I'm doing wrong.

His nap schedule during the day is great and we have a routine:

8:00 a.m. 1 hour nap 11:00a.m. 1 hour nap 2:00 45 minute nap 5:00 p.m. 30 minute nap 6:30 - bath time and bed time routine 7:30-8 bedtime He sticks to this schedule during the day religiously.

OK, that's the details...now if you could, please give me advice on what to do!!

My parents told me to let him "cry it out" but I'm looking for a more loving way...I'll try anything at this point!! Please HELP!!

A Chiropractor's Response

I have been a chiropractor for 15 years now and have heard this scenario many times. This "problem" is so common, I'm not going to address your particular circumstance, but all mothers experiencing these same problems. Let me re-write the typical scenario:

You've had a baby and now your on call 24/7 and haven't slept more than 2 hours straight for 6 months. The new baby sleeps at most 2 hours then screams for milk till he gets some. What should you do?

Having four children of our own, we are too familiar with the scenario. We have heard of mothers having babies and not having this "problem". That is, they sleep fine and their baby sleeps through the night at just a couple weeks old. Isn't this the way it should be?

When you hear such a story, don't immediately think that they were blessed and you cursed and that is why you are being tormented. There might be an valid simple explanation for your baby's sleep patterns. We've outlined a few considerations and possible solutions.

The first is dietary. Not all milk is created the same. If you are breast feeding, "GIGO" rules apply (Garbage In Garbage Out). If mom drinks coffee, so does the baby. If mom has an unsatisfying high carbohydrate low fat non-food diet, so does the baby. A nutrient dense natural diet with 30 to 40% healthy fat, 30 to 40% quality protein, and 30 to 40% complex carbohydrate diet that is non GMO, without pesticides, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, non-radiated, mostly raw, and the like can make a healthy satisfying milk supply for the baby. Satisfying milk should translate to better sleep. If you are not breast feeding your baby, make sure the formula you chose is as close to breast milk as possible. Remember, companies make and sell things to make a profit. If the baby won't drink it, they don't make a profit. One way to make sure a baby drinks it is to sweeten it up a little. This is at the expense of your child's health. Don't be duped by fancy labels and nutrition claims. Do your research.

Another consideration is the parents. They may have created these poor sleeping patterns. We've been there. You have your first baby. He is in the crib sleeping nice and soundly but makes a noise. You immediately get out of bed and go look to make sure the baby's belly is still going up and down. The newborn senses your presence and starts to cry and wakes up. You immediately answer the cry and tend to your baby. Don't get me wrong, a newborn needs your attention. It is better to error on the side of caution being that every cry is valid. But please don't initiate the cry.

Of course, the cry may be for some other valid reason: a wet diaper, a diaper rash, pinched skin, uncomfortable clothes, too many clothes, not enough clothes, a draft, gas, burps, vomit, pain, you get the idea. Each cry is unique. After a while, you know what is wrong just by the cry. But the one cry that takes the longest to identify is the one you need to learn first. It is the attention cry. This is the one that changes with age. By 1 year old, the attention cry can occur as a series of scales ranging from the initial tenor which quickly escalates to alto, and eventually hits the Hi C. We are not sure, but think the moments of quiet between screeching Hi C's are still heard by canine. This is the one you must learn to ignore. We personally are not good at ignoring sounds over 110 decibels, but have found ear plugs certainly help make the task easier.

Changing the sleeping pattern by ignoring the cries might work something like this: Your baby goes to sleep at 8PM and usually wakes up at 10PM and seemingly cries till he gets what he wants. We say seemingly, because, for all of them, there is a giving up point. You just haven't had the patience to see where it is. It might be 20 minutes, it might be an hour or more. Some parents crack too soon rationalizing that if they let the baby cry too long, he'll get laryngitis and die from a bacterial infection before the night is over. If you LOL, you know what we mean! but they will give up. When they do, you can let them go just a little longer and then WAKE THEM UP to feed them. You read that right. Understand the process:

Babies love patterns. Wouldn't it be nice if the babies pattern was to sleep until mom wakes him up to feed him? This brings us to a whole other option when it comes to programming your baby (programming... sounds controlling, hugh?).

Another option to change your babies habits is to wake them up 5 minutes before they start crying and feed them. The first couple times you do this, it might startle them because it is new to them. They will soon expect you to wake them. The next time, you might wait an extra 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, and so on until they are on an acceptable sleep pattern. By waking them up before they cry, they learn that they don't have to cry to survive and that mom knows what they need before they do. The new pattern is to sleep until Mom wakes them.

We found that once we got the hang of nursing. It was easy to wake the baby up every 2-4 hrs. to nurse. We would bring the baby back into bed and lie down while the baby nursed. Once finished, we would put the baby back into the crib. This seemed to work well for us. It was a shared task and we would take turns getting the baby so we could take turns completely waking up. That way our sleep patterns were less interrupted. But We chose not to let the baby go longer than 4 hrs between nursing because of our "conception" plans. Frequent breast feeding can be an unreliable form of birth control. An unreliable plan seemed better than no plan at the time.

Would any discussion of babies health be appropriate without a pediatric chiropractic plug? After all, we are the owners of Agape Chiropractic. You see, all four (so far) of our babies were born at home. All of our kids had their spines checked within the first hour of life. After being cramped up in the womb, we feel that making sure the spine is functioning as best as possible allows the baby's nervous system to work as good as it can. Most chiropractors are used to checking, and if necessary, adjusting infants. If you are unsure about getting your baby's spine checked, look for a "pediatric" chiropractor, that is, one with an emphasis on kids. Feel free to call us if you have any questions about this.

Changing a baby's sleep patterns takes commitment. You have to stick to the plan. It is difficult, especially considering your lack of sleep. But the rewards are often seen within a few days to a week.

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