So after months of waiting and an awful lot of work, you finally meet your precious little one! What a joy those first few moments are! After everything is cleaned and taken care of, you and your little one finally drift off into a much needed sleep. Everything is perfect.
Then something happens and the next few days are spent with precious little sleep because your little one just can't seem to stay asleep longer than thirty minutes. Newborns are supposed to just eat and sleep right? Why is mine just crying and crying, eating every ten minutes, and not sleeping?
I'm not sure if anybody else has ever asked themselves that question, but I certainly did after several days of constant feeding, non stop crying, and very little sleeping. As a serious sleep deprived mom, I searched the internet for what could possibly be the cause for my little one being so unhappy, and fortunately, I found a lot of solutions.
So if you are in the same boat, I was a month ago, here are some possible problems and solutions that might help.
When your baby is in your womb, he has no bowel movements, so upon arrival to the outside world, he is a little distressed with this new movement. You may find that your little one, screams and turns really red the first few days when this occurs. This happens because he is not used to the feeling of his bowels moving, and it is uncomfortable for him. I promise that this phase will soon pass.
Babies are born with immature digestive tracts, and it takes a couple of weeks for them to mature where they can handle most of what you eat. Some tips to help avoid gas altogether are these:
* Keep a list of what you eat. It takes about eight hours for what you eat to get into your milk. Keeping a list will help you determine if there is a common food or drink that is upsetting your little one. With me, it was black tea. It did not give him gas, but an upset tummy. :(
* Avoid gas producing foods, like beans, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage
Complications occur though when your little one becomes gassy or constipated. I personally have never had a constipated newborn so I can't give too much information on that one, but we have dealt with a lot of gas! Here are some solutions that I have found that work well. Sometimes, you will have to use several different methods to help relieve your little one.
1. Pumping his legs
You do this by gently pushing his knees up to his tummy and pumping them like a bicycle. You can also just push his knees to his tummy and rotate them in a clockwise motion. Both of these positions, put pressure on his colon helping the gas to move down and out.
2. Laying on Belly
This is another position that has helped me to relieve my little one's gas. I lay him across my knees and gently massage his back. Sometimes just having the pressure on his belly makes him feel good.
3. Gas Drops
These are definitely a life saver especially when you know you ate a gas producing food. In order for gas drops to be completely effective, you must give them at every feeding. I personally do not use normal gas drops because of the harmful chemicals and preservatives they contain. For my first born, I purchased herbal drops from Gaia kids or Wish Garden Herbs. You can see purchase these brands from Amazon as well, here and here.
For my second son, I made my own herbal drops because I knew we would possibly be using a lot. You can learn how to make your own by reading this post here.
4. Infant Probiotic
I have never actually used infant pro-biotic but I have several friends who use this brand. They love them and say that they work wonders for their babies. This is a method that I will be prepared with next time. It is a safe, gentle method to help your babies intestinal tract adapt to the outside world.
5. The Windi
I have heard raving reviews about how effective this little instrument is in relieving gas. The first week when I was completely sleep deprived and nothing was working, my husband went and purchased this. I had high hopes of it working, but honestly I was a little disappointed. It made my little one terribly uncomfortable and did nothing in relieving his gas.
I can't entirely blame the product because I was a little put off by how to use it and probably did not do it correctly. It has to be inserted into your babies rectum, and I just didn't really feel comfortable doing that. I tried it once, and then never did it again. You may have different results though if you are not put off by how to use the Windi.
6. Essential Oils
I am definitely more accustomed to dealing with herbs than essential oils, but I have a friend that sells them so I am learning more all the time. One that she let me sample is a blend called DigestZen. She placed a couple drops in a roller bottle with fractionated coconut oil for me to use when anyone had stomach issues. I have used it multiple times before on myself when I just ate something that did not agree with me. It worked wonder and within thirty minutes, I was feeling better every time.
So when my little one, was super fussy and not calming down, I would rub this oil on his tummy. It definitely worked every time when he just had an upset tummy. I would not say it relieves gas, but if his stomach is upset at all, it will help that. Because with newborns, you truly have no clue what is going on, I started using it every feeding as well.
In order for my little one to sleep several hours without being awakened with gas pains, we used this method. Before I fed him or in between his feeding, I would give him some gas drops. I would also rub some DigestZen on his tummy. After he was done eating, I would burp him really well. I would try to always get two burps. Then I would pump his legs some to relieve some of the pressure. If he seemed pretty calm, I may skip this next step, but it never hurts to try it too. Instead of patting him to sleep on my shoulder, I would lay him across my lap.
When I stuck to this method every time along with some of the things I will mention below, we had very peaceful nap times and night times.
With my first born, he ate forty-five minutes non- stop every feeding. He was not a sleepy baby and never fell asleep eating. Fast forward two years and my second son is born. He eats ten seconds and then drifts off to sleep. For the first week, I made a huge mistake with his feedings, and he did not sleep well because of it. I had to take the initiative and wake him up and make him get a full feeding. This is something I was entirely unaccustomed too.
To help me keep on track and make sure he was getting full, I used my phone timer. It typically takes anywhere from 15-20 minutes of continuous nursing for a newborn to get full. I set my timer to ten minutes per side and every time my little one stopped nursing, I would pause the timer and wake him up. This is rather annoying at times and really does seem to take forever, but it gets better, I promise. A normal feeding with him getting twenty minutes of continuous nursing took about forty-five minutes. As the days went by, the time got less and he grew more accustomed to nursing longer periods. By the end of week two, we were down to a thirty minute nursing session.
If you need some ideas on how to keep your little one awake while nursing, here are some things that worked for me.
- Tickling the bottom of his feet or tummy
- Nursing skin to skin
- Changing his diaper
- Rubbing his feet with cool lotion
- Wiping his face with a cool wipe
- Burping him
Foremilk/ Hindmilk Imbalance
This may not be extremely familiar to you, but I am super grateful that my first midwife mentioned it to me. I did not need that information with my first son, but it sure came in handy with baby number two! This actually makes a huge difference, and even if you did everything else right without addressing this, you would have a fussy baby who wouldn't sleep.
The foremilk is the first milk that your little one drinks during nursing. It is light white or bluish in color. The hindmilk is the milk that comes next and is more creamy yellow in color. The foremilk satisfies your babies thirst, but the hindmilk keeps him full. A foremilk/ hindmilk imbalance is when your little one is receiving too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk to keep him full and nourished.Here are some possible cues as to whether this may be a problem for you:
- Green, explosive stools
- Baby has a bowel movement every time he eats
- Colic symptoms
- Diaper rash from acidic poop
- Baby wants to eat all the time
You may only experience one or two of symptoms. One of the main things that I look for is green bowel movements. Your babies bowel movements should be mainly yellow. If you have more than one consistent green diapers, you have a foremilk/ hindmilk imbalance. This may sound a little scary, but it is very easy to remedy.
Instead of dividing up your nursing time to make it equal, either nurse all on one side the entire time or fifteen minutes on one side and five minutes on the other. If your breasts get too full, use a breast pump and freeze the milk, so you can leave your little one with Grandma and go on a date night. :) This is the breast pump that I have used with both of my sons. Here is an article with some other useful tips.
Not Enough Butterfat
I know this sounds totally comical, but let me explain. I had the privilege of working in a daycare in an infant classroom with a wise old lady before I had children. I learned so much about babies from her and gained so much hands on experience. When we had a baby that was super fussy after just having finished a huge bottle or a baby that just always seemed hungry, she would say that the milk didn't have enough butterfat.
This just means that your milk doesn't have enough fat in it to keep your little one full. If you are uncertain as to how much fat your milk contains, take a breast pump and pump out about an ounce of milk. Then place it in the refrigerator for a few hours. After that, take it out and see how much fat has risen to the top. You should have at least an eighth to a quarter of an inch of fat on the top.
If this is not the case, you may want to consider taking some supplements to make your milk richer. These are some natural supplements that I like to take. You can find most at your regular grocery store or health food store. Wish Garden herbs are sold at my regular grocery store, but they are cheaper to purchase online.
- Mother's milk tea by Traditional Medicinals
- Fenugreek capsules
- Goat's Rue by Wish Garden
- Mother's milk by Wish Garden
This is another way that really helps newborns to sleep. Babies are born with something named the Moro reflex. This is when they think that they are falling and suddenly jerk their hands out and wake themselves up. This reflex typcially goes away after three or four months, but in the meantime, swaddling helps keep your little one enclosed so as not to startle himself awake.
I am not very good at swaddling with a regular blanket, so I have grown to love the SwaddleMe type of swaddle. It is very easy to use and keeps my little one very snug. I love that they also have different sizes and options for working your way out of swaddling altogether.
These are some of the things that I have learned in the process of helping my little one get to sleep and stay to sleep. Sleep is extremely important to your newborn's growth, and they certainly need a lot of it!
I am very much convinced that if you have a fussy newborn that just won't sleep, there is something wrong. Newborns are not at a stage in development where they cry for no reason at all. If your little one is continually crying and fussy, there is something wrong. I was lucky that my newborn issues were very typical and after a week of learning and tweaking, we had a happy contented baby. On the other hand, if you have tried everything and your baby is still primarily unhappy and not sleeping, you should see a doctor.
I have friends who have taken their babies to the chiropractor and that solved their issues, but sometimes help must be sought. It is not just you not knowing what to do with your baby there is probably just an issue that you can't see. I hope this helps you figure out how to get your baby to sleep better so that you can also get your much needed rest and continue to heal.