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Everywhere I read, people say that newborns sleep all the time. And everyone's all warning you to watch for their tired signs.

My problem seems to be the reverse - my 4 week old newborn doesn't want to sleep in the daytime at all. It's not a matter of watching for her tired signs - I'm constantly trying to get her to sleep. But I can't get her to bed for longer than 20 minutes.

I've tried everything. I just don't know why it's happening. The weird thing is at night, she's somewhat normal - sleeping for 3-5 hours at a time. For example, yesterday, after her 8am wake up, we spent 13 hours trying to get her to sleep - we would nurse her for like 30 minutes before she was able to fall asleep - and then as soon as we put her down, within like 10-15 minutes she was back awake. However, last night, she slept fine.

My question isn't about advice on how to get them to sleep because likely, I've already tried it! Accumulatively, she's probably getting about 8 hours rest at night and maybe 3-4 15 minute naps in the day time.

I just want to know if this lack of sleep is harming her in any way. I've been told their development is very rapid right now so I'm worried this lack of sleep is going to affect her brain (eg. intelligence) or physical development (eg. height)

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    Have you spoken to her doctor? What did they say? – anongoodnurse Jan 21 '15 at 5:02
  • What does she do when she's awake? While it may be unusual, it's not necessarily harmful. But there may be an underlying issue causing her not to sleep more. e.g. acid reflux can interfere with sleep, as can sensitivity to things like light and sound. Some babies are just very wakeful. – Ben Jan 22 '15 at 4:50
  • @j.rightly - yeah the weird thing is she's quite normal when she's awake - sometimes, she's cranky, but generally - just likes to be carried. Not sure about the acid reflux - how can I tell? She does get hiccups after feeding but she doesn't really spew up or anything. – Ignite Jan 23 '15 at 8:29
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I fully agree with anongoodnurse's comment that you should ask your a doctor about it. Still, here's two points related to your question that I want to point out:

  1. I believe that a healthy baby sleeps as much as it needs to. Now yours is somewhat extreme, but I wouldn't rule it out. (However, this is where asking a doctor comes into: Is she healthy?)

  2. Maybe this child needs to be in contact with you in order to relax enough to sleep. I had one such child. After all, children were carried by their mothers for millions of years, and aren't only for a few hundred.

Let me emphasize again: I suggest you ask a doctor.

  • thanks, yeah I have mentioned it to the community nurses - they just said to keep trying my best and that I can't force a baby to sleep. Have not involved a doctor - seems a bit odd to take her to see a doctor if she's not in distress or anything. She's just awake during the day. – Ignite Jan 23 '15 at 8:32
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    +1 for noting that some babies just need to be held for sleep. Mine fits this as well. – Jeffrey Blake Jun 1 '15 at 16:07
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Newborns need at least 10.5 hours of sleep a day, preferably more, and can sleep for up to 18 hours a day - some of this is based on age (very very early is usually more), but the lower limit is where I'd involve the pediatrician. If your child is really sleeping only 9 hours a day, that's insufficient and needs to be addressed. Lack of sleep can affect mental development and learning as well as physical development, and certainly is critical in the early weeks to fully develop systems such as visual and aural that are not fully developed when born.

Several online resources both give guidelines like this and have useful suggestions, such as making sure the bedroom is very quiet, dark, following a consistent routine, etc.

The Sleep foundation is where I sourced the 10.5 hour recommendation; they have some additional useful resources to the extent you want to try to solve this yourself (but please, please use your pediatrician!).

The (British) NHS lists an average recommendation of 6.75 hours in the day and 8.75 at night. That is a total of 15.5 hours, but that's not a minimum - more of an average.

  • Your most critical link 404s: pediatricsconsultant360.com/content/… = The requested page could not be found. The NYT article really only talks about consequences in adolescents and thus isn't valid. The about kids health link is more of a guide that say you child will be cranky and tired if it doesn't sleep and only talks about physical health, and mentions nothing about physical development. – virtualxtc Feb 4 at 9:02
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Are you sure he isn't sleeping when you think he's awake?

We are/were having exactly the same problem and our doctor said "it's fine" and "he's probably grabbing some sleep when you aren't really noticing".

We went back and began adding up the time where his eyes are open, but not tracking anything and his body is still (day dreaming or sleeping with eyes open?) and also notice that our infant may have developed a talent for sleeping while breast feeding (which also explains his much longer than average beast feeding sessions). With the new more liberal sleep numbers, it seems he's probably sleeping enough.

It's hard to sleep while hiccuping - burp your infant more often

I'm not sure about your case, but for us, the hiccups would kick in right after our son is done feeding and about to fall asleep. My my doctor advised me to burp more often as large burps hurt a lot so infants learn to hold it in if you don't do it often enough, and generally an infant needs to be relaxed to burp. This should also help reduce those collicy pains and leg scrunches that he/she gets that wakes him/her out of sleep. If hiccups are incited by an irritation to the vengas nerve, usually by air in the stomach or intestine, but I've also noticed cold milks seems to stimulate them in our infant. Moreover, once the hiccups happen it's usually too late to burp our son, but, feeding him more milk seems to assuage them, and they always stop within a 1-5 minutes of putting him back on the breast, but can last much longer if mom isn't around (room temperature bottled milk doesn't seem to have the same effect).

Try giving your baby more milk

Finally, if you are really worried, be sure your baby is getting enough to eat. When mom finally left to return to work part-time and grandma started bottle feeding, he was drinking double what she could produce while they were separated. When drinking double he slept more,so much more (even though diaper changes) that I started to worry he wasn't getting enough awake tine to learn.

Tell your doctor

That said, as others have mentioned, this is something to bring up to your pediatrician sooner rather than later. Lack of sleep can be detrimental for development, but can also be a sign of some other underlying problem. My gut tells me your baby is probably getting a little less sleep than he/she really needs but it's not at the point where you need to worry about it harmful -- but I'm not a doctor, and wouldn't gamble my child's or your child's health on some stranger on the internet's instinct.

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