Sleep Advice for Premature Infant

Updated on November 02, 2009
S.S. asks from Brooklyn, NY
29 answers

My premature infant (18 weeks old, 8 weeks past due date) will only sleep in my husband and my arms or in the bed next to us. We try to put him down for naps, but he wakes up. The longest he will stay asleep is 30 minutes, although usually he wakes up right away. We have tried swaddling (he hates that) and the infant car seat. He goes for 3-4 hours at night, but again, only if he is in the bed next to us. Any ideas would be appreciated!

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J.L.

answers from Albany on

My son was also born early (8 weeks). He slept best while is his swing. I know that it seems like a never ending battle, but it will get better. Good luck.
J.

1 mom found this helpful
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C.K.

answers from New York on

hi there!

we had the same problem whne we moved my little guy from bassinet to crib. keep doing it. stick to it and don't back down. go thru a few days of hell becuase it will get better! good luck!

C. - mother of Jonah, 14 mos

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E.B.

answers from New York on

My daughter was born last June (8 weeks early) and for weeks she slept best swaddled in her papasan chair with the chair set to vibrate. Once we transitioned her into her bassinet and then her crib we used the "Sleep Sheep" set to the heartbeat sound which really helped her. Good luck!

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A.C.

answers from Dallas on

Snuggle spot...It is a baby bed/pillow that makes a baby feel like it is being held when you cant hold it. www.laneybug.net

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D.D.

answers from New York on

my son did the same - only slept on me or my husband for 3 months...and only laying on his stomach which meant he was on our chests..just go wtih it and enjoy your little one..the time goes sooo fast! have you tried a swing? that helped with my son....good luck!

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J.P.

answers from Syracuse on

I tried swaddling my premature daughter too and it didn't work at first. THen I heard about Dr.Karp and his DU-Du (down up down up) technique. It worked like a charm. You have to make sure you use a big enough wrap. I bought a peice of fabric from Walmart and cut it to the right size. I bet you can find information on the technique online. Our local public health nurses are trained in this technique and teach new parents how to do it. It was a life saver. She slept for at least 4 hours at a strech on her own in the crib. It was great. Now she no longer needs to be swaddled and sleeps for 6 hours at night before needing to nurse and then sleeps for another 4 or 5 hours. During the say she naps with out needing to be swaddled.

My Other daughter, who was also premature, liked to have a recieving blanket rolled up and placed at the top of her head and one under her feet so her feet were almost propped up. The NICU nurses taught us that trick and it worked great. I used the same blankets that I used as cover ups to nurse so that they would "smell" familiar and comforting to her.

Hope one of these helps.

Jenn

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D.

answers from New York on

Both my kids did this. Did I want the family bed...are you kidding me NO!!! Try this it worked great for me. Set up the pack and play next to your side of the bed. Once he's asleep in your bed, very gently move him to the pack and play. If he wakes up move him back to your bed. Eventually he'll stay asleep in the pack and play. Then after a while of him sleeping by himself in the pack and play start the same process with moving him to his own room. Honestly, I think some babies just have a hard time adjusting to "being here". They become accustom to your heartbeat and then hearing your breathing and smell. If you let them sleep in your room until they get use to sleeping away from you they can still hear and smell you and this brings them comfort. Once you move him to his own room you can even leave one of your shirts in the crib that you've worn a couple days. Again this smells like you and brings comfort. As for the sleeping in your arms, start with once he's asleep put him down. But leave him in the same room as you or close by. If he wakes try comforting him back to sleep with patting and your voice, don't pick him up if you can avoid it. This reasures him that you are still right near by. I use to let my son nap on a blanket on the living room floor. He will eventually learn to be more independent, but right now he looks to you and your hubby for comfort.

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M.D.

answers from New York on

i think some babies need lots of skin to skin. our baby was like that, so we got used to sleeping in the bed together. now we all sleep great in one bed. alan is now 4 months.

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A.D.

answers from New York on

My daughter wouldn't nap anywhere but in my arms for months after she was born. My best advice to you at this age is to go with the flow. If he will only nap in your arms let him. Perhaps purchase a co-sleeper that will allow you to keep him right next to you at night. He will grow out of it. My daughter is now 2 1/2 and and has not had any problem sleeping in her crib for naps and at night since she was about 6 months old.

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E.R.

answers from New York on

I've had two premature children, each 13-15 weeks early. You have to remember that they were supposed to be curled up in your womb a little longer so it's hard for them to sleep without your warmth when they aren't ready. If you adjust her age back 8 weeks, you'll see the true stage that she's at. Give your baby more time to adjust. You have to go by your baby's time table...not what other people say.

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A.T.

answers from New York on

My son was also a preemie, born at 31 weeks. We used a humidifier in the room, I think the noise helped. In addition, my son loved watching the ceiling fan--go figure. Jack hated swaddling when his arms were swaddled, so we just left the arms out . . .the halo sleep sacks are also great-they come in preemie sizes. The co-sleeper, which can be used as a bassinet as well, worked for us. Jack would fall asleep in the room with us, when he woke up for feeding, I just wheeled him into his room and stayed there. Earplugs for the parent not on duty helps. Good luck.

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B.K.

answers from New York on

Some babies just need the warmth of their mommy & daddy to sleep and being premature it may take longer for him to start sleeping on his own. We kept our daughter between us in the bed so she could hear us breathing and even have our hands close to her until she was 4 mo old and she wasn't premature.
Hang in there it does get better...remember you never get his time back. He will be sleeping on his own before you know it
B.

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A.C.

answers from New York on

did you try to carry him in a sling>?or a baby swing?

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P.M.

answers from Binghamton on

Hi S., Like some of the other Mothers... a swing worked great for my daughter who was born 12 weeks premature. Also try playing those CD's that plays a sound of a heartbeat. He might miss hearing his Mommy's heart beating.
I know its hard to believe but it really does get better. Hang in there!

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D.M.

answers from Myrtle Beach on

give him way more time and thank your lucky stars he does 3-4 hours a night. i dont know who's givng you advice to the contrary, but that isi excellent considering his age outside the womb and that he is premature!!! having him next to you is a smart idea under the circumstances, and can easily be changed a foot at a time away from bed at a later date. for now, keep doing what your doing!!premies have a different set of rules and 3-4 hours a night at 8 weeks is excellent, even for a full term baby!!!!of course this is night time. for daytime relief, have you tried a swing? worked for my first who would not sleep anywhere else and hated swaddling too. i put a supersoft blankyso it touched his face and made sur ehe was nice and warm and that was my daytime relif.good luck!!it will get better!!!
also, the family bed can be a wonderful thing. are firstborn needed it, our 2nd born did not. it was wonderful and my husband i miss it even...screaming it out at such a young age is so unhealthy both physically and emotionally...5 months or so u can give them 10 minutes to cry and usually they dont make it that long if they do, when u go in there and pick them up and rock them for a minute they are so greatful ur backthey pass out in v2 minutes. social services in most states mandates a 20 minute maximum and certainly not with so young an in fant. listen to your heart and instinct with your baby. it is the most important thing you have in caring for him. dont let anyone convince you to not listen to those mother instincts. they are ALWAYS right. even pediatricians will confess this. my two sons were as differnt as night and day from the day the were born and one was a family sleeper and colicy from the beginnign while the second was sleeping 6-8 hours in crib by 4 months and i hadnt done anything different in trying to acheive that, they are who they are. enjoy that baby caaus eit ewill fly. and for people who say your lovelife will be destroyed if theres a baby in ur bed; well ours became much more fun and interesting...who says u always have to be intimate i nthe bed with e lights off at night?BORING!!!:)and we had a living breathing teddy bear with us and loved it.

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J.J.

answers from New York on

hi S.; i really want to respond fully to your posting because i have read a lot and talked a lot and coped w a lot of sleep challenges w my children, so i will check in with you in a couple days to see how you are because i know this is very hard. for now, i want to say this;

first and foremost, mainstream expectations for infant sleep are totally unrealistic; there is no reason to expect even a full term baby to sleep well, reliably, or for a long period of time, for many, many months. many babies will sleep fitfully at first, then after a few weeks they will start sleeping for many hours and mothers will think they are over the obstacles, only to find that then the baby goes through a growth spurt and needs much more food and much more comforting and is suddenly only sleeping a couple hours at a time again; i assure you, this is normal, it's hard, and the best thing is to try to give yourself over to the unknown and go with the flow. MEET THE BABY'S NEEDS, no matter what they are.

your tiny wonderful baby needs to be close to you even more than a full term baby does, and that may mean ALL THE TIME, for right now. it is hard to never put the baby down, or almost never, but for right now, it is by far the best thing you can do for him to keep him close to your body and your husband's body; he wasn't able to stay inside the womb for as long as he needed to , and how he has to make up that time outside, so please be as generous with him as possible. i assure you, in a few months when he is bigger and stronger, he will reward you with smiles and love that will make your heart fly.

please, PLEASE do not take mainstream advice on sleep expectations for full term babies and try to apply it to your little precious sweet-pea; he's entitled to be extra needy for quite a while. even full term babies, even very big full term babies, still feel that the mom's body is thier natural envirornment for a long time after birth and want to be close.

i would urge you to check out these websites;

Ask.Dr.Sears.com
Kellymom.com
Askmoxie.com

and try La Leche League Intl. in your area as well; it would be the best thing nurtritionally for your preemie if you could nurse him if you aren't already, but even if you are not, LLLs website will have contact names and numbers for chapter leaders in your area and they will have helpful hints.

you could also seriously consider co-sleeping the baby, which is very safe with some planning and special care; many people do this successfully and it might be the best way for all of you to simply streamline the process, avoid stress and excessive waking, and get as much sleep as possible. check out Dr. Jay Gordon's website as well for information on cosleeping.

i ask you just one thing; please, do not let your baby cry alone under any circumstances now or any time soon. no matter what your doctor or your family may say, crying it out, especially, ESPECIALLY, for a tiny baby, is extremely dangerous; they can choke, they can go into respiratory arrest, and the rest you can imagine. please do not do this. i am sure that a resourceful mom like you will find other, kinder, more loving answers to the challenges of a new baby.

congratulations and hang in there,
J.

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S.R.

answers from New York on

I think that there are devices out there that imitate the sound of a womb that you can stick in a crib or perhaps you could try a clock - the ticking sound may comfort him. Being a preemee, I'm sure that he has special issues, but I think that if you think of it more realistically, his behavior is one of a two or three month old baby, I had trouble getting mine to seperate from me too at that age.

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M.M.

answers from New York on

Try 'wearing' him in one of those infant carriers during the day. He will sleep more lightly (though he should sleep since he is close to your body) and will get into a deeper sleep pattern at night. It won't be a magical 'cure' but it might help a bit. Good luck. M.

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W.M.

answers from New York on

I know that premature babies are usually put on their stomachs in the hospital. Perhaps that is part of the problem. They are also nested. I used the technique when I transitioned my then-6-weeek-old to the crib.

Take a thick beach towel (or double up two of them) and roll it the long way to create a long hotdog. Put a sleeping wedge at the top of the crib (or basinette) and create a horseshoe shape with the towel under it. Put a knit sheet over the whole thing. When you put your son down, have his armpits right at the end of the wedge so his top half is elevated slightly. His bottom half will be then cradled in the nest. You can adjust the towels as he grows to be either snug-er or more spacey. It worked really well for me.

You could also try putting a covered hot-water bottle in the bed next to him. Or warm up his bed beforehand with it.

I also use a sound machine that is quite loud on a wind setting to help my daughter fall asleep.

Hope that helps,
W.

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D.S.

answers from New York on

Hi S.
My son was born 2 1/2 month premature. I was due Nov 17th 2007 and I had him Sept 5th. He was in the hospital almost up until his due date and I was so scared about him coming home because I had NO idea about his scheduele ( He is my youngest Ihave 2 daughters ages 13 and 10!! Big age difference) He didnt nap in his bassinet at first either. So, what we did was take the " roll" we got from the ospital ( you can roll up a towel also) and it goes around his head.. so his head isnt wobbly.. and put him in his swing on the low setting. He slept in it for hours at a time it was wonderful. He is 5 months now and decided he loves his bassinet instead so he sleeps in there for everything now.. but the swing was our savior in the beginning.. maybe it will be yours as well!
Good luck
D.

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H.S.

answers from New York on

I think that being close to you is probably what he needs. Honestly I wish my younger two would sleep with me the way my older son did- in the long run (though I know this is hard for you to believe now) I got alot more sleep and I think he is a secure and healthy boy from all the time he spent in my arms as an infant. Especially with a baby who was born early- I think the extra contact is so healing. It is still so early- try to go with it.
Good luck- everything that seems endless at the beginning seems like sweet treasured moments that passed too quickly when you are a few years down the road-
Amanda

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S.L.

answers from Binghamton on

What a smart baby! Sleeping on you or your husband ( skin to skin is even better) is a great place for your premie. Studies have shown that the mother's bare chest is better than an incubator for regulating a baby's temperature and heartbeat; if baby's temp goes up, mom's chest temp goes down and vice versa. The heartbeat is regulated because baby knows he is with mom and has fewer stress hormones. This is especially important for premies. So I would say, carry your baby and make it easy for you and for your husband. I carried my term baby (now12m) against my skin for a week after she was born. For about 4 months she napped best there as well. We used a Moby wrap (www.mobywrap.com) which is versatile and inexpensive. Don't worry about him "getting used to it" and not wanting to sleep any other way. He will when he is ready. Sleep (as well as being by themselves) is a skill that babies learn gradually. For now, enjoy this precious time when he only needs your skin, smell and heartbeat to feel safe and cared for. This time flys by (it may not feel that way at 3 in the morning but it really does!)

Good luck!

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T.L.

answers from Rochester on

My daughter was a premee too. Your son may wake because he is cold. My daughter had some issues that needed her to sleep upright. She wasn't a fan of swaddling at first but she did settle down after several minutes of the swoosh sway and sshhing. In any case she slept in a swing at night and a bassinett on a pack an play for naps. I know that blankets are taboo but she was honestly cold. Being a premee there is just not enough fat on the body to go without a blanket. So I would swaddle and use a blanket and a cap too sometimes. a sound machine or a fan works great too. We use them in her bedroom for sleeping times. I found that if she was warm and fed before nap or bedtime she would sleep wonderfully. I hope that helps.

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J.W.

answers from Rochester on

Hi S.,
Congratulations on your little boy! I did not have a preemie, so I don't know if the sleep issues are the same as with a full term baby, but here goes...
Remember that he is really only 8 weeks old. Most 8 week old babies are still up every 3-4 hours at night. Have you heard of a Amby Hammock? They are supposed to cradle the baby like in the womb and provide a gentle rocking motion. Please be careful with him sleeping in your bed, I don't know what the increased risk is, but SIDS risk increases with preemies. (I think I read it on Dr. Sears or something similar). Maybe a co-sleeper for right next to your bed?

Good luck!

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A.S.

answers from Rochester on

Hi Shaye,

I am the queen of preemies. My twins were born at 35 weeks, which isn't super early. I didn't do the shared bed. However, the only thing that worked were these excellent things called Swaddles. They go for like $10 at Target. Walmart & other stores probably have them, too. I know I have a two or so left that I would be happy to give you. I would have to go through my garage sale stuff, but I know they're in the totes somewhere. The swaddle wraps are the only thing that helped my kids sleep & feel "secure". Let me know if you would like those swaddles that I have. No cost! It's my gift to you as a fellow mom of a preemie. My email addy is [email protected]____.com care,
A.

About me: I lost my first son, Evan, when he was born at 24 weeks. Since then, I have been an Ambassador Mom for The March of Dimes to help stop premature births. I am a proud mom of twins (girl/boy) 14 months.

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P.K.

answers from New York on

Sounds like a normal newborn to me. Just go with it and
enjoy him.

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T.N.

answers from Rochester on

I had twins born 13 weeks early. I was not able to sleep with them once they came home from the hospital because of the oxygen tubes and apnea monitors. It was very tough because I could tell that they slept better when I held them due to needing the extra warmth and wanting to hear my heartbeat.

What I found that worked for us was to swaddle them. They hated it, but I kept doing it and eventually they stopped fighting it (I obviously had other reasons to want to swaddle them than just getting them to sleep). They also slept well in their swings and in their bouncy vibrating chairs.

You could try a few extra blankets to keep him warm. They also make heartbeat bears that might work, too. They are stuffed bears that have a heartbeat inside. You can find them here:

http://www.amazon.com/Dex-Juvenile-Products-003/dp/B00005...

(Here's a link to a bear with womb sounds, too: http://www.amazon.com/DEX-Products-Inc-mb01-Sounds/dp/B00...)

We were also lucky in that they slept in the same crib for many months and I think that may have helped, too.

My youngest son, born 4 weeks premature, had to be left to scream it out. It was a horrible couple of weeks, but he eventually just laid down and went to sleep.

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D.M.

answers from New York on

I had the same problem eith my little girl...But I tride sleeping with one of her blankets to get me sent on it. Then i placed it under her making sure it was tucked in well and she seemed to sleep longer. It took awhile but she is now sleeping through the night...I kept rotating through two of her blankets...I found that she needed my scent to sleep...Maybe your littleone is the same way...It won't change over night

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M.H.

answers from New York on

My daughter is 5 months old now and the only way she will fall asleep is in our bed with me next to her. Once she's asleep, I gently move her into her crib. If she wakes up or fusses, I put her back into our bed. A few times a week, she stays in our bed the whole night and it's great cause we all get to sleep and I know she's more comfortable.

This started when she was around 6 weeks old after her middle of the night feedings. It started to get difficult to put her back to sleep after that bottle and rather than fight it, I just put her in our bed one night and she promptly fell asleep. Pretty soon after that, she started sleeping through the night in our bed.

I know she's more comfortable, secure, and warm when she's next to us, so she sleeps much better. I think that if co-sleeping works for you and your little one, just go with it.

Good luck!

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