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Newborn Sleep: Noisy Sleepers & Not-Wakings

Nov23

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Hi Amy,

I’ve read and loved you since Noah was wee, and even read the Pregnancy Calendar (probably twice, let’s be honest) before I was pregnant, plus I’ve been a nanny for many years, so I can’t believe I’m sending in a question but my own little one is mystifying me! My son is 7 weeks old and has been giving me a blessed 6-7 hour stretch of sleep at night for about two weeks. The problem is, he spends the last hour and a half or so rooting around and grunting in his sleep, and I’m not sleeping when he does. I keep getting up to turn the sound machine back on, see if he wants his binky, check to see if his swaddle blanket has come up over his face, or if he’s really awake this time. His eyes are always tightly shut and when the noise machine comes back on or (of course) after I’ve gotten up he drifts back off again for 20 minutes or so. He sounds awake…but he’s sleeping! But so loudly! And sounding so hungry! I am at a loss…should I keep trying to put him back down to a solid sleep or just get him up for a diaper change to wake him up all the way and then feed him? We are staying with my in-laws for a few months so we all sleep in the same room…there is no escaping how loudly he sleeps. Help!

Thanks,
Chris

Hey! You got a Baby Ike! Just like mine! We match, with the loud, snorty, grunty, squeaky newborns.

I COMPLETELY understand what you’re going through — this was definitely our sleep curveball this last time around, because I’d never HEARD such a noisy baby. Who was asleep, and pretty soundly so, but who had already trained ME to leap to a wide-awake high-alert state at the slightest noise. So…I woke up a lot, usually unnecessarily. Then I would struggle to fall back to sleep…just in time for Ike to wake up for real.

I had the luxury of a crib down the hall, and a sympathetic pediatrician who told me to go ahead and turn the monitor off, too, since Ike’s sighs and noises would sometimes be loud enough to broadcast right on through. “You’ll hear him,” she said, “believe me, when he needs you, you’ll hear him.”

And she was right.We DO hear our babies, when they really need us. I swear motherhood has given me bionic ears. I went from someone who could sleep through anything and everything to someone who jolts awake at the sound of my three-year-old’s feet hitting the floor in the morning.

So since a separate room isn’t an option for you, what can possibly be done to block out sounds coming from just a couple feet away? You mention a white noise machine that shuts off after awhile…perhaps try one that has a stay-on-all-night function? This is the one we have, and we rarely use the auto-shut-off setting — that puppy stays on alllll night long. (In fact, it’s still on down the hall as I’m typing this, since I forgot to shut it off when I retrieved Ike for his first breakfast at 5 am. When he woke up hollering, with no question that he was UP and READY, as opposed to just snorfling around in his sleep.) It’s not anything particularly awesome — Ike is the first of my three to even use it — but since you mention getting up to turn it back on so much (and the fact that it does seem to settle him back down) it might be worth upgrading to a continuous-play model.

A bedside co-sleeper might also be something to consider, since then you will at least be spared getting out of bed for those blanket/binky checks. You can simply reach your hand out, confirm that he’s still asleep and okay, then roll back over and bury your head under your pillow for another hour.

The other option is something in between fully waking him up with a diaper change/feeding thing (since I am diametrically opposed to ANYTHING involving waking a sleeping baby unless absolutely necessary), is to skip the diaper change but offer just a little milk/sucking and see if that will coax him back into a deeper sleep for that final stretch of the morning. (If you’re breastfeeding, this is easy to do, but even if you’re bottlefeeding you can keep a box of those little 2oz. pre-mixed no-refrigeration-necessary bottles by your bed. Just crack it open and attach a ring and nipple.) Yes, yes, you’re not supposed to encourage falling asleep on the breast/bottle but I swear: All three of my babies did it at that age and nothing terrible happened. They still learned to put themselves to slee without boob later. Seven weeks old is still solidly in that “do whatever it takes” window, in my opinion, and nowhere near the realm of “ZOMG A LIFETIME OF BAD SLEEP HABITS IS NOW.”

Ike still wakes up at least once before he’s up for “good,” between 5 and 6. I don’t change his diaper at this point, but just nurse him either in the rocker in his room or in our bed. Then he sleeps for another hour or two, either back in the crib or with us. It’s POSSIBLE that your son’s early morning sleep-rooting could change to full-on waking for food within the next few weeks, once he makes that cognitive leap that he is separate from you and becomes immediately aware of that fact once he’s semi-awake. That’s kinda what happened with Ike, and while it’s always dismaying to think that your 6-7 hour stretch may not be permanent, it is important to know that newborn sleep does not always move in a straight, forward-progress line. Growth spurts, sleep regressions, teething, all that jazz. Today’s big sleep problem can be completely different than next week’s big sleep problem at this age. And that’s not necessarily a problem. It just is how it is.

But I agree with my pediatrician — when your baby is awake and needs you, you’ll know. Even if you were to, say, pop in a set of earplugs while he’s still consistently waking you up with this noisy not-waking. He’s in your room, safe and sound within arms’ reach of both of his parents, and will be fine. And eventually you’ll be able to hone those hair-trigger new-mama waking instincts and get every precious minute of sleep possible.

 

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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13 Responses to “Newborn Sleep: Noisy Sleepers & Not-Wakings”

  1. IrishCream Nov 23 at 2:38 pm Reply Reply

    I don’t know how spendy white noise machines are, but a fan or a digital alarm clock with nature sounds are cheap alternatives. A fan has the advantage of helping reduce the risk of SIDS, too, according to a couple of recent studies. We use an alarm clock set to either ‘waterfall’ or ‘rain,’ I think. The sitter set it to ocean sounds last time she was here at night, and I listened to seagulls over the monitor all night long, so I don’t recommend that mode.

  2. Amy Nov 23 at 3:07 pm Reply Reply

    We love an iPhone app called, of all things, WhiteNoise. The Extreme Rain Pouring sound has been our go to sound for nearly 2 years. There’s also straight-up white noise, oscillating fan, and other sounds. It’s a free app! As we’ve upgraded phones we’ve kept our old ones, and now our son has “his own” phone we keep in his room. It’s docked into one of those radio alarm clocks, so we can play music or the white noise all night. (I think it’s still on.) The other benefit of that is that if we travel we just have to bring his phone, or even if we forget it it’s on our phones too. We’ve plugged it into the auxiliary jack in our car too. Just this morning when my son came into our room I put him in bed with me and turned on the white noise on my phone to get an extra hour of sleep out of him. We’ve also used it to drown out the noise of people outside/ringing the doorbell/guests downstairs to keep our dogs from barking.

  3. Jess Nov 23 at 3:13 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter, now 12 weeks, has done this since around 3 weeks or so. At 4-5 AM, after she’s been sleeping for 8ish hours, she starts rooting / grunting / tossing and turning. If I re-pacifier her she will keep this up for an hour or so before waking for the day, keeping me awake that whole time with her shenanigans. If I nurse her right away instead (no diaper change or any encouragement to wake all the way up — I even avoid really burping her) she will sleep for another 3 hours. So, I totally think it is worth it, in terms of maximizing my sleep, grab her the second I hear her fussing, nurse her for 10 minutes, and then we all get to go back to sleep.

  4. HereWeGoAJen Nov 23 at 3:46 pm Reply Reply

    I used earplugs when my daughter was in our room and in that noisy sleeper stage. Any time she REALLY got up, she was plenty loud enough, but the foam earplugs were just enough to block out most of the grunting and rolling.

  5. Hollie Nov 23 at 7:15 pm Reply Reply

    I second the White Noise app; dock it or just keep it plugged in. I remember my OB/GYN marveling at it resting near the baby in the stroller. I forgot that they only deal with babies on “the inside”, ha ha.

  6. Julie Nov 24 at 1:38 pm Reply Reply

    At that age my sons both did the same thing, especially my first one. On weekends when my husband was still in bed, I’d get up and move to the guest bedroom, trusting my husband to come get me if the baby actually woke enough to need me, but he could sleep through the gruntings and wigglings that I couldn’t. I know you don’t have the luxury of the extra room, but is there a couch you could nap on after you check on him in the morning?

  7. Jill G Nov 25 at 9:02 pm Reply Reply

    When my son was that young and noisy, we called it SNORGLING. I got a kick out of Amy calling it snorfling, just one letter off!!!!

  8. Cassie Nov 27 at 1:58 pm Reply Reply

    We have that exact sound machine and still use it for my two year old. We love it! On the nights he doesn’t feel well or there’s a growth spurt or something-or-other keeping him restless, we’ll leave it on all night. Otherwise, we keep it on the timer. Which is also awesome for family trips when we have to share a room, because having it on all night makes me bonkers. :P

    I also second and third Amy on the earplugs and turning off a baby monitor. You really WILL hear him if it’s a truly needy cry/noise. It’s one of your special new mom superpowers! (Like eyes in the back of your head. ;))

  9. Kim Nov 28 at 10:47 am Reply Reply

    I moved into our guest room, too. I am such a light sleeper, and it takes very little sleep deprivation to turn me into a raving lunatic – and not the good kind. Honestly, by the time the kid actually woke up, I’d be pissed. Not so good. So I slept in the back, her daddy took the first sleep shift and feeding, and then brought her to me to finish out the night. (Wasn’t worried about nipple confusion at all.) I also wear earplugs almost every night, and I could and can hear both girls in their bedroom. We had all sorts of rules with our first – with our second it was just “swhatever gets the most people the most sleep.”

  10. Christine Dec 13 at 9:29 pm Reply Reply

    Wow, I can’t believe that so many people have had the same issue, my friends haven’t seen it with their babies.
    My 10 week old son started having an “awake” time from 3-6 am around two weeks, and then blessedly morphed into a 5-7 am grunt, which still sucks but is a somewhat better option. I actually thought maybe it was a gas/constipation thing because of the grunting. The odd time it has been resolved by putting him in the vibrating chair until he poops and then bissfully drifts off again…. However, recently I have been questioning this intestinal theory since other times I have noticed that he is actually awake and maybe just “talking” to himself? Either way, I agree that it’s very tough to sleep through! I haven’t found white noise effective at helping him sleep any better, but I hadn’t thought of just doing it to drown him out!

  11. Sasha May 14 at 5:19 pm Reply Reply

    Earplugs. You will hear the baby.  I didn’t do it for a few weeks because I thought it would sound bad if anyone found out.  She is 7 months old and I use them every night because my husband snores and my cat bathes herself on our bed.  I don’t hear them but I hear the monitor.

  12. AnneB Jun 19 at 5:34 pm Reply Reply

    OMG! I could have written this request.  My second child is now 4 weeks old and I’ve never heard such a noisy sleeping baby!  She makes these grunts that sound like a goat kid bleating for its momma.  She sleeps in a Rock ‘N Play next to our bed and I finally resorted to turning on our clock’s radio softly and leaving it on all night.  The bonus is that it seems to soothe her and she puts herself back to sleep when she wakes but isn’t hungry or in need of a change.

  13. Debbue Nov 21 at 2:56 am Reply Reply

    Oh my god, I laughed so hard at these comments!! The husband snores & the cat bathes herself on our bed, snorfuling, baby talking to himself, I’m dying right now:) probably because I am so tired from the grunting, wiggling and gasping of my 8 week old! I am so happy I am not alone in ” not being able to sleep around my baby” Funny, daddy sleeps just fine!

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