My baby only sleeps in my arms

Hello, just wondering if anyone has similar experience and or advice. Our baby is just over four weeks old and although still very young we're really struggling to settle her for sleep. She's exclusively breast fed and will have a really good feed, fall asleep in my arms and sleep soundly there for several hours. The issue is i cannot sleep with her in my arms and every time I try and put her down in her crib she instantly wakes up, cries then wants to feed again for comfort. I've tried several brands of dummies but she spits then all out. She also brings up quite a bit of milk whenever i lay her down. I've been advised to burp her after every feed, hold her up right for a while then try to settle her in her crib. The trouble is that whenever i burp her or move her too much after a feed, she wakes up again and wants to feed some more so I'm in a vicious cycle. I really want to continue breast feeding but am so exhausted as unless she can sleep in my arms, she's very unsettled all night. I've tried putting her crib on an incline to help with reflux, tired swaddling​ her, co-sleeping and​ tried different dummies, all to no avail. Any advice or suggestions would be very much appreciated.

19 Replies

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  • Oh my god it's like I could of written this we have the same, daughter is 3 weeks today she has silent reflux and is on infant gaviscon, also exclusively breast fed! Although gaviscon has made her more comfortable she will only sleep on my partner or I although it does sound like u have it worst as at night she sleeps in our bed on her pillow which we have a quite a angle. She doesn't seem to like the way I hold her so she end up sleeping on her front over my shoulder where as she will sleep in my partners arms. She's taken to sleeping on a certain pillow so I though if I put pillow in crib she would think she's on me on pillow, oh no she just knew and woke up. It's a huge pain as when partner goes to work 40 hours plus I am stuck sat holding her can't do anything, even when he's home and it comes to tea 1 of us will have to eat 1 handed or he will eat first then me, I love her so much but sometimes I need to do things and can't! Although I'm not sure what to suggest as were struggling ourself I just wanted to share and say u r not alone! If u ever need to chat feel free to message me! X

  • Hello thanks for your reply, it is just so good to hear from someone and know that I'm not alone. One thing that does seem to be helping in the day is her baby rocker which she has napped in three times today with the vibrate function on. This allowed me to use the loo, make myself lunch and express some milk. I'm also thinking of buying a sling soon to free up my hands so I can do little things like wash up and launder some clothes. I also feel the same, I love my little one so much but i do need to be able to do some things but also the lack of sleep is really what's killing me at night. I hope it gets better for you and I'll let you know if i find anything that works at our end x

  • Hi chris, my daughter is 14 weeks and is currently being seen by a paediatrician for severe GERD. Speak to your doctor about putting your baby on ranitidine. it really helped ours (for a while) . We still have to hold her upright for 30 minutes after every feed and we have to feed her small amounts (she refuses it otherwise ) and often so that her reflux isn't irritated by large meals. At really bad times i had to force feed her with a syringe because she was turning food away. She has a Chicco bed she sleeps in that's slanted and I bought wedges to go under things like her floor play mat to keep her head up. Also try putting the hot water bottle down so it's nice and warm for her before laying her down as that tricked our little one to staying there!

    I think reflux babies can be really challenging, especially as it interferes with their sleep so much. It sounds like you're doing an amazing job! Please do message me if you have any questions or a chat! X

  • I sent you a measge and then replied to the wrong message!! Duh! Please see my reply to Patrilui below!

  • Our son did this. He was exclusively breastfed and would sleep in his moses basket for the first few days (on and off during the day) but that was it. I wasn't getting any sleep at night until my HV recommended Co sleeping. We just had no choice and it did work for us but it's not for everyone. Have you got a sling? This can help with reflux and means you can still do things when baby is sleeping.

  • Hi Kelly, yes I think co sleeping can be a very good solution. I really was hesitant at first because of the risk factors but actually I think it's more dangerous to be so exhausted all the time whilst looking after a newborn baby. I actually called crysis helpline out of exasperation yesterday and they recommended I keep my baby upright for about 20 mins after a feed to help all the milk go down and avoid the reflux. They also told me to burp her after every feed. I find burping her just wakes her up and then she wants to feed again for comfort so I end up in a vicious cycle. But I did keep her upright after every feed for the time recommended even though I struggled to stay awake and this really seemed to help. I was too tired to insist she sleep in her crib though and sort of tricked her by putting her down in the bed next to me with my arm wrapped around her. Then I kept an arm around her all night and we both got some sleep so I think I'm going to go with this from now on. She feels more secure and I actually don't think it's that unsafe as long as you remove the duvet and pillows (i just wrapped myself in some light blankets). Now I just need to find a bigger bed so daddy doesn't have to end up on the sofa!

  • Hi could I just say it's early days. 4 weeks is very young and your all getting used to each other. Routines are really important but take time to bed in, and crying is all part of their natural development. At the moment it's the only way they can communicate. I work on a theory of feed, activity, sleep, repeat! Maybe try walks in the pram to get them off while not in your arms, and work from their. Our second cried from 6pm to 12pm every night from 2 weeks to 12 and we had to co-sleep. But from 4 months she got in a great routine. Our first was a great daytime napper but nights were ropey till 9 months. Just remind yourself it's early days and there is so much advise out there so when you can research and find methods that work for you and your family!

  • Hello Dad101 thanks for your insight, yeah I know she's so little still and I know she just wants to be close to me but it's the sleep deprivation that is going to drive me insane. All the professionals advise against co-sleeping but it's reassuring to hear so many parents suggest it and I think it's going to be the way forward for us for a while at least. I tried it last night and my little one was much calmer and settled, she just seems to hate her crib and being away from me.

  • Well you are her entire world so don't blame her. Concentrate on daytime routine and nights will follow! I always recommend the Baby Whisperer as a good read. It's much more helpful than the Contented Baby. In addition get used to the crying you'll be dealing with it for a very long time, maybe the next 20 - 30 years!

  • Lol thanks dad101, I'll have a look at the book ☺

  • Agree with Kelly Trip. Co-sleeping safely is amazing, use blankets rather than a duvet, don't drink alcohol or use any drugs. My reflux baby had to be held upright for 20-30 minutes after a feed, then just as he was ready to be put down his big sister would come in. Its so hard sleep deprivation, but it will pass. Reflux is perfectly normal, babies bodies are still growing and developing and that includes bits inside that we can't see that control milk staying in the stomach.

    Totally agree with the sling too. Love babywearing and I'm a trained peer supporter now, helping other mummies wear slings safely and comfortably. Google your local sling library for advice and to try different slings - baby Bjorn style slings are fine when they're tiny but will give you a bad back, a stretchy wrap or close caboo are a better bet.

    Baby will be off to school before you know it, my eldest is at school now and my reflux baby is 3 - I still wear him in a sling whenever he'll let me, usually the school run! Seek other supportive mummies locally, I would be lost without my tribe.

  • Hi Winnie thanks so much for your reassurance, and yes I think I will try to co-sleep as it's much more natural for my baby than being in her crib which she seems to hate. I really want to get a sling but was told she is still too small for one but thanks, that's a great tip and I'll find out where i can test some out. It's so nice to speak to other parents and know I'm not alone, I will definitely seek out some local mums 😊

  • A simple trick - have you tried putting a hot water bottle in the crib before laying her down? The warmth means it's an easier transition for them from mummy to a cold bed. Mine was the same but the hot water bottle worked a treat for us and ours is on strong medication for reflux. Worth a shot! We did this for the first two months and then she gee out of needing it.

  • Hi Bexicles, we've given this a go and it worked a couple of times but we have to be so careful when we put her down that she's in a deep enough sleep otherwise she awakens anyway. I guess it's all a bit of trial and error, I also might try swaddling her again although the last time I did it she broke loose!

  • What I didn't try with my son. He had colic so was used to being held. Come about 3 months he was on one bottle a night about 4/5am but started to wake just for cuddles. I used a lavender wheat bag in my sons cot to make it nice and warm before putting him down. I also would put his fitted cot sheet in bed with me the day before I put it on his bed so it smelled like me. I would pat his bum to settle him on me, so when he would wake at night I would pat his bum in the same way. Anything really that reassures them your still there and their safe!

    I also found letting him sleep on his front in his own bed helped a lot. It's like he's hugging the mattress. On his back he used to startle himself - like when you dream that your falling. You can put the pillow under the mattress if your baby needs to sleep on an angle.

    Please also bear in mind even at this early age they know exactly what they are doing, and you are building habits.

    Good luck. I'm sure you'll be fine.

  • Hi,

    I can recommend co-sleeping and baby-wearing too. We didn't really bed share until about 9 months (technically co-sleeping is sleeping in the same room), and our daughter slept in a variety of ways, in a sling or in arms, or in a moses basket at night, and sometimes in a pram, then after about 7-8 months in a cot next to the bed. At around 9 months we hit such a tough sleep regression where she would only sleep in arms, that I tried to find a solution because I hadn't had more than about an hours sleep for a week but I hadn't yet made our bed safe for sharing (which if made safe makes bed sharing in some schools of thought the safest method of sleeping), and came across the Sleepyhead which really helped in our case in that my daughter immediately started to sleep by herself for 1 or 2 hours at a time.

    johnlewis.com/sleepyhead-de...

    It is expensive but on JL's website it has 221 reviews averaging 5 stars. (I haven't reviewed it so that makes 222!)

    We did move to bed sharing not long after (which is also great for family bonding as well as being comforting for the child when they start to experience nightmares around age 2-3, and helps support extended breastfeeding if chosen), however we still used this for naps if we didn't lie down too and for travelling until our daughter was around a year or more (as she wasn't very big!) There is a larger version too for older/bigger infants but fortunately for our wallet we never needed it!!

    For sling wearing, I'm sure there are many products out there that can be used with a newborn...our daughter was 5lb /2.3kg at birth and we had an NCT Close Caboo - it was this one:(also from JL at the time):

    direct.asda.com/george/baby...

    It appears to be out of stock in this link at Asda, and perhaps it is not continued as JL don't have it now but they have another Close Caboo, and I've found other Close Caboo slings elsewhere including this one which looks similar to ours:

    amazon.co.uk/Caboo-NCT-Carr...

    My husband and I wore ours from 2 weeks (from the day I bought it when I wore her to a wedding!) until our daughter was around 4 months when we changed to an ergobaby (I could also wear the ergobaby on my back from about 6 months), including often using it for naps. When our daughter was 4 months old we spent almost a month in Italy and (to people's wonder or horror, sometimes depending on time of day and temperature) it was great for there and has been for subsequent trips until our daughter was about 2 to 2 and a half.

    Best wishes! :)

  • Hello Dairyfan, aah thanks for taking the time to share your experiences, you certainly have a lot of good advice. Can I ask, could you breastfeed with the close caboo? I've had a look at the sleepyhead and thought it might be a good idea if my little one continues in our bed, to make things safer. I feel like the last two days/nights we're turning a corner so fingers crossed 😊

  • Hi! Thanks very much for your reply and I'm glad things seem to be turning a corner! I'm afraid I don't know how easy it is to breastfeed with the Close Caboo, I imagine it could be possible - they are in an upright position and I remember a friend breastfeeding her son (upright) in an ergobaby discreetly (not sure to what size but I think he was at least a few months)...I don't remember trying it - I always nursed my daughter by cradling her...I think if I had another child I would definitely try it though!

    It was a good sling to put on - it was a bit fiddly to learn but once I got the hang of it I found it quick to use. My husband did need help with it a lot to start with though...!

  • my 13 week old had silent reflux the aptamil reflux milk was amazing infacol, gavascon etc was aweful for her, try that its better than using medications but can make babies constapated mine was on lactolose with this milk to help her go a bit more often, slings work wonders but take time to put on and take off got mine off amazon for 25 pounds its amazing but she cried a lot when being put down it was also linked to an underlying ear infection which never gave her a temperature or showed any symptoms she ended up having an operation at 8 weeks go to your health advisor ask to have baby checked over etc and try that milk if that doesnt help it, go back and persist to be seen again took me 8 gp appointments and 2 trips to the childrens hospital to find the complete causes of her crying

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