Sleep Solutions for My Fussy Baby

My guest article on “Sleep Solutions for My Fussy Baby” for Today’s Motherhood has been published! View the write-up in the Jun/Jul 2010 issue, pages 22-23 or below.


During pregnancy, I prepared extensively for delivery day and breastfeeding, while missing out on one topic – sleep. What a major mistake! When Vee (the fussy, gassy, clingy light-sleeper arrived), I became nearly obsessed with ways to help him fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleeping problems that we faced initially:

  • He demanded to be carried and rocked or bounced to sleep. Otherwise, he would cry forcefully.
  • It took up to five hours to help him nap.
  • When finally asleep, he fussed every 35 to 45 minutes in the day and every 1 to 1.5 hours at night.
  • He refused to fall asleep in the car-seat or stroller, so outdoor trips had to be planned meticulously.

This article shares with you some ways that helped him (and I) sleep longer and better.

1. Tummy Massage

Vee has the reputation of the gassiest baby that my confinement helper has seen. He passed gas so frequently that it even shocked him into tears at times. My nurse taught me to do tummy massage for him and it was amazing how much gas he could pass out during each massage. Relieving the gas for him enabled him to sleep more comfortably.

2. Swaddling and Babywearing

Even as a newborn, Vee did not like to sleep in a cot. His startle reflex which continued for many months also awakened him easily. Swaddling enabled him to sleep more peacefully, and he self-weaned from it at 6.5 months old. We had to specially order two large swaddles from the U.S. to wrap up the 9kg dumpling.

On some days, even carrying did not settle him, so I wore him in a baby sling to calm him down and walked around the house until he fell asleep – a good way to exercise at home.

3. White Noise

This work marvellously and we are using it even today for the 15-month old toddler. When he cried miserably in the early months, turning on the hairdryer for a while would calm him down. Throughout his nap and night-time sleep, rainfall sound would be looped continuously to mask out household noises since he is a very light-sleeper. (Read reviews about products that produce white noise here.)

4. Co-Sleeping

Initially, I resisted co-sleeping. When Vee kept fussing after night-time feeds at four months old, I was spending entire nights trying to get him to sleep in his cot instead of resting. Finally, I gave up and let him sleep with us. Co-sleeping (done in a safe way) enabled me to breastfeed him lying down, tend to him easily and he fussed less. It may not work for everyone but certainly worked for us.

5. Eliminating Night-Time Diaper Changes

He is a heavy-wetter and easily pees through conventional disposable diapers. His sensitive skin also cannot tolerate most diapers for more than six hours. After a diaper change, it could take hours to settle him back to sleep again. Eventually, I found modern cloth diapers that are super-absorbent and breathable to last him up to 12 hours without any leak and rash. This was a big step to help us sleep more peacefully. (Read more about night-time diapering options here.)

6. Appropriate Clothings and Room Temperature

From about six months old, Vee has been suffering from eczema rashes on his face and inner folds of limbs which flare up when he is warm. Therefore, we experimented with the room temperature and found that a cool environment kept his rashes down and eventually enabled him to sleep soundly. He is dressed lightly during day naps and wears a T-Shirt and pants at night. We realised that not every baby needs to wear long sleeves, mittens and socks to bed; do what is most comfortable for your little one.

7. Sleeping at an Angle

Between four and seven months old, Vee regurgitated milk very often and had slight reflux problems which caused him to scream at night. Letting him sleep on a surface raised at 30-degrees eased the reflux and allowed him to sleep much better.

8. Bedtime Routine and Early Bedtime

Adapting a bedtime routine enabled Vee to tune down more easily for bedtime. At night, he gets a sponge bath, feed, bedtime stories, songs, massage and then encouraged to sleep. For naps, he gets the same routine without the sponge bath. He stays very alert when the surrounding is bright, so his sleeping environment must be dimly-lit. Even the walls near the bed have to be free of posters as he gets totally excited seeing them.

He also fell asleep more easily and slept longer when bedtime was brought forward to about 8.30p.m. It was only when he grew older that his bedtime shifted later and we started enjoying evening outings.

Sometimes, I wonder how many gassy, heavy-wetting light-sleepers with reflux and eczema problems are there. If we can get enough sleep, I am sure you can too. Explore to see what works best for you and your baby. Sweet dreams!

Read these reviews on some of our favourite sleeping aids:

If you are a Mummy-to-be, how are you preparing to sleep well when baby arrives?
If you are an experienced Mummy, how are you helping your baby / toddler to sleep better?

10 thoughts on “Sleep Solutions for My Fussy Baby”

  1. OMG..i finally found a match made in heaven for my lil Aydan..haha not really a match but he is exactly how u described ur lil Vee. very gassy, need to swaddle during sleep, heavy wetter..ALL of it. the same probs for gassy, heavy-wetting light-sleepers with reflux and eczema babies…oh my. i am officially a zombie now..haha love your site!

    1. Ha… nadya, thank you very much for your sharing! It’s amazing to know another baby with the same sleeping issues. Keep telling yourself that “this stage shall pass”. My boy finally sleeps through the night at 18 months, a worthy long wait. Take care! 🙂

  2. Sorry to say this but I am so relieved to read about other babies who sleep worse than my son. He is now 4 months old, hates to be swaddled but wants to be carried WHILE sleeping or if he has to be put down, the only way he will sleep is right next to me with his mouth touching my boob (for easy access). White noise works but Only The Vent Above The Stove. It has to get better!!!!

    1. Hihi ming, thank you for sharing! I’m quite certain my boy’s one of the fussiest sleepers around, so am glad our story gives you some relief. 🙂 My arms were his pillow until about 18 months old, when he was finally weaned off breastfeeding. It’s an amazing feeling when I woke up that morning! And yes, have faith that things will only get better. Just try your best to accommodate his fussiness now and get as much sleep as you can. Then when he’s older, you can try to “educate” him on sleeping more independently. All the very best! 🙂

  3. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog! My little girl is 2.5 mths and a terrible napper, though she sleeps quite well at night (3-4 hrs a stretch). We have just started to use white noise during her naps after reading this post, and it seems to be working. Now she can nap for 2-3hrs each time, whereas previously her naps would hardly last an hr! I am going to work on getting her to nap in her cot (she would only nap when lying on me), but it’s already a huge improvement!

    There are some occasions when she would wake from her naps wailing, which I suspect is due to gas. She is quite gassy at times! I’m currently giving her basic tummy massages (the “I love you” massage), but it only relieves to a certain extent. Could you perhaps share the tummy massage technique if any? Also, I’m keen to find out how to safely elevate her bed (she sleeps in her own cot) at an angle. Thanks again for sharing your experience! It’s been a great help! 🙂

    1. Hi Ni, glad that your baby girl’s nap is longer now. What a bliss, right? 🙂

      Indeed, both my boys’ sleep are disturbed if gas remains in the tummy.

      If a bubble is yet to be burped, the baby usually fusses after 1 sleep cycle, about 30-60 minutes.
      Immediately, I’d carry him with head over my shoulder and his back as straight as possible, then hold the back, pressing his body closely to my body, and bounce vertically a few times. The burp will come out easily and usually baby falls back to sleep.

      Tummy massage is very powerful for releasing tummy gas on my 2 boys.
      – rub palms on baby tummy from your left to right (or same as baby’s right to left), 10 times, apply a little pressure
      – rub palms downwards for newborn (tiny tummy), 10 times (older baby, use “I Love You”)
      – use fingers to “dance” in middle of tummy a few times (older baby / toddler will laugh at this!)
      – hold both legs near the knees, bring knees towards baby’s tummy / chest, press with a little pressure a few times (even better: press towards baby’s right, then to middle, then to left). Baby may start to “gek” or squeeze the gas out. You’d start hearing the gas coming out!
      – repeat the above cycle a few times until tummy feels small and very soft (and no hollow sound when you tap on it)
      – for older babies / toddlers, can use the same massage to help relieve constipation.

      2 ways to elevate the cot slightly:
      1. put thick books (e.g. old Yellow Pages) or folded towels under the cot legs. I tried this on cot with no wheels, when Jae had stuffy nose
      2. put folded towels under the cot mattress

      Sometimes, when baby is too gassy and uncomfortable, I’d let him sleep in a reclined seat (e.g. car seat or rocker seat) under close supervision.

  4. Hi,

    My son also very fussy. I almost fainted and afraid to change diaper for him in the nite but no choice he will want to change when is too wet and also he poos in the early morning like ard 3am. Really cloth diapers works in nite? My mum is quite resist from using cloth diaper.

    1. Hi Yvonne, breathable cloth diapers worked for Vee at night because somehow he outpee-ed Mamy Poko after several hours. And his skin needed breathability, which fleece diapers provided. So he went on fleece diapers at night, since then.

      For Baby Jae, he occasionally poos at 5 to 8a.m. His skin is very sensitive to poo. For a while, I put the same breathable fleece diapers on him at night. If he doesn’t poo, it’s ok. If he poos, then still need to change. If I miss the poo, he’d get a diaper rash because there’s insufficient diaper cream. (Can only use thin layer of diaper cream and no zinc oxide cream with cloth diapers.)

      Downside of cloth diaper at night is I can’t put a lot of diaper cream, to prevent rash in case of missed poo. So for baby with sensitive skin and still poos when sleeping, I’d suggest using disposable diaper and putting on a thick layer of diaper cream.

      For baby who doesn’t poo when sleeping and outpees disposable diaper, then fleece diaper is suitable at night. I choose fleece because it’s very breathable. If baby doesn’t need to be changed (or refuses to be changed), then I know his skin will be ok even after many hours. (Fleece mentioned here is for the OUTER layer.)
      – I choose suedecloth as the inner stay-dry layer (next to baby’s skin) because it’s the most stay-dry among common cloth diaper fabrics.
      – Modern cloth diapers means you can stuff very absorbent fabrics inside, until the diaper can last through many hours for superheavy wetters, like Vee.
      – When we stay over at my mum’s place, she also sees how the modern cloth diaper can last 12 hours. It’s so different from their times, so they just need a little bit of updating on modern fabric technology.

      For details, you’d need to read this review on the fleece diaper.

  5. Oh my gosh, I’m so grateful I came across your site, ‘Thank You’ so much for sharing your story. My daughter is 8 months old now and she exactly how you described your little Vee. No one seems to understand what I’m going through and my family and friends advice does not apply or work on my daughter because she is so fussy. I’m typing this message as I try to sleep her in the carrier. She wakes up as much as 8 times a night and refuses to nap more than 25-35 minutes 2x a day when held. She co-sleep with me on the bed at night, but it impossible to get her to take a nap on the bed. The only way to get her to sleep is to hold her in my arms for the duration of the nap. If I try to put her down, she wakes up right away. After reading story I feel for the time there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
    Again, from the bottom of my heart, ‘Thank You’ for the first time I don’t feel alone.

    1. Hi Yazz, all fussy sleepers grow up some day. And when yours does, you’ll be amazed how much you’ve been through. Now that Vee is 4 years old, I can guess why he was so bothered as a baby. He’s a Highly Sensitive Child, who’s very sensitive to light, loud sounds, and uncomfortable textures. Guess the world was too much for him to absorb during the first 1+ year. Even now, he still needs lots of cuddles and reassurances that I love him through the day. Once he’s reassured, he’ll be happy to play by himself.

      With your love and patience, your baby girl will definitely feel secure enough to sleep longer hours someday. Take one day at a time and all the very best to you! *Hugs* 🙂

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