55 weeks and the Imp can’t get back to sleep

January 21, 2008

Whatever bad patch  you are going through, someone has always been through it before. I take a little comfort in that thought during these marathon night wakings. Just as well we are going on another holiday next week which would have sent the sleep haywire anyway. Might as well enjoy the sleep regression as best as we can by enjoying the snow and building lots of snowmen.

So I would be completely justified in bringing the Imp downstairs and watching TV at 3am? Better load up on some dvds that I would love and would bore the Imp to death ….


Good times, bad times

January 17, 2008

Thinking back over the last year and a half of being a parent and talking to other mothers, there are definite times when babies are easier: 15 months is an obvious one for me at the moment (one waking last night!  hurrah!).  10 months is often a good window to change things, although I don’t remember it being great for us.  20 months to 2 years (depending on the child) is supposed to be much easier as well.  These are probably good times to alter things (night weaning, moving to own bed etc.).

Conversely, there are bad times you have to grit your teeth and get through however you can.  There seem to be far more of these, or maybe I am remembering the bad times more than the good.  Moxie has a great summary of some of these spurt times (I found growth spurts the most difficult times to get through as sleep was replaced with the need to feed constantly).  My own memory of months 1-15 goes like this:

Day 3: just before milk comes in, feeding ALL THE TIME. No sleep.  Still shell-shocked.

Week 3: first big growth spurt, constant feeding for a week.  Most people tell you spurts last for a few days, well not for us.

Week 6: another one.  Grrrrrrr.

Week 12: getting bored of this now…

Month 4: even more disruption as a big sleep regression kicks in

Month 6: I thought starting solids was supposed to help with sleep!  Not in this house, baby is waking more because he’s unsettled.  Going back to work probably doesn’t help.  This is the point where we give up on the cot completely and co-sleep to preserve what little sanity I have left.

Months 7/8/9: at least one growth spurt, feels like lots.  Sleep is disrupted for a looooong time.  Also teeth popping through constantly.  Not good.  Sanity lost a long time ago.

Month 12/13: another ****** growth spurt.  Baby is behaving like a newborn again.  Tempers fray.  Molars breaking through.

Month 14: things start settling down and a few 3 hour blocks of sleep keep us away from the loony bin.  Naps settle down.  Bedtimes start to be an issue.

Month 15: action taken on sleep (getting baby alseep before midnight, into cot and not feeding at night).  Rather shocked when it actually works. Good thing too, because

Month 18: things are supposed to go belly-up again.  Time to bank some sleep now…

Never say never

January 14, 2008

I have a confession to make.  For the last few nights I have been using controlled crying techniques to get Loudboy to sleep a) in his own bed and b) through the night.  Now I was against using CC when he was young, because I didn’t think it was a good idea with young babies (and I didn’t think it would work).  But we got to the magic age of 15 months and rather than his sleep improving it was getting worse.  Not only was he waking lots at night, he was refusing to go to sleep at all, despite the fact that he was sleeping in our bed and I was feeding him down.  No, he was certain there was interesting stuff going on in the other room (probably involving telly and biscuits) and he was going to find out, even if he couldn’t stand up without falling over.  Who needs sleep anyway?  And when he was in bed with us he was kicking and squirming so no-one was getting much sleep.  Changes needed to be made.

If there were one thing to change, I would have tried other methods first.  In our case, we needed to alter several things at once: getting Loudboy to sleep in his cot rather than our bed, stopping night feeds (an increasing problem for all sorts of reasons) and (ideally) stopping night waking.  Gradual changes would take weeks and would still upset us all.  Drastic measures were needed.

We decided to try something different.  I had been reading Toddler Taming by Christopher Green and his suggestion that CC could give us more sleep within a few nights was an extremely tempting one.  My main objection to CC for babies was that if Loudboy cried during the day, I would find out what was wrong and deal with it, so why not at night?  Dealing with a toddler, I discovered, is rather different.  There are times during the day when I ignore his crying, usually when he is throwing a temper tantrum because he isn’t allowed to play with knives or chew the power lead to the laptop or other child-friendly activities.  I can also tell the difference between angry and upset.  So with great trepidation I re-read the relevant chapter, did our usual bedtime routine and then instead of feeding Loudboy to sleep (and preventing him from escaping), I put him in his cot, said goodnight and left.  He was not impressed.  I had pegged myself as a wuss, so I left him for only two minutes at the beginning, went back, cuddled him until he was quiet, and left again.  It took just over half an hour of tears before he was asleep.  It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t upset crying, it was ‘Why am I in this ******* cot? Get me out!  Getmeoutgetmeoutgetmeoutgetmeout nownownownownownownownownow!’

We’ve done this for about five days now and guess what?  It worked!  Loudboy now takes five minutes or less to get to sleep and the protest has reduced to ‘Great.  The cot.  I’m sure this is infringing my human rights.  Get me out zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…’

Not only is he going to bed at a reasonable hour (and it’s an earlier bedtime than usual, which means we have some adult evening time again), he’s only waking briefly at about 11 and again at about 1 or 2.  Each time, he settles himself in a few minutes.  Then he goes through until about 7am, when we have a feed and a cuddle.

I always said I wouldn’t rule out anything when it came to sleep training and I’m glad I tried this method.  Of course, he may have improved on his own.  Many babies do at 15 months, but for us it was a good window to nudge him into better sleeping habits.  The problem with sleep training is that it isn’t a permanent fix: when the next teeth come through or he gets another cold he’ll be waking up again.  For now, we are actually getting some sleep.

Can you die from separation anxiety?

January 10, 2008

The above title was one of the search engine searches that led some poor mite to our site yesterday.

So can you die from it? My baby is certainly convinced that it is within the realms of possibility.

The case of the pretty hostess and the baby who didn’t sleep a wink

January 9, 2008

It’s 10.20am and I’ve already had my first round of chocolate cake. Ah, no-ones looking!

A week ago we got back from our around the world in 30 days adventure.

When the Imp was little, it appeared he was a little different from other babies. Mostly, he stayed awake. He cried when he was tired, but he didn’t go to sleep. Other babies we knew would fall asleep. In pushchairs, in cots, wherever. The Imp took no notice. He thought those babies were weak.

Fast forward 11 months or so and put the Imp on a plane from London to Hong Kong. An overnight flight of 13 hours or so. Despite the flight being during the Imp’s nighttime hours, despite cuddling and feeding and snuggling and the dull drone of the airplane, the Imp does not sleep. His father manages to get him to sleep for an hour or so by bouncing him in the sling. But when he sits down, the Imp is up. But he is not crying. He is happy. He is flirting with the airline hostess. He plays peek-a-boo with the other passengers. For 13 hours. This child is not of this world.

Hong Kong to Sydney, he pretty much does the same, although this time the Imp has a partner in crime, a lovely little kid a couple of months his senior. By 5 hours into the flight though the fellow rogue falls into a deep sleep for the rest of the flight and the Imp is left disappointed by his mate’s lack of stamina.

I laugh at all the people who consoled me about the trip saying, “oh, all babies sleep on planes, they just love the motion and the sound, it literally lulls them to sleep”, “they give you a bassinet for them to sleep in don’t they?”

Yeah, no problem, I’ll just lie back and watch I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Good times.

Ok, so my kid doesn’t like sleep. I get it now. But he also needs it less than I think he should given he was a complete angel on the flights (sleep aside).

Ask SIFTW: toddler sleep problems

January 8, 2008

Just as we’re dipping a shivering toe into the shark-infested waters of Toddler World, along comes a question from Jasi:

We’re struggling with sleep (among other things) over here.  We have a wonderful 22 m/o daughter and another child due in June.  We’re panicking a little. 

I’ve breastfed and co-slept our daughter since birth.  It was amazing for the first 9 months but has since tumbled into complete chaos.  Child really does not want to sleep… ever.  She cries if I place her in her single bed, she cries when I take her to mine, she cries if the night-nursing stops at all, she cries even when she asks for her father to walk her down.  She screams and tantrums wildly more nights than not and then wakes anywhere from 6 to 9 times thereafter.  She has taken to nursing TONS since I have become pregnant, when she was nearly done with it on her own.  My husband wishes she slept in her own bed (and he in mine), but supports any arrangement that would make baby and I happy.  Sadly, this current situation makes no one happy.  How do you gently put a passionate 22 m/o to bed?  How do you avoid tears and drama? 

On the aside, she nurses down to nap beautifully every day with minimal fuss.  Though I’d prefer she didn’t nurse to sleep, I’m grateful for the break.  The same routine does not work for nighttime, however.

Any ideas?

Crikey.  My first thought is that you are (counting on fingers) 4 months pregnant with a demanding toddler and broken nights.  I think you need to address getting some rest yourself.  It’s great that you have a supportive husband: my suggestion is get him to take over the night duty completely for a night or two (or three if you can manage it), invest in some earplugs and get some sleep.  Or rope in family to help.  You might need to express some milk if your daughter is really dependent on her night feeds and for your own comfort.  Yes, she may be upset, but from what you are saying she’s getting upset anyway so I don’t think a couple of nights with her Dad is going to cause any long-term trauma.

The best-case scenario is that your husband works out a fanstastic routine of his own and your daughter starts sleeping better of her own accord.  I know on the few occasions I have been away overnight Loudboy has slept like a dream with his dad.  Most advice on night-weaning involves getting someone else to take over the night wakings, so it might be the answer.  If not, at least you’ll feel better able to cope.

On the tantrums (and I’m not sure whether this is 100% a sleep issue or a toddler tantrum issue), this is a confusing time for children (and their parents).  How is your daughter at communicating?  Loudboy isn’t talking yet and I think a lot of his frustration comes from this communication gap.  If she is communicating well, I’d recommend this book: How to talk so kids will listen… which has some great ideas on getting your kids to do what you want communicate well.

There are lots of things that could be going on here: changes in the taste of your milk due to pregnancy hormones, night terrors, developmental changes.  I don’t think there are any easy answers in Toddler World, unfortunately.  Can anyone with more experience of these strange beasts help?

Ask SIFTW: Separation anxiety and needing a little grownup time

January 6, 2008

Oona writes:

My 9 month old daughter is going through a phase, yes the dreaded phase of waking up every half hour if I’m not in bed with her.  She’s also gotten very picky about which boob she wants.  We co-sleep which I really don’t want to change, and I don’t really mind the night nursing which she mainly sleeps though as do I.  What’s killing me is that I put her to bed at 8:00, nurse her to sleep with few problems and then she wakes up usually by 8:45 and thinks her 8:00 sleep was a nap.  She’s ready to rock and roll, sleeping is for the weak willed, just ask her.  She’ll go back to sleep at 11:00 but by then I’m exhausted and cranky.  The problem is that I leave for work at 6:00 am and need some grownup time between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm when I come to bed.  Is there some way to get her to resettle herself until I come to be at night or is it unrealistic to expect that I can still co-sleep and night nurse but only after I come to bed?

Oona ends her email with a big sigh (understandably) and I think I’m going to start my response with a big sigh too (understandably).


Oona, you sound like you already know what is going on here – it is a phase. A horrid phase, but yes a phase. Babies are always changing, so if they are doing something you don’t like just wait a few weeks, but the same goes if they are doing something you just love, also just wait a few weeks. You’ve also beautifully identified the issue to me. It’s not the co-sleeping, it’s not the night nursing, it’s the lack of adult time and space.

If you’re enjoying the co-sleeping and the nursing, I don’t see any reason to change that. Instead you might want to brainstorm how you can create a little time for yourself or time with your partner or whatever you need. Can you steal a bit of time in the lunch hour to do something for yourself? Or can you take a bit of time on weekends to do something you enjoy? I find even an hour to pop down to the farmers markets on a sunday with a coffee makes me a much saner person and mother than before i set out.

I’m not quite sure how you can reclaim that 8-10pm valued grownup time though right at the moment. I do know how precious it is though to eat dinner in peace, sloth in front of some bad tv, catch up with your partner or write your blog … I know that some people who co-sleep put their child in their cot or bed for the first part of the night and then take them into bed when they first wake up. However, if your daughter is waking after 45 minutes, then this may seem completely ludicrous. My only thought is to get her used to settling in her cot for a bit and maybe it would go better. But in all likelihood, the waking and getting up would persist and you would be getting nowhere fast. So may I suggest my favoured alternative…

The alternative is to hang on until it passes. And it will. 9 months is classic separation anxiety so it doesn’t surprise me that you daughter is clinging onto you for dear life at the moment. You are her world and she’s not letting go until she’s very very sure that you will be coming back. She may also want to maximise time with you if you are away from her during the day. None of this is bad, it’s just how it is at the moment. The Imp still goes through sessions of this periodically, but not nearly as bad as that 9 month episode.

I have one other practical thought amongst all the consolatary waffle. Maybe you could revisit her nap schedule during the day. Perhaps she’s not tired enough in the evening, or perhaps even too tired. I think at about 9 months the Imp went from 3 naps to 2 and there was a bit of transition involved in that. Just a thought.

Whatever you do though, it will pass soon enough.