At 14 months, would you?

March 26, 2008

Colleen writes:

I am grappling with a near 8 month old who is deeply entrenched in the need to nurse to sleep, has super spidey where is mommy sense, and well, gets me up too many times in the night. He naps brilliantly twice daily but we get a three hour stretch maybe onceevery 2 nights, and otherwise it’s up every 1.5 hours.

It sucks, as you know, but I am staying home with him now and can somewhat afford to be groggy. When he is 13-14 months, however, I am starting grad school in a program that is very very demanding–neourscience, dissecting cadavers, and lots of physics probs in the first semester. The director of the program tried to intimidate me out of coming because a student with a three month old dropped out last year after a month (not fair, not cool, but she is the boss).

Obviously, you don’t know me or my kid, but can you give me an idea of how rested and ready to cope with life you felt at 13-14 months? It would be a big help to me in psyching up to go or maybe making a big decision to take another year and consider a program that is not going to try to scare me off.

Colleen, RESPECT going out to you for deciding to study neuroscience. This post is really tricky for me to answer, because at the end of the day, the real answer is IT DEPENDS. And I think it depends primarily on 3 things.

1. Your child.

I have to say that my 14 months old is a hell of a lot easier than my 8 month old was. Remarkably easier. But that doesn’t mean he’s a sleeping dream, or isn’t difficult at times, but it does mean that most of the time I’m not a walking zombie anymore. Your child is probably the aspect of this that you can least control, but I’d say working towards some kind of sleeping plan, slowly, slowly, so that you might envisage some kind of sensible blocks of sleep towards 14 months might be useful. That said, there are times when no sleep plans work and a kid just needs their mommy, so go with your gut instinct on what your kid can handle.

2. You

There are still going to be some sleepless nights, some tantruming episodes, some throwing food on the walls, some near-concussion falls (hopefully not too many) and to some extent I think it comes down to the personal question of how you balance the committments in your life. If you have to front up to dissect a cadaver after being up all night with a fever-y toddler, will you cope okay? I like to think sometimes that we do what we have to do and we get through, but I still tend to think we should try to maintain a modicum of sanity in the process.

3. Outside help

I think this is the most crucial aspect. How much support/babysitting/childcare/emotional support etc you will have at your disposal. If the people around you are incredbily supportive and you have good childcare arrangements, this could really make all the difference.

I’m sorry I can’t look into my crystal ball and tell you whether your child will be an easy or difficult 14 month old (and whether you’ll be getting much sleep). In my experience, yes, I’m getting more sleep, and yes, it’s a lot easier generally. But do I feel like embarking on a neuroscience degree? No. But then I never did without kids either!

Go for it Colleen.


Ask SIFTW: Windy minxes and dream feeding

March 4, 2008

Simone has a question about dreamfeeding:

How does it work? My nearly 10 week old, sleeps really well from 6.30/7 pm until about 11pm, feeds and thinks it’s playtime. She doesnt settle again till about 12-12.30am, sleeps and wakes at 3.30-4 am, and at this point it really is playtime, and she is so fidgety and frantic and takes forever to settle. When she does it’s till 7-7.30 am, she feeds and then we are ready for the day.

Should i dream feed at 11pm? Will it make her stay asleep and settled till 3.30?Also why does she not fall asleep after her bottle, but fidget and frantically thrash about for an hour? do you think she may be windy or just a minx?

Simone, please feel free to slap me for this because I totally know you are in sleepless hell at the moment, but it sounds like your little minx (do you mind if I call her that, affectionately of course!) is doing quite well in the sleep stakes. 10 weeks is pretty early days and babies are still working out the difference between night and day and I figure if they can do a couple of 3-4 hour stretches at night, then they are already starting to figure out that nighttime is for sleeping. 10 weeks is probably too early to be expecting much more in respect of sleeping (or in respect of anything really), so go with it, do the best you can, and get the sleep you can in the meantime.

3 or 4 hours doesn’t seem like much when you are craving 7 or 8 hours in a row (or perhaps 24 hours straight as the case may be), but take what you can get and hopefully you’ve been blessed with a good sleeper who will get into a nice pattern as she gets a little older.

As for dreamfeeding, my feeling is that you could give it a try and see what happened. I think dreamfeeding can work well when the reason that the baby wakes up is because of hunger. Unfortunately there are a myriad of other reasons babies wake and can’t settle back that dreamfeeding just won’t fix. I tried dreamfeeding with the Imp a few times and it really did nothing other than to give him an extra milk feed in the night as he still woke up at exactly the same times even after the dreamfeed.

Probably the reason she doesn’t fall asleep straight after her bottle is to do with the day/night distinction thing and also your scintillating company. Babies don’t see the imperative of sleeping at particular times, so if there is something more interesting to do at 4am than sleep, then likelihood is, they will do that instead. Over time, you can try and teach them that nighttime is for sleeping, but for the moment, just keep the mood chilled and the lights off and see if you can coax her back to sleepyland.

If she’s crying a lot after feeds, maybe she’s windy, you can try to bring up some burps, but again, as they get older, they are better at dealing with wind. And as for being a minx? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Ask SIFTW: 18 months is not a time for sleeping

February 11, 2008

A writes to us:

Well, I have a sleep problem to ask you about, like everyone else… I have a wonderful and very active 18 month old son. He was breastfed until about 8 months.

He has no problem at all being put to sleep initially. He drinks his bottle, finishes it, and drifts off in his cozy crib with no protesting. He even seems to enjoy being put in his crib when he is sleepy. He also takes good naps.  He has a great attitude and during the day is super mellow and easygoing.

The problem is this…. He goes to bed between 7 and 8. All is fine. Until… Anywhere between midnight and 2 am is his first wake up. Then he wakes up like… every 30 minutes to every hour.  Totaling anywhere from 4 to 10 wakeups a night.  This all started a few weeks ago. I have heard that there is something about the 18 month thing… He’s also had some behavioral changes. He all of the sudden has separation anxiety which he never seemed to have before. He is also getting more molars in (he seems to be teething constantly!!) I can see them coming in all red in the gums, hands in mouth, etc.  He also just started saying real words, all of the sudden… So there is a lot going on.

What have we been doing? Well I don’t feel right doing any form of “Cry it out” method while he is experiencing this new separation anxiety, so… he comes into the bed with us. He is soothed and falls right back to sleep, but the wakeups KEEP happening even in our bed. We have TRIED The cry it out method in varying “Strengths” But it definitely seems to leave him more tired and agitated than anything else.  He is very persistent.

Tonight I have decided to not bring him into our bed, because nobody can sleep, but instead bringing a small mattress into HIS room for ME to sleep on. I will soothe him and try to put him back in HIS CRIB
afterwards.  At the very worst he’ll still be in his room, not our bed. Ugh. Any ideas?

My son is 13 months and so I am dreading the onset of the 18 month sleep regression. I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve heard it is oh so common. And oh so annoying. But the good news? It will pass. It will apparently pass whether or not you try to do anything about it.

And you’ve said it yourself. There is a hell of a lot going on. Molars, talking, separation anxiety, physical accomplishments and god knows what else in that magnificently developing mind and body of the 18 month old.

I’m no expert on the 18 month thing, so I’ll defer to my preferred font of all wisdom, Moxie who says:

“Your kid may have a serious, mind-blowingly awful sleep regression at around 18 months. It’s not your fault, and it will pass.”

Hopefully by 20 months, this phase will just be a vague memory of a horrid sleepless time. In the meantime, it’s probably a great idea to take turns camping out in his room so at least one person in the house can be getting some rest. Take turns, offload some responsibility if you can for the short term. And count down the days. And maybe dare I say the occassional shot of calpol in the night if molars seem to be really getting the better of you both.

Can anyone comment of their 18 month sleep deprivation and how long it lasted?

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.

Ask SIFTW: Developmental hell

December 28, 2007

Janelle from Athens, GA writes:


Our daughter is six and half months old. She slept with us for the first three months and then we gradually moved her into a crib right next to our bed. She did great in it for a couple of months. We had several nights where she would sleep three hours, then five, then three more. We got used to this. Now, she is crawling, trying to pull herself up in her crib and teething. She is waking up every thirty minutes or so and needs to be parented back to sleep. My husband and I are fried today after her waking every 25 minutes last night. We don’t believe in crying it out and are into attachment parenting. We had a home birth and are trying to be compassionate conscious parents, and frankly, we’re both a little forlorn right now. Any help, suggestions you can offer would be more than welcome.


Oh god, yes, developmental milestones may be amazing to see but they are a total pain in the arse at night when baby decides there’s far too much going on to sleep. Combine this with teething and it’s no wonder you’re feeling knackered. Here’s a few of my thoughts.


On the teething, some people swear by homeopathic powders like Ashton & Parsons. They might not work for everyone but they’ve gotta be worth a go — and you can use them alongside conventional pain relief. Then I would rub Bonjela on the gums at bedtime and give Calpol if necessary. 


On the frequent wakings, how about taking her back into your bed for a while until she gets through this stage? As she slept fine in her crib up til all this kicked off, I’m sure it won’t be a problem to get her back in the crib once she’s settled down again.


Just another thought, presumably you’ve started weaning her pretty recently, and this could also be causing discomfort. Might be worth keeping a food diary and seeing if she’s more unsettled after eating a particular food, or if she has solids too late in the day. 


As for the developmental spurts, well, there’s sadly not much you can do apart from wait until she’s learned the new skill and stops needing to practise it in the night. At which point hopefully she’ll start sleeping more again… until she starts working on the next skill.

Ask SIFTW: Another 7 month bub causing havoc

December 2, 2007

We got two emails about 7 month olds within 12 hours of each other. So what is going on with the 7 month olds of this world? Jane writes:

This isn’t really a question, more of a shout-out across the fog of sleep deprivation to say thanks for your blog, which has, at moments, retained my sanity after returning from another mum and baby group where I was surrounded by 3 and 4 month old babies sleeping 7-7 and their smug mothers.

My baby, now 7 months, isn’t a great sleeper at all, and we’ve currently hit a particularly bad spot that involves wakings every one to two hours at night. Aside from feeling terrible physically it makes me feel resentful of my child (who is otherwise a gorgeous, happy baby), tearful at embarrassing moments (at the doctor’s, in a shop, at the bank …), and constantly worried about what the next night will bring. And sad that I could be enjoying my maternity leave and this precious time with my child so much more than I am.

Am currently reading Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution and starting to implement some of its suggestions – be interested to know what you think. I also took her to a paediatric osteopath yesterday and wondered if any of you had done this.

Right. This is probably not so much of an answer to your question as me saying: It’s hell. I’ve been there. It’s hell. I feel your pain. And yeah. It’s hell. If we at SIFTW are doing anything, I’m glad to know that we are letting parents know that not all babies sleep. And it’s not your fault. Sometimes nothing you can do will make any difference other than riding it out.

What is with all those smug mothers with their 7-7 babies? I only have two explanations.

Perhaps there are two breeds of babies, the sleepers and the non-sleepers. The parents of the sleepers get to believe that they were endowed with superior parenting skills that have enabled their child to be a fantastic sleeper, while the parents of the non-sleepers worry that their parenting is somehow lacking and causing their child to sleep so badly. I’m thinking it may be all down to personality. My evidence? Mothers who have had two children, one of whom has been a sleeper and one who hasn’t. Have they parented any differently? No.

My other explanation is that there are a lot of parental lies going on. I’ll let you judge that one for yourself.

It’s really difficult to enjoy life when you are not getting sleep. I’ve gone through those times feeling bad for not ‘enjoying my baby’. I felt it was my right to enjoy this special baby time and I felt ripped off because it was so hard and I constantly felt like I’d been run over by a bus. It’s okay to feel tired. It’s okay to feel a bit resentful. But try to focus on each day as it comes and treat yourself a little.

7 months is a hard time. There is so much going on. I won’t even attempt to guess the reason that your baby has started sleeping worse lately (though sounds like s/he’s never been a great sleeper). The list of things is a mile long. Sometimes I get exhausted just thinking about all the physical and mental development a 7 month old has to do. Add to that, they are probably approaching separation anxiety territory, so your baby may be very reluctant to part with you, especially at night.

I did take the Imp to a cranial osteopath when he was very little to try and help with breastfeeding and with sleeping. I really like the approach, but I can’t say that I saw any tangible improvement at the time. Though I’ve heard reports of them doing amazing things with kids. There are a few SIFTWers who are very familiar with Pantley too. Her methods are so much gentler than some other parenting gurus out there. I’ll call on the gang to give their experiences in the comments perhaps.

Best of luck getting through this trying time.