Permanently attached …

August 14, 2008

Carrie writes:

My 10 1/2 month old son has decided to ONLY sleep when being held. We practice attachment parenting to the best of our abilities (co-sleeping included) and strongly feel that CIO is not for us. I am however, at a loss. He has a pretty consistent nap schedule (2/day) but for months I have nursed him to sleep. During his naps his preference is to stay attached to my breast, nipple in mouth. There are times when I am able to detach him from my breast and as long as I hold him, he stays asleep. If I even attempt to lie him down (in his crib, in our bed, etc) he immediately wakes up and starts screaming in protest/terror. His nap is over at that point, which one of the main reasons I have found it easier to keep him in my arms in order to ensure he sleeps, thus continuing this terribly inconvenient pattern. In the early months, when I needed to catch up on my sleep I would just nap with him/nurse him in our bed and sometimes he would nap for 2 1/2, 3 hours long, which was great at the time, but now it’s not so great. It’s about time that I do the dishes and answer emails and clean the bathroom, all the stuff that I imagine most moms being able to do by the time their baby is almost a year old…
 
So that’s the napping part. Now there is the bedtime part. I nurse him to sleep around 8pm and he usually falls asleep pretty quickly. I’m able to detach him from my breast with out him crying and waking up (sometimes he even lets go himself once he’s in a deep sleep) but there’s still no way he’s letting me put him down. I have tried waiting for 20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour and a half, 3 hours, it doesn’t matter in how deep of a sleep he’s in. The second I try to put him down – actually the second I adjust my arms/hands to maneuver him away from my body – he wakes up, clutches at me like a little wild animal and screams in terror. Thankfully, my husband is able to take him and hold him as well, so I do get some breaks on the evenings he’s home (sometimes he works the night shift). But the same thing happens for him when he tries to put him down. This has been happening for the last few weeks. Before that when we would put him in his crib 50% of the time when we would lay him down he would stay asleep and 50% of the time he would wake up. When he would stay asleep, on average he would wake up crying every 30 minutes. We would go in, pick him up, and sooth him back to sleep (sometimes he would fall asleep without nursing, sometimes he would need the boob). This waking every 30 minutes cycle would continue until I brought him to bed with me, where he could nurse all night long and we were all finally able to get some rest. Well, I would get as much rest as one can get with a babe attached to one’s boob all night. I felt, and still feel, that it’s better than hopping in and out of bed every 30 minutes all night long… Also, to add to the problem, lately he’s been so active at night, kicking me and flopping all over the place (sometimes with my nipple still in his mouth – not pleasant) and at about 3am he starts to cry out in his sleep like he’s having nightmares. This continues until 6am when he wakes up and is all bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to start the day. Ugh.
 
A few months ago I tried nursing him to sleep laying next to him and trying to sneak away once he’s asleep. This would work sometimes but he would still wake up anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes after I left his side. It’s out of the question now because he’s so mobile he would wake up and crawl right off the bed in a matter of seconds (which he’s done once before).
 
So I’m at a loss for a few reasons. I need some time to myself and my husband and I need some time together which is not happening AT ALL right now. I am scared that I am perpetuating the problem by continuing to hold him like this, but in my heart I see no other alternative. If I put him down he cries. Hysterically, as if he is dying. I am worried that this is going to last forever. And I need some good rest, which I haven’t had since he was born. I refuse to let him CIO but I cannot bear to continue on like this for much longer…
 
ANY advice/help/suggestions would be SO GREATLY appreciated. I am sorry this is so foggy and disjointed. It’s late, I am exhausted and I need to go relieve my husband from munchkin duty.

I hear you. By about 10 months you’re yelling from the depths of parenthood “hey, could I just have a little bit of life back?????” I don’t know what to say, but it sounds like you are doing it quite tough. Some kids are just like this and the parents of super compliant sleep anywhere kids will just never, never ever understand what you go through on a daily (and nightly) basis.

You say from the outset that CIO is not your style. So let’s stay completely away from that. But it sounds like something has to give doesn’t it. I think the key is to work out what is the minimum change that you would need to feel a little better in yourself. Do you need more sleep? More time to yourself? More time with your husband? Of course, I know you need ALL of these, but which is most pressing at the moment? Once you figure that out, work towards that. It might be that you can live with lying down for naptimes, but you really need your evenings back. Or maybe you’d like to get some stuff done at home in the day. Or get your hair cut. Or whatever.

In terms of getting your son to sleep a bit more on his own, so at least you are not bound to be in bed for 13 hours a day or whatever, I’m thinking a gradual retreat method might be the best option if you feel you need to work towards a bit more independence in sleeping. Actually let me rephrase it, it’s probably a gradual gradual gradual retreat. The key is to take it slow. Each time your kid is comfortable with the next step of getting to sleep, you can retreat one tiny bit further.

So for you the first step might be to try to get him to fall asleep ‘off the breast’. So maybe you would try cuddle him to sleep. Then when that is okay, you might try stroking to sleep, then singing to sleep, then sitting next to him.

Sounds easy? It’s not so easy, it’s going to take a lot of patience and reassurance. But you’ll feel a lot better with it than CIO as you are never leaving them to scream themselves to exhaustion. There may be some crying, but you’ll be there to help them through it.

But I really recommend having a look if there are any small changes you can make to help you feel a bit more human. Sometimes getting a cleaner or someone to help put on a load of laundry can make a world of difference. Or I’m quite keen on begging friends to bring home cooked dinners around!

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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).

SIGH.

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.


Planning and scheming

November 17, 2007

As suspected, my last optimistic post was a bit previous: Loudboy decided to go back to feeding all (and I mean ALL) night, very unsettled and refusing to eat during the day. It’s partly teeth, but partly that he just wants to feed all the time. So we decided to try cutting down on the night feeds. Loudboy is 13 months now, so we figured he was old enough to guide (gently) in the ways of righteousness (or the ways of sleeping at least a couple of hours at a time). I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding either, having read up on the benefits of breastfeeding after the first year.

Of course I consulted my SIFTW sisters, many of whom have successfully night weaned already, for cunning tips. This is what they came up with:

1. Increase the gap between the bedtime feed and the first feed of the night
2. Get your partner to take over some of the night wakings
3. If you’re co-sleeping, try wearing a top to make it more difficult for the baby to get a feed
4. Expect a bit of crying (sometimes a LOT)
5. Go slow and expect things to go backwards with teeth/growth spurts/immunisations

So Day 2 into The Plan and it seems to be working so far. I’ve gone for option 1 to start with, so not feeding DS for at least 4 hours after he’s gone to bed. If (when) he wakes up, my husband goes in to settle him. Instead of a feed, he gets a cuddle and the Gruffalo (again). So far, the longest it’s taken is about 10 minutes, which is less time than it usually takes me. He’s still waking later on in the night, and I’m still feeding him, but SLOW is the name of the game here. Last night he slept from 11pm to 2pm without a peep. Progress!


Night weaning = Night mare

October 30, 2007

So I’ve had a long standing wish now to stop feeding the Imp at night. Now that I dissect that wish, I realise I’d been making a fatal assumption that if he stopped feeding, he would stop waking. WRONG! In fact, not feeding makes things worse. I have been desperately trying to feed the Imp back to sleep for a few nights now and he won’t have it. He won’t feed. And he won’t sleep. I have realised I have no other tricks up my sleeve. Feed or nothing. And so, the Imp has been awake. Why was I in such a hurry to night wean? The Imp doesn’t wake for milk. He wakes simply because he wakes.


Bringing up baby (or just putting it in the garden)?

October 4, 2007

nanny31.jpg

Have you seen this show on Channel 4? It’s a disgrace. The poor parents having their lives dissected in front of the camera in those first precious weeks. I had to turn it off half way into the episode this week. I think I’m done. Not to mention the famed Claire Verity and her sleep through the night at 8 weeks methods. Sleep Is For the Weak is here to tell you THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT!

Melanie at Melanie’s Daily Blurb has written a brilliant piece on the show, the approaches, and the “£1000 a day don’t look at your baby or dare pick them up” nanny.


Recipe for disaster

October 2, 2007

The Imp turns 9 months in two days

Take one growth spurt

And a pinch of separation anxiety

Take one baby trying desperately to stand and cruise all the time

Add in a full moon a few nights back

Mix in some teething pain

Sift in a cranky mamma who is over being a walking milk dispenser and human climbing frame

Seems we’re not making chocolate cake here folks…


Getting through the day …

September 25, 2007

I used to be of the school of thought that you should suffer through a cold. You should grab a bottomless hot lemon and manuka honey drink and throw your doona on the couch for the duration, subjecting yourself to reruns of friends and updating yourself on Oprah’s latest weight struggle.

No more. Give me the panadol. The nurofen. The cold and flu tablets. For heaven’s sake get me one of each enticing packet that the pharmacy has on offer. I’ve got a 9 month old to look after, and he won’t let me lie on the couch for hours with Oprah as my best friend.

So I still fall back on the faithful natural rememdies, but with a few pharmaceuticals to get us through. It’s the same as with sleep really, you’ve just got to do what you can to get through in the best way that you can.

And if you need to take anything while breastfeeding, you can get great information from the Breastfeeding Network’s Drugline.