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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Sleep and self-sufficiency

August 11, 2008

Kimberley writes:

Tonight my husband and I had our first near-fight regarding the ongoing saga of getting our 14-month-old daughter to sleep better. Thus far we’ve pretty much been on the same page (we were both happy co-sleepers back when co-sleeping seemed to work), although I’ve suspected that he was more comfortable with crying-it-out (CIO) as a sleep strategy.  Now it seems we might be heading toward heated discussion, as I am unwilling to accept CIO.
 
Our daughter has never been a terrific sleeper. She did pretty well with co-sleeping in the beginning, but typically woke a couple of times a night.  I chalked it up to her being so young, to nursing, to her needing us to soothe her, etc. I weaned her much earlier than I had planned (6 months) in an attempt to break her of all-night nursing (she refused to nurse consistently during the daytime, but more than made up for it at night). Though the weaning helped a bit, the bottle remained a very big crutch until just a month or so ago. At 9 months, we began putting her to sleep (with the bottle, rocking, singing, walking about, and, if all else failed, lying down with her for awhile), then placing her in her crib (located in our bedroom). She was usually asleep at the time she was placed in the crib, though sometimes she might be drowsy and quickly drift off on her own. Although she might wake a couple of times (sometimes for milk, sometimes not), she would go back down with minimal comforting. With this pattern, we typically put her in bed with us if she woke anytime after 3am or so (which occurred on most nights).
 
Over the last few months, things have become far less predictable.  She fights going to sleep, and sometimes won’t settle for anything but her swing (which, fortunately for us, goes up to 35 pounds!).  Regardless if she goes to sleep with little fuss or needs the swing, she has been waking at least a few times overnight.  This has been so tiring for us, that she is typically in bed with us by 12 or 1am (when I come to bed after working on my dissertation), though she remains restless even while co-sleeping. Sometimes it takes her over 30 minutes or more to go back to sleep. She might take a few sips of water, then I’ll put her back between my husband and me. Though I might rub her back a bit and sometimes have to stop her from trying to sit or stand up, I generally leave her to put herself back to sleep.
 
The husband and I are now considering our next move(s). We’ve thought about moving her to her own room now, though I’m not sure how she will handle sleeping in what she’s come to think of as her playroom.  And, as indicated above, we’ve begun to talk about CIO. The funny thing is that over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to get her to fall asleep in her crib by herself for naps during the day. Whereas before I might rock her or place her in her swing (then transfer her to the crib after she’s fallen asleep), I’ve been trying to catch her just as she gets tired and place her in the crib. To my utter surprise, she’s generally been going to sleep without me with very minimal fuss (usually a tiny bit of whining). I’m not sure if I should keep working on the naps, then eventually try putting her down at night alone. I can live with a little whining, but cannot tolerate what I call her “hysterical cry.” There seem to be so many variables at play that I don’t know where to begin–the swing dependency, (partial) co-sleeping, an exceedingly spirited, active, but good-natured baby who is unaccustomed to crying much at all (and thus very quickly devolves into hysterical crying), the foreignness of her own bedroom, etc. 

You’ve made one thing very clear and that is that you are unwilling to accept Cry It Out methods. Just remember your conviction on this. It seems to me that if you gave in and tried it, you just wouldn’t feel right about it. It’s really tricky getting kids to sleep once they’ve learned to fight it and can sense that there just might be something more interesting to do than settle down into blissful slumber.

The naps sound very promising at the moment, so I would go with that. Can you build in a little routine that she would learn to associate with going to sleep, such as read a book, close the curtains, sing a song, it doesn’t really matter what as long as it’s the same. Then when you feel the time is right, you can replicate this routine at night to try and get the message across.

If you want to move her to her room, she may not be too pleased at first, but actually kids are on the whole quite adaptable and if you persevere for a few weeks you might find it goes ok. The main thing is to realise she would probably need some extra reassurance during this time, so there might be a lot of sitting with her trying to help her to sleep in her own environment.

It’s a difficult transition (probably more so for the parents), but I think if you take baby steps in the direction you decide, with sensitivity, slowly slowly, your gorgeous happy, confident little girl will be able to take this step.


Night nursing with a future soccer star

July 24, 2008

Kelly writes:

Firstly, thank you so much – had I not found your mumsnet thread and later your website, I would have been a gibbering wreck by now (well, more of a gibbering wreck). It is such a relief to know that there are other mums out there whose babies aren’t all-nighters.

I have two questions, I think:

How connected are nursing to sleep and night wakings? I nurse my 8 month old to sleep as it is the only way she will go down without tears, but she then needs to nursed back to sleep almost every time she wakes, which at the moment can be 6-10 times between 7 and 5. We start her off in her cot and then move her to our bed, and I don’t really mind the night nursing (bar the kicking, see below) but am flagging at the amount she wakes. but I’m worried that I am encouraging her to wake often by nursing her when she does wake.

Secondly, does anyone else out there have a kicker? And what can one do to reduce the amount of battering one gets in the night? I get pummeled for at least 15 minutes every hour or so and any attempt to protect myself by moving her or building a duvet fort around my legs is futile.

My thought about nursing to sleep is that it is often so much easier to nurse to sleep than the alternatives. The way it went with the Imp is that he nursed to sleep, until he decided not to fall asleep and then he had to learn to put himself to sleep. So I did it as long as it was feasible, and then gave up when it no longer worked and tried something else. That about summarises my whole parenting strategy.

I feel that it is important for kids to learn to put themselves to sleep, but all in good time. I don’t think there is any point forcing it too early, as it will just cause more headaches than it solves. But if you can try and notice when your child is ready and help them along the path, that is fantastic and may well help with the night wakings. But then again, it may not. See, there’s no real way to tell the reason your child is waking at night, and the reason he can’t go back to sleep. In short, teaching kids to self settle helps some with night waking, but not others. For us, there never seemed to be that correlation.

We didn’t really have a kicker so can’t help you there. Maybe our readers will have some ideas …

8 months is still fairly little (though it doesn’t feel like it). I think it took us a good 13 months to get the sleeping into a manageable state, and even then we hit some kind of regressions occassionally. But at least now, I can see the phases are temporary, rather than looking down a deep dark tunnel of sleeplessness. If only we got weekends off from our kids sometimes …


Part time co-sleeping

July 23, 2008

Hannah writes: 

I have a 9 month old who just will not stay in his bed the entire night.
He goes to bed like an angel, bed time is between 8-9 depending and he gets put in pj’s, given bottle, a little cuddle time and then off to bed. We do not hear another peep out of him until some-where between 1-3 am when he wakes and almost refuses to return to sleep in his cot. I have tried on a couple of occasions to implement some sort of rapid return or feed and settle type plan, but given that he has to sleep in our room and I have to be up for work at 6am, I normally cave and allow him to co-sleep. He normally wants to suckle, but I don’t think that it is for food, generally. When I get up, I am able to transfer him back to the cot as I do not trust hubby to ensure that he doesn’t fall out of bed.
Do you have any suggestions to keep him in his own bed, cos I end up sleeping in really funny positions in order to accommodate hubby/baby, bearing in mind that neither have to get up anyway!

I think the co-sleeping is such a common thing, more than people like to admit. It may not be a conscious decision, but we put our kids to bed hoping for the best, but then they wake up in the middle of the night and who can be bothered to rock them back to a deep slumber and carefully lower them into their cot, praying for them not to wake up in the process. No! A lot of the time, we sleepily grab them, pull them into our own bed and cuddle them to sleep. Far more pleasant.

Except when you are squished between a husband and a bed hogging baby with limbs flayed everywhere. Call me mean, but when the Imp has to come into our bed (not too often these days thank goodness), I kick hubby out onto the couch. I cannot sleep with more than one person at a time, no matter how small one of those people are. That’s just me. I’m a bad sleeper at best, and I just need that room. Last time I tried to sleep with both, I think I nearly dislocated my shoulder!

I’m wondering if you gave him a feed, would he be sleepy enough to transfer back into the cot? I think it’s a question or kicking the baby or the husband out of bed. Or going to sleep on the couch yourself and putting up a bed rail.

Do any readers have some suggestions for getting a comfortable night’s sleep in the family bed? Buying a huge futon on the floor perhaps??


Baby No Sleeping

April 22, 2008

The Giving-Up Guide for Parents Who Can’t Get Their Kids to Sleep


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?


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…