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!


Ask SIFTW: Early wakers rejoice at the imminent time change

March 3, 2008

Kirsty and Myk write:

Our lovely son is turning 1 year on the 25th of February. He has been a very good baby with the exception that he was a terrible sleeper. We say “was” because after many months of compassionate sleep training – He seems to be sleeping better. However, it’s only been a few weeks. We’re sure some awful sleep regression is heading our way.

His bedtime used to be 9pm, and after reading every baby sleep book decided to try for the early bed time. We made it 8pm and then when the last time change occurred, we used it as an opportunity to make his bedtime 7pm. All the books said he’d probably sleep just as long, if not longer. Ha! Of course that was not our case. He just woke up earlier. So now that he is sleeping better he is averaging 10.5 hrs a night (It used to be 11 hrs with frequent night wakings). So we put him to bed at 7pm and he wakes at 5:30am. If we’re lucky we can get him to sleep until 6am. But not usually. We hate the 5am wake ups! They are the worst. We’d like to push his bedtime back to 8pm.

With the time change occurring in March we are thinking of keeping him on the same schedule. He’ll feel like its 7pm when we put him down at 8pm. Then *hopefully* he’ll sleep until 6:30am and if we’re lucky 7pm. In your opinion does this seem like a good idea?

You know what – there is a reason it’s been taking me FOREVER to respond to this question.

The universe works in mysterious ways.

The Imp is now going to bed at 7pm (that’s as late as he can stay up without having a stellar meltdown performance) and getting up at … you guessed it … 5.30 bloody AM.

And guess what my first thought is … Kirsty is onto something with the March time change.

Frankly, I don’t really have the energy or patience to make changes any other way.

I love an email that says “all the books said”. What the hell do books know? They never knew my son. Or at least the Imp had never read those books. I guess yours hasn’t either. This bedtime thing seems to be a juggling act. My considerations seem to be – how long can they survive in the afternoon/evening before having a major meltdown? And what time does this mean they are going to wake up in the morning? Seriously, if I could put the Imp to bed at 5pm and have him sleep through until 7am the next morning, I wouldn’t have a problem with that! I sure would get a lot done in the evenings.

I would say that if your son is waking up at 5.30am happy and ready to play and making it through the day ok without having tired- related meltdowns, then he’s getting enough sleep and that is his rhythm. Of course you can try puttin him to bed a little later and see if it helps, and by all means the time change may work in your favour.

But also be prepared for the scenario that it may not work. An interesting thing happened when we travelled half way around the world. I thought to myself: Wonderful! Since the Imp’s body clock will be messed with anyway, I’ll just put him to bed around 10pm each night and that way we can take him out to dinner with us each night and he’ll just sleep in each morning. It worked like that for a few nights, but as he adjusted to the local time, he seemed to NEED to go to bed around 7pm. So maybe it’s something to do with the daylight, the sunrise and sunset or whatever.

So just in case, you are still getting up at 5.30am next month, try and get earlier nights yourself, and maybe get a coffee maker that switches itself on in the mornings. Best of luck. I hope it works for you (and us!)


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.


Ask SIFTW: Baby waking at 7 months after sleeping through

November 30, 2007

David writes:

Our 7 month old has been sleep trained for about a month (what took us so long?) and now he goes to sleep at 6:30 or7pm and is fine. But today he had an odd day and had an extra nap. So, although he went to sleep fine, he has woken up. What should we do? Let him cry it out or go comfort him, take him out of bed, play for a while, night feed and then put him back? Or something else?

Firstly, sounds like you’ve been getting a bit of sleep in the last month David, so well done, that’s not an easy achievement in itself. Firstly, crazy nap days are going to happen. We’re off on holidays tomorrow and the Imp does not nap so well in the pushchair, so I think we are in for an interesting time with loads of overtiredness. For some babies, naps really do seem to dictate the flow of nighttime sleep, for others the connection is somewhat dubious at best.

Your baby has woken up in the night after sleeping through for a month or so. There’s a couple of ways you could take this (off the top of my head). Hopefully it is a one off for you and he will go back to sleeping soon.

  1. Baby had too much sleep in the day and is now awake at some ungodly hour thinking about playing and entertainment. As tempting as it is to play a bit of hide and seek at 3am, I tend to think keeping the mood dull and sleepy with the lights low is key. Even if baby won’t nod off straight away, at least you may be instilling the message that nighttimes are very very boring and it is way better to keep sleeping. When the Imp really insists on doing stuff at ungodly hours, I usually lie down and feign sleep while he climbs over me, pulls my hair, pokes my eyes until he lets out a little yawn and then I try to rush him off to bed again.
  2. Since Baby has been sleeping through for a month, I would consider whether there is something new that might be waking him up, teething, illness, that kind of thing. He might need a little more comfort than usual until this passes. The Imp is a terrible co-sleeper, but will happily sleep with us if he’s sick or teething.
  3. At this age, you might want to consider if Baby is going through some developmental spurt, such as learning to crawl as this can cause them to wake up at night rocking on hands and knees and such and such.
  4. Concede that you don’t know what the hell is causing this night waking and get your baby to sleep by any means possible and hope that it’s just a phase.
  5. If this waking becomes a habitual night after night, then you are back to considering the way forward. Can you live with some interrupted sleep for a bit, or do you need to revisit the sleep training?

What do our readers think? Post your thoughts/advice in the comments.


Goodbye sleep training, I’m 15 months and learning to sleep!!

November 19, 2007

I’ve talked before about my attempts at sleep ‘training’, particularly using Gradual Retreat; which I still have a soft spot for, but am just too lazy to implement at the moment, hmm….

Anyway, I’m going with the method of least resistance and am laying down beside the buddha bubs until she arrives at the land of nod, then creeping away to leave her to it. And you know what?…..it seems to be working. I have managed to night wean her recently (you’ll get there swizzler!) and I’m sure that has helped. Knowing that if she wakes, she won’t be greeted with a soft, warm boob, has deterred her a little,  I’m sure, but I also think that she’s just getting older and is maybe learning how to sleep.

This is not to say that we don’t have bad nights, those when she wakes several times, or even just once, but it lasts an hour, arrrrrrggghhhh. I’m just hoping that she remembers that sleep is a good thing, that we like sleep, that we want more of it!!!!


Ultra bad night? Chuck the clock out the window

October 17, 2007

My little travel clock that I used to have by my bed finally faded to a quiet death. It would no longer display those ungodly times containing 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s as their first digit. Since that, I’ve been searching for the perfect little bedside clock. Not too big, not those monster digital clocks with LED display that set the room alight like fireworks. I have to admit also that it’s probably not high on my list of priorities, so for the moment I am clockless.

And sometimes, that’s honestly not a bad thing. You see I’m in the habit of ‘clocking’ the time of each wakeup as I get out of bed and again as I get into bed. So most times I will therefore know:

  • – what times the Imp woke up
  • – how long each waking was
  • – and perhaps how many times he woke up (if I can still count them on my fingers)

Under the clockless system you stumble out of bed wondering was it half an hour ago when he was awake, or 4 hours ago. Sometimes you don’t have a clue. Often in the morning it’s a bit of a blur. What time did he wake up? How long was he in bed with us? Was he awake for long? I found myself in this state the other day not really knowing what kind of night we’d had. So I analysed how I felt … hmm, strangely not too bad. After a coffee, half decent even. So conclusion – the night was not that bad.

Had I been under the clock system, I may have overanalysed the number and length of wakings and concluded I should be tired, therefore I would feel tired if you see what I mean. The mind is very impressionable with these kinds of things.

So in summary, hurl your clock out the window and get a better nights sleep without it.