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: 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?

The other side of sleep deprivation

February 7, 2008

This is not going to be a smug my-baby-sleeps-through post, partly because he has reverted to waking before 6am and we are feeling a little frazzled.  Still, we have our evenings back which is fabulous.

This brings me to the point of today’s post: the other things that fall apart when you’re not getting enough sleep.  The obvious candidates are housework (what housework?), laundry, co-ordinated outfits, pampering (remember when your sole aim wasn’t just to get vaguely clean before you had to leap out of the shower or bath?), hot meals, any meals that involve more than 5 minutes preparation, polished shoes… and functioning relationships.

After a whole, ooh, month of time to myself in the evenings and sleep at night (OK, slap me now) I’m wondering how I managed to get through that first year without getting divorced, sacked, ostracised from my family and losing all my friends.  I put it down to being surrounded by exceptionally nice people.  Relationships are hard when you’re not sleeping.  Marriages are particularly tough, especially if as in our case you’re co-sleeping and sharing childcare so neither of you are getting a break.

I’m not sure I have any answers, especially as I suspect I made a balls-up much of the time, but here are some things that might help.

1. Do not make any life-changing decisions when you are going through this.  Your partner does not hate you, your friends aren’t ignoring you and your family aren’t being any more irritating than usual.  Step back from edged weapons and anything involving a lawyer.

2. Be kind to each other.  Really, try.  One good tip I heard is try treating your partner like a work colleague and be polite.  This is harder than you would expect. Also, think about your family and friends once in a while.  They’ll probably forgive you for neglecting them, but you might miss something important.

3. Remember that this will not last forever.  At some point you will be sleeping for longer than an hour or so at a time and you will be amazed at the difference it makes.  In the meantime, give yourself some slack and afford the same luxury to others.

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…

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?