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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Hungry 7 1/2 month old

August 12, 2008

Julie writes:

We have a 7 1/2 month old boy and our relatively typical night looks like this: he eats solids at 7pm, nurses at 8pm, and then goes to bed at 8:30pm (mostly falls asleep on his own now). Sometimes he’ll awake at 11pm crying. But often his first wake up is at 1am, then again at 4am or 5am. He’s up for the day anywhere between 6 – 7:30 am.

When he awakes at night, I usually let him cry for a minute or two to decide what kind of cry it is. If it’s an angry cry, I go to him and nurse him. If it’s a tired cry, he sometimes goes back to sleep, or sometimes it escalates to an angry cry and then I go to him. Is this too inconsistent an approach? I’ve read so much on the issue that it’s clear there are no right or wrong answers. Some people feel strongly about continuing to night nurse. Others feel strongly about sleep training (that he’s old enough and weighs enough – 18 pounds – to not need to eat in the middle of the night). I’m lucky to not be working, so it’s more an inconvenience during the day to be tired of getting up every 3-4 hours. I’m really not sure about what to do. I don’t have a strong intuition either way – to nurse or to wean him of these night feedings. I guess my fear is that by not going to him, he’ll feel like I’m abandoning him. But I’m worried that if I continue to always go to him, that he’ll never kick the habit of night nursing. He does not have his own room, which makes the idea of letting him cry it out at night really unappealing, but perhaps necessary.  Can you offer any guidance?

I’ve had the lucky experience of having a kid who would wake up every hour or two, so anything less looks quite appealing by contrast! My thinking is that at 7 1/2 months, a baby is just really getting the hang of eating a bit of food, milk is generally still their main diet and it sounds fair enough to me that some babies (most?) might still need a feed or two at night. It may not be that convenient for the parents (particularly the nursing mum) and it may be an incredible drag being so so tired permanently, but I really think this is part of the first years dramas of babyhood.

I think if you can bare it as it is, it will be easier just to go with the flow, but if it’s really unbareable, my other top tip is to send daddy in at night so bubs gets the message that nursing is no more. There may be some tears though at first until they get used to this new routine. But remember, even if you do decide to keep nursing at night to keep the peace, babies do eventually grow out of it at their own pace as their need diminishes.

I am keen on saying these days that babies need what the need until they decide they no longer need it. And there’s not much you can do about that.


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??


Ask SIFTW: Switching from 2 to 1 nap

July 22, 2008

Our lovely friend Kirsty writes:

I tried to find some posts about the 2-1 nap switcheroo. I  couldn’t find any.  Do you recall any such posts? My son is starting to fight nap time and I think he might be getting ready for one nap. Since its not going so well, I’d love to hear any tips or advice.

I don’t recall any such posts, but I do recall the switcheroo. There is a time when kids seem to need more than 1 nap a day and less than 2. And that obviously causes problems for all parties concerned. Parents do not know when the kid wants to sleep. The kid cannot make it sanely through the day on one nap, but can barely seem to fit in two.

Sometimes it might work to bring their bedtime forward to even 6pm or so, so they can have their early nap and try and get through the afternoon. The other possibility is for them to have their early nap, then have a short 1/2 hour rest in the afternoon to get through. Rest assured they will grow into the one nap though in time. And then eventually they will grow out of the one nap, which is when as a parent you really start to get nervous!

PS. I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping up with your emails as well as I should be, but I’m doing my best to catch up this week (as long as nap times co-operate!)


Ask SIFTW: 7 month old feeding at 3am

June 11, 2008

Lauren writes:

I have a 7 month old who is habitual waking at 3/3.30am for a breastfeed.  I know at this age he should be sleeping through.  We put him down at 7.00pm.  He has solids at about 4pm and then a bottle at 6.30pm.  I always (now) try and put him down awake so he is learning to fall asleep by himself.  (I previously breastfed him to sleep which I know is a big no no).  Anyway for the last 2 weeks we have tried to get him to stop feeding at 3am, however I am finding this extremely difficult and am getting very tired.  I basically go in to him to check that he is dry etc and then try and shush / pat / kiss him back to sleep.  Doesn’t really seem to be working – should I just leave the room and let him cry it out????????
 
HELP.

Hi Lauren, we’re not very conventional here at SIFTW and what I would say is that 7 months is very little and you are not alone in having a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night. Actually I won’t tell you how old mine was when he started to sleep through MOST nights, as it could be taken to be a little bit depressing. It’s little solace when you feel like crap every morning because your sleep is broken, but I think your bubba is doing quite well for his age. Do you have a partner who could get up with baby in the morning and allow you a little bit of a lie in to catch up once in a while. Even a sleep in once a week can do wonders, I find.

It sounds like the shush/pat/kiss is not working too well at the moment. I would probably take the route of least resistance, the one that gets him back to sleep ASAP, and yes, that probably means feeding him. There’s plenty of time to drop this habit later as their diet moves more towards having a proper dinner and their tummies can go longer.

There are those crazy babies who sleep through from a few months old, but I really feel that they are the exception.

Best of luck.

xx


Baby No Sleeping

April 22, 2008

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