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.


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 …


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


10 month old twins and rocking to sleep

June 1, 2008

Lynn writes

I have twin 10-month-old girls who have always been challenging sleepers, though recently things have started to really improve. The girls usually take 2 naps during the day, 1-2 hours each, which is a huge improvement from the 30-40 minute naps they used to take. And even better, their nighttime sleep has improved too. Most nights we’re down to one waking per baby, and some nights they even sleep through. My question has to do with getting them to sleep. When they were younger I spent a couple of months trying to get them to fall asleep on their own but since I don’t want to let them cry it out and most gentle sleep training methods don’t seem to work for twins, I gave up and have been rocking them to sleep which is usually a much faster, easier method. I’m okay with the current system, but sometimes I worry about the future. I’ve never heard of an 8-year-old being rocked to sleep so I’m figuring we’ll transition out of the rocking-to-sleep at some point. But how? Does it always have to be a painful process? Does it ever happen naturally the same way their sleep has improved naturally?

Hi Lynn, I’m glad the sleeping has improved for you lately, you’ve got double trouble on your hands already! What I tend to think about methods of getting kids to sleep is that you do what works until it no longer works. That’s what happened to us with rocking to sleep and feeding to sleep. We rocked and fed and rocked and fed to sleep, and then one day those little eyes just didn’t want to close. So we had to figure a new way to do things.

These days, we have a cuddle, sing a song and put the Imp into his cot and he’ll mumble for a bit and drift off. What a dream! I can’t really say how we got from rocking and feeding to this point, it was such a gradual change, but I really feel as they become more confident in themselves and understand more of the world, they gain the independence to do such wonderful things and put themselves to sleep.

So I guess my advice is to do what you need to do to get them to sleep (at least they seem to be staying asleep for the most part which is 9/10 of the battle), and as they grow out of this stage, you will find new and innovative ways of getting them to bed and to sleep.

love SIFTW


Ask SIFTW: Windy minxes and dream feeding

March 4, 2008

Simone has a question about dreamfeeding:

How does it work? My nearly 10 week old, sleeps really well from 6.30/7 pm until about 11pm, feeds and thinks it’s playtime. She doesnt settle again till about 12-12.30am, sleeps and wakes at 3.30-4 am, and at this point it really is playtime, and she is so fidgety and frantic and takes forever to settle. When she does it’s till 7-7.30 am, she feeds and then we are ready for the day.

Should i dream feed at 11pm? Will it make her stay asleep and settled till 3.30?Also why does she not fall asleep after her bottle, but fidget and frantically thrash about for an hour? do you think she may be windy or just a minx?

Simone, please feel free to slap me for this because I totally know you are in sleepless hell at the moment, but it sounds like your little minx (do you mind if I call her that, affectionately of course!) is doing quite well in the sleep stakes. 10 weeks is pretty early days and babies are still working out the difference between night and day and I figure if they can do a couple of 3-4 hour stretches at night, then they are already starting to figure out that nighttime is for sleeping. 10 weeks is probably too early to be expecting much more in respect of sleeping (or in respect of anything really), so go with it, do the best you can, and get the sleep you can in the meantime.

3 or 4 hours doesn’t seem like much when you are craving 7 or 8 hours in a row (or perhaps 24 hours straight as the case may be), but take what you can get and hopefully you’ve been blessed with a good sleeper who will get into a nice pattern as she gets a little older.

As for dreamfeeding, my feeling is that you could give it a try and see what happened. I think dreamfeeding can work well when the reason that the baby wakes up is because of hunger. Unfortunately there are a myriad of other reasons babies wake and can’t settle back that dreamfeeding just won’t fix. I tried dreamfeeding with the Imp a few times and it really did nothing other than to give him an extra milk feed in the night as he still woke up at exactly the same times even after the dreamfeed.

Probably the reason she doesn’t fall asleep straight after her bottle is to do with the day/night distinction thing and also your scintillating company. Babies don’t see the imperative of sleeping at particular times, so if there is something more interesting to do at 4am than sleep, then likelihood is, they will do that instead. Over time, you can try and teach them that nighttime is for sleeping, but for the moment, just keep the mood chilled and the lights off and see if you can coax her back to sleepyland.

If she’s crying a lot after feeds, maybe she’s windy, you can try to bring up some burps, but again, as they get older, they are better at dealing with wind. And as for being a minx? I’ll leave that to you to decide.