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.


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??