How do you sleep train a high needs baby?

(19 Posts)
Ohlalala Mon 25-Jul-16 09:24:15

Hello everyone,

My daughter is 4 months old now and cannot self-soothe to sleep so I am looking for advice from fellow parents. She fits in Dr Sears's description of high needs babies in that she likes to be held a lot, is very alert/likes looking around/will fight sleep to ensure she doesn't miss out on anything and will scream/cry at the top of her lungs if she has set her mind on something and she is not getting it (eg. being held, not being in her cot,...). Several doctors/nurses/HV have commented on how 'angry' she sounds when she cries. I am not using this as an excuse for anything but thought it would be helpful to show what she is like.
Her sleeping routine consists of 40-minute naps throughout the day at 1h30-2h intervals. I avoid feeding her to sleep whenever possible but need to use a mixture or rocking or white noise to get her to sleep. Then I can put her down in her cot. A month ago I tried the pick up/put down method which sort of worked (although I am not sure how well I was doing it- by the stage I placed her in her cot she was closer to being fully asleep than being simply sleepy), but it all went down the drain when she hit the 4 month mark (sleep regression?). Simply putting her in her cot without any preliminary rocking will not work, she will be wide awake and will simply start playing in her cot, rolling onto her stomach and basically getting quite excited and unable and unwilling to fall asleep. Putting her half asleep (and not picking her up), making shh sounds will result in high pitched crying which again has the effect of waking her up and wounding her up so any form of controlled crying doesn't seem to be an option. As I said, pick up put down only works when she is closer to being falling asleep.
With regards to the duration of the naps, I have tried the wake up to sleep method to make them longer but that didn't work.
As far as night time is concerned, we start getting her ready for bed around 7 and 'officially' try and get her to sleep around 7.30pm. Again, she will need to be rocked with white noise in the background. The last few days it took a good 2 hours to get her to fall asleep. On a good day, it will take 1 hour. She will then sleep for 4-5 hours, wake up for a feed, then go back to sleep (easily, but probably because she is fed to sleep) for another 2-3 hours for another feed, which gets us to around 4-5am and at this stage, she will sometimes go back to sleep (generally with the need of white noise/rocking) or won't altogether.
I would very much like to reach a stage where she can fall asleep on her own during naps, and the first part of the evening. Would you have any comments on what I am doing wrong or any advice on what worked for you? Thank you!

Ohlalala Mon 25-Jul-16 18:40:32

I have read a bit more about pu/pd and now realise I have been doing it all wrong. I thought you had to wait till they were half asleep before putting them down. The problem I foresee with this is that my daughter never understands she is tired, which is why I need to rock her to send her to sleep. Otherwise, she would be wide awake and there is no way leaving her wide awake in the cot will help. She will just start playing and rolling over on her stomach. At some point, she will switch to 'overtiredness' mode and will kick off big style and don't feel pu/pd will work by then, it will be too late...

bigchangesabound Mon 25-Jul-16 18:53:36

Have you heard about the fourth trimester? Although your baby is probably just passed this. There is a reason babies like to be held lots. It is very comforting for them.
I read a bit on the pu/of method and thought it shouldn't be used until 6 months.
Have you tried shhh pat? Pat them on the back in tick tock timing while shhing. I had mine on their side for this and then when she fell asleep would put her gently on her back. Mine didn't use to nap at that age but I used this and it worked in terms of getting her to 'realise' naps happen in the day.
Any reason you don't want to feed to sleep? It helps to make them sleepy.

Fomalhaut Mon 25-Jul-16 19:08:47

I don't think you're doing anything wrong. Sleeping for 4-5 hours, wake/resettle then doing another few is actually pretty good at this age. Just keep resettling her when she wakes and hopefully it'll gradually stretch out (although expect bumps along the way for teething etc.)
My son is nine months and I suppose fits the 'high needs' thing (I hate the term to be honest...) and he still won't fall asleep by himself. He wakes constantly- I've not had more than an hours sleep for many months now.
We've tried everything, including controlled crying and nothing worked. The cc made him much, much worse and I wish we hadn't done it.
If they're of a personality type where they're clingy and need comfort then many sleep training methods are going to be counterproductive. 4 months is still so do young - just do what you can to get them to sleep and time will take care of the rest.

Fomalhaut Mon 25-Jul-16 19:09:56

As for naps... Try to take her out in the pushchair at set times. This will help her to break any association with other sleep cues like rocking

Ohlalala Mon 25-Jul-16 20:28:50

Hi. Thanks for the replies. I read online you could (should?) Start sleep training at 4 months. I also read it s better to break habits such as feeding or rocking to sleep. I guess I am worried about the transition to nursery. It's all good if she relies on me but what will happen when I am not around?
One of the main question I have on my mind though is: is my daughter's reliance on rocking and feeding normal (which you are suggesting with the 4th trimester) or is it something I have done wrong? I hear of so many people whose babieshad mastered self soothing by now.
In any case I wouldn't want to do CC or CIO.

bigchangesabound Mon 25-Jul-16 21:18:47

You need to remember that all babies are different. Just because some babies self-soothe by 4/5 months doesn't mean all babies can/should.
There is evidence out there that babies actually can't self-soothe, they just learn that they won't get comforted.

You have done absolutely nothing wrong by rocking/feeding to sleep.

I stressed out about sleeping and naps at around 4 months they just weren't happening. Did a lot of reading into it and realised all babies are different, babies like and need comfort and basically relaxed about it all. She naps now sometimes well, sometimes not so but I just go with the flow at the moment. It can be annoying at times and cleaning, etc doesn't happen but hey!

Do look into the gentle sleep solution (I think it's called) and the no-cry sleep guide. There is information on the psychology of sleep. I fund all this helpful and helped me relax about it all.

My DD is 9 months now and I still feed to sleep. It's the only way it will happen and I'd rather she slept than didn't. Try not to get to caught up in what the books say you should/n't be doing as there will no doubt be a book next to it saying the exact opposite!

YorkieDorkie Mon 25-Jul-16 21:25:40

There's far too much pressure on parents to have their baby self soothing, not falling asleep on the breast, no rocking, no shushing, no singing...

What's left?

A baby robot that may as well have an on/off switch.

What you're doing sounds great. My DD sometimes self soothes, sometimes falls asleep on the breast, sometimes screams and wants to be held. She's 6mo... If she wants holding and cuddling one night then she can have it!

Fomalhaut Mon 25-Jul-16 23:04:00

I think when they say start at four months it's more 'bedtime routine' type stuff. So make sure days are bright, nights are dark and calm, you've got some sort of rough bedtime and before that you do bath/milk/pjs/story sort of thing.

I agree with pps that there's a lot of pressure to get them sleeping through when they may not be capable of it. Ds is 9 months - we've had routines in from very early and he's still a rubbish sleeper!

sconebonjovi Mon 25-Jul-16 23:11:25

You don't, surely? 4 months is still so little, I don't think mine was out of my arms much at that age (not certain though, 2 years on and I'm still too sleep deprived to remember). What you're doing sounds fine, but there's nothing wrong with cuddling/feeding your baby to sleep

Ohlalala Tue 26-Jul-16 09:12:22

Thanks everyone. I certainly wouldn't want to take a forceful approach. What I had in mind was mostly to give her the opportunity to learn to self-soothe rather than inflict anything on her that may create a feeling of abandonment.

FATEdestiny Tue 26-Jul-16 09:29:20

Give her a dummy.

The simplest way to sooth a distressed baby

mouldycheesefan Tue 26-Jul-16 09:32:00

Yes dummy is a good idea.

Tumtitum Tue 26-Jul-16 09:43:59

Ohlala I have posted here many times for help with my DD's sleep smile we had a crap 4 month regression (started at 3 months tho and lasted two months confused) she is 5.5 months now and getting a little easier...
Don't think you are doing anything wrong! Most mums I know are still rocking and feeding their babies to sleep. My DD is a terror for napping, doesn't want to miss out like yours. She won't feed to sleep unless it's the middle of the night, but if she would I would do it to get her to sleep more!! It's better to have a rested baby with a few sleep props than an overtired baby and stressed out mum IMO.
I know what you mean about giving them the opportunity to self settle. I started leaving DD in her cot where she would have a bit of a grumble and if she wasn't getting sleepy after about 15/20 mins or if she was getting distressed then I'd rock her to sleep. Now she self settles maybe 40% of the time...
I still stress about her sleep sometimes (mainly as I worry about her night time sleep which has just got back on track!!!) but generally try more to go with the flow... Most mums I know whose babies are older now tell me they wish they stressed much less about sleep!

Ohlalala Tue 26-Jul-16 10:21:36

Thanks everyone. I now realise I might have had too high expectations. I fully agree what I want is a happy, rested baby. It s just so hard to know whether what you are doing is best for your baby and I thought teaching her to settle would make it easier for her to get better sleep

Tumtitum Tue 26-Jul-16 12:06:05

Don't worry OP, I definitely had/perhaps still have too high expectations! I think it's only natural with all the info that's out there telling you what your baby "should" be doing and how you "should" be doing things. My DD has just fed to sleep which is a miracle and I'm unashamedly letting her nap on my boob as we have a car journey later which I don't want her to be cranky for!!!!

Coconut0il Tue 26-Jul-16 20:33:36

Please relax OP. My DS2 is 11 months old and I feed him to sleep for both his naps and at night. It's quick and it works. He is my last baby and I will never have this time again. I did the same with my DS1 and he grew out of it on his own. He's 12 now and has never had any sleep issues.
Self settling will come in time just like crawling, walking and talking.

Quodlibet Tue 26-Jul-16 20:48:04

I regarded my DD as a lovely easy baby but she was also super alert and would react in the same way as yours if I tried to put her down awake. I just fed her to sleep, and then phased that out when she was a year or so old. She sleeps fine now.

It sounds a bit like you are tying yourself in knots when you could just be chilling out and enjoying having a cuddly baby. Maybe you are making her more 'high needs' by trying to put her down all the time when actually she just wants/needs to be close to you? Building positive sleep associations and routines is fine but I really don't think you need to be worrying about learning to self-settle etc at 4 months.

Ohlalala Wed 27-Jul-16 13:28:33

Despite what it may sound like, I do hold my baby in my arms a lot. I just sometimes try and put her in her cot to see if it works and if it doesn't, pick her up and move on and never leave her there to cry. I agree though that my high/unrealistic expectations may have created a somewhat negative atmosphere for everyone in the house. Thanks for making me realise this. It's certainly something I will keep in mind and act upon.

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