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Need advice, high need baby, stressed (possibly PND) mummy -- LONG, sorry

(10 Posts)
DadOfBeautifulGirls Thu 12-Nov-09 12:06:33

Hi, could do with some advice from you about my situation. My DW is really struggling at the moment with DD2. She is just 3 months old and a complete velcro-baby. Won't sleep anywhere but attached to us, or in car seat. She was making some progress initially in sleeping independent of us, but got really poorly and spent a bit in hospital with bronchiolitis (would wake herself up coughing, struggling to breathe) better now, but only as of the last week. DD1 is nearly 2, but generally well-behaved, as toddlers go - but naturally with all the boundless beautiful energy that toddlers have!

DD2 never really sleeps in the day unless it's in a sling, and DW has developed a bad back, so that's not really sustainable at the moment. She screams when in the Phil & Teds cocoon we have, so pram walking isn't an option either. We can't really get DD2 to settle in a cot at night either (if we can transfer her into the cot asleep, she'll only sleep for 30 mins or so). So the evenings are nearly always shot to pieces. Consequently the only way she'll sleep is on us, or with us in bed. She's now pretty much become dependent on it.

Consequently we are having to co-sleep, but DW doesn't find this comfortable at all and wakes regularly (every hour) and just isn't getting the quality of sleep she needs. Consequently she is getting more and more despairing about the situation and is using more and more desperate language to explain her despair. She's basically starting to show signs of PND, I think.

Family live far enough away that regular support is hard, but have tried to rope them in as much as possible. They work in the week, which is when we need them most, though.

Today DW went to the baby clinic and told them how much she was struggling. The helpful HV was really supportive, but suggested a course of action to get DD2 to sleep in cot that I'm not comfortable with (basically leaving her to cry in the cot, whilst "being there" and patting her on the tummy for reassurance) - but when I voice my concern I'm accused of not being supportive and the "desperate" language comes out again. I really think we need to let DD2 become secure in us meeting her needs until she is at a developmental level that is ready for her to start being secure without us, but DW is worried that won't actually come if we keep meeting her needs willy-nilly. I can see where she is coming from, but I'm just not comfortable with not giving her the closeness she is craving at the moment as I'm not sure she is capable (yet) of soothing herself. (I'm not sure DW is comfortable with this either, but she is desperate)

So I'm not sure what to do. I know this is a phase, and it will pass - but DW is at the end of her tether and is struggling to cope. She is worried that we are screwing up DD1 but not having enough time for her. I will try and encourage her to see a doctor about her despair, but that isn't going to change the situation with DD2.

I'm up for pitching in more than I do (I tend to gravitate towards DD1 in terms of childcare, as DD2 is breastfed) - but I'm just worried that all I can do is reinforce the bad habits DD2 has picked up (needing to be rocked to sleep, not sleeping apart from us, etc). And I'm not around in the day, so there is only so much I can do. We need to break the cycle, but not sure how to.

So, any advice? I know many of you will tell me that it will pass, and we keep telling it to ourselves too, but anything practical I can do to help, as the Dad?

tvaerialmagpiebin Thu 12-Nov-09 12:19:44

Bless you. I know you don't want to hear it, but it WILL pass. What was your dd1 like at this age? I bet you can't remember, because it was probably the same. Have you actually asked DW what would make things better for her? is there a particular thing she struggles with? is she trying to do too much in the house for example? if it is cleaning, can you get in a cleaner, just occasionally?

I would not worry about dd2 and the sleep issue too much. I am pretty anti crying it out and CC and if dd2 just gets even more upset by the shush pat thing the HV is suggesting then that isn't worth it, as it will upset DW even more. Glad the HV was nice though. Could you co-sleep with dd2 and DW sleep in another bed, and you bring dd2 to her for feeds? Don't worry about bad habits at this stage either. You just need to do what you need to do, there is penty of time for everyone sleeping all night in their own bed.

I don't have a positive experience of the first few months because my xp made my life a misery, but what I would have liked was lots of reassurance, lots of hugs and cups of tea, and to be listened to, even if I was talking utter rubbish. I wouldn't say that PND is a definite but as you say, this can easily develop from anxiety.

Take care.

ScummyMummy Thu 12-Nov-09 13:09:52

You sound like a lovely family. Sorry things are so tough. These first few months can really take it out of everyone, can't they? (My youngest is also 3 months.) I tend to agree with you re the lack of readiness to settle at this age. My sense is that this usually comes later and I'd be particularly reluctant to leave a baby who's recently been ill to cry for any length of time, tbh. But, as you say, your wife's needs in all this are crucial and sort of intertwined with your daughter's.

I wonder if, before you decide whether to give the health visitor's advice a go or not, it would be worth just taking a few days to really focus on giving your wife a bit of a rest. Would dd2 settle for you in the sling so you could take both daughters out for a couple of hours while your wife sleeps? If you took 1 or 2 days off work next to the w/e and your wife could build a longish nap into her day 3 or 4 days running she really might feel a lot better about things. Not in your league but we've had a few shocking nights intermittently too and I was amazed how much better I felt one Saturday when I handed the girl over to my partner and went to bed for the morning. I'm sure you're right to be concerned about the possibility of PND and to this checked out but sleep deprivation alone can make the world look temporarily very bleak, ime. I'm certain I don't have PND but I have said some choice and unrepeatable things through tears in a bleary and despairing voice to my innocent babe at 5am on being woken for the 7th time in 3 hours, I'm afraid to say. Things may feel a lot better with sleep in the mix. I also think that getting babies to take naps for at least an hour at rounghly the same times of day can be a godsend and napping in slings can be a precursor to napping elsewhere.

Anyway, really hope things will get better for you all one way or another soon.

PurplePest Thu 12-Nov-09 13:42:21

I don't ever post but come onto MN often. My DD was exactly the same for the first few months (she's now 20 months) and would not sleep unless it was on me or XP. We would take it in turns to let her sleep on us (in between bfing) because it was the only way! It was tough as the sleep deprivation and awkward sleeping positions made for grumpy people! She rarely fell asleep in the car or in her buggy and wanted to be picked up all the time. I am also not a fan of controlled crying and knew I wouldn't be able to do it so just worked with what we had! At the time I thought it was the end of the world and I was doing everything wrong. I was tearful often and felt exhausted. But slowly, we managed to get her to sleep next to us on the bed (one of us would sleep in the spare room so someone was getting some sleep) then a while later, managed to get her to sleep in her cot (flush next to the bed with the rails down). It's only been since April that she sleeps in her cot in her own room. I still have to cuddle her to sleep after her bottle but she'll then sleep for 5 or 6 hours in her cot before coming into bed with me. It's taken time but she's now more comfortable sleeping on her own. Things definitely got easier when I stopped breastfeeding her (when she was 12 months old). She's now also sleeping during the day which was something she simply did not want to do when she was tiny. Day naps were only feasible if one of us was cuddling her. I don't know if this post is going to help you at all but I really know what you're going through. Definitely encourage your DW to get some sleep whilst your take the DC off her hands. I certainly appreciated it when XP took my DD into another room for a while or simply cuddled her whilst I pottered/slept/slobbed out between bfing. My XP also did most of the cooking when he got home from work and I did minimal housework. I really hope things get better for you all soon.

blueshoes Thu 12-Nov-09 14:46:52

Dad, gosh, so many things are coming back to me, those dark baby days ...

I did not have PND, but a high needs sleepless baby is enough to push anyone to say desperate things in the depths of the moment. If my dh believed everything I said to him (he seemed to take it in his stride because I would bounce back somewhat after letting off steam), he might have thought I was losing it too.

I take it your dd1 was an easier baby in comparison, hence the shock of dd2.

For me, both dd and ds were high needs babies. The 2nd was considerably easier to cope with (not easier baby) than the first because I had already worked out coping strategies.

The solution will be unique to your family: you, your dw, dd2 and dd1.

Dh and I were the complete opposite in terms of stance from you. I was not in favour of CC (because I felt they were very persistent personalities and would not give in without a bloody fight) and dh wanted to at least give it a go. That did not mean I did not go nuts anyway when dc woke every hour at night to feed/cry. So hugely frustrating for dh ...

blueshoes Thu 12-Nov-09 14:57:19

In my case, the baby would only have me (I was bf-ing, ft at home on maternity leave) and would act up even more if anyone else took her.

So the best way for dh to help is to shelter me from other responsibilities ie look after the older child, help with housework, cooking, so that I could concentrate on the baby.

For night time, dd would sleep with dh in one bed, and I would sleep with ds (baby) in the other, bf-ing him if he slept.

I co-slept. The moment I gave up worrying about 'rods for my back' or 'breaking the cycle' (as you put it) and gave in to the one thing my babies absolutely demanded with their souls, was the defining moment. If ds woke, I would bf him to sleep lying down.

My limit was I would handle anything to do with settling ds so long as it meant I did not have to get out of bed. The minute I could not, dh would have to get out of his bed and settle ds - which would be at most once a night at the worst.

I am sorry to hear that your dd2 won't settle in the buggy. Because the last resort in our case would be for ds to take the baby into the buggy and wheel him/her round and round the kitchen. Sometimes for hours, because they would wake when the buggy stopped!

blueshoes Thu 12-Nov-09 15:05:12

Some things for non-sleeping babies:

Amby baby hammock: It did not work for dd at all (!) but not to say your dd2 won't take to it. It has reasonable resale value. I returned it within 7 days so got my money back.

Baby swing: Worked for dd between 4-5 months. Bliss when it did. Did not work for ds.

DadOfBeautifulGirls Thu 12-Nov-09 15:43:50

Thanks all, that's good advice and reassurance!

Having had a cool off for a bit to think about it, DW and I have agreed a compromise. Muddle on for two weeks to see if anything improves and then, if not, to consider the HV's suggestion.

In the meantime, I'm going to try and get more time off work to help out - and trying to get regular sleep patterns ingrained with the sling/pushchair is something we can definitely try. Whilst she's technically too young for the pushchair, and she hates the "cocoon", she's got very strong head control for her age, so I reckon she'll be ok if the seat is tucked right back. That'll hopefully mean I can take her out for a bit to get her chilled before bed time(and give DW a bit more of a break).

Bizarrely enough DD1 was pretty similar, though she had bad reflux and weight gain issues, such that we had to wake her during the night to feed. No such trouble with DD2, but she is definitely "clingier" than DD1 (possibly due to being ill, possibly due to our forming her that way with our jiggling/rocking/cuddling etc.). Whilst sleep was tricky with DD1 until about 10 months, after that she has been the most wonderful sleeper, putting most of her peers to shame. I like to think that was because we were always receptive to her needs in the early days and that she became very secure in her emotions. This is what worries me about doing anything too drastic with DD2 - but then, to my DW (justifiably so) 7 months to wait for an improvement that might not come feels like an eternity at the moment!

We've tried a dummy a few times with DD2 (DD1 never had one) but she just spits it out. Is it worth persevering? I've also suggested the idea of giving a bottle for the evening feed - not because of any hunger issues or any deficiencies of breastmilk (we are very pro breast feeding) but simply because it would allow me to take the pressure off DW for a bit too. DD1 was exclusively breast fed for 6 months (and then up to a year) so this would be uncharted territory, but we really are struggling this time round. Would this help, do you think?

Thanks again for the kind words. It's just a phase. It's just a phase... ;)

tvaerialmagpiebin Thu 12-Nov-09 16:16:04

Hello Dad
What does DW think about the bottle? would it upsether even more? if dd2 is thriving on bf then I would be inclined to leave it that way! You can do everything but the physical "put to breast" though, to take the pressure off. You can bring dd2 to DW, wind her, change her nappy, etc. Giving formula would not necessarily make dd2 sleep any better or longer and might be counter-productive.

I don't know much about dummies having never used one, if she seems a bit "sucky" she might just want to feed for comfort as well as food IYSWIM.

I really don't think you have "formed" her or made her clingy. She is so tiny and what with being ill has probably just more needs to be met. As you say, meeting their needs in the early days is the most important thing.

Just take it a day at a time. smile

blueshoes Thu 12-Nov-09 21:22:05

Hi Dad, my main concern with CC is that your dd2 is only 3 months old. I think even CC advocates like Gina Ford recommend you wait until 6 months. It is very possible that your dd2 is waking at least some of the time because she is hungry and her stomach is still small.

I would persevere with the dummy (neither of my dcs would take it!) and try the bottle of formula before doing CC, tbh.

Also, keep trying with the pushchair. Both my dcs don't like to lie flat especially as little babies. They preferred to be scrunched up and would sleep longer that way. So carseats are quite good. I used the travel system a lot as babies where the carseat slots into the buggy frame to push them around to sleep. You can then just lift the carseat out of the buggy and put her by the side of your dw's bed until the first waking, whereupon your dw can take dd2 into bed. Buys a few hours.

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