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bereavement and sleep deprivation - struggling to cope

(12 Posts)
uwaga Sat 27-Nov-10 07:33:27

Hi, first post from a lurker - at the end of my tether.

My son is nearly 9 months old. He was a great sleeper to begin with, 7-7 from 3 months til nearly 6 months. He was never a brilliant napper but because he slept so well at night, I wasn't too worried.

My wonderful mum passed away nearly 2 months ago, after a long illness. I spent a lot of time with her in the last months, and any routine we might have had went to pot.

Now, I get 5 hours broken sleep on a good night and I'm really struggling to cope. I think I'm still in a state of shock over my Mum's death, and the lack of sleep means that I have no time to process any of it. I'm EBF and DS has never taken a bottle, despite repeated attempts.

We started sleep training this week, a mixture of shh pat and controlled crying but it has not improved the situation. He usually self settles at the start of the night, after a bit of grizzling and sometimes a brief shh pat. Last night he slept 5.30-12.30(gave him an early night because he refused to take his lunchtime nap, though he had 2 hours in the morning), feed then back to sleep by 1.30, then awake again at 4.30. Despite our best efforts (DH did shh pat for almost an hour, then I fed and cuddled), we have been up for the day since 6.

He eats 3 good meals a day, mixture of spoon fed and finger foods e.g. breakfast - porridge; lunch - avocado, toast, fruit puree; dinner - poached cod, mashed potato, cabbage, dried fruit. We also give him porridge before bed. He breastfeeds around 5 times a day, not including night feeds. It's a battle getting him to drink water though, occasionally takes it from an open cup, so although I think it's unlikely that he's hungry, he may be waking because of thirst.

Naps are improving - he used to only sleep in my arms or in the pushchair, now he can sleep an hour at a time in our bed. I lie with him until he drops off. He's just started crawling, so I'm going to try to transition to the cot.

I'd really appreciate some advice on how to improve things. Either getting DS to sleep longer during our night (I'm open to any kind of sleep training at this point!), or any advice on how to get a stubborn EBF baby to take a bottle so that DH can do the night shift and give me an occasional night off.

I really am spent. Been crying all morning and feel totally desperate. Fantasising about being ill or having an accident so that I can escape all this for a while.

BelleDameSansMerci Sat 27-Nov-10 08:02:00

I'm so sorry I can't offer you any practical advice but I didn't want this to go unanswered.

I did find that my DD didn't want day naps any more at about 10 months and, once I stopped trying to force those, she did sleep better at night. Basically, she slept in the day if she wanted to. I'm absolutely no expert on sleep though so hopefully someone will come along who can help.

So very sorry about your mum.

PavlovtheCat Sat 27-Nov-10 08:18:23

I am so so sorry for your loss. My mum passed away after illness when DD was 6 months old, and like you we messed up her sleep due to travelling a lot to visit her. Or, so we thought til we had DS who also has sleep issues.

With DD, we managed it through Shh/Pat and a strict routine at night, it took a while but we got there, and she was sleeping through by 1 year, i am sure it was earlier but can't remember exactly (she is 4).

With DS, who is now 1 year (tomorrow!) he also does not sleep well, does not take a bottle either (refuses) and does not nap brilliantly. He is improving his naps though.

I found the biggest issues which have affected his sleep hit their height at 9 months.
hunger - we absolutely stuff him full of food before bed, we give him an additional meal of weatabix before bedtime now which does seem to help
Teething - he seems to be continuously teething, and at around 9 months this was a big thing, we did not realise until two teeth popped out!
Growth spurt - can affect their sleeping, as they want more breastmilk to build up milk supply, at around 9 months I am sure there is a growth spurt
Developmental spurts - 9 months sees a lot of developmental changes - crawling when not before, sudden change in alertness, being able to 'communicate' with more sounds/almost words/waving/clapping/other stuff - this always affects sleep. Big milestones in partciular such as crawling (later walking) affect their sleep quite badly (DS has taken to getting to his knees, rocks back and forth and wakes, wonders how h got there and gets upset!).

So, I think what I am saying is, don't be hard on yourself as to how much of this might be your own doing, it may well not be. It does not help as sleep deprivation is so horrible, and you have just lost your mum which is so horrible it cannot be put into words.

Is your DH prepared to take your DS for a couple of nights without the milk and let you sleep in the spare room/sofa? DH did this for me, i put earplugs in and had 3 nights of better sleep, DH managed with the crying/fussing and DS' sleep improved, by the 3rd night, he woke only once and settled with DH (not doing that now but that is a different story!). Now I know DS is not hungry at night, he has no milk between midnight and 5am, offered water from a beaker (never takes it). But it was hard to do it. It took utter desperation.

Can you go somewhere for a night? a friend's house? for some TLC and you time? for some sleep?

<hugs> i wish I could help in some practical way sad

uwaga Sat 27-Nov-10 10:16:31

Thank you, both of you. And really sorry for your loss Pavlov.

I think my DH is going to have to be a bit more involved, bottle or no bottle. He can see I'm at breaking point now. It's encouraging that handing over responsibility for a few nights made a difference for you.

I think it's partly developmental. He's learnt to crawl and wave in the last week, and is definitely getting chattier. One problem we have is that he seems to assume the crawling position when half asleep, then gets himself sat up, and is stuck there. He screams blue murder until we go in and lie him down. Then he does it again, and so it goes on.

I am keen to stop breastfeeding now, but don't know how to go about it when he won't take a bottle. My mum died of breast cancer due to a faulty gene, which I've inherited, and I'm supposed to have annual screening. I missed last year's because I was pregnant, I'm due for this year's in December but can't have it while I'm still breastfeeding. I'm starting to get quite anxious about it now, and would really like to know that all is well. That's a separate issue I know, but if anyone has successfully weaned an EBF baby onto bottles at this late stage, I'd be very grateful to hear how you went about it.

I really hope things improve soon. I don't want to spend the first year of my son's life in this state. He's a lovely little chap and he deserves a happy mummy.

PavlovtheCat Sat 27-Nov-10 10:35:37

DD went onto a bottle at this age! DH bought one with a grippy handle (you can get them in morrisons) at 10 months and she was like grin YEY! and just drank from it, amazing! However, it took us years to get her off it! And it was the end of BF quite quickly for us from that point onwards as she enjoyed the bottle. However, if your DS really does not want it, you can withdraw the BM without offering a bottle. You could offer a cup that he can hold himself if he prefers and supplement his food with other diary products. Just some ideas, maybe some other people can give you some more ideas.

The getting up into crawling position is exactly what DS did/still does sometimes. Like a zombie he would be! Then he would rock back and forth wondering what on earth had done on!

DS is waking a lot atm, DH thinks he is excited as it is his first birthday tomorrow hmm

I hope your DH will give you a night or two. Be prepared for 3 nights, for you and for your DS, it takes some time to adjust for him, and also for you, as you will automatically wake lots the first night or two! Once you have a little sleep in the bank/caught up, you will feel a whole lot better and able to cope with the awful place you are in right now.

We are here so keep posting and hopefully lots more people will come and offer some better advice than i can offer xx

Teapot13 Sat 27-Nov-10 11:31:07

I'm so sorry to hear about your mother.

My LO had similar problems and I think it's common at this age. Her naps were on me or in the pram and she had a lot of night wakings.

We used controlled crying. I know it doesn't work for some people but it worked great for us. DD is in her own cot in her own room and she sleeps better on her own (longer and more deeply) than she did in our bed. When she wakes up for the day, I bring her into our bed for a long feed lying down so we still have a little of that special baby time. (She just turned one.) We tried Baby Whisperer for ages with mixed results and instant improvement when we switched to CC. (It took like maybe 3 days, maybe a bit longer for naps.)

One thing I notice from your post is that you seem to be trying a few different things at once. With CC you have to be absolutely consistent. You can't do shush pat part of the time and then leave LO to cry at other times -- he won't learn what to do. Also, it isn't clear whether you are feeding to sleep. If you are, I think you will need to stop if you want to succeed at sleep training.

I used the book Sleepeasy Solution and it was brilliant. I don't think it matters what system you choose, and you can take parts of different systems to do what works for you, but you need to make a plan and stick to it. You're asking your child to learn a totally different behavior. (I'm not saying you need to buy a book -- you can probably find out what you need to know from the threads. Plus I'm going to type out what we did!)

This is what we did, in a nutshell:


- Do your usual sleep routine. Put LO down in his cot and say, "Good night, I love you, I'll see you in the morning." Leave!

Keep returning exactly at the planned intervals. (Our book said 5, 10, 15, and then stay at 15, but just pick something and stay with it.) The exact planning is partly for your benefit -- you don't want to be wondering what the right thing to do is while LO is crying.

When you return, you are checking to make sure nothing is wrong. Don't make eye contact or touch your child. (I did lay her back down if she was kneeling.) But going in and cuddling and then leaving again is cruel. Your LO will cry more because he'll want another cuddle. Don't stay more than 30 seconds. (Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for cuddling. But not when it's time to sleep.)

If LO wakes up in the night, do the same thing. Time the interval from the first cry.

If LO is just fussing, skip the check and see if he falls asleep on his own. Don't worry that he'll sit up and can't get back down -- he will learn.

For night feeds, if you want CC to work I think you need to do dream feeds. Set your alarm for a little before you think LO will wake up, go in and feed, put him back down. Send in your DP to handle any spontaneous wakings. The point is, don't feed in response to a waking. (After doing this for a short while it became obvious that our DD was not waking for food. Once she was trained we dropped dream feeds.) If you do the dream feed, you will not have to wonder, "Oh, is he crying because he's hungry?" A child of 9 months that eats what you described can definitely sleep through the night, I would think.

You've posted again and I see your DP is going to get more involved -- that's the best possible thing. All about managing baby's expectations. Your DP will also not have the same emotional reaction (at least mine didn't). I was all torn up about it but DH's view was, "She's tired, she needs to sleep, this is how we're helping her."

Anyway, I would start the new system at bedtime, but do exactly the same thing for naps, starting the day after you start at bedtime. Get a blackout blind if you don't have one -- it helped us a lot. At bedtime you never give up, but if LO hasn't fallen asleep for a nap after an hour of CC, pick him up and play for a while and then try again later. Naps are harder to fix so don't be surprised or discouraged. If LO doesn't get a good nap and you are worried it will affect nighttime sleep, go for a walk with the pram. (Lack of daytime sleep will cause night wakings!)

A dirty secret -- we stopped going in at all. We noticed after a few days that going in makes DD way more upset. I do go in if she isn't going down for her nap because she sometimes needs a nappy change. (She won't sleep with dirty nappy, and obviously I don't want her to.) Obviously I go in if she's ill, teething, etc.

Sorry this is so long but maybe something in it will help.

I don't mean to sound like a CC proponent -- I'm enthusiastic because it helped us so much. Definitely don't do it unless you and your partner are completely committed. It is hard to hear the crying and I couldn't have taken it if I didn't believe it was best for DD. (As it turned out, we had quick results, so now when there's crying I'm ruthless!)

Good luck to all three of you. In our case, it was the best thing for DD -- she was not getting enough sleep before.

Rindercella Sat 27-Nov-10 13:14:32

uwaga, I am so very sorry you have lost your mother.

I could nearly write your OP, with a few details changed. DD2 is 8 months old and my lovely father died in July. My grieving has been compounded by the fact that my DH was diagnosed with cancer (metastatic prostate) when DD2 was just 5 weeks old. Because of DH's illness, I need to make sure that he gets as much rest and sleep as possible so I think I am responding to DD2 far more quickly than I would otherwise do (even when he's in the spare room).

I have tried CC (and sshhing) and sometimes I am successful at talking her back to sleep (I even manage to send myself off by talking absolute gibberish!!). I mostly think that DD2 needs milk more than I need sleep, but boy do I need a night's unbroken sleep at the moment! The cc did work for a bit - after 2 nights she slept through for 12 hours without waking for 3 whole nights! The pity was that I had full blown flu at the time so couldn't actually sleep because of night sweats/chills. aches, etc.

The one thing getting me through this at the moment is knowing that it will, at some stage, pass. DD1 was a pretty demanding baby and although her sleep did get better at an earlier age, I do remember sleeping on her bedroom floor hmm

When you're grieving/struggling to cope, being woken in the early hours is an absolute bastard. When I am woken by DD2 I struggle to get back to sleep quickly as my mind takes me into dark places I would really rather not visit.

I am going to read Teapot's advice in depth and hopefully manage to find a way through this.

Sorry, not any advice for you. But you're not alone and I promise, the sleep deprivation will pass smile

uwaga Sun 28-Nov-10 10:29:35

Sorry to be so late to return to this thread. DS has a throat infection - been coughing and vomiting and generally rather unwell. Needless to say, not a lot of sleep was had in this house last night, but perhaps it explains why he has been night feeding even more than usual the past few days.

Thank you Teapot, that makes a lot of sense, especially the dream feed, which is something I hadn't thought of reintroducing. We dropped it months ago when he started sleeping through, but I can see how it would work well with the CC approach.

I know we're not being consistent at the moment, and that must make it confusing for him. I think he will probably respond quite well to controlled crying if we do it right and are committed to seeing it through. I have friends who have used it with great success also.

I really appreciate you writing out your action plan for me - I have various books but ploughing through a couple of hundred pages is rather a daunting prospect! As soon as DS is back to full health, we'll give it a go. I'll let you know how we get on!

Rindercella: so sorry to hear of your troubles, what an absolutely shit time you're having. I can definitely empathise with the mind going to dark places in the small hours. Everythings seems so bleak then.

You sound like one very strong lady though, and I hope your DH's next test results are more encouraging. I know how it feels to have treatments fail. Mum had 3 types of hormone treatment, 2 chemos and a trial drug in the 3 years after her metastatic diagnosis. Some of these were successful in holding the cancer back for a while, allowing life to return to relative normality, while others failed very quickly. So devastating.

I do hope that you and your DH are able to stay positive, and enjoy your beautiful family. All the very best, and I'll be thinking of you in those bleak small hours.

Rindercella Sun 28-Nov-10 12:43:28

Hi uwaga, sorry I sort of crashed your thread. I just read your OP and thought our problems were so similar! DH's last results were very encouraging, and he doesn't need to see the consultant again until February. I just pray that this treatment continues to be effective.

Going back to the sleep issue, we actually had a far, far better night last night than we have done for ages. I read on another thread about not feeding as soon as DD2 wakes, just to give a cuddle for 5 or 10 minutes and then give a feed (and to draw this out over a period of several nights so that in the end they no longer wake for a feed). So I did this and when she woke at 12.30 ish and then (after she threw up over me hmm), put her back in her cot wide awake. She is actually a really good self-settler. It took her about half an hour of chattering and then she went to sleep. Only to wake up again at 8.30am! RESULT!! DD1 came in and woke me at about 7am hmm but I had a full 6 hours' unbroken sleep and feel fantastic! grin Long may it last, eh smile

uwaga Mon 29-Nov-10 11:22:38

Hey Rindercella, fantastic that you got 6 hours sleep! Must be something in the air as last night DS slept from 8 til 4, fed and back to sleep by 5 until 7.30. So I got 6 hours too - hurrah! Really needed it, because I've come down with the same lurgy DS has got and feel totally rubbish.

Also great news about your DH, scanned your thread in Health but didn't see that bit. Hope that the news continues to be positive. We have a few family friends with metastatic prostate cancer who are doing really well 7 or 8 years on from diagnosis. You never can tell. Have you read Median isn't the Message by the scientist Stephen J Gould? Amazing essay about cancer and statistics, helped me quite a lot in the early days when things looked so bleak (and I was obsessively googling and coming up with scary stats). Apologies if this is unwelcome, just wanted to share something that helped me.

Good luck for tonight - hope things are set to improve for both of us.

uwaga Mon 29-Nov-10 11:24:55

Bugger, new to this. I'll try again Median isn't the Message.

Rindercella Tue 30-Nov-10 23:16:36

uwaga, thank you so much - for both the link (absolutely amazing read and clarified perfectly DH's thoughts on his illness/prognosis) and also so encouraging to hear of your friends' progress. The damn median thing has really been getting to me and you cannot know how much your post has helped me.

Hope the sleep has continued to be better. Honestly, it really is a wonder drug. The trouble is, it's very addictive - once you have some you just want more & more of it! hmm wink

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