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Can't face any more of this. What can we do before I crack?

(25 Posts)
bediscalling Sun 16-Sep-12 14:38:02

This will be long. Sorry about that.

DS2 is 20 months. For the last year he has been up screaming for 1-3 hours almost every night. We average under 4 hours sleep a night about 45% of the time and I just cannot go on like this any longer. I am permanently ill, he is permanently ill, my work is suffering, I can't function properly any more even when I'm not working (twice this week I have left the shopping behind in the supermarket through being too brain-dead with tiredness to concentrate). I don't even dare drive the car anymore because I know my reaction times are not good enough. I am so tired and irritable due to lack of sleep that I am constantly snapping at DS1 who is only 3. Plus DH and I have no social life (we daren't leave them with anyone in an evening because they're so awful and haven't been out since DS1 was born 3.5 years ago) and no sex life (because we never have the opportunity and even if we did we'd be too knackered). I am beginning to think we should never have had children, since I am clearly so bad at it.

In the course of the last year we have tried what seems like every possible system to get him to sleep and nothing has worked: controlled crying, gradual withdrawal, pick up put down all failed because they rely to some extent on you going in and out, and every time you leave him again he just reaches new heights of hysteria. Co-sleeping doesn't work because he doesn't like to share a bed and kicks, pinches, and hair pulls all night so that no one can sleep. The only thing that does work is me sitting up all night feeding him. But that way I still don't get any sleep and he is only quiet because there's something in his mouth. White noise seemed to help a bit, but not consistently.

He is not a child who whines and whimpers quietly and then gives up and goes back to sleep, so cry-it-out is a non-starter. He wakes and is completely hysterical within seconds unless I give in and feed him, and he is quite capable of screaming full tilt for several hours, whether or not we're there trying to comfort him.

He is not ill, as far as we can tell. He may be teething, but since this has been going on almost continuously for a year I don't think that can be the main issue. He has been tested for food allergies in case there's something upsetting his stomach at night and making him cry, but it doesn't seem to be the case.

The usual routine is dinner, bath, book, breastfeed, bed. On a good day he will feed until sleepy and then I'll say to him "time for bed" and he'll let go, go into his cot, turn over and go to sleep (on a very good day he'll ask to go to bed himself). Then he'll sleep for somewhere between 1 and 4 hours before waking and screaming the place down. My impression is it's not a pain or fear cry, it's basically a raging temper tantrum, but if you attempt to ignore him he simply doesn't stop and starts hurling himself around the cot until he hurts himself or screams so much he throws up. Last night he managed to put his teeth through his lip doing this.

At the moment his dad goes to him (if I go anywhere near him, unless it is to feed him, he just gets even worse) and spends about 45 minutes repeatedly telling him to lie down and go back to sleep while he screams and screams. EVentually he will stop and settle down, but will start again the minute any attempt is made to leave him unless he is completely sound asleep. The whole procedure takes anything from 20 mins to 3 hours, but the usual is 1.5 hours and this can happen anything up to 3 times a night.

We have been waiting for this to gradually teach him to settle more quickly as all the books say it will, but there's no sign of any improvement. Having said that we did have a period of about 6 weeks earlier this summer when he suddenly started sleeping quite well and we were hopeful he had finally grown out of it. We didn't change any element of our routine so I have no idea what the difference was. Now, suddenly, just as suddenly he is back to howling all night.

I just can't face going on like this for much longer. Does anyone have anything to suggest?

getagoldtoof Sun 16-Sep-12 15:37:47

Bed I'm sorry I can't help but am almost I tears reading your post - you must feel so shattered. I don't know what to suggest. I guess you have tried everything - different pjs, bedding, routine etc. in your position I may try to stop bf entirely, but I can also really understand you wanting him o self wean. Do you ever bf him at night?

DoubleYew Sun 16-Sep-12 16:03:22

Sounds a lot like my ds. A month ago he'd never slept for more than 4 hours and usually much less. He is now 26 months and slept through the other day. I did nothing different, he was just ready apparently. I never thought he would do it and still can't believe it. And then he caught bad cough and now possibly chicken pox so is back to terrible sleeper!

I have only managed by me and ds sleeping on a double bed in his room when he needs to feed a lot. Yes I get scratched pinched and headbutted and often can't sleep from an uncomfortable position but can't move a muscle as he'll wake. But its better than screaming, battles and 0 sleep, for me personally - I can't tell you what to do obviously.

Can you get dh to get up with him at weekends so you get a lie in?

Mine is also very strongwilled (think the negotiators they will make as adults!) and suffers a lot with teething. It is awful dealing with the lack of sleep but I hope it won't be too long before you can look back on this as history.

loveisagirlnameddaisy Sun 16-Sep-12 17:47:38

Could you afford a sleep clinic? Something that's been going on for so long is probably going to take a while to put right unless he just starts doing it himself naturally. You'll probably be advised that night feeding should stop as its a very powerful sleep association, unless of course you can somehow reduce it to something more manageable like once a night.

It sounds like you've tried everything. The waking soon after bed sounds like over tiredness (no surprise there!). What's his sleeping like during the day?

bediscalling Sun 16-Sep-12 22:12:41

I don't feed him any more at night and haven't for some time, though that doesn't stop him demanding it. He feeds first thing most mornings, though on the rare occasions he has a good night he doesn't seem to need it, and at bedtime.

Sleep in the day is also an issue. He is fine the three days he is at nursery and sleeps for about 1.5-2 hours after lunch, but at home we have exactly the same issues as at night. He will very rarely sleep in his cot for his dad, and never for me. The additional problem is that the days I don't work I also have his 3-year-old brother with me and he can't be left alone (and won't leave us alone) for the length of time it would take to settle DS2. So I long ago gave up trying to do naps at home as it always just resulted in all three of us being in tears and now I try to plan a walk for after lunch so he can doze off in the buggy. This usually works, but not always, though he quite often only has 45mins or sometimes less.

DoubleYew - DH is the one who sits with him most nights as it is since my presence only seems to make things worse. But whoever is in with him, there is never any chance of the other going back to sleep: even if we take him downstairs you can still hear him all over the house.

Daisy - I have thought about a sleep clinic and asked DH about it, but he is reluctant as we're not exactly flush at the moment. DS1 was very similar. He finally snapped out of it about this age without us doing anything, but he had already self-weaned at 16 months (I was pg with DS2 which may have put him off earlier than otherwise I guess). DS2 was born about a month after DS1 finally started to sleep, so all in all we've been doing this for almost 3 years. I really hoped I'd be better at it the second time, but if anything I seem to be doing even worse.

Iloverobinhood Sun 16-Sep-12 22:21:48

Is he still in a cot? I hac a friend with a dd very similarly to your son. They ended up moving her to a very low bed around 16 months as she just refused to sleep in a cot as she saw her elder sibling sleeping in a bed and wanted to do thr same. This significantly helped. Given that he sleeps at nursery maybe he doesn't like the bed. Just a thought and I really hope things improve soon .

bediscalling Mon 17-Sep-12 13:00:14

Yes, he's still in a cot. We have wondered about moving him to a bed, but are a bit put off spending a lot of money in case it doesn't work. We had been planning to move DS1 to a single bed in a while and give DS2 his cot bed (without sides) then. I am keeping an eye out for a cheap second hand bed just in case.

Poppedcorn Mon 17-Sep-12 13:42:08

The waking up screaming does sound like overtiredness. If he's not having good naps, he won't have good night time sleep either. And then it becomes a vicious circle <bitter voice of experience>

DS1 suddenly improved at 18mths. The only thing we did differently was take the side off the cot as I couldn't lean over with my pregnant belly. Could you do this with his current cot, if it's near enough to the ground? We put a rolled up towel under the fitted sheet to create a kind of bed guard which worked well. He seemed to feel more independent about going in his bed. Having said that, I do believe that sleeping through is a developmental milestone, like so many other things.

Have you read the No Cry Sleep Solution/ Nap Solution? They are good books for ideas.

I really feel your pain. My DS2 is 10mths and is a terrible sleeper. I feel sick with exhaustion and don't know how much longer I can cope like this. He is up all night, every night. We're currently on one very short nap a day - today's was for 15mins! - and, like you, I can't leave DS1 to run riot while I spend an hour in a dark room getting DS2 to sleep. He won't sleep in the buggy or the sling, so I just give up. If I don't expect sleep, I can't be disappointed can I?!

SarryB Mon 17-Sep-12 13:43:26

Have you thought about cranial osteopathy (spelling?) - a friend of mine had a little girl who cried ALL THE TIME. It was never-ending. She never slept either. They took her to see this doctor, and it turned out that one of her neck vertabrae was slightly off. It was fixed over a few weeks of phsyio, and now she's totally different.

If you can't afford a bed, could you just put his mattress on the floor? And make out like you're camping?

Netguru Mon 17-Sep-12 13:48:14

If he can sleep at nursery then ask yourself if there is something that they are/are not doing that you can emulate.

You will I am sure have done the no lights on in night, stay calm and quiet etc. Be firm.

Do feel for you. Been going on so long you are without doubt all (and I include him) suffering. Good luck

onceortwice Mon 17-Sep-12 13:50:12

OK, this is just an opinion (and my son has HFA, so there are other things at play here too).

My DS was TERRIBLE until he was about 3. I swear to god, at times people must have though I was on drugs. Sometimes, I literally got 1-2 hours sleep (my DD is 14 months younger than he is, so slept at totally different times and my DH worked away, so I was on my own with them).

One thing I found that worked was a DVD. Seriously, I know you'd never find it in a parenting book, but I'd put a DVD on for DS in the middle of the night. He'd watch it with me and would mean DD wasn't woken up.

He still struggles with switching from one activity to another (so he struggles to go to sleep, but conversely, struggles to wake up too) but he's better now.

I swear, I have Tarzan to thank for my sanity.

GeeandTee Mon 17-Sep-12 14:04:20

Not the same but my 2.9yo DS has recently started waking up screaming in the night. The only thing that has worked for us is one of us sleeping on a mattress next to his cotbed and just saying shhhh when he wakes up. Easy to try for a night to see if it works. If you don't have a spare mattress you could sleep on top of duvets/blankets.

I do know a bit of how you feel with sleep deprivation, 9mo DD is still waking every 2 hours sad

fififrog Mon 17-Sep-12 14:19:28

I really am totally unqualified to comment, but your situation sounds so bloody awful, I can't help but offer some sympathy! I am just wondering... if he eventually calms while you or dh are there, but goes nuts when you leave, maybe it would be easier to stay with him. Put a mattress on his floor and sleep there, or if you don't have anything you could use and can't afford a new one move his mattress into your room? apparently my dad lived on a mattress in my room for many months!
We used a sleep consultant and I will say it was worth every penny for the increased confidence. It may seem like a lot now but maybe your sanity is worth it smile

fififrog Mon 17-Sep-12 14:20:16

X-post ;)

showtunesgirl Mon 17-Sep-12 14:23:46

OP, this sounds so, so tough. sad

When you say you've tried everything, how long have you tried each method?

bediscalling Mon 17-Sep-12 22:20:26

Hi there. Thanks for all your support and suggestions.

Popped Unfortunately, I think the way his cot is put together it wouldn't be safe without the side.

I've got the No Cry Solution. I bought it for DS1 and read it cover to cover. We tried all the things suggested but with only limited success. Mostly we've tried each method for between 10 days and 3/4 weeks depending on whether they appear to be having any effect at all. Sometimes things look like they're working for a few days, but then he always reverts.

I think the overtiredness is the main problem, but since I can't get him to sleep any longer in the day I don't quite know what to do about it. If I can't go out for a walk in the afternoon we're stuffed. Sometimes I think the best thing would be for me to go back to work full time and let them go to nursery, since they are clearly so much better at looking after them than I am.

Unfortunately we don't have a mattress we can put on the floor at the moment, so one of us (usually DH, bless him) spends half the night lying on the floor next to DS's cot. Once he is fast asleep it is usually possible to creep out and back to bed, but that generally isn't for at least an hour. With DS1 we did the same sort of thing but it was easier because his room had a sofa bed in it, but we have moved since then and no longer have it.

once I used to bring him downstairs and watch telly with him when he was younger and provided I chose something really dull and worthy with no animals or music or car chases that used to send him back to sleep quite quickly. But as he got older it stopped working and now it just wakes him up more and he stops wanting to go back to sleep, so we don't do that any more.

However, I'm feeling a bit better today because he actually let us have a whole 6 hours last night and didn't do much screaming at all. He had a good nap yesterday, thanks to my mum who took him for a long walk in the afternoon so that I didn't have to stop what I was doing at home and could still get on, so that might support there being an overtiredness correlation. He had a good nap at nursery today, too, and because I had some sleep I was able to get up and out to work earlier than normal this morning and get back earlier than usual too, so I got dinner ready earlier and they all went to bed earlier than usual and settled well. So fingers crossed.

Now I'm off to get an early night too!

VerityClinch Wed 19-Sep-12 07:11:53

Hola! (T'is I wot texted you today to see if this was you)

Could you put them in nursery an extra day and go home to bed? Cheaper than a sleep clinic and DS1 must be getting his free sessions now?

We were up six times again in the night and I have to drive 30 miles today to visit friend with six month IMF who is sleeping through confused

VerityClinch Wed 19-Sep-12 07:46:54

Six month OLD

The autocorrect to IMF clearly dates from pre-children days...

bediscalling Wed 19-Sep-12 21:35:19

We've done that before now, but there aren't many free sessions at the moment and we'd be unlikely to be able to get them both in at the same time.

I can occasionally prevail upon my parents to take them for a bit but they've just gone away for a month sad

Managed to get them both to bed early two nights on the trot. Both times got all the jobs done, sat down and switched on the tv and five minutes later he's awake and screaming. sigh.

icravecheese Thu 20-Sep-12 03:48:26

bediscalling -have you tried speaking to your health visitor at your gp surgery? I only ask because in my area (wiltshire) we have a sleep nurse specialist who runs a free sleep clinic in our city & takes referrals from very desperate parents (all done through NHS so totally free). She worked wonders with my DC2 when DC3 arrived (DC2 was waking up to 10 times a night and we were at wits end).

You sound like you really need some specialist help and it should be available on the nhs, if not via your local surgery then at least via a sleep study through your local hospital. Good luck, I know how debilitating lack of sleep can be

whenwillisleepagain Thu 20-Sep-12 14:28:55

sending you sympathy. My DD (28 months) has some similarities with your DS. I got up this morning and decided to call the HVs and ask for help, as we cannot go on any longer like this. It turns out there is a sleep clinic we can be referred to - so agree with icrave. Am waiting for the HV to call me back now about referral process, so I should withhold my excitement a bit longer perhaps. I started crying with relief after I put the phone down from my enquiry call to them though.

I stopped bf 3 months ago in hope that sleep would improve - in relative terms it has, but it's still dreadful. I can completely relate to the not feeling you and your DH can leave them with anyone else - my DD is also fine at nursery - adores her keyworker and announces she's tired, takes herself off for nap, no fuss. I am going to be employing her nursery worker for babysitting precisely so DH and I can go out together. Very lucky that she lives nearby and can do it. But before I thought of that option, we felt we could not ask anyone else to look after our two (DS is nearly 6).

Good luck and keep us posted, if you're not too knackered to face it

jkklpu Thu 20-Sep-12 14:37:13

Poor you. I'd agree with those suggesting trying a bed. My ds2 was a long way from being as challenging as this but getting him to sleep in a cot was a battle every day. As soon as he moved into a bed, he was totally transformed. I think it was to do with feeling his autonomy was infringed by the bars. It's not as though he then kept getting out of bed, he just knew he could if he wanted to.

Best of luck.

CondoleezzaRiceKrispies Thu 20-Sep-12 14:49:16

My DD was nowhere near as tricky as your DS, you poor thing, but what we found invaluable was one of those dream show musical projector things meant for newborns. It was sound activated, so would come on if she cried or bumped into the cot bars.

Maybe the bed would be a good idea, if he's waking because he's bumping into the bars it would stop that, and, if he is prone to bad sleep anyway maybe it makes sense to make the transition now, rather than have upheaval down the line?

bediscalling Thu 20-Sep-12 21:43:46

I have spoken to the HV and she said she would ask a colleague who was the expert on sleep and see if she had anything to suggest, since she herself couldn't think of anything. I must say I found it quite comforting in a depressing sort of way that she said her daughter was pretty awful too and they didn't manage to knock it on the head within 10 days using any of the recommended books. The last time I spoke to a HV about this (with DS1) she told me that I was subconsciously communicating my anxiety about sleep and that was what was causing him to wake! That said, that was 2 weeks ago and I haven't heard anything, so probably no help there. If I can find the energy I'll chase it up.

I think changing his bed is worth a try, even if we only put his existing cot mattress on the floor and I am toying with the idea of trying to stop breastfeeding, but I'm dragging my feet just for a few more days as this time next week DH has to go out one evening for work and I will have to put them both to bed on my own, which is going to be tricky to say the least. Since we have a fairly well established routine and they usually go down ok and then the screaming starts later I'm not inclined to rock the boat just for a little while longer.

The last few nights have been slightly better. Last night we had a brief episode about 9.30 and then 4-5am, but he only yelled for 15 mins, even though it took another 30 to settle him and he didn't wake his brother for once, either. Tonight he's woken up coughing because he's getting a cold, but settled himself once at least, so we'll see. Only managed a 20 minute nap today, but that might work either way, depending.

AgathaPinchBottom Tue 25-Sep-12 17:25:40

Hi OP...how are things going? Any luck with sleep clinic?
I'm in a similar situation to you (though thankfully only one DS not two) My DS is 20 months and like you I feel I've tried everything. Watching your thread with interest - could have written parts of it myself. I booked a doctor's appointment today to see if there is anything else that can be done. Best of luck.

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