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Desperately seeking sleep solution! (Long, sorry...)

(39 Posts)
ElphabaTheGreen Sun 30-Sep-12 17:54:07

Like everyone else here I suppose!

Four-and-a-bit month old DS cannot self-settle (normal at his age, I know) and cannot nap or fall asleep without a great deal of effort on my part (feeding, rocking, white noise - one, some or all of the above). We have a good evening bedtime routine in place, so he is fairly reliably asleep by 8:30pm, using any combination of the above sleep props. I then need to hold him for half an hour to an hour before I can get him into his cot, otherwise his eyes fly open, he agitates himself wide awake and I have to start the whole process again and usually swear loudly. From midnight-ish, he is awake more or less every hour and above process needs to be repeated each time to get him back to sleep, then he decides it's time to get up for the day at 5am (if I'm lucky - more often as not, it's 4am). The other night, inexplicably, he slept 8:30 to 4am and once I'd got over the relief that he hadn't succumbed to cot death was the loveliest, happiest little boy, as opposed to ticking time-bomb little grump who has an inconsolable, unstoppable hour-long meltdown, sometimes more than once a day, if I can't get at least one long nap, or several short ones into him, during the day. These usually need to be taken on me, so I can't get catch up sleep, nor can I get anything done.

Having read other threads, a lot of the advice is 'he'll outgrow it' and 'enjoy the cuddles while they last'. I totally, totally appreciate this and I'd be happy with that, but I have an added challenge - I am in the process of looking for work and I need to be able to complete job applications and attend interviews without my brain feeling like blancmange. I've tried propping my laptop on the pillow in front of me for the purpose of application-writing, but it once slid onto his head. If I go to an interview or visit a potential employer and it takes more than a couple of hours, no-one else but me or my DH can get him to sleep, so he'll be in afore-mentioned meltdown with the grandparents by the time I get back.

I've tried PUPD (makes him even more wired), shh pat (screams) and gradual withdrawal (non-starter - won't fall asleep, or even get remotely sleepy, in his cot). I'm not willing to co-sleep as I'm too fearful of smothering him, and I don't want to add another issue, i.e. getting him out of my bed and into his own, further on down the track. I'm not adverse to CC/CIO, as I can't see how that could be any worse for him than his overtired meltdowns, but I know it's not recommended until 6 months at least. He won't take a dummy and swaddling gives him the pip because he is enamoured with his hands and feet.

So, after all that lot, does anyone have any other suggestions as to how I can get him to self-settle? Any suggestions as to how I can try and get a nap routine established? He seems to know falling asleep is what happens after his bath-feed routine in the evening - is there a pre-nap routine that might work for him to know he's supposed to be falling asleep for a nap and may break him out of one of his overtired tantrums? Any suggestions as to how long I should leave it to see if he'll sort himself out before I start sleep training?

Sorry for the length - addled with sleep deprivation and non-productivity!

Flisspaps Sun 30-Sep-12 18:13:20

How often does he nap in the day? 5.5mo DS sleeps at 10am for 45 minutes, and at 2pm-ish for perhaps an hour. I have to watch like a hawk to time these right, otherwise he needs white noise, bum-patting and rocking to sleep. I've started putting him in his sleeping bag for naps, and that's helped. At night we co-sleep, I dread to think what he'd be like if we didn't!

ElphabaTheGreen Sun 30-Sep-12 19:07:44

Varies hugely and I can't get any consistency no matter what I try. He usually needs another sleep around 8:30-9:00, or 2-3 hours after he wakes up (whichever comes first). If I can make this nap last 2-3 hours he's much happier but that's rare. This morning it lasted half an hour with white noise in his pram, then he got another half an hour around lunch in my lap, then he had an overtired tantrum around 4pm and he passed out in my lap until 6:30pm. But that was just today. No two days are ever the same. The only thing I've noticed is if he can get 1.5 to 2 hours in the morning and the same in the afternoon, he's very happy but I just can't get him into any kind of routine to do this.

ElphabaTheGreen Sun 30-Sep-12 20:08:50

Also, I have very occasionally co-slept but it doesn't seem to make a great deal of difference to how long he sleeps, even at night, and I sleep so lightly it doesn't really seem to have much benefit for me either.

omama Sun 30-Sep-12 21:30:26

(((hugs))) this age is so tough. I had a similar struggle with my DS and so I know where you are coming from.

WRT pre-nap routines, yes they are a good idea - it will help him to learn what is coming. I used to do something like: nappy change, short story, upstairs, into sleeping bag, cuddle in dark, then lay him down in his cot. I used sssh pat to help him learn how to settle.

I know you say you tried sssh/pat & it just made him scream, but the truth is, it will. You are teaching him a new way of falling asleep i.e. in cot not snuggled in your arms and he's not going to be happy about it. But by staying with him, you are reassuring him that he is ok, and his cot is a safe place to be. I know its hard to hear him cry, but if you persevere, he will get used to it, and he will eventually learn to go to sleep in his cot. This is the same of any sleep training method. I think it took my DS around 2 weeks to do that, and ever since then, I've been able to pop him in his cot awake, walk out, shut the door & leave him to it.


MollyDefoe Sun 30-Sep-12 21:37:04

My DD is 5 months old, so only a little bit older than your LO, and we've recently done CC (as described in Andrea Grace's book). It's worked like a DREAM! Within 4 days, she was sleeping 12 hours a night, and finding it much easier to settle herself for 3 naps in the day. She's happy and smiley and relaxed and content for the hours that she's awake. Like you, we'd had no success with other methods - they just made her hysterical with anger. She did cry with CC, but just in a gripey way, rather than the outraged hysteria she experienced when we remained in the room with us.

I think that the type of sleep training one chooses needs to be suited to the individual baby, and their age (and the parents and their circumstances). I guess with a younger baby you have to remain sensitive to when they're waking from hunger, and not ignoring hunger cries, but I just wanted to offer an example of a baby who was very well temperamentally suited to CC, just in case you decide to give it a go. smile

ElphabaTheGreen Sun 30-Sep-12 21:51:12

Thanks omama - that's helpful!

molly DS is still sleeping in our room and probably will be until 6 months. Does DC have to be in his own room to do the CC you've done? That's another thing - I'd love to get him happy and going to sleep in his own cot before we put him into his own room so it's not a move into a new environment in a cot where he's not particularly happy unless he's fast asleep and doesn't know about it.

ElphabaTheGreen Thu 04-Oct-12 04:16:35

Bumping this in case anyone else has any more ideas? Getting harder and harder to feed to sleep and is needing holding for longer before I can get him in his cot. Yes, I'm posting this at 4:15am. Only slightly perkier now than I was at 2:30am...1am...11pm...

teacher123 Thu 04-Oct-12 08:13:53

As someone said up thread, he'll cry when you make changes, as babies like being cuddled to sleep. As you're still sharing a room have you tried putting him in his cot awake and just ignoring him? I used to roll right over to the far side of the bed and just leave him to coo to himself. It used to take AGES but he would eventually drop off. Now DS1 is 5 months, he's in his own room and I leave him to settle himself. Now if he feeds to sleep at bedtime as he's really tired we get a terrible night I read somewhere that how they go to sleep at bedtime dictates how they need to get to sleep for the rest of the night. And in my (very narrow experience) its certainly true. Hope things improve soon.

ElphabaTheGreen Thu 04-Oct-12 09:30:38

Yes, I've tried putting him down sleepy but awake and ignoring him several times. He gets agitated, and cooing turns into whimpering then into wailing, by which time he's wide awake. Unless he's very heavily asleep when I put him in his cot, he just doesn't want to fall asleep there. I slept for a few nights with a stuffed toy between my boobs to see if having the smell of me next to him would help him to settle. Nope.

IHeartCake Thu 04-Oct-12 11:29:49

I totally sympathize. Your LO sounds a bit like my DD1. I was NEVER able to establish a nap routine until about 9mo but you are on the right track to figure out how long he can stay awake. I think at his age it is something like no longer than 2hrs.

My DD would ONLY sleep on me until about 7mo when we did sleep training. This slightly improved the naps but def. improved the nights. BTW, they say you shouldn't do any CC until 6mo but the multitude of studies suggest that you can do crying if you stay in the room or do GW.

With my DD we did a bit of GW. We started by holding her to sleep for 3 nights, then put the cot mattress on the floor and slept next to her for 3 nights, then put her in her cot and just sat there with her for 3 nights. There was a lot of crying in the last stage but we (I) was there. Then she slept much better.

This did not work at all for DS. Nothing works for him but we are sharing a room and in order to try CC, we strung up a clothes line across the room and pinned up a sheet so that he could not see me. I think that helped a bit.
Does any of this help? I'm pretty sleep deprived myself so might not be being coherent.

BlingLoving Thu 04-Oct-12 13:43:20

I feel your pain. I don't have all the answers as ds has not been a great sleeper but we have made huge progress and at 17 months we have regular nights where he sleeps through.

At 4 months ds started sleeping worse again with the four month sleep regression so bear that in mind. However, a few ideas that did help us:

Can you put him to bed earlier. We found that ds needed an earlier sleep time as he was so tired. If we waited, he Would get overtired and would struggle to go down and sleep worse during the night.

Also, no sleep training method ever worked when ds was exhausted so I'd do whatever you can to get him to sleep for a day or so to catch up. Eg, does he sleep in the car? I often found that I simply Could not get ds to sleep in the afternoon, but if I left him to stay awake he was just too tired at night and would get so overtired that he would not go down for the night either. So if he would not sleep, I would put him pram or car at. 4pm and let him sleep until about 4:45 then down for sleep proper at 7. Or even earlier.

Also, if you think he needs to go down after2-3 hours, start trying at2 hours because again, if he gets too tired he won't settle and certainly won't settle by himself.

Good luck. I have been there.

ElphabaTheGreen Thu 04-Oct-12 17:19:17

Thanks ladies.

IHeartCake I think you're confirming my feeling that combined CC and GW is the route we should be heading down.

Bling DS's bed time is already 7pm - it just takes until 8:30 to get him to sleep. We did used to start his bedtime routine at 8 but that was too late for him. As it stands, I haven't actually had 'an evening' since he was born since he's chained to me from the time DH has given him his bath at 7pm. Once I can finally get him in his cot around 9 or 9:30, I'm collapsing with exhaustion knowing I'll probably be awake again in another 3 hours. DH doesn't get home from work until after 6pm so I can't really bring it forward any more as I have to get dinner done (no, DH can't cook, bless him) which I can usually only do if DH can keep DS entertained.

DH doesn't want to do any sleep training until he's six months, but he also acknowledges that he's not the one surviving on a minuscule amount of very broken sleep!

BlingLoving Thu 04-Oct-12 19:40:26

Elphaba: what time are you starting the bath routine? I would be starting it at 6, no later, so that he baths then story/massage/ whatever then milk then bed before 7. Cook after that. Which is what we have done.

For all that ds has always been a terrible sleeper, we did get our evenings back fairly quickly. He would go through phases of refusing to self settle but even if we stayed with him, we could usually get him down by 7:30. Dh was still working then and there were times when if he came in at 6:30 he didn't see ds as he had been in the bath at5:45 and asleep by 6:30. He still woke up at 2 but if I went to bed at 9:30/10:00 I would have got a solid 4 hours.

ElphabaTheGreen Thu 04-Oct-12 19:56:22

Eek. Bath routine starts at 7pm now. Going by the existing pattern, if I started at six, he might be asleep by 7:30 and would then need me to hold him for another half hour (sometimes longer) until he's heavily asleep enough to put him in his cot, which would mean no dinner until after 8:30pm, closer to 9! I'd probably end up ordering a pizza every night!

I do take your point though, although DH would be very sorry if he didn't get to see him or give him his bath. If I can just get him settling quicker or (sighs wistfully) self-settling I think it would be well worth having an earlier bedtime.

PickledLily Thu 04-Oct-12 20:06:57

You have described my DD to a tee. It's hideous isn't it.

We have the same problem with 4pm naps but i put DD to bed at 5.30/6. DD isn't always back by then, but he has his tine with her when she wakes to chat/play/practise latest developmental thing (usually 3 or 5am) wink Have you tried a very early bedtime? It seems to have helped my Dd sleep until 11ish then its every 2 hours :-(

PebblePots Thu 04-Oct-12 20:22:34

I'd also suggest bringing bedtime forward - the point is this might help him settle more quickly as he won't be getting over tired.

I have found pre bed & nap routines very helpful as dd them knows what to expect.

BlingLoving Thu 04-Oct-12 20:43:50

Could dh do the entire routine (except feeding if you at bf)? So he gets time with ds? Or does he only come in closer to 6:30?

If its any consolation, we only did the super early bed time for a short while. After that he got a bit better at day time sleeps and more importantly, the routine was so well established that we could push it back. Recently we are even letting him go down at closer to 7:15 which, even 6 weeks ago would be unheard of for us.

I agree with pebble - the theory is that by putting him down before he is over tired you should not have to be with him as long.

What is your routine?

ElphabaTheGreen Thu 04-Oct-12 21:57:20

It's just bath, feed, bed so DH already does all he can - yes I am BFing. I tried sticking a story in before the feed for a while but he'd get quite agitated (probably overtired at that point, as you say).

We've just had a long chat and starting tonight we'll do gradual withdrawal which will probably involve an awful lot of crying and even less sleep for a while. He's going straight back in the cot after his next feed tonight then we'll sit with a hand on him until he goes to sleep. Should only take an hour or more <claws face> We'll start fiddling with times and order of routine (e.g. maybe eventually moving the feed to before the bath then introducing a massage/story) once he's worked out that going into the cot means going to sleep.

God give me gin strength.

BlingLoving Fri 05-Oct-12 18:39:51

Elphaba: we did do some cc so i am not anti the technique. But if he does not sleep in afternoons, why not try the earlier bed time (with pizza in reserve) for a few nights - we found the improvement almost immediate. A friend of mine found 6:30 was the absolute latest her dd could go down. And even now at 18 months her dd is in bed asleep well before 7 most nights.

Whatever you do, good luck.

PebblePots Fri 05-Oct-12 19:23:25

I really don't think feed before bath would be a good idea. Feeding gets him all nice & sleepy so use that to your advantage. Your routine sounds fine, just try bringing it forward to an earlier time.

Feed before bath sounds like a hiding to nowhere imo.

Good luck, hope you get an improvement smile

IHeartCake Sat 06-Oct-12 15:42:17

Elpha, how did it go?
When we did GW, it was actually MUCH easier than we thought and there were FAR fewer tears than I anticipated. We did get to a point where DD cried but I was really surprised by how well she took to it.
I hope your's is the same! What are you planning?

IHeartCake Sat 06-Oct-12 15:42:26

Elpha, how did it go?
When we did GW, it was actually MUCH easier than we thought and there were FAR fewer tears than I anticipated. We did get to a point where DD cried but I was really surprised by how well she took to it.
I hope your's is the same! What are you planning?

ElphabaTheGreen Sat 06-Oct-12 19:07:15

Hi IHeart - thanks for asking!

Well...that night when he woke up at 1am, I gave him a big feed and put him straight back in his cot and we didn't get a prolonged version of his awful, awful overtired wailing with tears streaming down his face, which I had braced myself for. Instead, it was a no-tears angry roar for a while, followed by a close examination of his feet, then some sucking on his sheets, a bit more of a roar, a 'go on! Give us a cuddle!' smile etc. After two hours he decided 'sod this for a game of soldiers' stuck his fingers in his mouth and went back to sleep until he was woken by the bin men at (wait for it) 8:15!

Last night I brought bedtime forward to 6:30pm and when he was fast asleep in his cot by 7pm, I was going to ask you all for your personal addresses so I could come and pay grateful homage on my knees, but unfortunately he was awake and roaring again an hour later, but he settled after 40 minutes. He was then awake again from 1am until 3am with me and DH taking turns sitting next to him with a hand on him while he did the rounds of whingeing, foot examination, rolling practice, toy dog or sheet sucking etc until I stuck his fingers in his mouth and he knocked off. Slept until just after 6am. Then I managed to get a half hour nap out of him in his cot, immediately after a feed, without holding, at around 9. We tried getting another nap into him when he was rubbing his eyes and cranky around 10:15, but we gave that one up after an hour of his various protestations when we had to change his nappy which he chuckled all the way through. We got a couple of more naps out of him by taking him out in the pram.

So, all in all, way less distressing for all concerned than I had been dreading and potentially some signs of progress. Thank you all SO MUCH for your advice and support. thanks

BlingLoving Sat 06-Oct-12 22:13:26

Sounds like you are doing well. Congratulations. Change does not happen instantly unfortunately. I am glad earlier seems to be helping a bit. I imagine just getting a few consecutive hours is making a big difference to you too.

On the earlier bed time - even now, if ds falls asleep on us, he will wake up 40 minutes later freaking out. So in time you may find that as he gets better at settling without you cuddling him, that will stop.

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