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Been told I have a 'Sleep Association Problem'.

(12 Posts)
upthewolves Sun 24-Jan-16 12:48:59

I know this sounds dramatic but I feel like I have completely fucked everything up.

My 5 month old DD is a shocking sleeper and I have shared my woes on this board before. She cannot do more than 2 hours at a time, usually less, but the one thing she DID do, was get to sleep pretty well 3 times a day for naps and then go down at 7pm. We hit the 4 month regression and sleep became a battle, it is now beyond a joke. She will only go to sleep if I feed her, then rock her in the crook of my arm with her thumb in her mouth, occasionally putting her back on the breast, whilst making shushing noises. On bad occasions, she will periodically remove the thumb, arch her back and cry, then plug it back in again. On really bad occasions she will just scream and scream and I'll have to put her in the car. I usually only do this if its been an hour and I'm still trying.

My DH has no hope. Nobody else can get her to sleep but me.

So this week I rang my local parenting centre and spoke to a sleep adviser who explained that DD associates sleep very closely with all the conditions I have put in place e.g. the rocking, the shushing, the closeness etc etc and is therefore unable to put herself to sleep. She also said that DD does not need to be fed every time she wakes up and I need to pare things back so I am doing the least necessary to get her back to sleep. Tried this in the night, found that she goes back to sleep with just holding, but then wakes up again 30 mins later.

Tonight DH decided we were going to try the pick up/ put down method. I did this for half an hour. She became hysterical. At one point she was so exhausted she looked like she was going to sleep but continued to moan in her sleep. Then she woke up and cried so hard she was sick. I reverted back to comforting her, and she clung to my finger whilst doing the thumb sucking thing. She kept breaking off and crying hysterically and the whole thing took a further hour.

I am exhausted and feel so upset. I can't see any way back from this situation. In a couple of months she is going to be starting childcare 3 days a week and I can just see her getting beside herself because she won't sleep for anyone else.

Does anyone have any ideas where we can go from here? Or has anyone got a baby with similar habits?

KatyBeau Sun 24-Jan-16 14:12:45

My baby is 4 months old too and has always slept really badly, but now it's gone from bad to worse.

I've been bringing her into bed with me from about 3am since she was little as it was the only way I could cope with the frequent waking. She now all of a sudden wakes all night long from 1am and wants to be on the breast the whole time. She has learned to roll now so if I take her off she wakes up then wants rolls onto her front and cried because she gets stuck.

I'm getting so sleep deprived I'm now having to feed her lying down sometimes in the day which I'm sure is reinforcing it. I'm starting to get shaky and dizzy at times every day now.

The advice has always been to get more help but my husband does what he can with his joint pain issue and there is no one else.

I've been quite positive and been just ploughing through each day for the last few weeks, but today it is just overwhelming me and and I can't see how to get out of this mess.

Would delay love to hear from anyone who managed to turn things around!

tiredybear Sun 24-Jan-16 15:22:08

The 4 month sleep regression is horrible. Doesn't seem to matter what you do, they all go a bit crazy around this time.

Be consistent with what you do, and yes, try and do as little as possible so they don't develop extra sleep associations. Having said that, their brains are having a major development and they need lots of reassurance.

upthewolves - i think the general advice is that you need to try a new routine for about a week before you can expect any results. I really do know how tough it can be, but try not to be too disheartened. If there's no improvement after a week, I think you should leave off for a while and then try again later on.

Katybeau - my LO is 9.5months now. Always woken up a lot, the 4 month sleep regression hit him really really hard. I've just kept with my routine and we do shush/pat at night.
In the last month or so he has occasionally started sleeping 7-4, so I feel like there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. I don't know any other babies who have been so consistently bad at staying asleep as my LO though, so I'm giving you a worse case scenario here!

It IS all just a phase, just sometimes a really long and horrible one! Hang on in there ladies. It WILL get better.

And to help you cope, your little ones will start to be A LOT more responsive now, which makes getting through the days that bit easier. :-)

onesteptotheleftofme Sun 24-Jan-16 15:31:31

Our 4 month rehression lasted 5 weeks. Then he started sleeping longee periods and now at 6.5 months does 7 hpur stretches witjout me changing much.
Ive no real help, just to say it will probably ;mprove.

FATEdestiny Sun 24-Jan-16 15:43:44

It is from 4 months (actually 3 to 4 months) that you have to start setting in place sustainable sleep associations. It is not that everything goes wring at 4 months. It is not even that it is a "regression" (it isn't). It is just that in the fourth trimester (until 3 or 4 months old) sleep is baby's passive state - as long as all needs are met them baby will sleep.

From 3 to 4 months old, sleep stops being passive and sleep develops to become more like adults with sleep cycles. At this point the act of getting to sleep becomes active - all new to the baby. Baby (and you) need to work together to teach ways for baby to get to sleep.

You will find that some sleep associations are more independent than others. Rocking to sleep (which also involves the added sleep associations or being cuddle to sleep and also being held to go to sleep) is far less independent that shushing and patting baby to sleep lying in their cot.

Both do require the parent (most do at this age, because baby can do so little themselves), but one will be far easier to reduce dependency on over time. Rocking is a hard, hard association to break because it requires breaking lots of associations together - rocking movement, the tight feeling of being held (as opposed to the "exposed, open" feeling in the cot) and the closeness of being held (rather than settling independently in the cot).

You're also talking of sucking thumb. Tricky in babies because tiny and odd shape of fingers/thumbs mean the suction is poor. Why not use a dummy?

Does anyone have any ideas where we can go from here?

Bite the bullet. Make a plan and stick to it.

Have realistic expectations - babies older than 3 or 4 months do not self-settle. They can learn settle independently but need help in doing so. Sleeping independently means self-using of sleep props. It does not mean no props at all.

The key thing to work on is getting baby to sleep in the cot. Have a search for a thread called 'what worked for us' - this gives a detailed explanation of a form of speeded up gradual withdrawal that may help.

I would also work on getting baby used to a dummy. Perfect for independent settling to sleep. Sometimes you have to work hard to get a dummy accepted but it is definitely worth it. If you leave it much longer, you may lose all of it's sleep association benefits.

Purpleboa Sun 24-Jan-16 16:40:01

Much sympathy. It's so hard isn't it? People come at you with so much advice, but it can be overwhelming. You know you need to lose the sleep associations, and work hard to try to settle them. But at 3am when you're eye meltingly exhausted, you just give in and bring them into your bed. I find that only those who have consistently bad sleepers can truly understand. Others are like 'well we had a few bad weeks but I did x/y/z and that sorted it'. If only it were that simple!

Some good advice above so I won't add to it - i don't have any to give, otherwise I wouldn't have a 7 month persistently awful sleeper! But please know you have NOT fucked up. Some babies just don't take to sleep as well as others. It's not because some mums are better at getting their baby to sleep than others. It really is just luck. And by putting so much effort and thought into it, you are truly a superhero mum. cakeflowerswine for you. We will get through this!

Diggum Sun 24-Jan-16 16:47:33

Maybe have a look at the No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. She deals with gently weaning babies off the need for sleep props and I found it helped with DD's feed-to-sleep association.

DD does, however, still need her blankie and dodo to go sleep, but after boob-gate I was willing to prop the bejesus out of her if it meant I could walk out while she fell asleep!

fluffikins Sun 24-Jan-16 17:01:16

Is recommend the no cry sleep solution book.

My dd is a crap sleeper at the mo but I'm sure she'll get better. I don't think you should overly worry about childcare, she will adapt and I've heard her nurseries around here are very used to it and even have rocking chairs so they can get babies to sleep who are used to being rocked.

In my opinion just enjoy her and if that involves cuddling/feeding to sleep then do it smile

upthewolves Mon 25-Jan-16 12:26:33

Thank you all for your advice/ kind supportive words. Last night was exhausting, I gave up and had her in the bed with me from 3am, she slept till 6am and I couldn't get her back to sleep after that. Tried the pick up/ put down thing for the morning nap and it resulted in hysteria again.

FATEDestiny Thanks so much for your detailed post, that was very useful and makes a lot of sense. She will take a dummy and quite likes that in the car or in the pram (when she can get a bit restless) but isn't a fan of it when going to sleep otherwise. I never bothered trying very hard with it though because I thought the thumb would be better in the long run - just assumed if she got used to the dummy I would have to replace it every time she wakes up (but I get that that would be an easier fix than the rocking/ bfing).

I've read the thread you recommended too. That does seem like a sleep training method I might be able to cope with because it doesn't involve leaving her, which is what I find really hard.

I will look out that book!

Did have a bit of a breakthrough this evening though - I wondered if I was putting her down too early/ too soon after previous sleeps? So it was taking a lot of effort for me to get her to sleep because she wasn't quite ready? And then she is becoming overtired through fighting sleep that she isn't ready for which is perhaps frustrating. No idea if this makes sense. Anyway today I let go of the routine and didn't time anything, let her fall asleep in car and in pram on walk earlier. Then this evening I put her to bed 3.5 hours since her last nap and she was sleepy but very calm. I put her in the cot with a cuddly bunny she has recently become fond of and sat next to the cot stroking her back. She went to sleep!!!!!! Maybe reaching my wits end helped because I let go of any expectation/ pressure to get her to sleep by a certain time so I was calmer? Who knows. Hopefully this is the first step in the right direction.

upthewolves Mon 25-Jan-16 12:29:19

also fluffikins thank you for the reassurance about nursery. I don't mind the cuddling to sleep, it is lovely. The problem is it seems to have stopped working and now takes forever/ results in hysteria and yet it has been the only trick in my book!

FATEdestiny Mon 25-Jan-16 13:27:06

I let go of any expectation/ pressure to get her to sleep by a certain time ...


Absolutely yes. By all means have some routine and structure to your day (I would go insane without some structure to my days), but be led by the baby as to how that routine is structured.

If you pay attention to your baby (rather than websites/books/forums telling you what should happen) then everything falls into place. Your baby will show you when she is just getting tired, feeling very tired, feeling over tired - if you watch the signs. Likewise she will tell you when she's full, could have some milk, is starving etc. You don't need to wait for the extremes to notice, but you could notice when baby is just starting to get tired and be mindful that you'll need to get her to sleep within half an hour or so.

Once you are paying attention to your baby's natural rhythms (rather than your own set routine), you will probably notice that there are routines and structures anyway. This is the only routine that will work. You just have to go with it in a baby-led way rather than stressing to fit a square peg into a round hole.

ArriettyMatilda Mon 25-Jan-16 13:40:14

I absolutely love that my two year old still associates feeding with sleeping! It means I get a lay down once a day too. But you'll find it hard to rock her as she gets heavier. I also know one day she won't sleep. Your last post sounds much more positive so hopefully that'll work for you. I've always always fed dd back to sleep at night in our bed and eventually she's woke up less and less during the night. Yes shes two and still waking but usually once or twice and it is only for five mins or so each time. Also we did lots of sleeping in the pushchair or slong during walks from a few months old and she'll sleep in the pushchair when I'm not around. There's nothing wrong with feeding a five month old back to sleep.

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