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6 month old can't settle to sleep without the boob

(47 Posts)
Claiiire Sun 02-Apr-17 09:05:30


I was hoping for a magic solution to solve our bedtime battles. My 6.5 month old baby is breastfed and cannot go to sleep from being awake. He needs a boob and won't take a dummy. If I put a dummy in his mouth he may suck on it for a second but self sabotages the whole operation and removes it himself - often resulting in tears. Then he plays with it for a bit. Either way its acting as more of a sleep distraction rather than a sleep aide. I have worked hard to create a lovey which is a smelly bunny thing that he seems to like and perhaps associates with sleep. White noise occasionally works to at least calm him down. Until now I have fed him whenever he wakes in the night even if I know he is full as it is the only way we can help him to fall asleep. He's always been a sicky baby but there is no doubt that he is eating until he is sick now, and would carry on and on if I let him. We have just started solids which he is loving and managing 3 meals a day so Im sure the extra milk is just too much and what he is wanting is the comfort not the milk. If only you could switch a button off! He has recently jumped from the 75th to the 91st centile so maybe he's had a growth spurt but think more likely its the solids and milk combo?

During the day we have a couple of buggy naps that can be up to 1hr15 mins long and a short one at lunch time that tends to be no longer than 1/2hr. We tend to manage 2 hrs at a time.

I am committed to teaching him to fall asleep without the boob as I have no doubt it will definitely be doing him a favour in the long run; I am not doing it to get a full nights sleep and fully accept a couple of peckish night wakings is normal for his age.

My question is, is there a gentle way to do this? My current plan is to change our bedtime routine from:

Bed when floppy
Rocked by dad (fails)
Boob until pukes
Tears +++
etc.etc. Bedtime at the moment is about 10.30 sad


Book / song
Bed with white noise and lovey.

We were going to use a cry it out method that involves leaving him to cry for no more than 3/5 minutes which sounds a bit more like pick up put down... We are willing to persevere and know we may be in for a long slog. I would rather do something more gentle obviously but am willing to do whatever works at this point.

Just to mention I'm really not into co-sleeping as wake up with the fear all the time. Side boob works sometimes but often his latch is a bit awkward and its sore for me. He is currently in his own cot in our room after outgrowing the side cot.

Many many thanks for any help. xxx

Claiiire Sun 02-Apr-17 09:07:50

Sorry, to clarify, our naps often total 2-2.5hrs a day which isn't great I know but hoping that being able to put him down awake in his cot for daytime naps may help this.

FATEdestiny Sun 02-Apr-17 09:36:58

You could try unlatching baby progressively earlier in the feeding to sleep stage.

Placing your finger under chin closes the mouth so that baby goes to sleep with nothing in mouth and mouth closed.

If baby wakes, reinsert nipple and repeat. If baby stays asleep, you cuddle to sleep and place in cot. It's easier to keep baby's body close to you when putting in the cot. Lean your body into the cot so you stay cuddled physically close as baby lays on mattress. Then leave firm hands on her chest as you stand, to replicate your presence.

The initial aim is to feed, unlatch then cuddle to sleep. Then move feeding away from bedtime and just cuddle to sleep. Then a process of gradual withdrawal to reduce cuddling to sleep.

This is no quick fix the way. It is gentle though.

FusionChefGeoff Sun 02-Apr-17 10:09:47

Another option is to accept that it's a relatively short bit of life and just go with it. 6 months is still so little and potentially you could spend the next 6 months with a struggle at every nap and bedtime.

I went for the path of least resistance using boob for over a year then gradually swapping day feeds for bottles then finally a bottle feed in a chair then transfer to cot at 14ish months then switched to milk in a cup downstairs at 2ish before bedtime routine.

They both have always gone down like a dream even during these changes.

We keep everything else absolutely rigid with the bedtime routine and even had special music so all the other 'sleep switches' are all turned on.

Whichever path you choose, good luck!!

Beyondtheshore Sun 02-Apr-17 11:42:45

If it helps at all, I was still often feeding my daughter to sleep at that age, and she just gradually grew out of it of her own accord. I started putting her down to sleep 'drowsy but awake' about that age; occasionally it worked, often it didn't (in which case I'd feed to sleep again, or sit with her with my hand on her back til she fell off to sleep.) But it worked increasingly often, and somehow she just gradually got better at it. A bit of a pain having to sit with her all those times, but broadly pretty pain free all round.

I got more hard ball with my twins because a) there were two of them so feeding to sleep wasn't very practical and b) because their inability to self settle was producing insanity-inducing levels of sleep deprivation. Went down the controlled crying route at about 10 months (going in after increasing amounts of time, never left them more than 12 minutes though.) It probably wasn't what you mean by 'gentle', but it honestly wasn't too bad, and the best thing about it is their sleep was sorted in a couple of weeks. Four months later and they're still sleeping very well and I'm very glad I did it.

Horses for courses I suppose!

Claiiire Sun 02-Apr-17 16:45:38

Thanks so much all. I think we have decided t use a bit of a combination approach. I can't bring myself to just stop feeding to sleep. My little boy wouldnt know what was going on if his bath wasn't immediately followed by a feed. (He hyperventilates in anticipation). I generally give him both sides before bed. I think ill give one side and then bath and then the other but time how long he is on me so I can gradually reduce the time spent on the second boob until its just bath and bed.

I think we will still do the (ferber?) approach with no more than 3-5 minutes of crying at a time. Just so he realises he can sleep without my boob in his mouth.

Hopefully we will get somewhere and not confuse him more.

Claiiire Mon 03-Apr-17 12:51:37

Wow. So last night we ended up letting my LO cry himself to sleep and it was the most gut wrenching awful thing I have ever done and I feel absolutely wretched today. We went for a full routine change (boob bath book song bed) in the end. I think we just didn't anticipate how awful it would be but once we had started it we felt we couldn't stop as it would somehow be worse. It took 1hr and 45 minutes of screeching and he was sick in the process. He slept amazingly well and only fed after a 7 hour stretch which is absolutely unheard of for him. He seems himself today, but I feel somehow different. Like a terrible mother basically. Im not sure what I want anyone to say. I asked for a gentle method and then did the exact opposite of what was suggested. I just felt it was the only way we could turn as we are so tired and exhausted which is impacting on my ability to enjoy my time with him during the day as I just constantly want a break.

I fear we are committed to finishing this now but I am absolutely dreading tonight. Not that I am doing any of the checks, my amazing partner is taking it all on himself and going between the two of us who are both crying! He was picking him up and putting him down last night which I think was even more distressing for him, so tonight he will just pat / soothe. I am so confused as to whether we are doing the right thing. I'm so worried we are going to somehow affect his behaviour. He is such a happy sweet little boy. I lost all my conviction at the first 45 second wait.

Not sure what I want anyone to say really. I just needed to vent.

FATEdestiny Mon 03-Apr-17 13:37:44

The only thing that needs to change in your situation are you expectations.

I'm not sure what you are expecting of your breastfed to sleep 6 month old, but not providing comfort isn't going to solve it.

At 6 months he doesn't (yet) have the physical dexterity to coordinate his movements to self-comfort. That comes with fine motor skills like picking up objects, placing them down, pincer grip.

Self-comforting does not mean no comfort. I can't see from any of your posts what the replacement for your comfort is? He's not old enough to access things like snuggle toys for comfort yet, not in a fully bonded way anyway.

Controlled crying I'd is not recommended until after 12 months for exactly this reason. Baby cannot access their own comfort until older.

All you are doing is leaving baby to scream until fully exhausted and with no will to continue. It will give you short term gains, if that's all you need. He will scream for less and exhausting himself more quickly, or give up looking for comfort. But it wont actually teach baby how to self-comfort. Not at 6 months old. So won't have any long term benefits in terms of healthy sleep habits.

I would recommend you listen to your instincts. Your son is defenceless and can only look to you for comfort.

His naps sound ok in terms of length. Why not sleep when baby does if you are struggling at night? I think your expectations are unrealistic.

Beyondtheshore Mon 03-Apr-17 14:40:40

Oh bless you.

I do think you need to make a decision - abandon controlled crying (at least until he is older), or commit to it fully. For what it's worth, I disagree that it doesn't work under 12 months (mine were 10 months, 9 adjusted.) My amazing HV, who specialised in sleep, helped me no end with sleep training my twins, and basically saved my sanity, was of the view that anything over 6 months was fine (and she'd sleep trained many, many babies), but it is a controversial topic and you've got to go with what feels right for you.

If you commit to it, it WILL get easier, and I knowing what I now do, I would have done cc at that age with my twins and saved myself three months of hideous sleep deprivation. But that's me, not you! You have to be completely consistent, which I think is so difficult if you're not completely sure yourself that you're doing the right thing. Have you reached the point where the sleep deprivation is seriously affecting your mental health and ability to parent, and / or your son is suffering from his own broken sleep? If not, and you feel like you can stick it out a few more weeks or months, I would abandon all attempts at cc. You can always come back to it in a few months time if it's clear he's not going to get there of his own accord (which plenty of babies, like my first, do.) If, however, you're at breaking point, then commit to it, remember it's not forever, and know that you'll feel like a different woman once you're getting a good night's sleep!

I have to say, reading your post, it sounds to me like emotionally you might be better off leaving it a while. But it's a decision only you can make. Sleep deprivation sucks; hearing your baby cry sucks. The bottom line is you need to do what's best for you and your family.

Good luck. It WILL pass, but I have been there, and feel your pain.

Beyondtheshore Mon 03-Apr-17 14:59:35

On a unrelated note - a 10.30 bed time seems very late to me for a baby that age! (All 3 of mine would have been a crying wreck if I kept them up much past 7.) Is it that late because you start the routine late, or because it's taking you 3 hours to settle him? If the former, I would definitely try an earlier bedtime.

Claiiire Mon 03-Apr-17 20:50:28

Thanks Fate and Beyond...

The 10.30 bedtime was a result of being unable to settle him after feeding- so yeah, it was taking us 3 hours to settle him if he didn't make it from the boob to the bed without waking up.

Beyond... you're completely right about my emotional state. Neither of us want to continue with CC but felt for a while we had to start what we finished so to speak.

I think our decision last night to go with cry it out was a result of getting completely overwhelmed with information on the internet and unable to see the wood for the trees or our situation with any clarity. We almost didn't realise we were doing controlled crying and thought we were doing a gentle method because of frequent checks. You're completely right, Fate. He cried until he gave up through sheer exhaustion. Covered in vomit with a horse voice. I feel absolutely wretched about it and have spent the day on the verge of tears. I am not judging anyone who decides to do it, but I am really sad we went through with it, thinking we were doing something for the greater good. I want to believe its possible to teach a baby to fall asleep form being awake independently if the environment is right and they have been gently parented to that stage. Last night we forgot about the gentle parenting and thought we had to just tackle all the problems at once.

I've read the no cry sleep solution and sears' baby sleep book but nothing seemed to work. I have tried to reduce the time spent breast feeding by doing Pantly's nipple withdrawal but it never worked, he'd always wake up angrily routing for my nipple.

As much as I hate that we did CIO last night I think it's worked to give us a sort of fresh slate. Tonight we have started what I hope is a more gradual method whereby we get him used to being rocked to sleep rather than breast fed. I timed the amount of time spent feeding him after his bath and massage, and aim to, over days, to reduce this amount of time until we have to take the plunge and not include it in the routine (is there a gentle way to do this?).

When he is used to being rocked / bounced to sleep, if we can't get to the stage where he is put down awake and then goes off to sleep on his own we'll consider doing pick up put down.

He's gone off fairly easily tonight with a little rocking and shhing - I'm afraid we broke him yesterday but trying to believe he'll not be too badly affected by doing it once and then stopping.

I appreciate the time you guys have spent replying, thanks!

FATEdestiny Mon 03-Apr-17 21:01:16

He wont remember one night, don't beat yourself up about it. We all have 'At The End Of My Tether' days. All of us. It'll be fine cake

jaggythistle Mon 03-Apr-17 21:12:17

You really don't need to "do a favour in the long run" to any baby by teaching them to go to sleep by themselves. Really.

You can choose to. Or you can kind of be driven to it by sleep deprivation and decide you need to.

But it's developmental, not a learned skill. You don't even need to give him a bath every night. You can skip it if he's not too mucky. Or bathe earlier on. Is not as compulsory as baby bubble bath makers would have us believe ;)

I'm on DC 3. I've had an ok sleeper and a rubbish one. DC3 is in between I think.

I fed them all to sleep until they didn't need it. They also settled for dh if I was out at work. So it doesn't make it impossible. He gave them expressed milk and just cuddled then to sleep to put them down. They learned to go to sleep at nap time amd bedtime gradually.

You could try reading "the no-cry sleep solution" by Elizabeth Pantley. It had more gentle gradual techniques like the "pull-off" technique that Fate mentioned.

I think she's right that your expectations are a little too high of your wee baby. smile

Nottalotta Tue 04-Apr-17 14:21:09

Ds w gave up feeding to sleep just before he was 1, at that stage I started gradual withdrawal. Which has worked brilliantly. I did it a lot more gradually than most, and at 20 months old I still sit nearby til he's asleep but that's my choice really, he's been unsettled with a baby brother arriving.

Re putting him down and him waking up, does he roll yet? Around that age ds1 started sleeping on his front of his own accord, he had always been very difficult to put down but this became so much easier when I could put him down on his side or front. I'd hold him cuddled in, then lower him into the cot and kind of roll him.away from me. Then hold a firm hand on his uppermost arm or back.

I believe you could probably start doing a very gradual form of gradual withdrawal now with trying to unmatched before he's asleep. If you want to that is, there's no need to at all if you are happy feeding to sleep. He won't do it forever.

Claiiire Wed 05-Apr-17 22:32:43

Jaggythistle, the reason I want to try and cut out the falling-asleep-at-the-boob sleep association is that my understanding is that if he falls asleep there, then that is where he wants to be where he wakes up, making the all night boob bar the only thing that will settle him. Which is fine for some people, but I am finding it totally exhausting and co-sleeping isn't an option for us.

I have concocted a 'gradual withdrawal' plan that involves popping DS off the boob when drowsy, but it seems to just rile him up and he wakes up livid. Would it not in a way be kinder to cut the boob out completely of the routine? I feel like giving him a comforter (which is what it is - he is not hungry) and then taking it away again is pretty mean. I just don't know how to make it so the time spent on the boob is less and less...

I managed to get him off to sleep tonight by rocking him and reciting each-peach-pear-plum over and over and over again. After lots of failed attempts and tears (I think because he wanted to breastfeed) he finally went down to sleep. It was a battle of the wills again, but I felt I was comforting him still as was rocking him to sleep. But perhaps this was too sudden? So confusing!

FATEdestiny Wed 05-Apr-17 22:49:34

I would replace breastfeeding with the dummy, if it was me.

I would completely seperate feeding and sleeping (so feed before bath time, for example) and then do all of the settling routine with the dummy for comfort sucking.

If I put a dummy in his mouth he may suck on it for a second but self sabotages the whole operation and removes it himself

Hold his hands then.

At this age I'd have the cot next to my bed, mattress probably on middle height. After sleepwear on and whatnot, into the cot awake.

I'd then lie in my bed, leaning most of the top half of my body into into the cot. Dummy in, lots of eye contact. Hold both of babies hands in one of my hand, on baby's chest. This calms and soothes any flaying movements.

Second hand might be doing same to legs, if baby is especially agitated. If not, second hand would be hovering near baby's face. Stroking, tickling if baby needs calming. Mostly just waiting to keep dummy in if it comes out.

Then just wait. Shushing, eye contact, let go of baby's hands once baby is still and calm, but keep hand on baby's chest for reassurance. Occassional gentle pay from hand on chest, if needed. Otherwise just stay, wait and keep dummy in.

Wait until asleep and then extract yourself.

jaggythistle Thu 06-Apr-17 03:31:56

That sounds a lot harder work than a quick feed fate. wink

I'm going to leave you to it now OP.

6 months old is tiny and if my wee baby was distressed wanting to feed, I'd not be able to carry on withholding it.

Fair enough if they're happy to be cuddled/held/rocked but not if they're crying.

And to describe it as a battle of wills...He has a need for comfort art this age, not a want to keep waking you up for milk. Also how do you know he's not hungry/thirsty?

I know you're not just leaving him or anything but he's not capable of understanding what you're doing, so your expectations seem high smile

Sleep deprivation does suck. I'm here wide awake and all the DC are asleep...thanks insomnia. hmm

FATEdestiny Thu 06-Apr-17 08:42:26

OP has made it very clear throughout that she does not want to feed to sleep anymore. Which is exactly why i suggested first the Pantly Pull off, then dummy and in-cot settling.

Rather than telling the op that the way she wants to do this is the wrong way, I tried to help her with no-crying methods to achieve it.

I have already qualified that such gentle ways of stopping feeding to sleep are not quick fixes. That does not make them less valuable in the long term.

LapinR0se Thu 06-Apr-17 08:53:47

OP do you have the funds to hire a sleep consultant? The issue is that you are listening to very contrasting opinions and concocting methods out of a mixture of approaches.
It's possible you'll end up with a confused baby and very upset yourself.
The most important thing is to be consistent so that both you and the baby know what to expect and feel safe. However it's really difficult to be consistent unless you have a plan that you feel totally confident in.

Sleep consultants are expensive (about £300-500) but a good one is worth it.

Claiiire Thu 06-Apr-17 11:33:08

I am so confused as to what to do for the best. jaggy thistle it's never just a 'quick feed'. I love feeding my son, it's amazing and I would hate to think I were depriving him of food or drink. He had just been fed to sleep for a nap and was sick everywhere (he had fed before as I was going to put him to sleep in the cot, but he was too upset so I gave in and fed him.)

I am only trying to do what infeel must be best for him. Up until now I have fed on demand and it's been really tough, but something I've accepted is important for getting my milk supply up and sustaining a big hungry baby. I've enjoyed it for he lost part and am really pleasednive managed to breast feed exclusively. But now he's on three meals a day and milk feeds I'm more aware of the 'comfort feeds'. Surely it can't be good drinking so much he's sick every time he needs to go to sleep?!his urge to suck is overwhelming and I get that completely; but if there's a gentle way I can teach him it's ok to sleep without me and without movement (eventually - I understand it won't be overnight) , I'd like to start the process sooner rather than later.

Lupinrose you are completely right, I've got myself in a total muddle and it's doing no one any favours. I really don't have the funds to pay for a sleep consultant though.

Thanks FATE, I appreciate your advice and will try with the dummy again. (All £20 worth of dummies I invested in in an attempt to find the right one as surely it's the only logical answer!)

I know no one means to but some of these posts make me feel really crummy like I'm putting my own needs above my son's. I wouldn't be doing any of this if I didn't think that it would be better for him. Maybe I'm wrong but i can't see him growing out of it on his own.

LapinR0se Thu 06-Apr-17 11:42:44

If he is feeding until he is sick then it's not good for him anyway. He clearly craves the comfort but there has to be another way than just milk milk milk.
You could try patting him to sleep in his cot. It's a killer on the back but it is quite helpful for babies that have been fed to sleep as there is physical contact but they fall asleep where they wake up so it is a healthier sleep association.
Critical to make sure he is not overtired then into the cot and lay your hand quite heavily on him (not leaning but not a light touch) and pat rhythmically until he is asleep. Can be on his front, back or side, whichever way he prefers sleeping. It will take a while but it will work.
I think you sound like an absolutely lovely mum who is very caring and wants the best for her baby flowers

itsgoingtoofast Thu 06-Apr-17 11:48:58

I would persevere with the dummy. Try a mam one if you haven't already. DS was a sucky baby and just needed that to help him drop off. I think at around 7 months we noticed a big change in his ability to sleep without feeding. DD was not like this at all and could always just drop off. Every baby is different and I don't think it was anything I did in particular! Please remember that none of this will last forever, and what you've tried so far will not have done him any harm. Everyone feels like this sometimes, don't beat yourself up flowers

Nottalotta Thu 06-Apr-17 11:54:22

It's bloody hard op, I spend my whole time second guessing myself and agonising over whether I'm doing it right. I'm on ds2 now, 7 weeks, but of course he is totally different to ds1.

I am however following Fates advice to introduce a dummy and naps in the bouncy chair. So far were having reasonable success. I'm hoping once he gets the hang of the dummy he will use that as a sleep cue, and will be able to stop using the bouncy chair.

Re your ds, he really won't be doing it forever though, I couldn't believe that ds1 would ever be put down awake and go to sleep, but he did. Quite easily too after all my agonising!

HalfStar Thu 06-Apr-17 13:21:15

please don't worry or beat yourself up OP. You are all doing just fine and it is true that he will likely learn more and more how to go to sleep as he gets older and gets more physical/tired. But also true that many of us BFing a feedy baby crack and freak out with information overload around this time. (I did, twice.)

All I can suggest is keep going with the pantley pull-off, keep going with the gross lovey wink, keep playing lots by day in his cot/bedroom so he know it's a nice place to be, and definitely no harm in dad doing the settling. By the way, my dc2 was already very attached to her smelly lovey by 6.5 months. It's not a magic fix and her sleep issues were much worse & health related, but it's all part of a big picture. YOU ARE DOING FINE brew

Claiiire Thu 06-Apr-17 21:59:11

Thank you all, I needed the kind words. Having absolutely zero success with the dummy tonight, and rocking my 91st centile hulk is really doing my back no favours. It took 3 hrs to get him to go to sleep tonight as was persevering with the in-cot-awake method. It was basically crying to sleep with me singing, patting, shhhing etc etc so ended up feeding him to sleep. Talk about sending mixed messages to the poor thing. He woke up after 1/2hr wondering where my boobs had gone. My mum went in to settle him and he went intergalactic with rage and screaming, so I just fed him again. I feel like a milk machine. I wish I could be more chilled about it all, my mum thinks I'm mad!

Halfstar, good to know a little one can attach to a lovey will keep going!

Thanks again.

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