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7mo sleep nightmare. Don't know where to begin.

(39 Posts)
PopsicleToes Sun 07-May-17 20:25:00

I'm really getting desperate. I don't know how to get my nearly 7mo DS to sleep at night (without an hour of cajoling and copious amounts of tears). Apologies in advance for massive post.

His sleep has deteriorated over last 3 weeks and now wakes every 1.5-2.5 hours at night between 7 and 5.30, and cries unless fed back to sleep and held for up to half an hour afterwards. Often as night wears on he is increasingly difficult to get back to sleep no matter how much boob/cuddling I do. DP sometimes succeeds in rocking him back to sleep (while standing). He wakes and wants boob so often that he frequently soaks his nappy and clothes.

Around 2.5 months he stopped falling to sleep on boob and we had to rock him to sleep, and have basically had to carry on with that since. I thought I was getting somewhere with a 'gradual withdrawal' approach, reducing the rocking, lots of shush-pat, but it's all gone to shit and he now alternates between wanting to feed to sleep and only falling asleep through rocking. I would be fine with feeding him to sleep for now but that is also more and more like a fight, with him tugging, clawing at me and grabbing handfuls of boob (i'm covered in scratches), crying if he comes off or if I take him off because he's hurting me.

I get that he is going through lots of important milestones at the moment and i think he also has a tooth about to come through any day now, but I just don't know what to do to improve things. He's ok during the day, happy as long as he's being entertained pretty much constantly or carted around outside.

One of the root problems I think is that he just cannot relax at all without major intervention from me. And even then he doesn't wind down gradually. He just fights the tiredness until he can't keep his eyes open any more, and even then usually he fights a bit more...

He has 4 x 40min naps with 2 hours in between approx. I have tried putting him down sooner, makes no difference to length of nap, but if I put him down before 2hrs are up he will just fight sleep until he gets to around 2hrs.

So in a very long-winded way, I guess I'm asking how do I get him to sleep with a bit less drama, and to sleep for longer stretches? I don't think I have unrealistic expectations. I would happily spend 40 mins or so settling him each night if there were no tears, and even a few 3-hour stretches of night time sleep would be bliss at this stage. Please help me!!

beemay Sun 07-May-17 21:21:02

I'm sure someone will be along with some good advice, but as a quick and probably v obvious thought - with the night time sleep have you tried calpol to see if it makes a difference - if that first tooth is about to pop through... Also will he take a dummy...?

PopsicleToes Sun 07-May-17 21:50:32

hi beemay, thanks. We tried calpol tonight for first time, didn't help at all with bedtime or fussy feeding issues although the night is still young so who knows 😂 He has dummy for sleeping, it's one of the essentials for getting him to sleep but is no silver bullet either...

FATEdestiny Sun 07-May-17 22:28:52

Nearly 7m and sleep deteriorated 3 weeks ago...

This has coincided with the start of weaning? The two could be correlated. Either a food intolerance or a lack of calories.

Don't replace milk feeds with solids, have them in addition. Most calories are likely to come from milk at this early stage in weaning. Milk intake should be maintained at the level it was before weaning, or may even increase.

Offer a wide range of food groups, not just fruit and veg (which are low calorie). Lean meat is also low calorie but protein is essential. Lots of dairy and high fat, high calorie foods.

After these food issues have been checked, the main root cause of the problem is the fact baby does not go to sleep in the cot. If you want an independantly sleeping baby, they need to go to sleep independantly.

You at getting lots of years at bedtime anyway, so I would ise those years productively to teach your baby (a) how to relax in order to sleep and (b) how to go to sleep in the cot.

I would night wean and completely seperate feeding and sleeping. Feed upon waking up in the daytime. Then at bedtime feed before bathtime, before going upstairs, right at start of bedtime routine.

Then at sleep time, place baby in cot awake. Fully awake. Armed with a dummy place one of your hands firmly on baby's chest/back/side. Don't push down, but baby wants to feel the weight of your hand - so that in time she can close her eyes but still feel you are right there.

Spread your fingers wide, cover a large part of her torso with your hand, nice firm hold. If she is especially wiggly you can add in the other hand on her thighs/legs.

This is both reassuring for baby, but also physically teaches baby to be still and calm to go to sleep. It's not dissimilar to pinning baby down, just in a kind and gentle way. It's about teaching baby to lie still, not move around. So no getting up, no rocking on all-fours, no squirming around. Just stillness and reassurance.

There may be crying. But you are right there and you are armed with dummy. Keep reinserting dummy as needed.

Keep your body language caring and compassionate. I would lie on my bed next to the cot, so my body is physically next to baby's. Constant eye contact, watch baby at all times, with a caring 'It's ok, mummy is here' look. Ideally this wants to place you at the same eye level as baby - so lying on a bed next to the cot is great for this.

Bits of shushing and face stroking maybe if needed, but mostly I favour stillness and silence. No noise from you, minimal movements.

And just wait. Stay there right through until fully asleep. Wait through the crying. Reiterated the compasionate "I'm here for you, I care for you" body language with eye level eye contact all of the time. Firm hand/s, still, calm and dummy sucking in the cot - all the way from awake to asleep.

Then repeat every wake up, every nap time and every bedtime.

FATEdestiny Sun 07-May-17 22:31:00

"You are getting lots of tears at bedtime anyway.."

PopsicleToes Sun 07-May-17 22:47:52

Thank you Fate, I am certain that his current feeding habits are contributing. Since well before I started weaning he has been increasingly fussy and distracted when BFing so it's likely that he's trying to make up the calories at night. I've introduced a doidy cup
and he will drink expressed milk from that so planning to use that more often to try to top up his daytime milk intake. We are still gradually introducing new foods but will definitely get on the protein!

With regard to independent sleeping that was what I was trying really hard to work towards, but the in-cot settling, when I tried, ended up in so much crying and i felt really cruel. At this point maybe i need to give it another go though. Although usually for any kind of sleep training advice is to wait until they are not teething/in pain/not going through growth spurt etc... which makes me wonder when is it ever a good time to do it?! I mean he's going to be pretty much teething from now until he's 2 right? But assuming I do manage to toughen myself up a bit and do it, do you think it's better to start with night time sleep or naps in the cot? I have pretty much same difficulties with naps at home, though less extreme than night, although he naps v easily without fuss in buggy or sling.

Thank you again for the detailed suggestions

eerry Sun 07-May-17 22:48:11

Agree with the above and pretty much did exactly that with DD. We lie her on her side and hold her still with our arm and she's learnt to drop off. There were tears obviously but like FATE said their were tears anyway and feeding to sleep had stopped working.

DS was a terrible sleeper, so I've done lots of sleep training over the years and it is much easier to do it at this age. Once they are pulling to stand it's so much harder, and they get more wilful as they get older.

PopsicleToes Sun 07-May-17 22:52:42

eerry that's a good point, I have been worrying about how we will deal with bedtimes when he is (even) stronger and more mobile. Ok I am coming round to the idea...

eerry Sun 07-May-17 23:01:49

Do all sleeps the same, so nap & night sleep - settle in the same way, in the cot, awake with you there. You can read the same story at nap/bedtime and have a mini routine to signal all sleeps.

Now if DD takes ages I leave the room and she'll roll around, cry a bit then lie on her side when she's ready and drop off. Same happens when she wakes at night. I wish I had done the same with DS but bought into the whole attachment parenting thing of constant night feeding and no crying - big mistake! He still wakes most nights at five shock I feel guilty I didn't teach him better sleep habits tbh.

PopsicleToes Sun 07-May-17 23:10:37

Yep I am very quickly getting over the whole attachment parenting thing. More than happy to cuddle him all day long but I need my nights back. It will be worth a few tears if I can teach him to relax by himself.

mollyfolk Sun 07-May-17 23:13:23

Just to note, night-weaning isn't recommended before 1 years old for breastfed babies - they simply need to feed at night. Is he actually feeding every time? It's just with my DD I didn't feed her every time after 9 months - I only fed her the times that she was normally actually feeding. I had to say to myself that it was ok to soothe her in other ways besides bf!

Also are you expressing milk for him at some stage and feeding him it another time during the day? So much work for you! With my DS, who is a very busy baby, I offer the breasts often in the morning and the evening and try and offer some feeds in a quiet, calm place during the day. This seems to help.

PopsicleToes Mon 08-May-17 07:57:31

Hi mollyfolk, i try not to feed him back to sleep every single time, and usually DP settles him once per night.

Quiet calm place makes little difference if he's not sleepy, hence the feeding to sleep! I only tried the expressed milk top-up once so far so have to see how it goes. But don't mind 10 mins expressing per day if it helps the situation.

Tbh I don't think full night weaning will happen overnight, will take that part slowly if and when i can get him to sleep independently.

Hmmalittlefishy Mon 08-May-17 08:03:28

I don't have anything to add but sympathy and brew
We are in r he same position - the next to me cot which has enabled me to get more sleep now means ds at almost 8 mths will only sleep on the boob and is now waking more frequently. I need to at least put the sides of the cot up and wean him off lying asleep with a boob in never mind self settling sad
But just marking place and saying your not alone

ElspethFlashman Mon 08-May-17 08:17:49

I agree you need to night wean a bit. It just gets harder when they're older - now is the time to do it.

Is there a bed in his room? Or can you put one in there for a while? Cos one thing I found great at that age was picking up baby, popping dummy in, sitting on bed and gradually reclining back on pillows/cover till he was lying on the bed in my arms. Sometimes it would take a few tries but it helps a lot, cos you're getting them used to falling asleep in a lying down position.

Then when they're fully asleep, floppy etc, you can quickly transfer them over to the cot on their side.

You definitely definitely have to find another solution than rocking cos I made that mistake with my first, didn't find another way, and by 15 months that is back breaking!

ElspethFlashman Mon 08-May-17 08:19:15

Oh I just realised he's probably in the same room still.

Think about moving him!

I found mine slept a bit sounded when I moved them at 7 months. But like I said, I was still grateful there was a bed in their room.

FlossieFrog Mon 08-May-17 08:27:51

Another (possibly unhelpful perspective). I fed my DD to sleep until she was 27 months. We had times when she settled more easily than others. She gradually stretched out time between feeds, but probably not until she was eating decent solid meals after age 1. She was in her own room pretty much from the start and went into a bed aged 2. She is now 4 and settles herself to sleep perfectly well and rarely wakes in the night. We have had bad periods when it was hard to get her to go to sleep - e.g. we no longer bath her as part of bedtime routine as that was too stimulating, we had a few months where we had to lie with her until she fell asleep. However I think these tie in with normal developmental stages.

What I'm trying to say is don't panic - your baby is still little and although it feels dreadful at the moment to have such disturbed sleep, it will get better. And your child will learn to sleep better.

Good luck and hang in there cake

FATEdestiny Mon 08-May-17 09:40:33

increasingly fussy and distracted when BFing so it's likely that he's trying to make up the calories at night... he will drink expressed milk from that so planning to use that more often to try to top up his daytime milk intake

I can't see how expressed bottles will help. Using the time you would express for an extra breastfeed or three is more efficient.

Or just offer formula and start mix feeding. It's the easiest possible way to get more calories into your fussy/distracted breadtfeeders.

If you have identified feeding as an issue, you could put baby's immediate needs first and solve it in the time it takes you to pop to Tesco. If not this, then ditch the expressing because that's less effective than breastfeeding for getting calories into baby. Seek BF support to deal with distracted feeding and feed, feed, feed on the day.

I suspect many of your difficulties dealing with sleep arise from your conflict between independant sleeping or attachment parenting.

You could just embrace breastfeeding. Accept that through this phase you may need to mega focus on lots of breastfeeds in the day. Know that weaning onto solids will be slow. Know this will affect night feeds and so cosleep in a family bed to maximise your sleep.

Or... If this isnt for you then night weaning from the breast is going to be needed to help independant sleeping. Not feeding to sleep. "Calorie loading" in the day - lots of milk feeds (bottle and/or breast) and progressing solids weaning. The overall parenting ethos is different to attachment parenting.

I hazard a guess that you're not sure where your parenting priorities lie in this way. If you make a decision and stick to it, life will be easier.

Problems arise when someone wants to attachment parent but expect their baby to behave independantly in terms of sleeping/feeding.

By about school age, 4-5 years old, it will make no difference which route you took. You have to get there though.

◇ There are simple, no crying and gentle ways to teach independant sleeping. But these need to start young.
◇ There are also no crying ways to attachment parent through to toddlerhood, when baby learns independant sleep. But these need realistic long term time-scale expectations.

The crying and distressing sleep training methods are needed when you swap from the latter to the former. Starting off attachment parenting then deciding later on down the to be not to, this is the trouble.

Once in that position where you decide attachment parenting isn't for you, you have to accept crying. There isn't really any other way. It's not that indeoendant sleep = distressing. It is that changing away ftom attachment parenting = distressing.

So the best thing you can do OP, is make a decision on your parenting style.
◇ If you want to independant parent from now onwards, but the bullet and accept there will be distress to get there.
◇ If you want to attachment parent just adjust your expectations. You might be doing this for another year or two, don't fight against it, go with it and make life as easy as possible for everyone's sleep.

beemay Mon 08-May-17 10:17:59

I've only got sleep training experience with my first, and we did gradual retreat once she was 9-10 months, fully on three meals a day so I knew she was ready for night weaning. There were very few tears, it took six weeks of first gentle night weaning then very gradual retreating but we got there and from then on she has slept amazingly (except when ill etc). I don't know how common this is but just to say there can be a middle way...

I do have a question about dummy and independent settling... DS, also 7 months, has a love/hate relationship with his dummy (unlike DD who just hated it), he can't reliably insert himself at night yet and doesn't always want it as obv prefers boob. He wakes 4-7 times a night and i know he's not always hungry! If using FATE's good sounding method, how to encourage independent settling if they can't handle the dummy themselves?

FATEdestiny Mon 08-May-17 11:12:45

how to encourage independent settling if they can't handle the dummy themselves?

You do it for baby until baby can do it themself.

Depending on skill developments, it's usually around the 8-10 month age they can do dummy themself.

You can practice in the mean-time.
- hand dummy to baby in their hands, to put in themself
- hand dummy to baby the wrong way around (dummy in baby a fist) so that baby has to turn it the right way before putting in
- place dumny on floor just out of reach, so baby has to fetch it then put in
- place dummy oyt of view so baby has to search for it, find it, turn it over then put in.

These are the skills needed to do dummy themself. Even then, you need to deal with the fact that babies are not good at finding a list dummy at night. So you need a way for baby to put hands on a dummy easily.

In the mean time, make dummy runs as easy as possible for yourself

- I would keep cot by my bed until dummy runs no longer needed. No need to get out of bed for dumny inserts then.
- make it so you (and in time baby) can find the dummy without opening your eyes.

Several ways to achieve this:
* dummy saver clip
* sew a ribbon with a press stud at the end to the chest of your sleeping bags, to attach dummy to
* millions of dummies scattered around the cot
* sleepy tot rabbit is a toy with dummy clips attached to legs
* see ribbon and press studs onto an existing comforter toy to attach dummy
* tie dummies to corner of muslin square.

PopsicleToes Mon 08-May-17 19:09:57

Thank you everyone for the replies and suggestions/sympathy. Last night was a little bit better, I think the calpol helped and he had a longer first stretch of sleep. And today before I have him another dose he was grumpy and pawing at his ear which confirm for me that he must have been really uncomfortable.

I don't see myself continuing to feed to sleep in the long-term (or bfing full stop, to be honest), but you're right Fate, i am probably wavering between different styles of parenting... I think I was hoping to find a middle way. I'm still hopeful that there is one!

I accept that there may be some tears to teach him to fall asleep independently. I do feel that both of us are not quite ready, especially with him teething. I think I will give it a few more weeks and see how his daytime food/milk intake goes.

I had already bought some formula in to start giving mixed feeding a go so that is also on the cards. I have definitely been a bit reticent to try to make changes in his sleep and feeding for fear of making things worse - e.g. formula upsets his stomach... sleep training just upsets him and makes bedtime traumatic... some of that is just a bit overprotective and i probably need to chill a bit about it.

Anyway, your comments have definitely made me feel better and also consider some different ways of doing things, so thank you again.

PopsicleToes Mon 08-May-17 19:16:10

Hmmalittlefishy, hope things get better for you, do post again if you make some progress!!

ResetPassword Mon 08-May-17 20:24:11

Nothing helpful to add but sympathy. I'm I'm a very similar position and could have written your first post myself. I didn't intend to follow attachment parenting but it seems we have gone down that route and are now struggling with 'bad habits' and also hoping to find a comfortable middle way.

I have moved on to formula feed but it hasn't made a difference which hasn't made a jot of difference. Not trying to put you off just to give you my experience.

Good luck

ResetPassword Mon 08-May-17 20:25:36

Sorry, repeated myself a lot there
[Sleep deprived smiley]

PopsicleToes Mon 08-May-17 20:32:04

ResetPassword it's rough isn't it?
I don't expect formula to sort the sleeping out as such but I would like to be able to get away from feeding to sleep day and night. And in any case I go back to work in Sept and want to make it a really gradual transition but ideally not be breastfeeding at all by then. We'll see how it goes...

mollyfolk Mon 08-May-17 22:47:28

To be honest to me it sounds like a phase. Esp as you felt you were getting somewhere with your gradual retreat. This too will pass - in 8 weeks time you are likely to have a completely different but equally frustrating problem! Remember that babies sleep really badly and that's completely normal and not you doing something wrong. Progression to sleeping through the night is not linear and will have lots of ups and downs along the way. Research tells us that formula fed babies drop night feeds sooner but they have the same number of night wake ups than bf babies. If you don't feel comfortable with something don't do it and just try something else. At 9 months I have just managed to do the impossible- I can put DS down drowsy but awake! I thought it was a myth.

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