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5 1/2 month old cues and sleep/nap problems - help!

(10 Posts)
buttercup100 Fri 26-May-17 11:48:44


I'm posting for the first time on here and feel desperate after trying everything to help my LO fall asleep stress free. We seem to be all over the place.

I haven't really followed any specific book or guidance as until 3/4 months, my LO went to sleep and napped really well, other than waking at nights for feeds (he is EBF on demand). He was able to nap in a variety of places, and I generally was able to follow his signals. Until he came down with an ear infection and other viral complications, and for about 4/5 weeks I began having to settle him only with a feed, as he would not go down otherwise. He has now made a full recovery, and is back to his cheery self, but 2 weeks later, and we seem to be all over the place. and having real struggles putting him down to bed in the day and night without him getting very upset.

He scratches at his head and forehead when he is overtired (and at no other time), and sometimes draws blood (even if his nails are short and smooth, man he digs DEEP!) - this often means he gets stressed and upset, throwing off any chance for him to fall asleep by himself. He is prone to dry skin on those spots, which we keep managed regularly with cream from the dr etc so it is smooth and moisturised. To make matters worse, he has sore neck folds as is quite a chunky baby (no feeding problems there then!), but we have hydroc. and sudocrem on this daily to manage it and it is improving. But often when he is trying to sleep he will reach up and scratch at his neck, occasionally breaking the skin :-( or will wake himself up doing it. Scratch mitts only apply to clothes up to 6 months....

He has a little Jellycat monkey that he snuggles at bedtime which is our signal to him that it's time to sleep - he has had this for months and often nuzzles and sucks on its paw when self soothing. He doesn't have it any other time so he knows monkey = sleep time.

I try to pick up on his cues (yawn, eye rub), but even if I get him down quite quickly, room darkened, music playing etc, he won't be happy lying down in his cot. I have tried having gentle happy time in the cot during waking hours to make sure there is no negative association, this has not helped. (He is very happy in his cot at any other time). He used to sleep in his cot when he was younger, and self settle without any grumbling - where have those magical days gone?! We have tried leaving him, but he gets very distressed although for a few days he did settle after a few minutes on his own, but not without noise!

We do not have a fixed routine but as a general rule he will wake early around 4/5 am for a feed and go back to sleep, usually until 7/8, when he will wake to feed again before having a nap and waking for the day around 8.30/9am. He usually has a late morning nap and afternoon nap, and if super tired will only occasionally nap around 5 before bed time between 6.30/7.30. He is nearly always asleep by 7.30 and we have a routine which includes a bedtime feed. He will then wake for a 'dream feed' around 10pm and again around 2am but will feed for 10 minutes and fall asleep on the boob. He naps anywhere from 30 minutes - 1 hour, although the latter is more usual (on a good day).

When I lay him in the cot after a feed, he will sometimes grumble but usually will go to sleep, and often won't wake at all after falling asleep on the boob. It seems I can't settle him at all to sleep without it.

Because of all this, we aren't really in a feeding routine - I think I am making it worse by offering the boob more often than necessary because I'm not really sure if he is hungry or not. If I wait long enough (eg. 3 hours), he will show clear signs (gnawing on his fist harder than usual, smacking his lips, making little fish mouthing movements).

How can we get back to a more understanding and calm way of napping and going to bed at night time? I am doing this all singlehandedly as although LO adores his pop, he will only settle with me. I realise there is a wonder week / growth spurt but this has been going on for 4-5 weeks now...

I'd really appreciate any advice as feel at such a loss! sad Sorry for the huge post....

teaandbiscuitsforme Fri 26-May-17 12:15:31

So your issue is he's not going off to sleep independently? Not many babies do, most need help to get off to sleep.

Somebody like Fate will probably be along to give you the full rundown of options but for me I either feed to sleep (on my knee or cosleep in my bed) or I use the pram, sling or car depending on our plans for the day. I have a toddler as well so DS's naps have to fit into her routine but generally he has about 90 minutes of awake time and then sleeps. Sometimes less if he's showing signs of tiredness. Otherwise if it's been 90 mins, it's about nap time!

We don't have a routine for feeding (EBF). I don't think it's necessary for BF babies and I just offer as and when I think he needs it or it's convenient.

How you go on also depends on your parenting style if you have one/have fallen into one.

FATEdestiny Fri 26-May-17 14:11:16

where have those magical days gone?

I'm afraid they wont come back. This is the new way of things and the phrase will last as long as it takes you to find a way to help baby go to sleep.

You having done anything to cause the great sleeping newborn phase to be over, it's just basic biology. Sleep in the newborn phase ("fourth trimester", until around 4 months old) is usually easy. This is because sleep is passive - as long as all baby's needs are met then baby will sleep. Then waking only for an unmet need and going back to the passive state of asleep once the need is met.

By around 3-5 months old, sleep develops and matures. Getting to sleep is now an active endeavour. Sleep also develops into cycles, with deep sleep phases interspersed with light sleep phases. So not only do you have to be active to get baby to sleep, you also have to actively keep baby asleep through one sleep cycle into the next.

So this phase will last as long as it takes you to find a way to actively help baby sleep.

Feeding to sleep and then leaving baby to sleep where they go to sleep (so in your arms or feeding lying down) are as gooder way as any, if that suits you long ish term.

If you want an independant sleeper (ie baby goes to sleep without you) then feeding to sleep isn't conducive to this. The key is to get baby to sleep in the place they can stay sleep, without being moved once asleep. Going to sleep in something that moves (bouncy chair, pram, swing, rocker, in your arms) is helpful for this.

And critically, the dummy is the most effective took tool for no-crying independant sleeping, in my view. Dummies are AMAZING.

FATEdestiny Fri 26-May-17 14:12:20

You haven't done anything to cause...

buttercup100 Fri 26-May-17 14:59:39

Thanks [teaandbiscuitsforme]. Yes, it is an issue with him not (yet) self-soothing, but also whether I am ever going to get back some sense of rhythm with him and be in tune with his sleep/hunger needs, which I don't feel at the moment. On the one hand, it's because I want to get that sense of connection and knowing back as his mother, and on the other I am thinking ahead to when I go back to work in a few months, and he has to go into nursery (particularly as he has never taken to a bottle).

I hear you on the 90 minute principle, as actually that works fairly well for us too, but I guess I haven't got the greatest executive functioning skills, meaning remembering times and how much time has passed, especially on busy days, is not at all easy for me. I did keep a diary so I could perhaps go back to that.

It is reassuring to know that there are others out there who EBF on demand without worrying too much about it becoming a dependency (which of course by law of nature it is! You get what I mean...). He does sleep in the pram and car so it is not altogether a lost cause, but I would like to achieve a happier approach to sleep at home. Asking too much perhaps!

buttercup100 Fri 26-May-17 15:23:24

Thank you FATEdestiny - wise words indeed! I couldn't get him to take a dummy (it kept popping out of his mouth), although have found a fantastic teething soother around the same size as a dummy from Boots which has been excellent and he can manipulate easily between his too hands. I suppose I was trying to get him to find another way to fall asleep independently without being dependent on anything other than himself and monkey, but actually laughing at myself typing this as that is only going to happen through miracles!

Your comments help give me focus again to get to a place where he can fall asleep independently. I guess I am struggling to figure out a path to get there from where we are.

buttercup100 Fri 26-May-17 15:24:05


HerculesParrot Fri 26-May-17 19:06:48

I was trying to get him to find another way to fall asleep independently without being dependent on anything other than himself and monkey

I think the issue with sleep crutches is: how long is this sustainable for? We all use 'crutches' to get to sleep. We lie down, we darken the room, we pull the duvet up. The issue with babies is whether the crutch causes a problem in future, and when. White noise, which we use as a sleep cue, is great. There's no reason not to just keep doing it. I know adults who use it to drown out background noise. Feeding to sleep (which I also use - d'oh!) becomes a problem if you want to stop or if you need someone else to be able to settle the baby - it's not really a problem if you're up for extended breastfeeding, although it is very demanding if you have a night-waker. Rocking a baby to sleep becomes a problem if/when you can't put them down without waking them.

What I'm trying to say is, you don't have to be afraid of sleep crutches. Using something to get the baby to sleep is fine, normal and (as Fate says) generally a necessity! You just need to consider how sustainable a particular crutch is - how long it'll be workable, whether the baby can use it themselves or whether it needs you to do it for them!

teaandbiscuitsforme Fri 26-May-17 19:11:17

My nap at home tactics are, like I said, either feed to sleep on my knee or in my bed. Obviously on your knee means you're stuck but if you feed lying down on your bed, you can work up to moving away, providing you leave the baby so it is safe!

We cosleep anyway so it's a bit different because we're set up but as DS gets closer to 6 months, I'm working up to leaving him for his lunchtime nap. DD naps at about half 12-1 so that tends to be one fixed nap he has in bed. At the moment, once he's asleep, I either doze or read but in a few more weeks I'll start leaving him to tidy, have a shower, sort tea etc. I know I'm not going to put him in a cot so this is my way of getting a little bit of time. Or I'll just carry on having a nap when they do! grin

Good luck. I'm sure you do have a rhythm with him! You're probably just being a normal FTM and really overthinking it. It drove me crazy with DD but I felt like I had it a bit more by about 6/7 months.

FATEdestiny Fri 26-May-17 20:55:49

I suppose I was trying to get him to find another way to fall asleep independently without being dependent on anything other than himself and monkey

As tea says above, you are probably jyst over thinking it as a first time mum.

The saying "trying to run before you can walk" derives from baby development and is very apt here.

Babies have to learn many things before they can independantly sooth without the help of an adult. The average FTM possibly doesn't truly understand these stages and so expects too much of their baby.

For example, just having Monkey is not going to be the comfort. Neither is holding Monkey. Or having Monkey by his face. There will be a soothing ritual baby develops with that ritual.

He might tickle his ear with it. He might part it's tummy. One of mine used to do a scissor movement with Ted's ear between his fingers. He might hold Monkeys leg against his cheek. He might flick Monkeys nose between his fingers. You get the idea, there are millions of possibilities for how Monkey will be utilised to sooth (if he even is bonded with).

Certain physical developments need to happen before baby has the physical skills to be soothed by Monkey:
- pincer grip
- deliberately passing objects from one hand to another and back again
- ability to deliberately turn over, turn around and inspect objects.
- deliberately placing objects down with precision (like building a stack) rather than just letting go.

Your baby would be exceptionally forward to have these skills before 6 months old. Usually a baby starts really noticing s toy as special around 9 months and it's after 12 months they come into their own as a comforter. To expect this at 6 months old is naive.

So the bottom line is, you are going to be actively helping baby to sleep, like it or not.

Maybe you ho for independant methods for that (dummy and comforter), but even with these you ard still going to be needed until baby can do it for themself.

Make sleep easy for baby to come by.

Give all the help you can because a baby getting plenty of sleep is much easier in terms of sleep.

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