5 month old with bad habits - how to break them?(21 Posts)
We are struggling to get our baby to sleep at bedtime. This is probably down to bad habits that we have gotten ourselves into and are looking for advice on how to break them. These habits are not entirely our own making (I think) so please don't judge!
Our 'routine' has been plagued by a colicky baby that has only recently stopped screaming in the evening (screaming, not crying). Comforting him to sleep usually starts at about 18:00 and finishes sometime between 21:00 and 23:30. This is an on-off process that can work for as little as 2 minutes at a time before starting over again. He gets over-tired and will not sleep unless comforted by the wife's boob, going for a drive or being rocked in the arms.
Having a colicky baby that will not stop screaming is both heartbreaking and impossible to ignore. His screams otherwise masks his other needs (like changing or feeding or constipation etc), so there was little chance of figuring out how his cries could be interpreted. Finally, now we can interpret them. We can deal with all the usual stuff, but the cry we cannot get our heads around is the 'I need you to sleep as you are my comforter' cry.
So the advice about dimming the lights, talking quietly and putting him to sleep with a comforter after a warm bath were as far-fetched as Father Christmas skiing over a rainbow made of unicorns. We just did what we could to stop the screaming. As a result, WE are now his comforter. He won't sleep unless WE are there because that is how it has always been. We have (almost) never been able to leave him to sleep on his own as his screaming (pain screams, not emotional cries) prevented us leaving him.
So what now?
Now that it seems he is over his colic, and is not in constant pain, we have introduced a world of difficulties because we have no bedtime routine as we could never do anything with any level of consistency. For bedtime naps, most advice talks about setting a routine, but none of them explain how to break bad routines and get into a good one.
Do we just let him cry? He will cry easily for 30 minutes, non-stop, not because of pain, but because we are his emotional security and nothing, but nothing, else will comfort him. He gets more and more over-tired and more and more worked up. When we intervene, therefore, it takes longer and longer to soothe him.
Any advice on how to get him to SELF-soothe at this point, and to fall asleep on his own?
He's a tiny baby. He wants his primary care-givers there. Sleep training at 5 months is WAY too early, I think.
You can do the dimmed lights, warm bath, book, song stuff. Then comfort to sleep. He will associate those things with sleep and eventually be able to go to sleep alone.
But don't leave your little baby to cry for 30 minutes.
He'a 5 months. That's tiny.
Our dd is 5 months and I feed her to sleep. It's what she needs at the moment.
We do have a routine that has been the same since she was about 2 months - getting changed for bed, saying goodnight to her toys, a story and a couple of lullabies - but ultimately she needs me to sleep.
It won't be like this forever, but for now she needs us.
Why do you need him to self soothe? Why not let him go to sleep on you then put him down? It really won't make much difference in the long run.
Our DS was one that needed to be held to sleep - in the end I just decided to keep trying him in the crib every time he needed to sleep. To start off with, he mostly freaked out and needed to be picked up, but occasionally he'd sleep with me right there next to him. Then I started to creep away after he fell asleep, and so on. It took a while, but my theory was that if he never had the opportunity to sleep without me, he'd never do it. I also found it helpful to sort of pin him down with my hands in the crib - that sounds horrendous, but it's essentially just recreating the tightness of being held but in the crib space. Over time, I eased off this too.
Just cuddle him, he is tiny. As you say he needs you for emotional support - don't deny him this. A secure baby will be a more independent child.
Don't let him cry, he's a tiny baby and is inherently programmed to cry out when he needs security, cuddles, food, comfort etc. You need to adjust your expectations to something more realistic. My eldest didn't self settle until he was well over one but he's a brilliant sleeper now. It's developmental, they get it in their own time like every other skill they learn.
What everyone else says! It is normal for a 5 month old to need and want you. Yes, develop a routine. But don't leave him to cry. Do bed, bath, dim lights, sleeping bag then comfort him to sleep. In time he will settle more quickly. Meanwhile enjoy the cuddles!
I think you either get a baby who sleeps or you don't so honestly I wouldn't tear your hair out trying to get LO to fall asleep himself, he's still so tiny. All the cuddles will pay off in time.
You say you don't have a routine so maybe that would be a good place to start. We used to do cluster feeds, a bath, massage/play on our bed, story, feed and down in cot. Hot water bottle in the cot to warm it before putting DS down, Ewan the dream sheep or white noise. Always at roughly the same. If he's overtired would a daytime nap help? Or earlier to bed? I remember the 6 month mark being pretty traumatic but we stuck to our routine and by the time DS was a year it really paid off. I'm sure DS started taking a dummy at 5/6 months which did help with soothing him for short periods without me feeding him to sleep every time he woke.
Just a thought- is he breast or bottle fed? Have you ruled out reflux/ silent reflux and or milk intolerance? They often go hand in hand. I’m not doubting your ability to read your sons cues and reasons for crying but from what you described he appears to cry a lot and it’s quite young to be sleep training a baby who is so distressed. Can you give any more info?
Of course you're his comforter! He's five months old! Feed him to sleep. It works for a reason. And please don't leave him to cry. He's far too young for that schizzle.
You have NOT created bad habits, you have simply responded to your baby's needs with love, just as you should do. By all means start a relaxing bedtime routine, but cuddle, feed, rock or sing him to sleep for as long as you want to.
Enjoy the cuddles - before you know it baby will be 13 & you’ll be the enemy.
5 months of that must have been really hard on you and your wife.
My dh and I have a 3 month old girl and had to deal with inconsolable screaming all evening for the first 8 weeks and found that incredibly difficult. I can honestly say it's the hardest 8 weeks of my life so I really feel for you!
Up until last Thursday my DD was awake all evening still, not screaming but wouldn't go to sleep and would cry and be really fussy and wanted to be held.
Last Friday I gave "the routine" you mentioned (bath, dim light/quiet, bottle) another go and it's worked! touches wood
For the first night I lay on my bed (she's in a snuzpod next to our bed) in the dark/quiet all night. Put my hand on her chest if she fussed but didn't speak. We ended up with a bit of a bad night but they've now improved.
I think she was just ready.
Maybe your DS just isn't yet. I know that doesn't help but just trying to say that we had tried and failed a few times.
Has he got a comforter? Could you introduce one if not? Do you use white noise?
Is he getting enough naps in the day? Is there routine in the day? I try to do eat/activity/sleep in a 3 hour cycle until bedtime.
Apologies if you've tried all this!
I'm obviously no expert im 3 months in with my first baby and only had a routine for the last week - probably like the blind leading the blind
He’s 5 months! I was co sleeping with mine at that age. Easy access to boobs.
He likes a body to snuggle up too. As do you since you haven’t offered to vacate the big bed for a while so he can sleep with his mum
He will cry easily for 30 minutes, non-stop, not because of pain, but because we are his emotional security and nothing, but nothing, else will comfort him
At this age you are his whole world. Nothing else will comfort him because all he wants is the security of being held. My 6 month old is currently asleep on me, he’s a small baby who would not understand sleep training. Leaving such a small baby to cry for 30 minutes seems unnecessary, just give him a cuddle.
Why not just stay with him until he falls asleep?
I’m assuming when you say he cries non stop for 30 mins you’re actually holding him during this time? Otherwise please do. You’re his comfort. Nothing any book can tell you about bad habits will take away the absolute essence of comforting your little baby x
"but the cry we cannot get our heads around is the 'I need you to sleep as you are my comforter' cry."
Well, that's because you are his comforter. And if you don't provide the comfort he needs and deserves and has a right to you are an arsehole.
Oh and just as aside. My anecdata is that my non-sleeper who was a complete nightmare and I BF to sleep every night, co-slept and generally 'spoiled' sleeps brilliantly now. All the kids whose parents sleep trained them young and gave me 'helpful' advice? Theirs sleep badly and have nightmare at 6, 7, 8 yo. DD is secure and happy knowing I will always come to her.
BertrandRussell "if you don't ... you are an arsehole" - really?? I think plenty of PPs have made a similar point to yours without going that far. This is a sleep-deprived first-time parent you are talking to.
OP There are plenty of gentle sleep training methods you can call upon IF you are at the end of your rope - I'm not sure if you are yet though from reading your post? But I agree that 30 minutes is far too long to be left crying. Even when I did sleep training (at an older age than your DS), my DD was never left for more than 2 minutes and I would not have ignored all-out crying.
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