6 month old - can’t link sleep cycles

(47 Posts)
Poppop87 Mon 08-Jun-20 22:26:29

This is my first ever post. I’m going to try to put in as much detail as possible in the hope that someone out there can help me 🙏🏻 I’m sorry if it’s as dull as dishwater to read!

Baby has just turned 6mo, breastfed apart from one bottle of expressed milk at bedtime. Just started weaning but only really plays with the food at this point.
At about 6/8 weeks I started to express for a bottle at bedtime to try and start a bit of of a routine. At that point he would be fed to sleep and be transferred into his next to me crib. He might sleep for 3 hours or occasionally 4 and then after that would be up every 1 or 2 hours until morning. This I could cope with as he was still newborn and I was getting a bit of sleep earlier in the night.

Once he got to about 12/14 weeks the initial 3/4 hour stretch completely stopped. And it hasn’t ever come back. So at 6 months he is now waking after every sleep cycle. First wake up 45 mins after going to bed and then after that he will wake up anything from 30m to 2h. It’s very rare he will make it past 1.5h.

He has a dummy, he’s still in the next to me crib, his bedtime routine is good and consistent I think. He has his bottle and tends to fall asleep without much of a problem.

Things I have tried;
- working on day sleep (naps have always been difficult but they are fairly predictable now - he has 3 naps totalling around 2.5h)
- stopping feeding to sleep, I try and make sure he is awake when he goes in his cot, even if he is very sleepy
- white noise
- no noise
- blackout blind
- pillow mist (lol)
- making a slight noise before the end of his sleep cycle to send him into the next (can’t remember the name of the technique)
- earlier bedtime/later bedtime
- last nap finishing at 3.30/4 for 7pm bedtime, last nap finishing at 4.30/5 for 7pm bedtime
- dream feeds when I go to bed about 10pm
- formula in bedtime bottle
- comforter (still working on this)
- putting my top over his mattress so he can smell me
- sleepyhead (swore I wouldn’t get sucked into that craze!)
- consultation with a sleep consultant who suggested a lot of things I had already tried

I’m sure there are other things...

Around 4am when I get to my wits end i put him in bed with me, he settles down a bit but will still wake just as much as if he were in his crib. I don’t want to co-sleep full time because I know it will be too hard to get him out of my bed and believe it or not, he hasn’t put me off wanting more babies!

I’m sure people think I’m exaggerating when I tell them how frequently he wakes. His dad is supportive but he won’t settle for him at all. Health visitor suggested trying him in his own room but i don’t fancy having to get up every 30mins to see to him in another room. As soon as he starts to go for maybe 2/3 hours at a time I’ll move him out. I don’t mind him being in my room until his sleep improves.

When he wakes he usually wants; a cuddle, his dummy putting in and settling or a feed. I used to feed every time but now it’s more like every other time, and sometimes i do it just for the quickest way to get him back to sleep.

Does anyone have any tips they think might help us to link his sleep cycles together so we can at least get more than an hour and a half at a time. I really worry about his growth and development being affected. He seems to have a very active mind, constantly on the go, impatient, wants to sit/stand/bounce/play all day.

Anyone else had similar experiences? How long did it take for your little one to start linking the cycles together? I keep reading horror stories about kids who wake every 45 mins until they’re 5!!

Sorry for the long post, thanks for reading would love to hear if anyone has any suggestions!

OP’s posts: |
Stargirl2707 Mon 08-Jun-20 22:34:52

Hey, sounds like you’re describing my little one! He’s 8 months now but we’ve never had less than 6 wake ups per night since he was born! I’ve been cosleeping since Christmas. It hasn’t improved sleep durations but has made it a lot easier.
This week I’ve started putting him in his cot every time he wakes during the night and he’s coping really well with it.
I don’t have any solutions I’m afraid but sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not the only one :-)
Don’t rule cosleeping out if it’s something you think you can do safely x

Anna783426 Mon 08-Jun-20 22:38:21

That sounds tough! Our little girl is nearly six months and we've bizarrely found moving her into her own room has made a big difference - no idea why. We previously co-slept but she was waking every hour and grazing constantly and I was shattered so gave it a go. She now likes to roll and move so I think the extra space in a bigger cot helps, and I don't wake her up accidentally either. She goes for six hours at a time now - unthinkable before!

S082018 Mon 08-Jun-20 22:38:32

Watching with interest as this sounds exactly like my 4 month old! You have my sympathy, it really is exhausting. Sorry I don't have any advice but i just wanted you to know that I'm in the same boat so you are not alone!

FATEdestiny Mon 08-Jun-20 22:52:02

I try and make sure he is awake when he goes in his cot, even if he is very sleepy

I didn't really need to read the rest of your post, because this is the central cause of the problem.

It's great you try. But baby doesn't want to be going in the cot very sleepy but awake - he needs to be going in the cot fully awake. Going from fully awake to fully asleep in the cot is central to linking sleep cycles. Not a little bit conscious after feeding, but fully awake. Separating feeding and sleeping completely is usually what's needed.

Reason: Evolution.

Back in caveman times human developed sleep cycles of periods of deep sleep and light sleep, linked with very brief semi-awake times between cycles. The purpose of this was to make sure humans were not eaten by predictors while sleeping. That brief awake time is sometimes called an 'environment check'.

In adults your environment check may mean you shifting positions, pulling the duvet on/off, glancing at the clock. But mostly you won't be fully aware of waking and will go straight back to sleep.

Now imagine you went to bed as normal. Sometime later you had that semi-awake environment check and went to roll over... then suddenly realised you were no longer in your bed but we're now in the backseat of a strange car! You wouldn't just roll over and go back to sleep. Your mind would be whirling- WTF happened? Where am I? What's going on? You would be wide awake very quickly.

When baby goes to sleep in your arms while feeding, then wakes up alone in the cot - this is what's happening. What? Where am I? I was with Mummy, where is mummy? Wahh wahh and the crying starts.

It's really, really important for good sleep that baby stays asleep where they go to sleep. So if you're going to feed to sleep it mostly follows that you need to cosleep and feed lying down. Expecting to feed to sleep (or even feed to mostly asleep) and then be transferred to a cot is never going to work long term.

If you want baby sleeping independently in the cot, now is the time to start developing in-cot settling methods. You should stop feeding at bedtime anyway once weaning, because you should brush teeth at bedtime then not have milk afterwards. So I'd use this change to start feeding downstairs before bath and PJs and all the rest.

Instead of feeding to sleep, put baby in the cot and do all your settling in there. A sidecar cot (3 sided cot next to your bed) helps with this. The dummy is also invaluable. Encourage active sucking on the dummy (by tapping it's outside). A firm hand on chest and cuddling into the cot often helps too. Maybe patting, shushing, stroking. Whatever works really.

Oly4 Mon 08-Jun-20 22:57:37

I’ve got three kids and my best advice? Don’t worry about it. There is no rhyme or reason to their wake ups. They just do.. They settle down and sleep better for a few months and then they’re back to being up a lot.
Don’t torture yourself. Co-sleep if it helps, feed to sleep if it helps. Eventually they sleep through and you look back and wonder why you were so stressed.
Mine are now 8, 5 &3 and sleep through.
There is nothing wrong with your baby.. they just do wake frequently and it feels never ending.
Get as much rest as you can, get DH to get up with baby at weekends so you can lay in and catch up and just get through it.
It will improve

Oly4 Mon 08-Jun-20 22:59:22

Pa I don’t agree with any of the above poster. In my experience that would just lead to unnecessary crying and a very worked up baby

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Poppop87 Mon 08-Jun-20 23:01:00

Stargirl2707

Hey, sounds like you’re describing my little one! He’s 8 months now but we’ve never had less than 6 wake ups per night since he was born! I’ve been cosleeping since Christmas. It hasn’t improved sleep durations but has made it a lot easier.
This week I’ve started putting him in his cot every time he wakes during the night and he’s coping really well with it.
I don’t have any solutions I’m afraid but sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not the only one :-)
Don’t rule cosleeping out if it’s something you think you can do safely x

Exhausting isn’t it? And although I know some kids are just bad at/hate sleeping I can’t help but feel like there’s something more I could be doing to help him. He wants to be asleep, I can’t tel because he thrashes around with his eyes closed, he’s trying to get back to sleep he just can’t do it without me.

So do you have a cot in your room or do you put him in his own room each time? Does he go back to sleep in his cot?

I don’t mind co-sleeping for a few hours but I now what he’s like... If he gets too used to it I’ll end up having to go to bed with him at 7pm every night or he’ll not settle down - he settles nicely at the moment so I don’t want to do anything that might disrupt it. I barely get any evening to myself already because as soon as he’s in bed I have to get the pump out to start expressing tomorrow nights bottle. I like my bed space to myself - not all that keen on sharing it with my partner if I’m honest! 😂

OP’s posts: |
GrumpyHoonMain Mon 08-Jun-20 23:01:47

How big is he? DS is behaving similarly in his schuggle because his arms keep touching the sides when he rolls. He’s fairly small (75 centile length, 9th for weight) so we haven’t changed to a cot but do consider it if yours is bigger

Poppop87 Mon 08-Jun-20 23:02:17

Anna783426

That sounds tough! Our little girl is nearly six months and we've bizarrely found moving her into her own room has made a big difference - no idea why. We previously co-slept but she was waking every hour and grazing constantly and I was shattered so gave it a go. She now likes to roll and move so I think the extra space in a bigger cot helps, and I don't wake her up accidentally either. She goes for six hours at a time now - unthinkable before!

Wow that’s amazing. Is she particularly clingy with you? My little one likes to be in constant contact... holding his hand as I type this 😂

OP’s posts: |
2007Millie Mon 08-Jun-20 23:11:32

I’ve got three kids and my best advice? Don’t worry about it.

OP, read the above sentence. Over and over and over.

I guarantee, in a years time, you'll wonder why you made such a 'fuss' over nothing.

Poppop87 Mon 08-Jun-20 23:12:13

FATEdestiny

*I try and make sure he is awake when he goes in his cot, even if he is very sleepy*

I didn't really need to read the rest of your post, because this is the central cause of the problem.

It's great you try. But baby doesn't want to be going in the cot very sleepy but awake - he needs to be going in the cot fully awake. Going from fully awake to fully asleep in the cot is central to linking sleep cycles. Not a little bit conscious after feeding, but fully awake. Separating feeding and sleeping completely is usually what's needed.

Reason: Evolution.

Back in caveman times human developed sleep cycles of periods of deep sleep and light sleep, linked with very brief semi-awake times between cycles. The purpose of this was to make sure humans were not eaten by predictors while sleeping. That brief awake time is sometimes called an 'environment check'.

In adults your environment check may mean you shifting positions, pulling the duvet on/off, glancing at the clock. But mostly you won't be fully aware of waking and will go straight back to sleep.

Now imagine you went to bed as normal. Sometime later you had that semi-awake environment check and went to roll over... then suddenly realised you were no longer in your bed but we're now in the backseat of a strange car! You wouldn't just roll over and go back to sleep. Your mind would be whirling- WTF happened? Where am I? What's going on? You would be wide awake very quickly.

When baby goes to sleep in your arms while feeding, then wakes up alone in the cot - this is what's happening. What? Where am I? I was with Mummy, where is mummy? Wahh wahh and the crying starts.

It's really, really important for good sleep that baby stays asleep where they go to sleep. So if you're going to feed to sleep it mostly follows that you need to cosleep and feed lying down. Expecting to feed to sleep (or even feed to mostly asleep) and then be transferred to a cot is never going to work long term.

If you want baby sleeping independently in the cot, now is the time to start developing in-cot settling methods. You should stop feeding at bedtime anyway once weaning, because you should brush teeth at bedtime then not have milk afterwards. So I'd use this change to start feeding downstairs before bath and PJs and all the rest.

Instead of feeding to sleep, put baby in the cot and do all your settling in there. A sidecar cot (3 sided cot next to your bed) helps with this. The dummy is also invaluable. Encourage active sucking on the dummy (by tapping it's outside). A firm hand on chest and cuddling into the cot often helps too. Maybe patting, shushing, stroking. Whatever works really.

This is the same info the sleep consultant gave me, so for a month I put him down wide awake,
It made absolutely no difference other than it would take around an hour to get him to sleep. Then he would still wake after 40 mins. In fact this evening he went into his crib awake, took about 25 mins of crying to settle him and he woke up again at 45 mins.

Re the bottle I’ve just been saying to my partner this evening that we’ll start to give the bottle earlier in the night now he’s having food and teeth will be on their way so will try this.

Thanks for the advice, it is appreciated - I don’t want to sound like I’m asking for help but not accepting suggestions it’s just that my experience of putting him down wide awake just means we’re both more stressed and the wake up still happens.

OP’s posts: |
Poppop87 Mon 08-Jun-20 23:17:32

GrumpyHoonMain

How big is he? DS is behaving similarly in his schuggle because his arms keep touching the sides when he rolls. He’s fairly small (75 centile length, 9th for weight) so we haven’t changed to a cot but do consider it if yours is bigger

He’s on the (50th centile is only just fitting in his next to me crib at the moment. I’m still using the sleepyhead (I know not recommended) but it does keep him steady in the crib whereas before he would be rolling about and waking himself up

OP’s posts: |
Poppop87 Mon 08-Jun-20 23:21:22

Oly4

I’ve got three kids and my best advice? Don’t worry about it. There is no rhyme or reason to their wake ups. They just do.. They settle down and sleep better for a few months and then they’re back to being up a lot.
Don’t torture yourself. Co-sleep if it helps, feed to sleep if it helps. Eventually they sleep through and you look back and wonder why you were so stressed.
Mine are now 8, 5 &3 and sleep through.
There is nothing wrong with your baby.. they just do wake frequently and it feels never ending.
Get as much rest as you can, get DH to get up with baby at weekends so you can lay in and catch up and just get through it.
It will improve

Thank you for this.

A friend of mine with older kids said the exact same thing. Rationally I know it will get better - I don’t know any adults who still wake every 45 minutes... but in the moment, on wake up number 7/8 a night... it feels like it will never get better and then I start to stress and worry about when I have to go back to work/normal life...

OP’s posts: |
FATEdestiny Mon 08-Jun-20 23:32:55

This is the same info the sleep consultant gave me, so for a month I put him down wide awake, It made absolutely no difference other than it would take around an hour to get him to sleep

If it consistently took an hour to get to sleep then a lot could be improved with your settling technique. After the initial few days / week of transition, you should be expecting 5-10 mins to settle to sleep. It's not the sleep science that's not working in this case, just the settling method.

If you weren't keen on your sleep consultants advice, then I can see why you wouldn't like mine (It's my day job too). Was just trying to offer some free help. Good luck.

PearlHeart3 Mon 08-Jun-20 23:37:35

My little one started waking during the night quite frequently at 7 months old. We realised his dummy kept coming out and he couldn't put it back in himself. We went cold turkey on the dummy and no longer wakes through the night now. When your little one wakes, has his dummy fallen out? It might be worth getting rid of it?

kenandbarbie Mon 08-Jun-20 23:40:17

I would co sleep for sanity. You'll get them into their own bed easily while they're a toddler still. That is a lot easier than waking up several times a night.

Poppop87 Tue 09-Jun-20 00:04:11

@FATEdestiny
Not at all that I didn’t like the advice, I realise as a brand new mum I’m not an expert, I just couldn’t get it to work for us at the time and couldn’t see a change so gave up and went back to the easier option.

I would happily give it another go if you have any suggestions on how to better settle him to sleep once he’s in the cot? He’s difficult to settle once he gets worked up and it can go on and on

OP’s posts: |
Poppop87 Tue 09-Jun-20 00:09:55

@PearlHeart3
I’d say the dummy is out at half the wake ups but not all. Have thought about ditching the it too but haven’t done it yet as things are so unsettled I’m almost at the point where I’m frightened to try something new - not that it could get much worse!

I have restricted the dummy to naps and bedtime only... no idea if this is the right thing to do or not...

OP’s posts: |
PearlHeart3 Tue 09-Jun-20 00:18:36

@Poppop87 it's really hard to know what to do sometimes. I felt the same when my little one developed eczema (so much advice, so many creams, so many possibilities and each baby is different, argh.)

I think when you try anything new, be consistent with it, give it a week or two. Keep a little journal about their routine and what worked for them for that particular nap. If it doesn't work, then try something new.

I hope you get some sleep soon.

Poppop87 Tue 09-Jun-20 00:21:06

@FATEdestiny
A question you might be able help with please... I try to only feed if I think he’s been asleep long enough to be hungry but if he wakes with genuine hunger and I feed him, he will most likely fall asleep. Should I be waking him fully after and resettling in the cot?

OP’s posts: |
Agog123 Tue 09-Jun-20 09:16:09

OP I was going to write a new post on this, but the above problem is exactly the same as mine! My 6mo now has two good naps (where she mostly self settles) and most of these are in her cot in her own room. We get an evening to ourselves now (this is a godsend!!!) but come 11pm she wakes for a feed, I feed her, but I cannot, she will not, she refuses point blank to be put back down in her cot (we’ve bed shared since newborn as she had terrible reflux and sleeping next to me, pretty much glued to my boob was the only way she could sleep)

She can be properly asleep, I put her in cot and within 10 minutes she’s screaming. Within an hour or so of doing this, I’m frustrated, tired and want to go back to bed.

I’ve toughed it out a couple of times and have had zero sleep all night (she’s awake minimum 12,2,4,6).

So, I bring her back into our bed and we all sleep like angels (I actually have no idea how many feeds she has in the night because I barely wake up).

Problem is, I don’t want to bed share all the time. My hips hurt from lying on my side all night, curled up around my precious little human, and it’s lovely... but I also like sleeping on my back, or cuddled up to my DH!

How the actual F do I stop doing this? I was going to carry on bed sharing until she’s night weaned... but that can be such a long time.

Any practical tips?

Poppop87 Tue 09-Jun-20 14:47:24

@Agog123

I feel your pain.

I’m willing to try pretty much anything other than cry it out. Trying to get this sorted has absolutely consumed me for the last 3 months.

I’m really hoping @FATEdestiny will pop back on with some suggestions for us around resettling in the cot and I’ll try that again. Fingers crossed!

OP’s posts: |
FATEdestiny Tue 09-Jun-20 17:26:23

I just couldn’t get it to work for us at the time and couldn’t see a change so gave up and went back to the easier option.

OK. So, what were you actually doing when trying to get baby to sleep in the cot? What did you do the first night? (and how did it go?) What were you doing over the first 2, 3, 4 ... 7 days? (and how did it go?). At what point did you give up? Be honest.

I try to only feed if I think he’s been asleep long enough to be hungry but if he wakes with genuine hunger and I feed him, he will most likely fall asleep. Should I be waking him fully after and resettling in the cot?

The real problem here is you have no alternate settling method that consistantly works. At this age (and only if baby has alternate ways to be comforted) the aim would be feed only as a last resort, aiming to not feed at all. Night feeds are now all about comfort, not calories. That makes them no less necessary - comfort is equally as important as calories. But the reason you end up feeding in the night isn't hunger, it's comfort.

So once you have an independent comforting method that works well, your question is a moot point because the comfort of a feed would not needed.

Some other points to note

Don't ditch the dummy
It will be your single best tool in getting your baby to sleep without you and (importantly) without crying. I suspect you might need some pointers on active dummy sucking to aid settling.
(and re earlier post... The purpose of the dummy us in getting to sleep, not staying asleep. Dummy will, and is meant to, drop from baby's slack jaw as soon as in a deep sleep. Dummy is never meant to stay in the mouth during sleep)

Google Sidecar Cot
(Agog123 this will help you too)
It basically means taking one side off a full sized cot and wedding it up next to your bed. Any flat pack cot with adjustable mattress heights can do this easily with an allen key.

It makes a full sized version of the next2me and is much more useful for settling your baby in the cot. It's the middle ground so your baby settles in the cot, but it feel like cosleeping because you can lie right inside the cot with baby.... then (importantly) extract yourself back to your bed afterwards. So find a way to fit your full sized cot in your bedroom. Take a chest of drawers out if needs be.

naps have always been difficult but they are fairly predictable now - he has 3 naps totalling around 2.5h

Consistent sleep hygiene from nights needs to also follow for daytime naps. What do you currently do? When and how long are naps? Also what does daytime feeding look like?

Realistic Expectations

You need to adjust what you expect - there is no Magic Wand. Whatever you do will take consistency and time to work. It will not suddenly, magically, give long term good habits just like that.

And even if you have a good settling method, night wean, and daytime feeding and naps are great... You may still get baby waking and needing to be settled in the night (not every sleep cycle tho!)

burritofan Tue 09-Jun-20 17:47:51

OP, six months was absolute hell and sleep was exactly how you describe. At 11 months she suddenly slept. Not through, but down to one wake up. She still has tricky nights when teething, but 1-2 wake-ups is now the norm. Didn't do anything differently – fed to sleep at every wake up, certainly didn't bother with attempting to put her in her cot awake, I'm not a lunatic – she just got better.

Time does help! And in the meantime you just have to survive: get your partner to deal with a chunk of the night wakings so you can get several hours' sleep in a row, nap when the baby naps, cosleep with a sidecar cot (you're less likely to disturb each other), and it will just improve; you don't have to pay snake oil salesmen sleep consultants or do anything tbh, if you haven't got the energy.

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