Lack of sleep not sustainable

(16 Posts)
addler Sun 07-Mar-21 03:57:33

@FATEdestiny I've seen you on a lot of sleep threads, can you offer any advice please?

DS is 3 months old next week. He used to sleep pretty well in his bed and would have 1/2 night feeds and sleep 12 hours or so. Every now and then he'd have a night where he wouldn't settle back in his bed around 2/3am and would wake up a lot and I would end up holding him for the rest of the night and he'd sleep soundly. This week it's been every night. Some nights from 12:30. I'm getting between 1-4 broken hours a night and I'm exhausted.

Background info on his sleep:

Hasn't 'just' fallen asleep since 2 weeks old, even in sling has to be walking/rocking and singing/white noise
Naps only in sling/arms, for between 30 mins-3 hrs, normally 3-5 hrs a day
Can be happy but will cry as soon as I try to get him to sleep
If I just leave him he will be awake for more than three hours and be very upset
Will only fall asleep in arms either after a feed or with rocking and singing/white noise, have tried putting him down drowsy but awake, hand on tummy and shh pat makes him cry more. Have tried leaving him in his bed and he grumbled for 30 minutes while I rocked the crib before he started crying
Will not sleep in bouncy chair, pram, seat part of buggy, car seat
Will not take a dummy
Will not sleep next to me, has to be on me

Is there anything I can do or try to encourage him to sleep either in his bed or co sleep next to me for the later part of the night? The lack of sleep is starting to affect my patience with him and I know it's not his fault so I don't like feeling frustrated. I'm just really tired.

OP’s posts: |
FATEdestiny Sun 07-Mar-21 11:52:31

Hasn't 'just' fallen asleep since 2 weeks old

You have wildly inaccurate expectations if you thought any baby did this, ever. Getting baby to sleep requires a lot of effort and hard work - it always, always does, with all children.

Much of your post strikes me as FTM unrealistic expectations that baby would get tired, understand he was tired and go to sleep soundly, like in the movies. I don't mean to be insulting in saying that, just pointing out that the biggest problem here isn't your son, it is your expectations.

In order to go to sleep, babies are helped by three factors
- Comfort (sucking is natures way to comfort and calm babies)
- Calm (even tempo, rhythmic, consistent movement is the easiest way to calm)
- Safe and protected (closeness to you is the natural way for this feeling)

Healthy sleep habits also mean baby goes to sleep where stays asleep, so not moved elsewhere once already asleep.

The method you have found that works to get baby to sleep is:
- In your arms (safe and protected)
- Feeding to sleep (sucking for comfort)
- Rocking (movement for calm)
You ticked all the necessary boxes for baby to sleep. Hard work and maybe not ideal, but it works.

So you give me a list of lots of things that don't work. I'll challenge you on that and will suggest that none of these things will not work with your DS. It's just that you've not been persistent enough and consistent enough with them.

If you want your DS to sleep more independently, it is not about teaching him not to need any of the essentials for sleep. It is about replacing them with something more sustainable for you. You cannot just hope that baby will feel calm, you need to proactively make him feel calm. You can't just hope he will feel safe and protected, you need to be proactive about making it so. And so on.

One of the key factors in setting your expectations here is dummy use and/or feeding to sleep.

Realistically, babies who do not suck to get to sleep will cry. It's as simple as that. So set some expectations here. Either:
- Accept you will feed to sleep every time
- work harder on getting dummy accepted (I'm a HUGE dummy fan and would do this)
- Accept that you baby will cry when going to sleep. You will still be there comforting and helping, but without that active sucking there will be crying.

That last point is key here. When you're saying that bouncers, pushchair, carseat etc for naps "doesn't work". It's not that it won't work. It's that baby is crying because baby is not sucking. So you have to work harder to make baby feel comforted with the movement alone and accept that without sucking there is going to be whinging while going to sleep.

My personal recommendations would be one of these two options:

(1). Breastfeed baby lying down on your bed (safe sleeping, so no pillow, duvet etc). Feed to sleep with you curled around baby's body. Stay there for sleep, feeding back to sleep if stirring awake. Do this for naps as well as night. Plan for this being a long term thing.
This is an Attachment Parenting approach

(2) Do naps in the bouncy chair. You sat on sofa with a pot of tea and a boxset, baby in bouncer at your feet. Use your feet to bounce. Even tempo, consistant and non-stop. Be totally and utterly relentless about it - do not give up. Either work to get dummy accepted (with some children this requires effort) or accept baby will whinge and cry in going to sleep.
At bedtime use a swaddle sheet, tight around shoulders but not around legs (note: Swaddle use should be established by 3 months at the latest and be used constantly). This recreates the safe/protected feeling of being enclosed. Feed to drowsy, Sway while winding on your shoulder (baby already swaddled) and put down and pat through whinging if you don't use a dummy.
This is an Independent Sleep approach.

Whichever method you go for, watch awake times between naps. As a general rule baby wants to be awake for double previous nap length, plus or minus 15 minutes and never longer than 2h awake in one go. This will avoid over tiredness which will help night sleep. So a 30 minute nap means start working on getting baby back to sleep 45m from waking up, so that baby is actually asleep between 45m-75m from waking up.

addler Sun 07-Mar-21 12:58:32

I think you've misunderstood me, I don't expect my baby to be able to do anything he's not doing right now. I've worked with children for many years, know many children, know some babies who will just drop off anywhere. I merely said that to head off the posters who go on sleep threads and tell OPs to stop trying so hard to get their baby to sleep as 'babies will just sleep anywhere when they're tired and if you just put baby in his bed he'll sleep.' I was saying this is why I work to put him to sleep and how I do it.

I'm fine with his naps in the sling and carrier, it's the not settling again after midnight unless he's on me that is making things difficult and I was looking for advice on how I can help him to be able to do that or why he might be having trouble compared to earlier in the night.

If you have any tips on getting him to take a dummy I'm all for that, we've tried a few different types and he doesn't get upset and try to immediately spit it out he just moves it around in his mouth and has only occasionally latched on to it for a few minutes although he used to just fine when he was 1/2 weeks old. He loves to suck on any of my exposed skin and will eat his hands constantly, when he was born he immediately stuffed them in his mouth and even in all my scans his hands were up by his mouth so I thought he would love a dummy and was hoping it would help soothe him especially as he has problems with reflux sometimes.

OP’s posts: |
FATEdestiny Sun 07-Mar-21 14:52:57

My apologies.

When you say he will only sleep "on me" after midnight, what is this? Laying down on your arm? On your chest? Dat up and in your arms?

Are you cosleeping prior to midnight? Are you ok with cosleeping? Are you able to feed lying down?

I'd keep going with a dummy, they really are worth it. Just keep giving it at different points of the day (not just sleep time), different points of happy/grumpy. When giving the dummy, don't just put in baby's mouth passively. Use techniques similar to when latching a newborn - tickle cheek with teat to get baby to turn and seek teat, tickle upper lip so baby's mouth reaches upwards for it. When giving to baby, aim teat upwards at roof of mouth to trigger sucking. Tapping on the outside of the dummy encourages the suck reflex.

Toega Sun 07-Mar-21 18:17:01

He'll sleep upright on my shoulder or chest, or lying down on his tummy on my chest.
Prior to midnight he's in the bedside crib and will normally have 5-7 hours in one stretch.

I'm happy to co sleep, last night DP slept on the sofa bed (has sleep apnoea and wouldn't be safe in bed with DS) and we tried and he slept on his back for about 40 minutes next to me around 4am.

I haven't managed to feed lying down yet as I have breast hypoplasia and don't make a full supply so we feed with a supplemental nursing system, and I'm not sure if with the shape and tissue my breasts are we'd be able to, at the moment I can only feed him in rugby ball hold as anything else we've tried ends with my breast tissue surrounding the lower half of his face as it's so soft and elastic.

Will keep trying with the dummy, thanks for the tips! I asked on another thread for tips and someone said it was lazy parenting. As opposed to a really useful sleep aid which will comfort him? hmm

FATEdestiny Sun 07-Mar-21 19:24:29

Cosleeping and breastfeeding lying down sort of go hand-in-hand, so it's tough you can't mater that.

The idea is that baby wants to not be moved once asleep. So if you plan on cot naps, good sleep hygiene would mean baby goes from awake-to-asleep in the cot (as opposed to going to sleep in your arms and being put down fast asleep). Likewise the benefits of cosleeping is being able to feed to sleep and then not move baby, she just stays there. It's also why pram/bouncer naps are more preferable to getting baby to sleep in arms and then putting in cot.

This is essentially where your problem is past midnight. Baby needs to go to sleep where she stays asleep. Once she's asleep on you, it's both difficult to put her down and also (if you manage it) it's poor sleep hygiene anyway.

So rather than getting her to sleep on your shoulder, you'll need to feed and put her down (next to you or in the cot) and do the hard work of getting her to sleep there.

I would:
- swaddle
- feed baby while swaddled until asleep
- Lift to your shoulder (whilst swaddled) to wind and this acts to ruse her from sleep a little
- Put down by you bending at the waist. So keep her in the shoulder hold, keep her exactly where she is in relation to you. Slowly bend your own body so that you have your torso hovering above the mattress, baby still snug in your shoulder and against your chest. Then as baby is touching the mattress you still have her against your chest. Move your hand from under her as she gets to mattress and replace the weight of your presence with your hands lying firmly across her chest. Slowly stand up.
- She might cry and stir. This is where a dummy helps. But you need to be consistent in doing the settling where you want her to stay asleep.

(just realised I wrote all that with female pronouns instead of male, my apologies)

addler Sun 07-Mar-21 19:58:27

Yep my stupid useless breasts don't make things easy.

Thank you for this, will work on it this week. You wouldn't think I've been a nanny for over a decade would you? It's like as soon as I had my own baby all of the knowledge and experience have gone out the window and I keep second guessing myself even over things I know and have always done. I feel like I would be much better if someone else gave me their infant!

OP’s posts: |


NotMaryWhitehouse Wed 24-Mar-21 05:02:10

Apologies to jump on your thread @addler , how's it going with your baby now?

We are in roughly the same position as you- my son is now 9 weeks old and we are struggling after midnight to get him to sleep in his cot.

We try to put him down in a drowsy state, having warmed his bed with a hot water bottle, but he seems to protest this within five minutes or so, on nights he is struggling with wind and/or reflux.

I'd try co-sleeping, but am reluctant to do so as he was born prematurely and we're aware it's not recommended. He's also been diagnosed with possible silent reflux which I imagine is making the situation worse.

He nearly always goes down beautifully after his 8pm ish feed, but once we get to the 11.30-midnight feed, it's a different story entirely!

My husband is feeding him EBM at both these feeds, then I'm taking over, which tonight means he carried on stoically until 3am and I'm now downstairs with the baby so he can get a decent chunk of sleep before he starts work poor bugger.

There's a lot of back arching and some straining, so he's definitely got some valid reasons to be struggling to sleep, but I'd love to get him to be comfortable in his own bed.

To add, he's an incredibly loud sleeper, which we were warned about by our SCBU as being a common thing in prem babies, so even when he's having a decent night, we are kept largely awake by all the grunting and squeaking 🤣

He naps pretty well during the day- either on us, in his pram both still and in motion and will sometimes be ok in a bouncy chair for ten or fifteen minutes while we grab a drink or lunch. I will say, he LOVES his dummy although it's fairly tortuous for all three of us as he often pulls it out without having the ability to put it back in again 🤪

I'd be interested in your thoughts @FATEdestiny , if you have anything useful to suggest?

Hope you are all getting some quality shut eye @addler

addler Wed 24-Mar-21 08:38:21

@NotMaryWhitehouse sorry to say but it's just got worse if anything. The last three nights he hasn't settled in his bed for even for the first stretch. DP and I are sleeping in blocks so we still get some sleep while the other one has him, and just trying to ride it out.

OP’s posts: |
DancesWithDaffodils Wed 24-Mar-21 08:56:40

This brings back memories (nightmares!).
As soon as DS had finished cluster feeding, I handed him over to DH, who sat on the sofa watching TV or playing computer games with a baby on his shoulder. I went to bed. DH used to come up at 12 or 1 when DS wanted more milk, but by that time I'd hopefully had 3-4 solid hours sleep. It made minimal sleep for the rest of the night manageable.
I found the magic number for survival was 4 hrs solid sleep (but I didnt start getting that regularly until DS was over 1year old).

So, the other way to set about it is to maximise your sleep, and accept DS will do as he wants. Long way from ideal, but another solution. DS still has a will of steel and minimal sleep - and he's now at secondary school!

NotMaryWhitehouse Wed 24-Mar-21 09:12:14

Oh god, I'm sorry @addler , it's the most distressing thing, waiting for them to NOT go to sleep 😩

Do you think it's something in particular bothering him, or just that he's a night owl?

Anyway, solidarity hug to you, it's awful.

addler Wed 24-Mar-21 09:51:43

That's the thing- everyone always asks how he's sleeping and he sleeps great at night, but only if he's on me. No matter how many times I transfer him and how differently I do it, he will wake up. As soon as I pick him up he's back to sleep on my shoulder and he will sleep on me for hours. He'll only last 45 mins or so next to me as well, even with my arm wrapped around the top of his body to make a nice warm cocoon.

I think he just needs the security of closeness to be able to sleep at the moment. The other day we went for a walk with a friend, her baby slept the entire walk and DS cried for an hour but it was pouring with rain so I couldn't get him out, before falling asleep for 30 minutes. But if I put him in the sling and put his dummy in he'll fall asleep really quickly and sleep for a couple of hours.

So we're just waiting it out and will keep trying him in his bed and until he's more used to it.

OP’s posts: |
Corilee2806 Wed 24-Mar-21 10:26:49

Hi @addler, just wanted to say I posted a thread yesterday (7 week baby wants to be held all the time) and although no advice, I’m in the same situation and just solidarity really! My DS sleeps pretty well in the night when on me (I can’t get him to go in the cot for any length of time at all) but I’ve reached breaking point with it. I guess it is just a case of riding it out and trying to work on improving things!

addler Fri 28-May-21 13:49:13

I just wanted to give a little update in case anyone is in a similar situation to me and is searching for threads.

@FATEdestiny I also wanted to thank you for your advice, and I thought you might like to know how much it's helped us.

DS is now 5.5 months, and from 4 months onwards his sleep has just improved in leaps and bounds.

Before, he would only nap on one of us. Would only fall asleep on one of us. Would only sleep on one of us past midnight. It was awful. I was getting 1-4 broken hours a night, and after 18 months of declining mental health after trauma from assault I was at breaking point.

Now, he naps in his buggy. Sometimes I have to wake him after 2 hours. He doesn't even need rocking most of the time, and will just fall asleep in there with white noise and his dummy. Sometimes I need to resettle him when he stirs, other times he'll just do it himself.

He can also nap in his cot sometimes. Not as long as his buggy, but still something.

He sleeps 11/12 hours at night in his own bed with 1/2 night feeds.

And just this week, he's started falling asleep in his own bed. I just sat on the bed and watched his eyes close and cried.

Thank you for your help, and if anyone is reading this and thinking they can't keep going I hope this gives you hope.

OP’s posts: |
FATEdestiny Fri 28-May-21 18:52:00

That is absolutely great to head @addler, and thank you for coming back to tell me how it's gone. I'm so pleased I was able to help you.

Gmmllw Fri 28-May-21 19:16:50

This is the only way I have been able to get any sleep. side lying breast feeding / bed share

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