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Breastfeeding to sleep/co-sleeping - how to move on?

(17 Posts)
dorisbonkers Mon 10-Aug-09 21:11:44

Hi. I have a 9-1/2 month old daughter who I can't get to nap or sleep at night without breastfeeding her to sleep, or taking for long walks in a wrap. We also co-sleep (partly because I never had a cot apart from an Amby because we've moved country so I never got one, apart from just recently!)

I have for the most part been happy to do this and accept that as part of the attachment style of parenting that I've fallen into.

We're baby-led weaning and she's still a frequent breastfeeder. Partly my fault as she was a tiny baby and I was always worried she didn't feed enough so I never ever passed up an opportunity to feed her. She is feeding less because she's weaning well, but she's still at the breast a lot because she won't nap.

But I feel I'm still in newborn mode and I'm getting a bit panicky as I may return to part-time work when she's a year old. And I have also arranged to go out on my own this week and I'm a bit apprehensive leaving her with my partner (who can get her to sleep in an ergo if he walks her enough).

Also, sometimes she's so revved that I can't even breastfeed her to sleep - it's sometimes a struggle, and that's wearing me down a bit.

I've tried a bottle, I've resorted to dummies, but she doesn't drink much of a bottle and isn't an enthusiastic dummy taker (although I can sometimes catch her half alseep and get her back off with one).

She doesn't nap for long. 35 mins max, although if I catch her I can sometimes get her to an hour. But I have to sit with her on my lap and any attempt to move her means eyes wide open!

Needless to say, my bladder, my ability to cook and my sanity have taken a bit of a bashing.

We have a loosely structured day but a repeated bedtime sequence of dinner, bath, massage, bedtime story, bottle, then breast, then sleep, then move to her new cot.

She half wakes a few times in the night but by and large is sleeping at night -- that's not really my problem.

Has anyone successfully moved away from constant nursing down? I've read, and re-read Pantley's No Cry book and have done the pull-off technique, but it works at night, but I still have to feed her to get her to that state. It won't work at all for naps.

Yours hopefully...

suiledonn Mon 10-Aug-09 21:15:31

doris I am in a similar situation with dd2 who is almost 9 months old. Someone posted this link on a thread I was on recently. Haven't tried it yet but I have read through it quickly and it sounds like it might be helpful.

Babieseverywhere Mon 10-Aug-09 21:26:32

Eventually you'll find your daughter doesn't need to nurse to sleep, as she gets older.

I think one of the best things about breastfeeding is the way it helps babies/children fall to sleep quickly and easily. My year old DS still fall asleep when I nurse him especially in the evening, my nearly 3 year old daughter doesn't I can't remember when she stopped nursing to sleep.

So my advice would be enjoy the positive elements of nursing to sleep whilst they still work !!!

dorisbonkers Mon 10-Aug-09 21:39:16

I hear you BabiesEveryWhere! I love love love breastfeeding and I never resent doing it at night. And I'd say I have accepted and learned to love it -- and spurn my GF friends and family who think I am crackers.

But the naps, they bum me out a bit. I'm always stuck with her on me in a hot flat and I can't move. I'm constantly on edge that she's not had enough sleep and well, at almost 10 months I'd have thought I'd be able to do my hair, make a meal, have a shower (haha, just you wait, I hear you say)

I'm also tired by her struggling at night with me breastfeeding her to sleep. We eventually get there, but it seems hard sometimes.

My mother wants to babysit, but I keep putting her off because I worry that no one else but me can get her to sleep. I worry more for them, than my daughter (she won't spontaneously combust, I realise).

Thanks Suiledonn, I'll have a look.

quirkychick Mon 10-Aug-09 21:58:37

This was a life saver for me No Cry Sleep Solution it has lots of ideas to try rather than one single solution which are very gentle and not at all harsh. I bfed my dd to sleep for ages, now 3.9yrs and sleeps all night in own bed/room and has done for a long time. I heard about it on MN too. Best of luck.

Babieseverywhere Tue 11-Aug-09 08:15:26

I am not sure the exact reason you are posting, sorry if I am misreading your posts.

You say in the main your daughter goes down well for naps and at bedtime. But occassionaly she won't and fights sleep.

You wish she would nap for longer as her naps are usually 30 minutes in length and occassionally an hour.

She does sound a high needs baby like my daughter was. I ended up carrying her in a sling for nearly all her daytime naps, whereas my son sleeps on his own in our bed for daytime naps. It just how things are for some children.

The babysitting thing can be a trial and see how things go. My daughter always sleeps longer and better for my mother than she does for me.

How often does she fight sleep at night ?

dorisbonkers Tue 11-Aug-09 15:43:47

Hi babiesareeverywhere

I do apologize, I was rambling. I blame the lack of sleep.

My main issue is this. I have up until now gone with the flow, accepted that her sleep patterns 'are what they are' and that sleep training would be more hassle and stress than it's worth. I've breastfed her to sleep, or walked her purposefully (she won't sleep in a wrap if I just potter about the flat, it has to be full-on striding outside the home) for every nap and every bedtime.

Although I don't hugely resent it, and don't resent night wakings (apart from last night which drove me crazy and I got no sleep in the end) it's beginning to become an enormous strain and I can't see an end to it. I may go back to part-time work and I also want to be able to leave her with my mum on the odd occasion but I guess I am beginning to feel the huge weight of having to

And she's more fighty now she's 9 months. So although I catch her when she's tired for a nap, and breastfeed her, she often struggles, which leaves me frustrated, her tired and me knackered. I have bruises and scratch marks on my boobs from her. Then I decide to take her for an hour long powerwalk which sometimes (not always!) works to get her to sleep.

It's beginning to get a bit much. She's heavier so it's not like pottering about the house in maternal sling/breastfeeding mode. It's heavy labour and stressful and knackering.

I guess I've answered my own question. This is how it is, and how she is, I'm not alone I know but can't see an improvement and the stress of struggling to get her off for a morning nap, keep her asleep for long enough, then do it again int he afternoon, then cook, then do the whole bedtime thing --AND do many breastfeeds at night are weighing heavy on me.

I want to keep breastfeeding, and the feeding per se I don't resent, but her inability to fall asleep easily, and stay asleep are beginning to wind me up.

Everyone I know does controlled crying, which isn't up my street, although I have been tempted....

dorisbonkers Tue 11-Aug-09 15:45:29

sorry, trailed off on the third para.

"but I guess I am beginning to feel the huge weight of having to be the only one who can get her to sleep and even then it's often a struggle and involves heavy lifting or many attempts to breastfeed."

jumpjockey Tue 11-Aug-09 15:56:51

doris - you are me... We've been using the NCSS and her accompanying nap book, basically. Slow and hopefully steady. DD is 8 months old and has been in her own room for a month since we discovered (by accident!) that co sleeping was keeping us all awake. Night wakings are dealt with with a quick boob, daytimes much as you describe.

Is she going through developmental leaps? DD is a lot harder to settle now that she's learned to pull herself up to standing. Apparently once they've learned and perfected new skills like that, sleeping gets easier.

Saying that, I sound very calm today but spent hapf an hour weeping at the sleep clinic yesterday when she just would not nap. so basically, just giving you lots of sympathy.

dorisbonkers Tue 11-Aug-09 16:03:18

Thanks jumpjockey

I'm tempted to ask where I would find a sleep clinic (been out of the UK for a few years) in London, but half of me thinks it will just wind me up.

The NCSS is a nice book - it talks lots of sense, but even that winds me up reading it.

Part of me thinks I'm doing it all wrong and doing her a disservice by not sorting out her sleep (although I've readjusted my head a bit to not think along the 'sort this out now' line)

Yes, she's been developing for the last month and a half, pulling herself up, speaking, cruising a bit and yes, I've heard they can go like this.

But OH WOW it's difficult. I look back at the crazy newborn days with envy. It was so much easier.

titferbrains Wed 12-Aug-09 19:25:19

hey there, have been sort of in same situation as you but did pantley pull off for quite a long time so it was a VERY gradual weaning off boob at nap/bedtime. I used to time how long it took her to doze off and would try to shorten and take her off when sleepy and after a while she would give one cross little cry then drift off. I too was really worried that the feeding to sleep would never end but once I got fed up of breastfeeding - mostly because of the biting - I became quite strict about giving the bottle facing outwards - so she couldn't nuzzle in for boob - and would then put a muslin on my shoulder before giving a cuddle on my shoulder (rather than against boob) and when she seemed calm I would always say the same words "I'm going to put you in your bed now, it's time to sleep" so that she knew she was about to be moved. I really struggle with routine but I do think these kind of "key words" work with babies. Also I did pick up put down a lot which I think can be effective because it tires them out.

I can also recommend rubbing their tummy or their back to soothe - I was amazed at how this worked wiht my LO. I always put her down in the same positon (on her side with bunny in front of her) and I think all these little things reassure her and remind her that it's time to sleep. I do think you have to make a shift from soothing baby on you to soothing baby in their bed. Even if it knackers your back...

Have faith, I was so worried about all these things and am so proud that my little girl has managed to get better at sleeping with only a bit of help and encouragement from me.

Sorry for ramble but I really do feel your pain and hope this makes you feel better.

Cricri Tue 18-Aug-09 21:42:26

Doris Your situation sounds very similar to mine and I know how wearing I found it too. My DD spent the first six months of her life sleeping in a sling and bf to sleep and also co-sleeping at night. She was a very hungry baby too. Her naps were never longer than an hour and like you, any attempt to move her woke her instantly.
I can't say that her sleep issues are totally cured, but she's much better than she was.
I've been taking her to see a cranial osteopath to help with her sleeping, but to be honest I'm not sure how much effect the treatments have had. But it might be worth a try - I tell myself that things might have been even worse otherwise.
I managed to wean her off the sling at 6 months and she hasn't been back in it since. We were on holiday at the time and I think the total change of scenery helped break the habit.
That's when I started lying down next to her in our bed in the evening to bf her to sleep. I was then able to leave her and she'd stay asleep. We've continued to do this so I have my evenings back and we continue to co-sleep (she refuses to go into her cot atm). I don't plan to make any more changes until she's over a year old atm.
I was interested to read Suiledonn's link though and will read it more thoroughly as it looks as though there are some good ideas in there.
During the day we've managed to extend her afternoon nap to anything up to 2.5 hours. She still has a morning nap but no more than half an hour usually. Both of these are in her buggy (she won't go down in her cot during the day either). Might this be an option for you? I stumbled across this by accident in the spring when the weather improved - I'd take DD for a walk, she'd fall asleep and I'd get home and sit outside in the sun with her. Gradually I realised that she wasn't waking up when the movement of the buggy stopped and then later I realised that there was no need to actually go for a walk - just rocking backwards and forwards in the hall did the trick. I then started to put her in the buggy for naps with a comforter so that she would associate it with sleep and I then used the same one at bedtime. I'm hoping that eventually, when she goes into her cot, these will be associated with sleep for her.
The buggy has been great too because it means DH can take his turn rocking her to sleep, or my mum if she's looking after her. The buggy doesn't always work though - sometimes she has to be bf to sleep on our bed for a nap.
As far as being too revved up to feed, she often has that problem (it took ages to get her off tonight for example) but that is usually due to her being overtired, as was the case tonight. I was advised by somebody on my PN thread to bring her bedtime routine forward half an hour when I described the problems I was having and that has done the trick for the most part. I've also used a lightshow to try to soothe her but sometimes I get the impression it stimulates her more than anything else.
For a long time she'd fall asleep at bedtime then wake half an hour later and need to be resettled with a bf but we're on holiday again at the moment and since being here she's been sleeping 2-3 hours without needing to be resettled and the few times she's stirred I've been able to just place my hand on her tummy to get her off again.
I didn't set out to do any of this but as somebody else mentioned, some babies have greater needs than others and I think DD is definitely one of those and I've just had to go with her needs.
Apologies for the essay but I hope some of this helps as I know how exhausting and frustrating it is. And as I said, we've still got some way to go yet so I've made a note of some of the other points made by OPs on this thread.

bean612 Tue 18-Aug-09 22:25:24

Doris, I know exactly how you feel and I was in a similar situation until very recently - DD (8 months) was only ever napping in a sling (and yes, you had to take her out for walks, pottering round the house was no good) or from a breastfeed. The former was hard as she is now so heavy (nearly 9kg), and even a properly supportive carrier like an Ergo was hurting my back and shoulders. And if she fell asleep at the breast I couldn't move a muscle for fear of waking her up.

So - I must second Cricri's thoughts about buggy naps. We started doing this only 4 days ago but I have to say it's been working a treat, and I NEVER thought it would as DD doesn't even like her buggy that much. But we take her out, put DH's long dark jacket over the front so it's dark (but not so dark she can't see!) and there are no distractions. She grizzles for a minute, or sometimes 5 or 10 mins, but in any case not for long, and falls asleep for usually 45 mins-ish in the morning, and an hour to an hour and a half in the afternoon. I think it's also helped that we've tried to have the naps at exactly the same time each day, ie. 10.30am and 2pm. It's honestly been a revelation, especially as for months it had been a real struggle to ever get her to nap for more than 30 mins at a time (you could set your watch by it).

As for the night-time - things had got awful so we got in touch with a sleep clinic and they basically suggested what Dr Gordon in Suiledonn's link suggests, and so far it's working quite well (and much better than we thought it would). So do try these things, as they really seem to be working for us, and I'm seeing some light at the end of the tunnel at last. Good luck! smile

suiledonn Tue 18-Aug-09 22:37:04

Glad the link seems useful. I haven't even had a chance to read it properly myself yet. I want to be sure of how it works before starting anything.

Happy to see a couple of others admitting to the buggy naps too. I am a bit blush about rocking dd to sleep for her naps but as it is working I am going to leave it for now.

DD now seems to want to go to my bed in the evening to be fed to sleep. We are having trouble establishing a routine though as I have a 3 year old who really needs me at bedtime (a habit we started when dd2 was born so I could have some quiet time alone with dd1 everyday)

pookamoo Tue 18-Aug-09 22:49:20

Hi Doris, this sounds exactly like me! DD is 8 months and 3 weeks, and is still BF to sleep every nap and bedtime. It took from til 1.20pm to get her down for her nap (I gave up and we had lunch at 12.30 so it wasn't constant) and then this evening she was grizzling for bed at 6.30 so we went for the bedtime routine and guess what, she was still up at 10pm! So sometimes even the BF doesn't work.

We are also Attachment Parenting, and BLW, which she has been a bit slow to get to grips with so she's still what I would say 100% BF although I introduced a bottle (sippy cup actually) at 5pm today, which I had planned to do. She wasn't impressed although she can drink from it she only had a tiny bit, maybe less than an ounce, which took half an hour, before refusing totally and starting to get grizzly for bed.

I guess what I'm saying is you're not alone! I too am going back to work, in mid December, and she is going to have to settle for other people then, which I am more than a little anxious about. DH was able to rock her to sleep in about 10 minutes, about 6 weeks ago, but that time got longer and longer and then it stopped working totally and we are now back at 2 hour bedtimes and BF to sleep, co sleeping part of the night unless I can get her into her cot, which is at the foot of our bed.

I have borrowed NCSS but I'm a bit apprehensive of trying it, as well as needing to go through it with DH so we can put it in place together.

ahh, the joys of the incredible non sleeping baby! grin

bean612 Wed 19-Aug-09 10:27:20

Hi pookamoo - I remember you from this thread that I started back in February! I think our DDs are almost exactly the same age (mine is 8 months 2 weeks), and it seems we're still having parallel experiences. Although I wish things were easier for both of us, it's sort of comforting to know we've both been going through the same things all this time! I've just started trying to settle DD at the childminder (back to work in 2 weeks) and it's proving tricky to say the least - so without meaning to spook you, maybe it would be worth you having a long settling-in period at the childminder/nursery, if DD doesn't settle easily for others? I knew it might be difficult but not this difficult, and I'm kicking myself for not starting earlier - but you still have time!

doris - so sorry for thread hijack. How are things today?

kalo12 Wed 19-Aug-09 19:46:54

my 18 month old is just the same. i have finally decided to try drjaygordon's night weaning. now my ds would scream and throw a tantrum when i refused to bf but i used to get to the end of my tether because he was bfing about 30 times a day. he used to wake every hour in the night for a feed too.

anyway last week i decided to try the night weaning. i explained to him what i was going to do etc. and six days in it is working with only very few disgruntled tears. I am amazed i have to say but i thought he wouldn't have any of it but its ok, and i feel good because i can calm him and tell him to go back to sleep and give him a cuddle and i know he's not distressed.

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