Go to sleep!

I have so many lovely things to say about LMM right now so I’m kicking myself for writing this but here I go anyway – he needs to learn how to sleep!

As I type he is downstairs in the Bugaboo sleeping at a 45 degree angle, that I’m sure isn’t ideal, to the offensive but apparently soothing whistle of our kitchen extractor fan.  I feel like this is a crutch I shouldn’t be using but I also feel that he needs to sleep, and the latter outweighs the former at the moment.

LMM is now nearly 5 months old and he often wakes up several times throughout the night.  Thankfully we can usually get him to bed by 8pm (although in NY we struggled to do this for the first couple of weeks, the time change no doubt upsetting his already sensitive nature) but by 10pm onwards we can be looking at him waking every 2-3 hours until the morning.  When he was really small I mostly fed him on demand, though I did try to stretch gaps between nursing to at least 2.5-3 hours.  Then I realized these feeds were more like soothing snacks, where he didn’t take much but used my breast as a human pacifier.  So then I cut back on nursing him through the night in hopes this would reduce his waking, but it hasn’t worked out that way either.

I’m now giving LMM two solid feeds at night but he still often wakes up a few times in between.  I say often because one night he’ll sleep through until 4am, and then the next three nights he’ll wake up several times throughout the night.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether he is in our bed or his own, he’ll wake either way.  From observing this for a couple of months now we’ve determined this waking is not about hunger, and more about LMM’s difficulty self soothing at night.  He is as I’ve said a sensitive soul. It’s as though his own movement or ours (as this occurs in both his and our bed) wakes him from sleep and he can’t drift back off.  He’ll start to cry and will reach a wail of rage within 30 seconds.  It’s not the tired sort of cry that is going to putter out after a minute.  It’s like he goes from zero to 100 miles and hour with the click of a finger.

So we rub his back or hold him and rock him.  We put a muslin over his head as this seems to de-stimulate him too.  We mimic a heartbeat and pat his back or his bum until he calms down.  Then we’ll put him back in the crib only to do it all over again and again until he settles.  I had hoped this would gradually regulate his sleeping but so far it hasn’t and our nights remain potluck.  And when we really can’t settle him, the kitchen fan and/or the Bugaboo do the trick and are the crutch I feel I shouldn’t be using but am anyway.

I think what I’m finding most frustrating is the inconsistency of it all and my inability to shift this despite my best efforts.  I think this is just a phase that hopefully he’ll grow out of with time, with being more active, with eating solids.  I hope.  We’re pretty tired and are realizing in retrospect how lucky we were with LLC who also woke to be fed at around 11pm and 3am until she started on solids but would then go straight back to sleep and has remained a good sleeper.

The other thing I’m considering trying is visiting a Cranial Osteopath as I’ve heard great things about them settling tense babies.  Perhaps that quick birth on the bathroom floor was harder on LMM than I realized? Oh my nutty beautiful little boy.  Chris has just brought him upstairs from the fan and he’s sleeping angelically.  But somehow I suspect not for long….

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6 Responses to Go to sleep!

  1. Mummylimited says:

    Hello! *waves*. This may be a long and rambling comment and the first thing I need to say is that I’m a bit loathed to give this to you as advice, as every one is different and every baby is different. I say all this just as someone who had a bad sleeping baby and now he is 3 he sleeps pretty well.

    At 5mo Noah was still waking several times a night and it is crippling. The best thing that helped me is acceptance and realising that using any method to get him to sleep was the most important thing and to stop worrying about making things worse.

    We used a combination of cot, co-sleeping, taking him for drive and then letting him sleep in his car seat and his pushchair in his bedroom. Basically anything to get him sleep. He was also a big feeder at night and I drove myself mad trying to get him to stop, I realised, as you have that it was not about hunger, but comfort and I just decided that he was so young that if he needed that comfort I would learn to feed lying down and just go with it. Eventually he dropped all these crutches. He’d still like it if we lay with him, but we don’t and he goes to bed with no trouble and sleeps all night.

    It will get better I promise, but I made myself stressed trying to ‘fix’ him. I was much happier when I stopped and just accepted he needed longer than my friend’s babies to learn how to sleep.

    Sorry I haven’t got a magic answer, I’m sure others will have much better practical advice. Good Luck xx

    • Bump2Basics says:

      Thanks Emily for commenting it is inspiring to hear that you reached that light at the end of the tunnel – sleep for all! I recognise now in real terms how some children have that innate ability to settle and sleep where it takes a bit longer / requires some learning for others. I have in fact mastered the art of feeding laying down though that does often lead to me falling asleep with LLM and sleeping in our bed does not seem to settle him any better! The kitchen fan is his favourite to date. It has an awful whistle of the mega white noise variety.

      A friend suggested to me an approach that advocates consistency / controlled crying to get him to settle. This is the one thing I had not tried as I find it heart breaking but last night for the first time I tried this and did not run to LLM to feed / rock etc when he cried. I instead spoke to him, stroked him and then retreated. In fact he settled after several minutes each time after initially shouting loudly. I don’t plan to leave him for as long gaps as advocated as they seem too long to me (and was surprised this wasn’t an issue last night) but I am going to see if this consistency makes a difference in helping him learn to switch off independently. I also tried dream feeding him twice during the night and he settled after these feeds (I used to dream feed LLC before I went to bed but shied away from this with LLM as was worried to disrupt him when he was down)

      I felt quite conflicted doing this. I was lucky with LLC and felt on some level it was not right to go here as it is different from my more comfort-inducing attempts. But simultaneously I wondered if I have been confusing him by sometimes feeding him, or rocking him, or laying with him or putting him in the bugaboo, all in an effort to comfort him where what he needs is to find some of this comfort in himself as after months like this nothing has cracked it. And last night we did get better sleep and he actually settled quicker.

      As with everything parenting this route is not one all would try or that would work for all babies but I am hoping some short term tears may enable long term sleep. If not as you say it will just be a matter of time.

      And now the essay is mine!!

  2. I think the Bugaboo and kitchen fan are fine – needs must when you’re a tired parent. I hated having broken nights when the boys were little so I can totally sympathise. Maybe starting solids will help? I hope you get some beter sleep soon….

  3. Circus Queen says:

    I can empathise. I had the baby who wouldn’t sleep and we got very creative! I have to say that leaving her to cry just never sat well with my instincts. It sounds like you’re having a rough time. I’m sorry you’re so tired. Just thought I’d say hang in there, it will change and surprise you.

    Acceptance may help. It may help to know that it is normal behaviour for babies even at his age to sleep (and wake) this way and in fact is considered healthy for them to do so. Doesn’t make it easier for you, of course! I wonder if keeping him close (not necessarily bed sharing) might help you feel less tired when he wakes? Is there any way for you to catch up on sleep in the day?

    I’d mention that you may want to avoid spacing out the night feeds too much because it could end up damaging your milk supply. That said, I hope you get some better rest soon. I’ve just been reading the section on sleep in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and have found its explanation of why babies sleep the way they do so fascinating (probably because at 15 months my former frequent waker mainly sleeps).

  4. I see I’m late to this party but I wanted to say we tried the controlled crying thing. I was so completely, desperately exhausted I had to do something or I would turn into a very bad mother. SO we did it. It was heartbreaking at first, but on the fifth night she slept soundly all night and has been a perfect sleeper ever since–and she’s 14 now!!

    Good luck with whatever you try xx

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