Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You guys, I'm having MAJOR bedtime issues and I was wondering if you could help. Getting L to fall asleep is such a struggle. Daytime naps are difficult, but nighttime takes some serious effort. Let me break it down for you.

At around 4 weeks, I could see that she was trying to establish her own, natural bedtime. I have enough trouble keeping myself on a schedule, so I'm definitely not going to force one on her. Anyway, at around 8pm, she'd start showing signs of being tired (rubbing her eyes, fussing, etc.). I'd give her a baby massage, put her pajamas on, swaddle her, turn on some white noise, feed her and put her in her infant lounger in our bed . The lights would be out and she'd peacefully sleep for a few hours, waking up just two times a night. No struggle at all.

After a couple weeks of that routine, I noticed that she was getting tired a little earlier; around 7pm. I'd try to put her down using the same steps, but it would not work. The second I left the bedroom, she'd start screaming. I have neighbors [and a heart], so letting her scream was not an option. For a few days, I tried laying in bed with her and waiting until she was in a deep sleep before I left the room. The first night, I waited 20 minutes, got up, and she woke up crying. The second night, I tried 1 hour. The third night, I tried 2 hours. The 4th night, I just ended up falling asleep. I know what you're thinking... "Just go to bed when she goes to bed". Yeeaaahhh, that's not very realistic. For one, it's still SUNNY at 7pm, and second, nighttime is my time to get things done around the house, and RELAX. I cherish that time, so that no work.

I had to come up with a better solution. One night, feeling completely defeated, I put her in her swing in the living room, and she passed out INSTANTLY. Not only that, but she only woke up once that night, and has continued to do so ever since. Things were looking up. Dr. Karp actually suggests putting babies down in their swings if it's the only thing that will get them to sleep and I live by that book, so I wasn't feeling too bad about it. Joe would come home from work at around midnight, pick her up from the swing and put her in our bed. It's an easy transition, and if she does wake up, she only wants to briefly be fed before she falls back asleep.

Alright, so here's where it started to get problematic. After about a week of successful swing sleeping, she started throwing fits every night when I'd put her down. And no matter what I tried, she'd fuss for about two hours before finally exhausting herself and passing out. She'd still only fall asleep in her swing, though. Joe suggested that maybe she just wasn't that tired at 7 anymore. So I tried pushing her bedtime back to 8pm again, but she'd just fuss that whole hour because she was tired, and fuss for another hour because she wouldn't/couldn't fall asleep. It's almost as if she's fighting it. I wouldn't think that a baby this young could or would want to fight sleep, but maybe that really is the case? I can pretty much guarantee that I'm going to spend every night between 7 and 9 (tonight, it was 10) just trying to get her to close her eyes and fall asleep. And she spends that whole time so pissy because she's refusing to do what her little body wants her to do. She won't fall asleep in my arms, and I kind of feel that it's because I'm distracting her. If anything, she'll continue to fuss when I hold her because it's almost as if she knows that I'm trying to get her to fall asleep. It's difficult and draining, and I'm beginning to wonder if I should have just stuck to using the crib instead of co-sleeping from the very beginning. I don't know, though. The crib is also in our room, so would I have still come across the same problem? There's got to be a better way, right? I've tried not doing the whole nighttime routine, thinking that maybe she really wasn't trying to establish a schedule, but she seemed to get even fussier when I'd skip it. I don't know, maybe this is just a stage? Whatever the case, I'm starting to feel completely helpless.


  1. I only just discovered your blog last week and it's quite ironic because I am also having sleep issues with my daughter (well documented over at my blog). A couple of months ago I often struggled to get her down to bed. Like Lucy, my daughter didn't really like being held/cuddled to sleep. BUT she LOVED being held gently while I sat and bounced on one of those exercise fit balls (I knew it would come in handy for something!). Honestly, 5 minutes and she was in deep sleep and I could put her down. At the time I was worried that I'd always be having to bounce her to sleep, but after a few days I was able to skip the bouncing and just put her down awake, and she now settles herself. I know rocking/bouncing/swaying/cuddling/patting your kid to sleep is majorly frowned upon by some. But hey, it worked for me.

    Anyway that was rather long winded way of simply suggesting you bounce her on a fit ball for a few minutes to get her off to sleep.

    Really love the story behind this blog!
    good luck,
    x claire

  2. Ugh, I'm sorry. That sucks.

    I think at 2 months we were still in survival mode, ie: doing whatever it took so that as few of us as possible were screaming at any one time. From what I remember (it's all a haze now. THANK GOD.) we were feeding at 6pm, letting them sleep either in our arms or the swing, whichever would work, until 10pm when we'd feed them again and then finally put them down in the cot where they would sleep more or less through the night. We were just resigned to getting bugger all done in the evenings for a very long time. Eventually we started putting them to sleep in the cot at 7pm and they were fine, it seemed to click one day - 'hey! The cot's not that bad after all! And sleep! I kind of like it!'

    Babies totally resist sleep. Well ours do anyway. It's as if they don't want to miss anything that might happen while they're awake, no matter how painfully exhausted they are.

    Have you read The No Cry Sleep Solution? I loved that book. Mostly because it reassured me that we were doing ok, even if they weren't sleeping 7pm-7am in their cots like 'babies are supposed to.'

  3. I'm so sorry. I dont have much to offer except seconding the ball. It's often the ONLY thing that soothes H, and is integral in our bedtime. But of course who knows if she would like it. :/ hugs.

    I'm so sorry. I dont have much to offer except seconding the ball. It's often the ONLY thing that soothes H, and is integral in our bedtime. But of course who knows if she would like it. :/ hugs.

    Also, 7 to 9 is pretty much our bedtime routine. 7 bath (since H likes it, but you could replace with something L likes?) followed by massage/hang out time for a few. Last nursing. Then swaddle around 8. Bounce on the ball till he is mostly out. Then continue holding him till like 9 to make sure he is truly in a deep sleep, THEN lay him down.

    We usually go to bed at this point (with the wake up call bring at 5:30 I couldn't imagine staying up) so i don't know what would happen if we didn't...

    I guess we have been resigned to him needing something from one of us pretty much every minute, for now.


  4. I'm still dealing with some sleep issues in my 21 month old so I definitely don't have any permanent solutions. But, when she was that age, she was very similar to how you're describing your daughter. I found that putting her in a sling and dancing to music (she loved anything with a good beat, a favourite was Amy Winehouse - Rehab... yes, starting the good parenting early) would help her pass out. Once she was out I would wait a bit and then decant her into our bed or her crib. She'd still cry before falling asleep in the sling but since I knew she was fed, dry bummed and not in pain, I figured that she was crying because she was tired but hadn't learned how to turn her brain off to be able to sleep. We tried just putting her down in her crib but that never worked at all. The rocking/dancing/etc. seems to help their brains relax. And it made me feel I was being useful rather than feeling helpless just listening to her cry in her crib.

    It sounds trite, but this all really is just a stage and they will sleep better/easier eventually. There's definitely no use in blaming yourself.

  5. I've always had to switch up our bedtime routine depending on what was going on developmentally. Around 2 months, I definitely started "dance partying" little dude to bed, because for some reason, that we were dancing and music was playing made him relax, like I was doing something else, and he just happened to be along for the ride -- Which I think is what babies really want and why babywearing works so well. Babies kind of just want to be a part of the action, while being able to relax at the same time. They are definitely designed to fall asleep on the move, and studies have shown that gentle rocking motions help their brain development.

    When the going gets tough, we do an Ergo/sling walk before it's time to go to sleep. At 2 months, this would put him to sleep within a few blocks; at 11 months it's usually a preamble to relax him.

    As far as leaving once they are asleep -- you have to catch them in the right cycle of their sleep. Dr Sears writes about this -- if their hand is unfurled, if you can pick up their arm and it drops, then it's a good time for you to sneak away. Have a warm hot water bottle that you can tuck near her bum to make her feel like you are there, that's an old trick. Try sleeping her on her side instead of her back and use a rolled up receiving blanket to make it impossible for her to roll onto her tummy -- Back sleep is great and all for SIDS but it's the worst for actually sleeping for some babies, because they flail their arms like little sensors searching for mommy and once they hit the bed, finding no human purchase, they pop awake, scared. On their sides, their arms are pancaked by design and they feel more secure.

    Anyway, these are some things that I have used over our wild ongoing sleeping journey!

  6. oh lady. I have so much sympathy for you!

    She might just be going through the super fussy phase, which is totally normal, starting at around 5 or 6 weeks and going through maybe even three months. BUT stick to the 7pm bedtime. She does need to go to sleep then, even if she seems like she's fighting it. She just doesn't know how to shut down yet when she's tired. And everyone goes through the fussies in the evening... that's why they call it the witching hour! I'm a firm believer that if you stick to the routine, the exact same, she will eventually get it. Figure out some key bedtime queues for her and use them in the same order every night. We had bath, followed by lullaby music, a massage, PJs, (later a book), and then nursing and bouncing. Same thing every night. And once he got really trained, we started to drop a few things. Babies love routine!

    We still have the exact same bedtime routine we were using at that age, but much shorter, of course, because it only takes like 15 minutes to put him to bed now. See? It does get better! And we had a hell of a first 5 months.

    Good luck! We've all been there, are there, or will be there.


  7. Wow, I am feeling way less alone after reading these comments! Our girl (now 10mo) and yours must have the same personality. We went through exactly the same issues with her – but our witching hour was more like an 8hr shift from 6pm to 2am in the beginning - and the great news is that they do grow out of these phases eventually. But bedtime is still our most frustrating time with her, because we just can’t figure out why she’s all worked up! Like you said, it seems she just doesn’t want to miss a thing, no matter how tired she is.

    What helped: When she was very little – bedtime walks outside in the Beco (like an Ergo). When she was a little bigger – bouncing on the fit ball. Eventually – the bedtime routine and keeping ourselves strict about the timing. Also, reminding myself that some nights or times are just difficult for her, whether from teething, earaches, developmental hurdles, and general mysteries, and that she WILL get back on track at some point.

  8. everything that kristina and juliegoose wrote is so true. i think e hit the super fussy phase right around 6 weeks and you just have to work through it and know that it will change. and i totally agree with kristina to keep the 7pm bedtime...

    we used to walk her around counting sheep (literally) until she'd nod off. now that e is older we make sure to put her in bed sleepy but awake and she's learned (over time) to settle herself to sleep (most nights). it gets easier.

    we used the ferber method when she was old enough and it worked like a charm, but we can talk about that another time.

    ps- we've also been reading Touchpoints by Dr. Brazelton and I find it incredibly helpful and reassuring...

  9. Two more things I wanted to add:

    If you are still nursing: Have you discovered nursing while walking/dancing? This is a magical, magical sleepiness maker. Hold her in the cradle position and nurse her standing up while rocking.

    Also, better naps during the day = better sleeps at night. It's weird, but true. At 2 months, baby was napping for maybe 40 minutes (tops) every two hours from wake-up. Overtiredness can make bedtime really trying. I don't really understand how people get their kids to sleep at the same exact time every night, because we have to go by the time of last nap, not the overall time. Our bedtime shifts around within a range of two hours.

    Anyway, I am a mom, I could talk about sleep FOREVER. Good luck!

  10. You'll make it through! First, you should consider letting go of that time at night being yours and see if you can find those moments during the day. This should take some pressure off both of you, and pretty soon you can have the night hours back for relaxing. I third the exercise ball or wearing down in a sling, and finding a routine that you like and really stick to it.

  11. My only advice is that sleep issues come and go. Something will work a treat for a few weeks even months then BAM no more and you think how will I ever get my child to sleep ever again! But you keep trying things and something eventually works again (and then stops again).

    But I also second the fit ball. It has consistently been our life saver. My number one essential baby item.

  12. Awe, - I know you feel helpless at this point, but just remember what someone said above - it's merely "survival mode" for the first few months. It will come together soon enough (fingers crossed)

    With that said, I am rather old school in believing babies need to "cry it out" at a certain point. Your babe is still too young, but I have 3 boys. Ages 5, 2 ,1. Our days are quite chaotic and exhausting and the only thing saving my sanity for the time being is that I can count on an afternoon nap and an early bedtime. They are great sleepers but I worked hard (and differently with each one) to establish that routine. I started with the semi-scheduled naps around 4 months (laying down at the same time even if they didn't appear tired) and suddenly they seemed to sleep better through the night once they were more rested during the day. Between 7 & 8 months I stopped the middle of the night nursing too. Some people will disagree, but it worked out nice in our house, took 3- 4 nights of crying before they were solidly sleeping into the morning. Helped me out a ton, I felt reenergized, and became a stickler for keeping up the routine (save for those nights when we are out or away from home)

    Hoping you find some relief soon. Without adequate sleep everything becomes a "stresser." I hesitate to toss around too much advice, but in my experience the more tools and routines you instill as way of getting babes to sleep becomes something they count on, gets harder as they get bigger, whereas a more simplistic approach teaches them to put themselves to bed. I love the fact that my boys will lie in the crib (or their bed) singing and talking to themselves even as naptime has passed. They love their sleep space. And I love the time it allows me.

    Best of luck sweets!

  13. Pop her in a sling and take her for a walk :) What you describe is what we often call the "witching hour" or (more PC) the "grandma hour" because everyone has pretty much had enough for the day. This too shall pass, mama :)

  14. We also have a sleep-fighter -- she will be 11 weeks tomorrow. Some things that have worked for us:

    -keep swaddled! this has been key. i used to unswaddle her before feedings, and then reswaddle after. fail! so now i feed her swaddled (change first if needed) -- she almost always drifts off, and then i can lay her in the bassinet next to our bed.

    -white noise! (we live by 'happiest baby', too...) we have the "sleep sheep"- i'll start the "babbling brook" or whatever before i put her in the bassinet, and transfer it to the bassinet with her. there are also good white noise iphone apps that we use.

    -when she's actively fighting sleep (white noise is always playing during all of these methods): bouncing on the yoga ball, cradle hold with baby on her left side and pacifier in her mouth while rocking or bouncing, putting her in the sleepy wrap and walking or bouncing, putting her in the swing while swaddled.

    -when we put her down (swaddled), we also pull a blanket tight over her body- tucked in to the sides and bottom of the mattress. they did this in the hospital- i think it adds to the feeling of being held. it's safe as long as it's tucked in tightly and you put their feet at the bottom of the mattress, blanket up to the chest (so there's no way it could end up over their face).

    -sometimes she'll wake part-way during the night and I'll hear her make noise. i'll reach over and rub her belly and/or pat it rhythmically- this often works to settle her back down for a little while longer

    we are ALWAYS adjusting our methods, trying new things, retiring some methods, etc. she didn't start sleeping longer on her own until just a few weeks ago (not too long now-- 3-4 hours at a stretch, sometimes 4)

    good luck! and like some people said, the best thing i did was surrender to her schedule and stop trying to have a plan of my own!

  15. just wanted to say.. I feel ya. I really have no advice, sorry! ... But maybe it's helpful to know you're not alone?! My son is almost 10 months, and I remember when he was having sleep issues I thought it was ME... what am I doing wrong?! And why are all my friend's babies sleeping so well!?

    My only consolation is that it's probably a stage.. it won't be like this forever. We've gone through really easy bed times to really hard bed times, back to easy bed times over and over and over.

    Hang in there mama!