help me help my baby sleep
January 3, 2009 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone suggest a good book to deal with the sleep problems and separation anxiety felt by a 9-month old, just adopted baby?
posted by luriete to Science & Nature (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't suggest a book as such, but one thing I've been doing is frequent baby wearing. There is a lot of information available online about the benefits of doing it.

Although my stinky boy is a bad sleeper he will almost 100% sleep wrapped to me at least, and a non-tired baby is a less anxious baby. Also being close to you - but still allowing you to do things and move freely is a big bonus.
posted by gomichild at 10:51 PM on January 3, 2009

Also this site seems to be recommended among several of the baby wearers online.
posted by gomichild at 11:02 PM on January 3, 2009

Are you looking for child psychology type stuff or sleep problem books, or both? I liked "The No Cry Sleep Solution" for sleep books, although I had limited success with it. I just ended up co-sleeping with him whenever he woke up after my bedtime, as that was easier :)

Also remember that around nine months is standard separation anxiety time, no matter the baby's history. Good luck!
posted by Joh at 11:09 PM on January 3, 2009

Thanks. We are doing a lot of wearing until she falls asleep, but she's waking up and crying quite a bit. I'm interested in Ferber, even though it seems cruel in the short run and I'm not sure if I could respect myself for doing it ... but I'm worried that the already present separation anxiety could be made worse by Ferber's technique, which might work but at too great a cost. I just want her to be able to sleep through the night. I know I might not, and that's OK, but she needs to.
posted by luriete at 11:23 PM on January 3, 2009

@Joh I will get that one form the library and try it, thank you!
posted by luriete at 11:23 PM on January 3, 2009

Wear the baby... if the baby is used to being swaddled... continue to do it for a very long time. Make sure you keep to a routine very, very strictly.

Don't wear perfumes or fragrant stuff on your body for a while... till the baby gets to know your smell. Put the naked baby on your naked chest a lot. The baby can still wear a nappy/diaper if you're worried about wee or poo... but doing that is the best thing in the world.

Play music, the same music all the time. Find something that won't drive you mad.

Make sure the toys you use for the baby are the same toys all the time for a while. Let the baby get used to all the new stuff slowly.

Don't use fragrant stuff to wash yours or the baby's clothes. Put a worn (not dirty, but used) t-shirt or pillow case that has your smell on it in with the baby, so the baby smells you at all times. Don't let other people hold your baby for a few weeks. Don't let your baby cry for any longer than absolutely necessary for a few weeks.

Feed your baby the foods that your baby was being given before you met. If you can find out what they were. And use the same bottles and teats and blankets.

Essentially... keep it as much about the new baby as you can.... keep everything the same, steady, and smelling of you and if you have one, your partner.

That my suggestions so far... if I think of more, I'll come back.

CONGRATULATIONS by the way! You''re a parent!!!! Best club in the world.
posted by taff at 11:26 PM on January 3, 2009 [8 favorites]

Also, we tried a Maya, Peanut and one other sling. However the Moby Wrap, which is a bit more complicated, works the best as it's snugger and more comfortable for mama too.

When I have her, I use a baby bjorn, which is tough on my upper back as you can't adjust the actual height of the seat relative to your waist very easy, but she loves it and as long as I'm walking it works well.
posted by luriete at 11:27 PM on January 3, 2009

Taff this is great advice. Thank you. We are listening to the same beatles, john lennon, paul simon, jimmy cliff, toots & the maytalls etc. over and over which she is reacting very well to. she and i bounce and dance for at least an hour every day and have lots of fun when i sing to her (i was joking to a friend that we're going to start a rock band called "Saliva of the Fittest" which I thought was original but apparently it's a song by some band I've never heard of).

Will hold her in her diaper on my chest more and more and will have wife do the same. Good idea. We don't have scented items or use scents in cleaners or anything like that, and we don't wear perfumes/colognes. I'll switch to a non-scented deodorant.
posted by luriete at 11:31 PM on January 3, 2009

You guys are always so helpful!!! thank you!!
posted by luriete at 11:31 PM on January 3, 2009

Um... sleeping through the night is not a priority for this baby now unless she used to do it and is only not doing it because she's in a new environment.

Have you tried taking showers with your daughter? (What's her name, Daddy?) Or baths. Showers are very relaxing and give babies a lovely massage. We gave them to ToddlerTaff and continue to give them to NewlybornTaff especially when unsettled...even in the middle of the night/wee hours.
posted by taff at 11:34 PM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have to add... you sound like a fabbo Dad already. Well done. HUGE hugs for you and MummyLuriete.
posted by taff at 11:38 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I hated the bjorn for exactly the same reason, it killed my back. I ended up with a buckle meitai, which is nicer for mom/dad as it has waist support, and nicer for baby as they aren't dangling from the crotch, but sitting comfortably. That doesn't really help with your original question much, but since slings came up...
posted by Joh at 11:39 PM on January 3, 2009

"she's waking up and crying quite a bit"

Can you quantify "quite a bit"? Many babies don't sleep through at 9 months, and a few are still waking 3 or 4 times a night - the range of "normal" is pretty big.

Also, I see from your flickr notes that baby is pretty new to your time-zone. Could she actually be jet-lagged? In that case, as much exposure to strong light during the day as you can manage is going to help.

And well-done, good luck!
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:50 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

@joe's spleen i think it may partly be jetlag, but she will go on crying jags - almost screaming jags - that last 10-45 minutes and leave her breathless, sweaty, very unhappy and with hiccups that last for hours and prevent her from falling asleep again. i think the sleeplessness is a symptom of the separation anxiety, which is compounded by the jetlag, so i want to try to treat the root cause and just help her bond with us better/more.

good idea on the light exposure, i hadn't even thought of that! thanks. all these little details help. this is our first child & we are relatively OK on some things - diet, medicine, and we're pretty darn good at loving her completely and utterly ... but there are other things that we just have no idea about at all.

Thank you.
posted by luriete at 1:12 AM on January 4, 2009

Also... don't forget some babies just have their very own witching hour and your daughter might just do it because she always has...and it may not have anything to do with separation anxiety or anything that you're not doing or are doing for her.

So, don't beat yourself up if you try everything under the sun and she still does it.. she might just be that kind of baby. Some are.

That said, I'd perservere with all of the above suggestions for at least a few weeks before discounting any of it. Especially the music and the nekkid cuddling. I would like them too! ;-)
posted by taff at 1:54 AM on January 4, 2009

Are you co-sleeping? Perhaps if she sleeps on your chest you can get through the night. Again to emphasize: sleeping through the night is not a priority right now - but a peaceful, even if wakeful evening is!
posted by zia at 3:04 AM on January 4, 2009

Nekkid cuddling makes a big difference! And don't worry too much about her not sleeping on her own through the night right now. She has the rest of her life to sleep on her own through the night. So do you. Just make sure you're getting enough rest on your own! No good to baby if dad's a zombie.

Congratulations!!!! Not jealous in the least, me... ;)
posted by Grrlscout at 3:07 AM on January 4, 2009

Like you, I would be very hesitant to Ferberize, especially a child newly adopted at that age. I'm sure that loads of parents have done it with wonderful outcomes, but it seems counter-intuitive at this stage to me.

If this baby is in her own room, do you have a rocking chair? A very quiet, dark routine for nightime wakings might be useful - rocking, a binky/pacifier, a specific tape of white noise or lullabies or strings or whatever. Something that communicates "we're here and we love you, but this is not party time."

How much, if anything, do you know about your child's previous sleep environment? The two other things that occur to me are: a) co-sleeping, either in your bed, or next to your bed in a co-sleeper or baby hammock; and b) swaddling. Yes, 9 months would be late for swaddling by western standards and it isn't recommended here if your child can roll over for obvious reasons, but perhaps a sleep sack would give some of the same benefits at this age?

Finally, I'd schedule a well-baby visit to your ped just to rule out the ever-popular reflux, which would make me cry, too.

More than anything, I'd just set up a good routine and give it time. This is a transition phase for all of you, but you've been planning for and thinking about this transition for a long time, whereas this is new and unexpected for your daughter, and it may just take a good long while for her to feel secure in her new world.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:12 AM on January 4, 2009

Also, see what your pediatrician says about reflux or GERD. If that's the problem at this age it makes sleep really really difficult.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:41 AM on January 4, 2009

Crying jags may be artificially prolonged if the baby overheats itself -- if possible unwrap them a bit and, even better, sponge with lukewarm water.
posted by Idcoytco at 7:57 AM on January 4, 2009

Nine months is getting big for a Bjorn. We started using an Ergo at 6 months and it is much easier on the back. It has super padded shoulder straps and a serious hip belt, so the weight goes onto your hips instead of your shoulders. If you are going to be doing a lot of wearing, it is totally worth it.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 8:01 AM on January 4, 2009

I see that your daughter is adopted from Korea. Congratulations! Sleep disturbances are very, very common in internationally adopted children. Although you will find a lot of scary anecdotes that hopefully won't apply to you, you will also find a lot of advice on dealing with the sleep problem by Googling "reactive attachment disorder." I am not saying that your daughter has or will have RAD, merely that the information on dealing with this particular kind of sleep disturbance tends to be found in discussions of RAD since there is some overlap and they both stem from the disruption inherent in adoption. Best of luck!
posted by HotToddy at 8:43 AM on January 4, 2009

When I used to place pre-verbal kids for adoption, I would suggest to the new parents that they replicate some sensory things for the little ones in their new home. So, in some ways opposite to the previous poster: if you can use the same laundry detergent, or think of what kind of background noise was around in your daughter's bedroom before she came to you, replicating that stuff can help ease the transition and separation anxiety. Smells are such powerful emotional stimuli. We would sometimes have adoptive moms start using the same shampoo as foster mom had, then gradually transition.
posted by purenitrous at 9:11 AM on January 4, 2009

Ahh, here's a secret I discovered after two kids, what your pals at the playground refer to as "sleeping through the night" and what YOU consider "sleeping through the night" are not usually the same thing. In my admittedly ltd experience, 9 mos olds don't sleep through the night, and I'm guessing new-to-your-home 9 mos olds are even more needy and sensitive.

We co-slept with both kids but learned our lesson from #1 on how not to get them down to sleep. With her, I would carry her, pacing the dark room, avoiding creaky floorboards, walking, walking, my back aching until she slept and I was able to put her down. Ugh. The 2nd kid we would get to sleep by lying down with him--one of us would stretch out on the bed with him and hold him until he konked out. MUCH easier on the back (and, because we'd often catch a nap, on the sleep deprivation!). Then we'd put bolsters and pillows around him to keep him safe until we went to bed. They both slept through the night (from bedtime to 7-ish) around 16 months and both are solid sleepers and easily go to sleep on their own at 7 and 9 years old.

Congratulations! This is the best club you'll ever belong to.
posted by eve harrington at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

i think it may partly be jetlag, but she will go on crying jags - almost screaming jags - that last 10-45 minutes and leave her breathless, sweaty, very unhappy and with hiccups that last for hours and prevent her from falling asleep again. i think the sleeplessness is a symptom of the separation anxiety, which is compounded by the jetlag, so i want to try to treat the root cause and just help her bond with us better/more.

Oooh. Something that just came to me. It may very well be that your newest little one is *teething*! Sophie (my eldest) started got her first tooth at 7mo, then her second at 9mo. (Her sister got her first at 5mo.)

Is your little girl stuffing her hands in her mouth or drooling a lot? Can you feel any particular bumps on her gums or see any swelling? Frozen washcloths to gnaw on were always helpful, as were big fat frozen bagels. Too big to take bites off of (choking hazard) but tasted better than a teething ring.

Teething tablets
absolutely saved us, as well. If all else fails, you can try giving her some Baby Tylenol. has a great section on dosage by weight. (Definitely bookmark it for later use, if not for now.)

Best of luck to you and congratulations to you and your (somewhat fatigued) family!
posted by dancinglamb at 10:49 AM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Teething may certainly be an issue, as may jet lag.

The thing that has worked best for us with our 10-month old son is this maxim: monotony reveals sleepiness. Developing a routine pattern of activities before going to bed, in the same order, helps him quiet himself for sleep. Make it something you can maintain over time: a bath, put on pajamas, a bottle, a story, a song, in whatever order makes sense for you, then do that every night.

Good luck!
posted by ambrosia at 11:46 AM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Two comments: (1) None of my children were adopted, but my third baby was separated from me for a week and a half when he was six weeks old, because I was near death in ICU. When I came home from the hospital, he was a very different baby and could not be separated from me without crying; he was comforted by no one, not even his loving, experienced dad. Until he was about 1 1/2 years old, he would sleep only when I held him (and I tried everything!). At 15 months I finally got desperate enough to let him "cry it out," but I will always regret that. After seven nights, he was still crying - it made no difference at all. I don't care what anyone says - I will not ignore a child in those circumstances. He stayed very attached to me until he was about 3-4 years old, then he became very independent - just as much as his older siblings. I believe it was because I met his needs for security - while also encouraging him to be independent, within his comfort zone.

(2) Babies who have been adopted have experienced separations (sometimes more than once) that are just going to be hard for them. No adult would like being taken away from the only people he or she has ever known, sent to completely different people and environment, and then left to cry. Adults have more coping skills than babies - are meant to be comforted!
posted by onemorething at 11:54 AM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Even if you're hesitant to try Ferber's techniques, his book is awesome in helping understand how both people and babies sleep. If nothing else, that could really help you figure out some things about your new baby (congratulations!).

That said, we used version of what Ferber suggests and it worked like a charm and made everyone in our household much happier. It's really not the monstrously cruel thing that so many people (many of whom haven't actually read the book) make it out to be. To me, his approach was super rational and made tons of sense and really worked well.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:44 PM on January 4, 2009

lurietePoster: "I'm interested in Ferber, even though it seems cruel in the short run and I'm not sure if I could respect myself for doing it ..."

I felt the same way, but ended up following the method in his book out of desperation and it worked well. It was easier than I expected for both me and my then six-month-old daughter.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thank you everybody. Really every single response was a BEST ANSWER and you've given me lots of good info.

Teething is part of it! The saliva output has increased drastically yesterday and today. Prune juice (1 part to 3 parts water) is stopping her constipation and she's pooping well and napped well today and slept well last night. I am getting the Ferber book from the library on Tuesday and we will team-read it quickly and use what we can of it.

I think there are certainly plenty of elements of separation anxiety AND jet lag present, especially since the usual suspects, from what I have read of it, are present: quick bonding with the anglo father who looks very different than anyone she knew before (taller, beard, bald), very little bonding with Asian mother who looks similar but not quite the same as foster mom.
posted by luriete at 7:22 PM on January 4, 2009

Adopted babies — depending on age, obviously, I'm talking about kids of one or so, like yours — regress for maybe two weeks or so, and you will need to play this out. You smell different, you sound different, you are different. Give the kid some time.

I dunno if things have changed in Korea, but aren't you in there and out of there really quickly? Like grab and run? Because this is your problem. Relax, cuddle a lot, get used to each other.

I have an adopted child from China who I met at 14 months of age. Please feel most free to memail me with any questions whatever.
posted by Wolof at 4:48 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

For those checking back:

a) we stopped co-sleeping, and moved her to her crib.

b) at the recommendation of her pediatrician, we added 1/4 tsp of baby-ophilus (acidophilus plus other healthy cultures) to her diet.

c) we cut her formula by 20% and replaced that with food - now we're up to about 60/40, food/formula

d) she now sleeps a full uninterrupted 10-11 hours per night in her own crib, quite happily.

These dietary changes, plus the endless loving & cuddling which came naturally (and which of course all you good parents recommended too!), has turned her sleep & bonding situation around drastically. She's doing quite well now.
posted by luriete at 2:45 PM on February 11, 2009

luriete: "she now sleeps a full uninterrupted 10-11 hours per night in her own crib, quite happily."

Oh my God. You do realize how lucky you are, right? Congratulations!
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:33 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

she now sleeps a full uninterrupted 10-11 hours per night in her own crib, quite happily.

You go, kid!
posted by Wolof at 8:04 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:53 AM on February 12, 2009

@The corpse in the library - yes, I do! It's amazing. It's been 4 weeks now and she's been sleeping from 7:30 - 8 pm to 6:30 am every day, then waking up and babbling for about 30 minutes, playing around in the crib until she tells us she's ready to come out at 7 am.

She takes 2 naps a day, between 45 mins and 2 hours (we don't let her sleep more than 2 hrs even if she wants to, which happens rarely, just because it would mess up her schedule otherwise).

This is mostly due to the Ferber book, and her just getting comfortable & bonding with us.
posted by luriete at 10:36 AM on February 12, 2009

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