My baby is safe but keeps giving me nightmares.
April 19, 2012 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Every night I dream my newborn baby is in bed with me and is in danger of being crushed or suffocated in the blankets. How do I stop these awful dreams?

I have a 6 week old baby. From the first night home from the hospital I've been dreaming about having my baby in my bed, and I can't find him among the blankets and pillows and I wake up freaked out and sweating, or freaked out and poking some random body part of my husband next to me that I "thought" was the baby. One time I even dreamed I found the baby in my bed and thought about putting him back in his crib but I wondered about how to do it without waking the baby already in the crib (yep, there were two of my baby in the dream).

I never bring baby into bed with me at night (he sleeps a step away from my bed on a portable crib), so when fully conscious I know that my dream is just a nightmare and not really a possibility, but I hate that this has been haunting me EVERY NIGHT for the last 6 weeks.

How do I get rid of these dreams so I can have a good night's sleep?
posted by CrazyLemonade to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My husband had the same dreams. He'd wake up thrashing around and find what he thought was the lifeless body of our baby boy, but was really my old teddy bear that was still on the bed.

The baby and I would be asleep in the other room.....

In his case, the dreams just went away on their own after a bit of time.

What I think might help is if you strip the bed completely and sleep in some comfy warm pajamas. If the bed is stripped, the baby can't get lost --- so you'll be setting your pre-sleeping brain up to know this.

That's about the only practical suggestion I have other than just riding it out. It shall pass.

And, it may be worth being screened for PPD and other post-birth emotional issues just in case. Since you're six weeks post-partum, you should be having a visit soon with your care provider. Bring this up.
posted by zizzle at 10:02 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had those exact dreams when my first was a newborn as well. I'd wake up clutching the sheets and patting down the bed to find him, desperate. Assuming you're mostly normal :-) they will go away on their own. My kids' pediatrician also recommended Benadryl for me when I had trouble sleeping as it is considered very safe for breastfeeding moms and babies.

Other than that, I would recommend simple, 5-minute meditation breaks throughout the day, where you relax your body and acknowledge whatever's going well in your life. I did (and continue to do) a loving-kindness meditation like this one, and now do it with the kids before bed.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:03 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think this is just another of those weird post partum things that seems to happen to just about everyone. Some kind of evolutionary system to make sure the baby is safe and prtected. My mom once just about shoved my dad out of bed as they were sleeping because she was convinced he was rolling over on the baby (who was in another room). I woke up and yelled at my husband for putting the baby in the bed (who was in a sleeper next to our bed at the time), and most of my friends had similar stories.

My experience was that they seemed to go away by about 8 weeks and you're more settled in a routine, are starting (hopefully) to get a few more hours of sleep patched together and are generally feeling more confident. Hang in there, it will get better.
posted by goggie at 10:04 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You need to tell yourself the baby is ok is your dreams. To do this, make sure you put the baby to bed in his/her crib before you go to bed and say out loud, the baby is in his bed and he is safe. Say this again before you brush your teeth and again when you get into bed. This will eventually sink into your subconcious and your dreams will catch on to it. It may take a week, but it will stop. Also sometimes you can control your dreams, if you are looking for the baby in your dream try to think there is only one baby and he is sleeping in his bed. I know it sounds weird but it'll work if you can tap into the rational part of your brain when sleeping. I used to have dreams where my parents were moving and left me behind. I would wake up screaming. Eventually in my dreams I was able to rationalize that they moved years ago and I am ok. Your peace will come eventually.
posted by jmd97 at 10:06 AM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think this is just another of those weird post partum things that seems to happen to just about everyone.

Wow, yeah. It happened to me as well. Like others say, they went away eventually.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 10:12 AM on April 19, 2012

2nding goggie that it gets better around the 8 week mark.

I didn't have the dreams, but extreme anxiety (Hi AAP! Thanks for the plethora of SIDS details!) that kept me from sleeping well, or pretty much at all.
posted by cestmoi15 at 10:28 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

More sleep will help, and that will come in time as (hopefully sooner than later) baby starts to sleep through the night.

Are you being treated for PPD already? Because some antidepressants, Effexor in particular, can cause insane dreams. If you are on meds, maybe think about trying something else.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:32 AM on April 19, 2012

I'm so sorry this is happening to you. I was horrified reading your post, and then it turns out that it's something that happens often. Yuck. Dreams are weird.

Obviously, I don't have a baby, but I've often found that recurring nightmares are helped by sharing them. By giving the information to others and getting it outside yourself, you make it more a part of real life and gets it out of your head, so if you dream it, it outs itself as a dream sooner. Don't know if it will work for this, but I hope so. Good luck.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:46 AM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers.

I'm not on any medication other than the stuff for my hypothyroidism, which is being adequately treated.

I had a bit of baby blues the first two weeks crying every evening right around sunset, but it went away eventually and I don't think I have any sort of remaining depression.

Oh and, not as obligatory as cats in cat threads, but here's a pic of my beautiful (so says the mom) baby.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:46 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mrs. Procrastination had quite a lot of anxiety when our first child was born. We were very careful to keep an eye out for post-partum depression signs, but we didn't know that was one (or is at least related). It is, but it doesn't show up on every list of signs. You might talk with your doctor about it.
posted by procrastination at 10:58 AM on April 19, 2012

Best answer: Oh, what a cute baby face! I so like that all babies kind of look like regal, old dudes at that age. My husband put up a side-by-side pic of our newborn (beautiful!) daughter with Winston Churchill at around this time. The resemblance was uncanny. Heh.

Anyway, yes, had those dreams. So annoying! Husband often had those dreams as well but not as often. I think we even had them at the same time once, both looking for the baby until we realized what happened. I'd dream that I had the baby in my arms and then set her down and she would disappear into the covers. Oh, it was terrible. One thing that helped a little was trading nights or trading parts of nights with my husband. Once her sleep started to get a little more predictable (and I was pumping and using formula so YMMV), we'd split the night. "Okay, I'll take bedtime to 1am, you'll take 1am to 6am." Friday nights were often his nights to take the night as he didn't have to work the next day. Just to be able to say, "we've got a plan, and someone is on the alert," allowed me to sleep better during that time. If you're always on the alert even when sleeping, you can't get good sleep. And, if your husband is never "on" and you are always "on" then you're going to burn out as well.

I also found 8 weeks to be a bit of a magical mark where things started clicking and patterns felt more pattern-ey. :) Good luck! I don't remember when the dreams stopped but they did fade away and I think getting dedicated sleep (you need five hours!) from time to time really helped -- you need to get through a full sleep cycle and I think those dreams are interrupting that.
posted by amanda at 10:59 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing normal. These stopped for me around ten weeks. They got so bad that at one point I woke up just in time to realize I was putting my cat to bed in the crib with my new baby. He was crying, baby was crying, I was sleep walking. The suggestion to sleep without covers is a good one. also leave a small night light on so you can see when you awaken.

And for god's sake, do not let the cat sleep in your bed.
posted by supercapitalist at 11:12 AM on April 19, 2012

Best answer: Similar dreams have happened to me - or not even dreams but abrupt awakening and oh shit is the baby breathing, is the baby suffocated under the pillows? patting-down-the-bed panic (we often co-slept) - with every one of my children when they were infants. It would start to happen less once they were bigger and obviously strong enough to lift up their heads and flail blankets off themselves, but it didn't go away completely until the baby was sleeping in their own room almost every night (so at about a year old).

I think these dreams/panic are evolutionary safeguards for you to be aware of your baby at all times, in a way, and also I think they come from not getting enough sleep!

So what helped me cope was
1) even if I wasn't sleeping with the baby in the bed I would make sure the bed was "safe" (no extra pillows, only one blanket, plenty of room) and that would make me feel reassured
2) assign my husband some nap and night shifts so I could be sure I was getting as much sleep as possible
3) I usually slept with the lights on so I could always see where the baby was right away
4) don't use blue sheets or dress the baby in blue pajamas, it reflects blue on the baby and in a very-early-morning panic awakening it looks like the baby is blue which is freaky.
posted by flex at 11:15 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know it's hard! If it's of any consolation, it happened to me and to many of my mommy friends. I would dream that mrgood gave all of our money to James Spader, who wanted to start a stand-up comedy club with him and wake up so mad and fearful about our finances that I wanted to punch him; or I'd dream that mrgood was carrying our baby through a doorway, holding her horizontally, and would bang her head on the doorframe; and that evil spirits in the room were going to hurt my baby. You can see where my insecurities settled... on my powerlessness.

Because I have a hard time with sleep to begin with, and having a new baby made it worse, I found the suggestions on this page, for the problem I have to be very helpful - especially the side-sleeping. I also found that being hungry from breastfeeding, or having to pee, or the fact that I was always listening for her meant my sleep was never as deep as it needed to be. Try to make sure you have a snack, that your bladder is empty and that you can tell yourself everything is as safe and fine as you can make it.

If you have a partner, maybe you could go to bed a littler earlier, and falling asleep knowing that your baby is being cared for by someone you love and trust so you can rest deeply will alleviate some of the natural insecurity and worry that every mother has, and that crops up in dreams. That helped us - that I'd get a few chances to get some quality deep sleep. It's really hard at six weeks though. Your rhythms are all off, I know. Best of luck, and please nibble those cheeks and smell the baby head for me. I miss it!
posted by peagood at 11:16 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

These are normal like every one says. For the first couple months, I would have dreams that people were trying to kill me so they could set my son on fire. Other times they were trying to wrestle him away from me to make me watch him burn. Ohhh just thinking about it makes me want to cry. I'd wake up screaming and crying, my husband would go get our son so I could see he was sleeping just fine in his room.

After a few of those awful nightmares, I would do a sort of chant before sleep. "baby is fine. Baby is in his room. No one is breaking into the house."
posted by Sweetmag at 12:15 PM on April 19, 2012

I had the EXACT same dreams. They sucked, but stopped after a couple of months on their own.
posted by feathermeat at 12:24 PM on April 19, 2012

Just nthing the "I had those dreams" comment. And we had three tiny babies that never ever ever came into our bed so it was extra baffling. I think it's just a lack of sleep thing.

Adorable baby! Best cheeks ever.
posted by pyjammy at 1:32 PM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: A big thank you to everyone who answered. I guess the consensus is that this is really normal and it should go away on its own...hopefully at 8 weeks like some of you are saying. Just a week and a half away, then! (Of course, morning sickness was supposed to last til week 12 but it stuck with me a little past 19 weeks, so....let's hope this isn't like that cause I really need to get some sleep!)

Knowing I'm not alone in this makes me feel lots better, I'll try a little meditation and saying to myself that baby is fine before going to sleep, and then see how I go through the night.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 6:56 PM on April 19, 2012

If it makes you feel any better, lots of people share the bed with their babies. If your dream were reality, the being crushed/stifled in blankets would be highly unlikely.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:30 PM on April 19, 2012

Those dreams lasted a lot longer for me, I'd say I regularly woke my partner up with my frantic searching for a baby for a few months. Although I wasn't particularly bothered by them as I found it somehow reassuring that my subconscious was still on the lookout for my bubs.

BUT these dreams only started for me when we stopped co-sleeping at about 3 months. I always thought the dreams started because I was used to having them (twins) in bed with us. Co-sleeping and having the bub right there with you might ease your sleeping mind? Keeping safe of course.
posted by bingoes at 2:44 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The very same dreams stopped for me when the baby moved from the bassinet by the side of the bed to his own room at about 6 months.
posted by SandiBeech at 1:24 PM on April 20, 2012

Are you me? I could have written this exact question 10 years ago! My deepest sympathies.

What cured me instantly was when my husband mentioned he thought I might be waking up from hearing the baby rustling around on the monitor, and when I woke up hearing him, I assumed he was in bed with me.

If this doesn't help you, then hopefully it is something which will go away soon, or at least when sleep deprivation subsides a little.
posted by thatone at 7:00 PM on April 23, 2012

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