Another Baby Sleep Question.
June 9, 2016 8:25 AM   Subscribe

I believe I have the worst sleeper ever. Help.

Little M is 5 1/2 months old and an absolutely terrible sleeper. Here is how last night went (a good night in our household):

We started the bedtime routine around 6:30 (an hour and a half after she wakes up from her last nap of the day). Dad changes her diaper, and puts her in pajamas and her sleep sack swaddle. He then reads her a book in our bed. He passes her to me, I nurse her, but she is fussy, and by the end of the nursing session, she is fairly worked up. I pass her to Dad who swaddles her, puts a soother in her mouth, rocks her and eventually places her in the bassinet asleep around 7:30. She wakes up in 20 minutes, bright eyed and ready to party. We spend another 45 minutes trying to get her to sleep, but she is awake and happy so we give up and keep her up wth us. At 9:00, she is changed and fed again. She gets fussy, is swaddled, given the soother, and rocked to sleep and put down around 9:45. She wakes up just after 10:00 and gets super fussy. Dad tries to rock her, I try to feed her. She is inconsolable, wailing. Thinking teething, we give her a bit of tylenol and I get her nursing again. Quickly she passes out. I hold her for a while and then pass her to Dad for a final swaddle and rock. This time she sleeps for 4 hours. When she wakes up at 2:30, Dad changes her diaper (in a dark room), I feed her, she almost drifts off, but then dirties her diaper. Dad changes her. Again, she's swaddled, given the soother, and rocked to sleep. We get her back down at 3:30 and she sleeps until just before 6:00 at which point, she's bright eyed and ready for the day.

This is a good night for us. The night before, she was sleeping for no longer than 2 1/2 hours at a time, and at one point, it took two hours to get her back to sleep. We tried swaddling, unswaddling, bringing her in to bed, changing her, feeding her, rocking her, bouncing with her on the exercise ball. Nothing worked. She wasn't all that fussy, just awake. If we put her down and leave the room, she is happy for a few minutes, but then starts getting fussy and it escalates quickly from there.

Her naps are generally pretty good during the day. I tend to put her down every 2ish hours or so. I lie with her in bed and pop a soother in her mouth. Sometimes she cries for less a minute, usually she fusses (moves her head back and forth, kicks her legs, scratches her head) for 10 minutes before passing out. I lie with her for another 10-20 and then can leave. She often will nap for up to 2 hours, though sometimes she'll only nap for 20 minutes.

I am really really resistant to let her cry-it-out, but I've ordered the Ferber book after reading a review on Amazon that said you can adapt it to fit your parenting style and start with letting them cry for as little as 30 seconds. However, it will be at least 2 weeks until the book arrives and I can read it and I need something to change sooner than that.

Other details:
-When she passes out nursing, she stays asleep the longest. She used to do this regularly, but now, not so much.
-We always have white noise playing in the bedroom.
-She is capable of sleeping more. Last weekend, she slept for 6 hours straight for the first time in months. I can't figure out what made that day any different.
-She is generally a happy kid and doesn't seem sleep-deprived despite getting way less sleep than the ideal amount for her age.
-She is a big spitter-upper and I often wonder if she has reflux. Her pediatrician isn't concerned, but we've recently started giving her probiotic drops in the hopes that this will help.
-She usually sleeps in the co-sleeper bassinet beside the bed. She has never slept in her crib. Occasionally, we have co-slept with her.
-We will be starting solids at 6 months. She is a wee thing - just under 12 lbs and in the 2nd percentile for weight - so I don't think we can cut out night feedings altogether.

My husband and I are exhausted and miserable. Help.
posted by toby_ann to Health & Fitness (47 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1) your kid is not that terrible of a sleeper. I've seen worse.
2) I don't think you're doing anything "wrong". Your kid is just a short sleeper. You're doing a great job.
3) Many kids suddenly start sleeping in the 6-9 month range. Both of my last two have really caught on with crib-sleeping through the night in that range. Before that they were both quite similarly inclined.

So given that I might suggest (again, you're doing a great job, just offering some suggestions that have worked for me and my wife) things that help to lessen the burden on you. For one, it sounds like you're an EBFer, which is great, but means that you ALWAYS have to be involved every time there's a feeding. I think your kid is old enough to make the dreaded "nipple confusion" fear kind of moot, so why not mix in some bottle feedings? I think this could help out quite a bit, because you can then divvy up sleep times and make it so your husband and you each have a protected sleep window. My wife got 8-1 and I got 1-6 when the kids were still getting up at night, and boy was that helpful for both of us.

For two, you're going to need to move the kid out of your room to make this work, which is fine, because your kid is not going to spend the rest of her childhood sleeping in your bedroom. So start using that crib.

As a side benefit, getting some bottle feedings might slip in some extra calories, which it sounds like is also a concern of yours.

To sum up, you're doing great, your kid is likely going to figure this out on her own right away, and in the meantime just do what you need to in order to stay sane.
posted by norm at 8:36 AM on June 9, 2016 [10 favorites]

Stop the probiotics- she is getting everything she needs in your milk. The probiotics can cause tummy upset in a baby that small.

You are doing fine. The first year is just really hard. Instead of both of you handling the sleepy times, trade off. Every other night, you get a full night to yourself except to breastfeed. If he is working, then you get weeknight duty and he gets the full weekend. Both of you do not need to be getting her to sleep at the same time. It is too much stimulation for her and that is time that you could be taking a long bath or watching something stupid on television. When she does wake up in the night, keep it super boring with just one of you. Save the fun stuff for the daytime.

You may want to reduce the daytime sleep a bit. Make sure baby gets plenty of sunlight and outdoor time during the day so that she sleeps better at night.

Once again, you are doing fine. It's just hard the first year. And no, don't let her cry it out. All that teaches her is that her needs will not be met, no matter how loud she screams. It's barbaric. Keep loving her the way that you instinctively know how to love her. You will get through this.
posted by myselfasme at 8:39 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is around the age that my husband and I just gave up and started parking our son right between us in bed and that is where he sleeps (through the night! Mostly!) to this day. He's nine months old now. We were so DONE with constantly getting up to soothe him back to sleep for all his wake-ups. (I'm not totally opposed to sleep training, but we're not ready to try it yet. The baby might be ready, but his parents are not.) It works for us.

Is 6:30 maybe too early a bedtime? If her last nap ends at 5, maybe she's just not ready for bed yet? I think around that age, I was actually putting my son to bed for the night around 8, 8:30. As he's gotten older, his bedtime has trended earlier.

I don't know. Sleep is so hard and frustrating. I'm so sorry. I know how rough it is. You guys are doing a great job.
posted by Aquifer at 8:42 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Have you tried cutting out dairy? my son was getting stomach issues due to dairy through breastmilk and cutting out dairy *completely* helped a lot - stopped the spit up and improved how much he ate. If her tummy is more settled then she may sleep longer. It took about 3-4 days to notice an improvement (it takes a while for dairy proteins to get out of your system).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:43 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Trying to put her to bed an hour and a half after her last nap isn't going to work. Either move the nap earlier or the bedtime later.
posted by amro at 8:55 AM on June 9, 2016 [24 favorites]

Is there any particular reason for the 6.30 bedtime start? It doesn't sound like she's necessarily particularly tired at that point and the whole thing sounds massively stressful. At that age my son was falling asleep naturally at about 9ish with not much persuasion- hes now going off at about 8.30 having fallen into a routine naturally from there, and he's definitely hitting his tired spot earlier now that he's sleeping through mostly.
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:59 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

How long/often is she napping during the day? If it's more than two naps, I think you should work to consolidate to two- a longer one in the morning and a shorter one in the afternoon. Then push bedtime back from 6:30 until 8-9ish. I love Ferber, and here's the relevant summary for your situation: do bedtime routine and then put the baby down for bed in the crib awake, come in at intervals to soothe (but not pick up!) until baby is asleep. Try it for 5 nights and see how it goes; I bet you will see quick improvement.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:08 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Her naps are generally pretty good during the day. I tend to put her down every 2ish hours or so.

If she's awake from 6am to 7pm, and she's napping every 2 hours, that's 6 naps! That is a lot of naps, try cutting them down to 2 or 3 slightly longer ones. It sounds like she's not sleeping because she's not tired (would you be ready for bed 1.5 hours after a refreshing nap?).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:12 AM on June 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

I agree that it sounds like you're trying to start bedtime too early. I also wonder if the baby's getting too many naps during the day. If she wakes at 6:00 and you're putting her down every 2 hours, that sounds like she's getting 4 or 5 naps per day. Is it really that many?

Have you co-slept with her enough to know whether she falls back to sleep more quickly that way? My daughter was an even worse sleeper than yours, but I managed to stay well-rested once I went to full-time co-sleeping because the baby and I could both get back to sleep quickly after each of the many times she woke during the night. That might not be the direction you want to go, but it might be something to at least consider.
posted by Redstart at 9:15 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think this age is where we started to get away from the nap every hour-and-a-half to two hours schedule we'd been sticking to and moving more toward a late morning nap and a mid-to-late afternoon nap.

Babies, man. As soon as you get used to something, they have to change it up on you.
posted by Aquifer at 9:17 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would recommend moving her bedtime to later in the evening. Our son is almost 4 months old and his bedtime routine starts at 9pm, with him falling asleep around 10:30 and being out until about 4 am, when he wakes up for food and quickly goes back to sleep until 7 or 8.

Another trick you can try - exercise ball. This has been our miracle with getting our baby to sleep when he needs a nap or is near bedtime. Sit on an exercise ball and gently bounce up and down while singing lullabies. It usually takes about 3 lullabies for Baby Kitty to be passed out. (He usually falls asleep during the second lullaby, but we do one more for good measure).
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:17 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also seconding a later bedtime. We also started with a later bedtime initially, then brought it forward to around 7 once naps had cut down to 1 a day.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:18 AM on June 9, 2016

Oh - and Baby Kitty takes 4-5 naps during the day as well - usually every 2 hours or so, so i don't think that is what is necessarily keeping your baby up - maybe she is just more of a night owl.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:19 AM on June 9, 2016

Thank you for all the responses so far.

To clarify, I don't put her down for a nap every two hours. After she wakes, I wait about 2 hours before her next nap. She has about 3 naps during the day.
posted by toby_ann at 9:23 AM on June 9, 2016

agree with the others to wait longer after the final nap to start bed time. Also try a longer bed time routine - my son, like me, needs a lot of time to come down from the day in order to fall into a restful sleep.

is her room too hot / too cold? this keeps my son up

finally I hate to say it but sometimes a good 2-3 minute cry does my son wonders - it's like he gets out the stress of the day and is ready to sleep. It's not a full CIO but it saves me & my partner from hours of trying to coax a baby back to sleep. After all the bed time routine, nursing and snuggles and he's tired but still kind of worked up, we give a kiss, say the phrase and let him wail for 2-3min (at your child's age 1 min or so) and then come in and do a shush-pat and he's down for the count. It works soo well, it's rare we have to do a 2nd set of it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:24 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

nurse her, but she is fussy, and by the end of the nursing session, she is fairly worked up.

Keep a journal of what you eat. I had to cut peanut butter and onions from my diet while breastfeeding my first baby. Days when I ate things he did not like led to terrible nights.

Stop the pro biotics.

In order to sleep, baby needs to be both mentally and physically tired. During growth spurts, they can be tired while doing nothing all day. When they are growing slower, they may need physical activity to get tired. Bright babies will need more engaging play time to mentally tire them out.

If a baby is adequately fed, with a clean diaper, etc, do not fuss with them for more than 20 minutes. If it takes over 20 minutes, they aren't really in need of sleep and you are just training them to be difficult about bedtime. Instead, play with baby so she gets tired, then try again later.
posted by Michele in California at 9:25 AM on June 9, 2016

Do you have a swing?

On those impossible nights we just put the kids in the swing to sleep. It makes me nervous but it works.

Some kids only sleep in swings. Probably not great but that's what some kids do.
posted by littlewater at 9:33 AM on June 9, 2016

1) Don't swaddle, it increases your risk of SIDS.
2) 6:30 might be way too early for your kid, especially if they're a good napper. Push it out half an hour.
3) Cut the dairy, at least for now. Reintroduce in a month in very small amounts and keep a diary.
posted by FritoKAL at 9:35 AM on June 9, 2016

This was the age I did the 2-3-4 sleeping schedule. Morning nap is two hours after she wakes up for the day. Afternoon nap is 3 hours after she wakes up from her morning nap. Bedtime is four hours after she wakes up from her afternoon nap.

A sample schedule would look like:
Baby wakes up 7 a.m.

Nap 1 9 - 10:30 a.m.
Nap 2 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Bedtime 7:30 p.m. (meaning they should be asleep by 7:30, not that you start the bedtime routine at 7:30).

It sounds to me like you're putting her down far too early at night - she's not tired yet at 6:30. From what you've described, she sounds like she is not falling asleep when she is actually tired, and then she pushes herself awake to the point where she can't fall asleep because she is TOO tired. It's paradoxical but it's been my experience with both my kids that the more tired they are, the longer it takes them to fall asleep.

I had a teensy guy who fell off the weight chart at one point, and I agree that you shouldn't stop the night feeding at this point. Solid food isn't going to help her pack on weight either since she's still going to need to get most of her nutrition from breastmilk/formula. I would get up to feed my son at night (also breastfeeding) and over time I slowly got him to at least stretch it out to two feedings per night, then one and then none by the time he was a year old.
posted by sutel at 9:40 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

First, take a look at this link of example schedules for each age. If your schedule/wake times look right, then the next likely issue is a sleep association. That's where Ferber can help you out.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:42 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

The weight and the spitting up mean you should get a second opinion from a different pediatrician before you try anything.

I suspect that she's just being a nudge, but second percentile for weight and vomity means she needs attention paid to the possibility of reflux.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

Six months is a big growth spurt time.....she's going to be crazy for a while.....Agree with too many naps.... you need to transition to two....morning and afternoon....but this really doesn't seem too bad..... you are just going through a growth transistion....concentrate on maybe getting the naps down to two big ones...keep nursing....maybe move bedtime back a bit....that will depend on how naptime pans out. You are doing great!! Being sure kiddo gets enough sleep is first priority!! so important!!
posted by pearlybob at 10:14 AM on June 9, 2016

I just want to add that if you do decide to use Ferber, that is OK, too. In our case, that was what was best for both our baby and our family, but I (despite rationally feeling that it was the right choice) had a lot of sadness and guilt over the decision. Other friends made other choices and waited it out and their babies also turned out just fine!

I wish that I could go back in time and tell myself that soon sleeping would be mightily improved for all and that I now have a happy and delightful, not at all traumatized by her crying-it-out-a-bit experience two year old. But, time machine not being available, I will instead say it to you! :)

To be clear, I'm not endorsing Ferber or one particular approach and you've gotten some great advice on more immediate steps in this thread. I wish you and your family all the very best. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job.
posted by jeszac at 10:22 AM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

My kid at that age went down for the night more around 9 or 10. Nthing that maybe a shift to a later bedtime might help.

Good luck! It gets better.
posted by hungrytiger at 10:28 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're doing great, although that doesn't help with your lack of sleep. I second other's suggestions to throw in some bottle feedings, and taking shifts. You might want to also try shifting nap times, and also going for "longer" awake times. Experiment with different things, and keep a sleep journal. There's likely no quick fix: you're just going to have to modify things slightly, see what happens, and then try something else.

Our sprog was swaddled til 7 or 8 months, a lot longer than usual. But we enjoyed sleep, and that's the only way we could get her to sleep for more than 4 hours straight. And then once we decided to ditch the swaddle, it took another 2-4 months to get her back to at least a 4hr sleep pattern. So sorry, more fun is likely ahead :(

Sprog didn't start sleeping for 6hrs+ at a time til she was > 1 year old... We didn't do CIO, my personal choice. We tried a few times, but I couldn't take it.

It helped overall that Hubby and I took nighttime shifts... we had 3 hour windows that each was responsible for, so we could get at least some decent stretch of sleep.

At < 1 year, Sprog was also magically awake and chipper at 2am, and it took lots of rocking and singing to calm her down back again to go to sleep. The greatest thing now is that if she wakes up at 2am, I know that it's usually easy to get her back to sleep! It's a miracle, compared to how she was a few years ago...

Things started getting better sleep wise at 1 year old, a lot better at 2, and she's now down for 10 hrs straight at 3 yrs. I used to wonder where were these magical 1 year olds that got 12-14 hours of sleep a day, cuz we were lucky to get 10 at that age.

Anyway, as soon as you get used to something (sleep patterns, nap time, etc...), some developmental thing will come up that will make it all haywire again...

hello teething :(
posted by starbuck43 at 10:51 AM on June 9, 2016

My oldest didn't consistently sleep through the night (and by that, I mean 6 hours at a time) until she was almost two years old. (Co-sleeping, breastfeeding... I didn't have to get fully awake to deal with a fidgety or hungry baby in the middle of the night.) Second kid... most of the time, sun went down, baby closed eyes and was out until dawn.

(I got a trade-off. First kid was good with boundaries; could put her in a room and say "stay here" and even as a toddler, she would --even if she yelled her lungs out insisting that she didn't want to. That lulled me into a false sense of security. Second kid discovered that you can balance a milk crate on a wheeled office chair to get to the top of the fridge.)

Mostly commenting to add to the votes of "you're not doing anything wrong; some babies just do not sleep in long stretches." They eventually adjust; coping/behavior-changing methods in the meantime are varied and can be adapted to your own parenting style. There are no "perfect right answers" here, and there are several excellent suggestions on what to try while you figure out what works for you.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:55 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing the 2-3-4 recommendation - that helped us a _lot_ at that age.

My first child was worse than your baby; my second was way better. We didn't do much differently. Sometimes it is the luck of the draw and you are doing great! Hang in there.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:08 AM on June 9, 2016

My baby is two weeks younger than your baby. Please feel free to memail-me if you want to chat all things baby. One of the hardest things I have found about having my baby is that sometimes there are no explanations for things and sometimes I have no control over what happens. Baby's gonna baby. You are doing a great job and your kid is really lucky to have two such devoted and caring parents.

The thing that has helped my own sanity is splitting/sharing the sleep deprivation misery. I am on maternity leave and my partner works full-time.The crib is in our room. On weekdays he sleeps in the guest room and on weekends I sleep in the guest room. He wakes me to feed the baby if absolutely necessary on weekends but I am absolved from everything except the actual feeding - I don't rock her, I don't change her, I don't try settle her. Once she's been fed I hand her back to him go into the other room, shut the door and go to sleep. Generally this gives me enough of a charge to get through the week. Like you, I also put my child down for a nap every two-ish hours during the day and she naps for 45 minutes and she also wakes for the day at 6am. She gets 3, sometimes 4 naps a day. Lately, more often 3. However, we don't usually start bedtime wind down until between about 7-8pm. She usually sleeps for a good long stretch initially and then wakes up usually about twice during the night (but sometimes 4 or 5 times!).

People will suggest co-sleeping. This hasn't worked for us. I find the squirming and the kicking really unpleasant and I get a disturbed sleep that leaves me even more tired. It may work for you though!

People will suggest bottles so that Dad can take over some feeds. We have decided not to use formula and my baby refuses bottles of expressed milk. The process of trying to get the baby to take a bottle added an unnecessary layer of stress to an already stressful situation and my life and mental wellbeing has improved significantly since I accepted it wasn't going to happen and stopped trying. It may work for you though!

The Internet is probably not going to have a magic bullet solution for this one. People will tell you what worked for THEIR baby but it may or may not work for YOUR baby. Even this thread is full of random stuff (Don't swaddle! Cut out peanut butter! Exercise ball!). I often find myself wishing Mary Poppins would appear and tell me what to do, and that that thing would work solidly. But then I remember that Mary Poppins is a work of fiction and nobody knows my baby better than me. You guys are the perfect parents for your baby. Stay strong.
posted by bimbam at 11:10 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

You've probably seen this, but just in case you haven't, I'll post my question from 2 years ago, when my son was the same age your daughter is right now. He was an awful sleeper, sleeping mostly in 45-minute chunks, and only very occasionally sleeping more than 1.5 hours. He was typically up 6 times a night. He'd slept 4 hours in a row a couple times, before he was 2 months old. His nighttime wakings ranged from peaceful giggling to ragey screaming, with absolutely no pattern I could determine. Sometimes he went back to sleep easily, other times it took 5 attempts and an hour, even when he was in my bed (where he was, most of the time). I was going insane.

Now that it's been 2 years, I'll give you my best "hindsight" thoughts as the parent of a certified Horrible Sleeper.

The chances that you will find a "silver bullet" (i.e. special outfit, pacifier, routine, etc.) that will solve your sleep troubles are low. When your baby is happy, healthy and growing, yet sleeps poorly and inconsistently (i.e. there's no pattern to wakings, and the wakings differ from each other), there's unlikely to be a medical/physical root cause that you can fix easily. I know this is terribly disappointing. I also doubt your baby is "just having a growth spurt", "just teething", or having a sleep regression. I think this can apply to babies who have slept well in the past, and then experience disturbed sleep for a few days or weeks.

I also doubt that your baby is napping too much. Babies differ dramatically from one another in their need for naps, and I think lots of people don't realize just how much variation there is, and they assume that other kids are like their kids. 3 naps per day is totally normal and average for a 6-month-old. Similarly, I doubt the entire problem is that your schedule is too early or late or spaced wrong, that you are feeding too much or too little, that your baby is allergic to what you eat, and so on. It's *possible* you just haven't found your silver bullet (and I believe the occasional stories in which people do find one!), but I doubt it. I went crazy trying to figure out the "why", including an entire month of eating nothing but rice, olive oil and certain green vegetables. We did the probiotics, we did 6 brands of pacifiers, we did special sheets, we raised the head of the crib, we did it every schedule out there. I co-slept with my son and he nursed until he was nearly 2.5, and STILL there was no easy way out. He never just nursed back to sleep peacefully without either of us fully waking up, as you so often hear about. (More like he nursed for 40 minutes and then threw a giant fit if I moved a muscle, ever.) In the end, my son did a grand total of ~1 hour of crying, with me sitting beside him rubbing his back, and then he started sleeping fine and never "regressed" (we had ups and downs and occasional bad nights, but that was never the norm again). At this point, I am extremely confident that his sleep problem was a literal lack of skill, rather than the result of pain/discomfort/fear/illness. What else could explain the almost instantaneous disappearance of all his problems (and the dramatic increase in all of our wellbeing) the very first day I asked him to go back to sleep without nursing or being in my arms?

Here's what I've come to believe: some kids just aren't good sleepers. They just AREN'T and they're born that way. This is not dissimilar from the range of timelines when it comes to talking or walking. Figuring out when a child needs some help to develop a skill is a really tricky aspect of parenting - you want to let your child be him/herself and not push, but you also want to give him/her a leg up if necessary. My son's sleep was getting WORSE with time, not better, my health was falling apart, my life revolved around trying to get my son to sleep even though I had a full-time job.... it was still only when HE started to panic when he saw his bedroom door that we decided to do something. He was so bad at sleeping that he was literally afraid to even get the process started, and this was a child who had never, ever been left to cry. He had been nursed and comforted within 30 seconds of waking an average of 6 times per night for almost 9 months, and this had not resulted in the comfort and confidence around sleep that it was supposed to. He needed help; he wasn't figuring it out.

If you determine that your kid needs help, or that you can no longer stand to accommodate his inability to sleep and need relief for your own health, you should know that there's a very wide range of things you can do. It's not just "wait it out until he's 4" versus "leave him alone to scream for 4 hours"; there are 400 options in between Some people will make you feel like doing *ANYTHING* other than waiting it out with absolutely no intervention of any kind is morally wrong. Rigid opinions like that appear when it comes to hot-button, polarized issues like this one, but most of the time, everybody understands that kids need help with different things, and the methods that parents use to help their kids will differ. Be kind, empathize with your baby (she's DEFINITELY not being bad or misbehaving and you will DEFINITELY NOT spoil her!!!!!!!!!) and then do what you need to in order to protect your family's wellbeing.
posted by Cygnet at 11:16 AM on June 9, 2016 [18 favorites]

We sleep with the baby in our bed. There are a lot of how-to-maximize-safety guides online. I like this one.

Have you tried moderating caffeine intake to see if Baby is extra sensitive to that?
posted by slidell at 11:31 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

7:30pm is a great bedtime for kids who are no longer napping.

A 5.5mo who wakes up from a nap at 6:30pm will have a "bedtime" around 9pm or so, and probably wake up at least once through the night.

Yes, every kid is different, and yes, it cuts into your adult time with your partner, but you will get that back when the kid is 18 months or so...
posted by TinWhistle at 11:32 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

If CIO feels wrong to you, you might be interested in the concept of Wait It Out, which admittedly is more of a philosophy than a training method. There's an active and very private support group on facebook that helps troubleshoot situations like yours regularly.

I would ask, are those nighttime diaper changes for poop? (Ours hasn't pooped at night and/or while asleep since she was teeny tiny but I have no idea where that falls on the spectrum of normal.) If it's just urine, could you use a more absorbent overnight diaper to reduce the simulation of being changed?
posted by teremala at 11:49 AM on June 9, 2016

Another vote for 2-3-4 schedule. 7.30 seems way too early after waking up at 5. Of course, YMMV, but maybe give it a try.
posted by gakiko at 11:55 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had a baby that was a horrible sleeper too, and around that age we had to sleep train. We had no choice, everyone was too tired to function. I read a bunch of sleep books and developed my own strategy. The key was teaching him to put himself to sleep. So when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night they go back to sleep easily.
Rocking him to sleep was taking longer and longer each day and he would freequently wake up soon after anyway. It was a long and difficult process but in the end he could put himself to sleep with minimal crying. We did a sort of cry-it-out method but only in short bursts. Create a routine before bed or naps and put the baby down drowsy but not asleep. It's not easy but it will pay off eventually.
This is so hard but you are doing a good job!
posted by photoexplorer at 12:04 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

234 napping worked for us!
posted by catspajammies at 12:06 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

We found that when our baby wakes up in the middle of the night, if we wait a bit and just listen to her, she often just realizes she's not ready to get up and goes back to sleep. I mean, in way less than 5 minutes. I don't consider this CIO. We used to jump out of bed at the first sound of a cry or whimper and accidentally wake her up more by shushing her or interacting with her, but we realized that sometimes she just wakes up cause... humans wake up and promptly go back to sleep all the time, babies included. I know it's not as simple as that in reality, but something to think about.

At around 4 months, we moved her to her own room. I originally intended to keep her next to our bed for longer than that, but we tried moving her bassinet for one night as an experiment, and she seemed to not know the difference. We found that we were all getting more sleep after that, probably because we were no longer overreacting to the middle of the night stirring (babies sleep loud!).

I also agree with previous posters who suggested that she might getting too many daytime naps and that she's going to bed too early. Ours gets naturally sleepy around 9pm, so right now we're aiming for 8:30 as a bed time - and bedtime goes a lot smoother when we follow her cues.
posted by ohmy at 1:51 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

That sounds really hard! I have an 8 month old that doesn't sleep perfectly but our life is easier than that. I just wanted to offer some empathy that that sounds on the difficult side of the spectrum to me and I can see why you want something to change.

Couple things from me:
My baby, who is also small and came early, so it was difficult to ID her correct age for stages, did the "sleep 90 minutes after she woke up" at the age your baby is. She would nap 4 times a day even though the sleep sites said she should be down to fewer by that time. In fact, for a good stretch (say, 4 months to 6 months), she would fall asleep at 90 minutes after wake time almost to the minute, and sleep for 40 minutes every time. Once I learned this 90 minute thing, things got a little easier, at least for a little while, and her patterns smoothed out in the day and in the night. I think this helped us to establish some sleep cues that made all the sleep times a little easier, particularly the nighttime ones.

Only in the last few weeks (7+ months) has she dropped to 2 or 3 naps, with one longer, but nighttime sleep is from 7:30ish to 7ish, with pretty minimal (+/- 45 mins) moving bedtime around even if her last nap is late or early.

Is possible that she's overdressed? I feel like with each season I have struggled to figure out how many or few clothes to put on my baby when she sleeps. I suspect I have erred on the overdressed side.

Might she sleep better in the crib? We do about half the night in the crib and half cosleeping (in the bed). I could probably even cut out a bunch more of the cosleeping if I wanted to and didn't fall asleep while nursing. Those situation both work for me and for her - cosleeping on a separate surface is my least favorite of the arrangements.

You also don't mention what she's 'working' on. Ours slept poorly when learning to roll over, and again recently while learning to crawl and stand up. I did find that giving her more physical outlets during the day - space to crawl and move around - was helpful, but it was hard to balance with too many activities that disrupted her sleep. It might help, if you haven't done it before, to anchor your day with a few things that happen at the same time - like maybe a walk in the baby carrier every evening at 7pm or a bath or something like that? I found that even if my schedule got out of whack, I could reset it with a few daily things that happened at the same time.

Finally, my pediatrician recommended introducing solids as early as 4 months. I'm not sure why so early, and I did it pretty slowly but I sort of thing you could start to start that now, so that by the time you hit 6 months you're ready for at least one regular meal. That said, I thought that introducing solids would help with the sleeping longer and maybe it has, but if it did, it took longer than I expected it to.
posted by vunder at 3:26 PM on June 9, 2016

I also read this and thought "reflux!" before I got to the part where you said "reflux." I think you need a second opinion, and maybe some baby zantac. Changed our lives.

Another thing to try is letting her sleep in her own room. We started both of ours in a sidecar, but the older one started to get super-grumpy about being in the room with us and was very disturbed by our normal night noises. We moved him to his own room in his own crib, and he slept a lot better. Many babies prefer to be right by mom at night, but some don't! Some need the quiet. The littler one stayed in with us quite a bit longer; every kid is different.

A new high-quality Australian study just published in Pediatrics that tracked immediate and longer-term outcomes in children who Cry-It-Out vs. other methods show that CIO is in fact not harmful and may be the method best suited to many children. They found no evidence it increased stress in infants (in fact many infants showed decreased stress), no increased behavior or developmental problems at one year, and no bonding/attachment problems. So don't beat yourself up about it if you decide to try crying it out, and anybody who's trying to guilt you about it is officially behind the times on the evidence. :) It isn't for every family but if you do try it, don't worry that you're harming your baby. You're not.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:28 PM on June 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

Wow, you've gotten a lot of answers here! I'll chime in with my two cents. I think the last nap and bedtime are too close together. I don't recommend pushing bedtime back later than 7pm. Your baby needs at least 2.5-3 hours of awake time before bedtime so either adjust the naps or just wake them to give them enough time to tire themselves out before the end of the day. Pretty soon (probably in the next month or two), you should transition to two naps/ day. First one should be around 9/930am and be about 1-1.5 hours and then the afternoon one should be around 1/130pm and be about 2 hours. I was in your boat about a year ago and wrote in with a very similar question - the mefi responses were invaluable and I quickly cut out a 5pm cat nap. Eventually, due to illness and some random other factors, sleep became a problem again so we worked with a sleep consultant to get it back on track. I was very anti-CIO and hesitant to implement anything that would upset the baby. The sleep trainer was amazing, changed my perspective on what my child needs most (learning the skill of going to sleep), and helped make invaluable changes to his sleep environment (we had no idea leaving his door open was a problem). If you would like the name of our sleep person, message me. She is here in St. Louis but works with people all over the country. If the book doesn't help, I suggest getting a professional involved and not waiting until you can't take it anymore!
posted by rglass at 5:27 PM on June 9, 2016

First - it sounds like you guys are doing a fantastic job with a shitastic sleep situation.

Second - we had a lot of success, like many others have already pointed out, with the 2-3-4 method around this age. Although my chickie could never do much more than 2-3-3.5.
posted by elkerette at 5:49 PM on June 9, 2016

Hi, I've been there. I have an almost 1-year old, and it's been up and down the whole first year. Oh man! We've had so many different sleeping arrangements just to 'survive'. For a long time we took turns doing the overnight, or half the night, just so we could at least each get 4-5 hours of sleep in a stretch. It is just plain rough. If you're so sleep deprived you can't think straight, or are too tired to know WHAT to do, definitely just swap out with your husband some nights - take turns sleeping in another room, or on the couch, or somewhere until you both can at least start to even out a bit.

The good news is that it will start to even out. You may have to do some cry it out/sleep training, but you may decide not to and it will still get better! We saw a big improvement around 9 months.

I don't know if sleep training is right for you, but it helped us. I am very attachment oriented, and love sleeping with the babe, but we still needed to do something.

We did a bed time cry it out at about 6 months, with check ins at 5 minutes (in her crib), and then increasing to 10 minutes and then 15 over the course of a few nights. She started putting herself to sleep and started sleeping in longer and longer stretches, after a few night crying it out at bed time. (We would still pull her into our bed often later in the night, but now she mostly is just in her crib.)

The sleep training didn't deliver on her sleeping completely through the night, but it did establish a good bed time routine, and helped her learn how to self soothe.

I wasn't ready to night ween at 6 months (I'm just now finally almost done nursing at night)... and until recently I couldn't not respond to her cries ALL night, so we didn't go full on Ferber, but we DID started moving in the right direction with sleep training for bed time.

She would cry and cry, and fuss, and we would keep checking in 5 or 10 minute intervals so she knew she was not just abandoned, and in a few nights, she figured out how to fall asleep without me nursing her to sleep every time. It was awesome. Sometimes I would just go to sleep at 7, so I could catch up.

The trick was though, we waited until she showed signs of tiredness - a yawn, an eye rub, or sometimes just get getting droopy. Is your baby showing signs of tiredness when you put her down? If she is, she is probably actually tired, and ready for bed. If not, maybe wait till later.

When she started eye-rubbing or yawning, we quickly dimmed the lights, played some soft music, held her and nursed her, and then my husband would go lay her down in her crib. Just lay her down, say night night, while she's drowsy but not all the way asleep. Let her use her pacie and blanket (and now blanket and stuffed bunny.)

Anyway, the sleep training seemed SO complicated at first, but really it's just about letting them have the opportunity to learn how to fall asleep and put themselves back to sleep, at least sometimes.

It will probably involve some crying, for longer than you like, but it felt SO GOOD to have my evenings back, and also to start trusting that some crying was OK.

And just know that it WILL get better. I felt like between 5-8 months were the WORST- I think all the sleeplessness just started catching up with me, but she wasn't ready to sleep through the night yet. But please let yourself get some sleep, even if it means going away for a night. You will feel SO much better.
posted by Rocket26 at 7:07 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

The weight and the spitting up mean you should get a second opinion from a different pediatrician before you try anything.

I suspect that she's just being a nudge, but second percentile for weight and vomity means she needs attention paid to the possibility of reflux.

I agree with this. Given the low weight percentile and the vomiting, there could be something medical going on and it should be taken seriously.

Reflux is one possibility. So are food allergies (dairy is the biggest culprit, but there are other possibilities). You should also take a look in your child's mouth to check for a lip or tongue tie. This website is generally a bit of a garbage fire of woo, however, the guide linked is good and useful. I would not trust that everything is okay because your child can stick out her tongue or because your pediatrician or LC said there's no tie. Look at the link and look in your child's mouth yourself. If you see anything, seek out the "tongue tie babies support group" on facebook--they have a list of "preferred providers" who know how to quickly and easily treat them, usually with a laser. Inefficient milk transfer caused by tethered oral tissues can cause frequent eating, frequent waking, fussing at the breast, low supply, digestive upset, "colic," and a ton of other problems. In breastfed babies, sleep and eating are closely intertwined. In a baby that small, I'd want to make sure things are really going okay in terms of eating and digestion first, before you jump to behavioral modifications.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 PM on June 9, 2016

Thank you everyone so so much for the encouragement and advice. I feel very lucky to be a part of this community of supportive, likeminded, and intelligent people.

I'm going to try the 2-3-4 method and pushing back her bedtime. I am also going to start trading off nights with my husband so both of us can get a good chunk of sleep a couple of times a week. And at her next pediatrician appointment, I'm going to really pursue the reflux issue.

It's really hard to believe that this extreme sleep deprivation is not going to last for the rest of my life, but hearing all your success stories makes it so much easier. Thank you.
posted by toby_ann at 7:47 AM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

As a dad of two boys, now heading to 5 and 1.5 years old, we've been through this twice. My suggestion: start sleep training. Help her sleep on her own, and she won't rely on outside stimulus (you and your husband) to help her sleep. It'll suck for a short while, but if you do it sooner, it's a lot faster than if you keep finding patches for her changing sleep patterns and needs.

We did an ever-changing list of things to get our first son to sleep, starting with rocking him to sleep, then telling stories together in our bed and singing songs until he was asleep, playing him an instrumental lullaby CD on repeat until the (cheap) CD player broke, but all that failed as he grew older and more ornery, and we finally went with cry it out in the 2-4-6-8 cycle. Do your normal bed-time routine, then say good-night to the sleepy child, and let her cry for 2 minutes. Come back in, don't pick her up, don't physically comfort her, just show her you're there and you haven't abandoned her forever, and leave for 4 minutes. If she's still crying, go back in and leave, giving her 6 minutes. Then 8 minutes. And then cycle back to 2, 4, 6, 8, etc, until she's asleep.

This is just one method, and you'll find others in books and online. Find something that you and your husband can agree upon AND STICK TO IT. Don't switch bed times or check-in intervals after one or two nights, this process takes time. You must continue any program for a few days, if not a full week, because you're trying to set up a new pattern for your daughter. Nothing is an instant fix. ALSO: talk about this with your husband, and agree on the process and the thresholds. Discuss this well before bed time, and agree to stick to whatever you plan on doing, with an agreed upon threshold if it's too much, because you don't want to undermine each-other and cause fights over bed time. We've been there, done that, and it's good for no one.

For some kids, it only takes three nights. Others take a week. And you'll probably have to do this again in a few months, as your daughter hits certain milestones, or has (more) teething pains, but once she has her new pattern, everyone will sleeping more and doing better overall.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:11 AM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Lots of good advice here. I also had "bad sleepers" but I want to be sure to tell you (as you will find out when you read Ferber) that sleeping for 2-4 hour stretches does not actually mean a baby is a "bad sleeper". This is a NORMAL sleep pattern for a breastfed baby due to the sleep cycles that all humans go through over the course of the night. Many babies do not naturally learn how to link their sleep cycles until they are much older, and that is where sleep training can help. For me, like many other people here, sleep training saved my sanity and made my babies and I much happier.

Nthing from above things that worked for me:
2-3-4 schedule
Ferber style sleep training (graduated check ins)

Also look into dream feeds - helps to continue night feedings while not undermining sleep training. They worked great for me.

But please do not bed share. I totally understand why people, especially breastfeeding people, end up bed sharing but it really does increase the risk of death for babies.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:26 AM on June 10, 2016

The two books that have been most recommended to us are The Sleepeasy Solution and The No-Cry Sleep Solution.
posted by slidell at 10:04 AM on June 11, 2016

I have a 4 month old and what works for us is a consistent bedtime routine of calm bath, dim lights and mellow mood, followed by diaper, put baby in the Merlin Magic Sleepsuit and nurse. We don't change diaper until the morning unless the baby has a bowel movement. We try to keep any stimulating activities to a minimum and what you are describing as frequent diaper changing, swaddling and rocking would be too much for my baby too.

We also start the bedtime routine by following her sleep cues rather than the clock (google "babies sleep window"). If we miss her tired/sleepy cues, we are in for a rough evening. I also breastfeed exclusively and do 1 or 2 dreamfeeds during the night without waking the baby up (no diaper change or burping).

We tried everything else (dairy free diet, sleeping at 45° incline, probiotics, swaddling, bouncing on yoga ball) and nothing worked as well as sleep cues, daily bath and that sleepsuit. I thought it was a gimmick at first but it ended up being the best money we've spent on a baby purchase.
posted by Karotz at 3:19 AM on July 5, 2016

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