When baby sleep becomes a battle.
February 6, 2019 6:48 AM   Subscribe

Our lovely 3 month old hates to go to sleep. I mean, she really HATES it. But sleeptime (both naps and bedtime) is becoming more and more of an ordeal and I’m slowly losing it. Please hope me. Wall of text of info inside.

We have started to establish consistent routines for naps and bedtime. Naps: a short song, darkening the room, swaddle, comfy cot. Bedtime: similar but right after a bath. We make the whole flat calm and quiet and dim. But she fights it SO HARD. What I mean is, starting with grumbling, proceeding to whining, escalating to full on screaming and tears where it doesn’t matter if we hold her or put her down, she’s crying her wee head off. She’s even starting this when I go to the room and dim the lights as I think she knows what’s about to happen. DO NOT tell me to put her down “drowsy but awake”. Just please, don’t. She just screams bloody murder like always.

We’ve tried Baby Whisperer’s “shhpat” method recommended for under 4 month olds, which just got her crying faster from what I can tell. All the cry it out methods are not recommend under 6 months.

We’ve tried going with her flow. But as much as I try to read her tired signs I’ve never caught her at the right time despite awake times between half and hour to 2 hours. And going with the flow had made me feel paralysed with my days as I get anxious about how her next nap is going to go, or not go.

She hates pacifiers. We’ve tried many kinds and many times. She hates the stroller (with a basinette attachment). Just screams in it. She sleeps in a sling, I am outside walking the park for an hour to get her to nap as I type this. She will sleep on one of us but not for too long and she’s getting too heavy for this to be tenable. We don’t have a car and the few times we have put her in a car seat she cried to sleep.

Thankfully: night sleeps are ok. Eventually she falls asleep on my breast around 10pm (after anything from 2 to 3 hour crying battle after bath) and we wake about 2 times to feed and she goes right back to sleep. It is the initial going to sleep that I feel is slowly defeating me.

Possible pertinent info: She is exclusively breastfed although I have been trying to get her to take a bottle lately without success. Her daytime feeding has been a bit off lately, hardly going more than 5 minutes and her poo is dark green. My lactation consultant said not to worry as she’s happy otherwise and feeding long at night. Nevertheless I’ve made an appointment with the GP about the poo but I don’t think it’s related as the sleep stuff was way before. Otherwise, she seems healthy and has been on the 50th percentile line for weight since she was born.

Sorry this is so long. I’m just getting so fed up and frustrated, feeling like a bad mother and something is wrong with her when all I see around me is babies sleeping peacefully.

So where do I go from here? Did you have a baby like this? How did you survive?
posted by like_neon to Human Relations (46 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to add, we’ve also tried white noise. The only one that soothed her was our tumble dryer. But that stopped working a few weeks ago and it’s not practical as it is you know, not portable. We even tried to record it but she wasn’t fooled.

Would a sleep consultant be worth it at this point? How would I even find one? They seem scammy.
posted by like_neon at 6:54 AM on February 6, 2019

Are all of these naps without being fed? Maybe this is obvious but why not swaddle, feed her, she falls asleep at the breast, you exit the room? Basically just like night time but during the day?
posted by k8t at 7:01 AM on February 6, 2019

I know that others will have concrete advice for you but I just want to start this thread off by saying that you are most definitely NOT a bad mother—the fact that you are trying your best to solve this is proof of that. Also—you may be seeing babies sleeping peacefully in public but you have no idea of what kind of crying/not sleeping is going on at home!
posted by bookmammal at 7:02 AM on February 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: I wanted to avoid feeding to sleep as a prop. However that’s moot as feeding to sleep no longer works anyway, except the last one at 10pm and the night feeds after. And she’s only feeding for 5 mins (every 3 hours or less) which isn’t enough to make her drowsy.
posted by like_neon at 7:08 AM on February 6, 2019

I'm sorry, a crying baby / no sleep combo is just miserable. Our first baby was a bad sleeper, and we just suffered through the first three months. We started Ferber method sleep training at 4 months (which I believe is the earliest recommended age), it worked as advertised, and the result was life-changing. I know sleep training can be controversial, but it was a very good thing for our family.

I know that's not immediately helpful. In the meantime, do you have a family member or friend who could just give you a break for a night. I think one good night's sleep (hell, a few solid hours) can make a huge difference to your morale. If you're doing most of the heavy lifting, maybe your partner could take over for a whole night -- bathtime, bedtime, and night time -- while you go sleep at a friend's house or even a hotel.
posted by jomato at 7:13 AM on February 6, 2019

I could have asked this question almost 18 years ago, so I am proof that you get through it. I have largely blocked most memories of our daughter's infancy due to trauma, but some tips from what I do remember:

1. About the only thing our daughter would nap in (other than our arms) was a "bouncy seat" like this. We would sort of tap it gently to get it to bob slightly and that seemed to soothe her.

2. If sleeping in your arms works, go with that. I know lots of parents would be able to have a little time for themselves and do chores or whatever while their little angels napped, but we basically napped along with her, did some reading, or watched TV with the sound off.

3. We were lucky in that we really shared child care at that point in her life - my wife and I both worked ~30 hours per week in roughly opposite schedule so we each had her for 3 days per week and one day she went to day care. If there is any way that you can arrange some regular child care so that you are not solely responsible, that will be a huge relief. Firstly just so that you can feel like a human again, and secondly so you can realize that it isn't just you, other people struggle with her naps just as much.

4. You're not ready for this yet, but her sleeping dramatically improved when we replaced her crib with a toddler bed on her 2nd birthday. She was walking confidently at 1 year old, and if we had it to do all over again, we would have ditched the crib much earlier, recommendations be damned.

Good luck. MeMail me if you want to commiserate further.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:20 AM on February 6, 2019

Argh, sorry, breastfeeding means don't get that luxury. I know it's easier said than done, but still try to prioritize your sleep within the constraints of your baby's schedule. Ask for help if you can.
posted by jomato at 7:24 AM on February 6, 2019

Three months is still too early for most of the "methods" and is still very much in the "do what works until it stops working, and then flail around until you find something else that works" mode. Do not worry about getting into cheats or routines that you fear you'll have to keep up until kindergarten. Just do what works for you and the baby right here, right now. And it sucks, and I'm sorry.

At four months, infants have a sleep change. That's why they don't suggest Ferberization or any of the "sleep training" until at least four months, and even then it's controversial. The sleep change at four months can be life-altering or it can just be a blip- every baby is different.

If your kid likes to sleep on you while walking, you might consider a swing. My kid would only sleep in a swing (the kind that went side-to-side, not front-to-back) on the highest setting possible. He slept well in that until the four month mark, and then it all went to hell for me and I started bed-sharing with him because I was too sleep-deprived to function. Both swings and bed-sharing are against the rules and best practices and guidelines, but see above: "do what works until it stops working." I tried to follow the best practices for swing sleeping and for bed-sharing, and no, it wasn't perfect, but I was so sleep-deprived that I was a danger to other people on the road, and bed-sharing meant that I got some sleep.

The four-month mark is hell for other reasons: your hormones are regulating, your hair is falling out, you're expected to be back to work and managing this whole motherhood thing like a pro now, and now the baby isn't sleeping and you're not sleeping.

You are not a bad mother. You are a tired mother, and you need support. Call in the cavalry. I would 100% show up to walk my friend's baby around the park for two hours, just saying. If your current baby carrier isn't supporting your baby's weight now, time to upgrade to a supportive one that fits both of you. (I loved my Tula carrier and later upgraded to a toddler Tula and wore my kid until he was 3yo.)

I'm sorry. This sucks, and I'm sorry.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:40 AM on February 6, 2019 [15 favorites]

The only advice I have is "this too shall pass". At three months, they're changing incredibly, incredibly fast, and what's a problem today may not be one in two weeks. And that's really really young to expect a kid to be on any kind of organized schedule -- trying anything that works for you is reasonable, but I wouldn't worry that there are going to be intractable sleep problems for a long long time yet.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:42 AM on February 6, 2019

You can download a white noise app on your phone. "White Noise Lite" has blowdryer, clothes dryer, car engine, etc. Worth a shot since it's free.
posted by juniperesque at 7:44 AM on February 6, 2019

First, you're not a bad mother. Babies just want to be held A LOT and they are very good about being very insistent about it. Our solution was a yoga ball. We do our routine, watch for sleepy signs, etc. and then bounce, bounce, bounce for naps and nighttime. (Although she will rock to sleep at nap time for my mom. Thanks, baby.)

Don't ask me how to move on from the ball though. :/
posted by velocipedestrienne at 7:55 AM on February 6, 2019

At that time what ended up happening was that my wife would feed koolkitten and once he had fallen asleep he would be transferred to me on the downstairs sofa. Wife immediately went upstairs to sleep. I would hold him while he slept from 7-10 or 11 or until he woke up wanting more food. I would then go upstairs with awake hungry baby to hand back over to my wife who would take him to the upstairs sofa in his room and feed him while I slept. Usually after that point he was able to go down in his moses basket for another three hour stretch of sleep and then a repeat feed/sleep cycle to get us to 6AM or so when he would just be up for the day. That three hours of uninterrupted sleep without having to worry about hearing the baby was needed for my wife from about 2 months until 5 months.

As far as sleeping during the day, as hard as it can be I would just let them stay awake. We were never able to do the "drowsy but awake" thing either and essentially just suffered through the lack of naps when koolkitten felt that he didn't need to sleep even though he was tired.
posted by koolkat at 8:00 AM on February 6, 2019

The good news is that eventually they sleep. The bad news is that the first four months are hell. HELL. The first year is hard, period. But you'll get through it. We all do. It's just going to suck for a bit.

You know all that stuff you read that's like, "Parents will learn really quickly what their baby's different cries mean?" LIES. So many lies. My kid is 4 and I still don't know why he's crying, and he theoretically has words with which to tell me these days. And the recognizing signs of sleepiness and putting them down drowsy is just as much BS.

Anyway, welcome to the club. It's an elite club: the club of people with difficult babies. This is what my life was like until I went back to work at ~7 mos and my husband took over for a semester ("The hardest semester of my life"):

Wake up at ~7 AM. Take shower while baby screams with indignation on bathroom floor. Too bad, kid. I'm not giving up showering. It's Louisiana in the heat of summer.

Strap child into carrier (I had like 10 by the end of this all). Screaming stops as soon as the threshhold to the outdoors is crossed. Walk. Walk all over town. Meet with elderly friends at the coffee shop downtown. Wander to the mall for no real reason. Wander to friends' homes (thank God for retired friends). Try to conduct surveys for work. Fail because two-month-old infant needs to be constantly on the move and the five minutes it takes for someone to fill out my survey is too much standing still. Discover the library. Discover the park. Discover all sorts of places you never go.

Stop periodically to change a diaper (child is wearing nothing else because Louisiana summer heat, pressed up against my body) or to flip the child who insists on facing outward the other way so as to pop him on a boob because he won't stop crying. Order food at the barbecue counter with child on boob and receive "You go, girl! High five!"

Stop at restaurant for lunch. Place sleeping child under table on floor on changing mat so as to eat with both hands. If child wakes up, other patrons often volunteer to hold him. Hooray.

Walk some more. Literally now bored shitless. Have seen the entire city and can't take wandering without a destination anymore. But stopping brings on screaming. Child also hates driving, so don't think this time can be used for any real chore-doing.

~3 PM. Return home with sleeping child (by about four months he got into this pattern where he'd nap once while we were wandering and again around 3 PM). Lay child in bed. Lie down beside him and sleep, too.

Some time later: child wakes up. Try to read him a book. "Read to your child every day," they say. HAHAHA. Strap carrier back on. Back outside. Return in time to meet spouse for dinner. Eat out on days spouse doesn't cook. I didn't cook till the child was 6 months old.

Breast feed child to sleep. Around 3 AM, child wakes up again. Take him into other room, lie down on bed beside him, pop boob in his mouth, both go back to sleep. Cycle begins again.

Things I did to survive/my advice to you. Adjust to suit your own baby and situation:

1. Join a group for new parents. This gave me somewhere to go and people to talk to at least once a week, guaranteed (naturally, I walked there. Took me a good hour). It was also part of a center full of resources and a play center. The group was free, after that you had to join the center. It saved my husband's life the second half of that first year.

2. Get the fuck out of the house. Don't isolate yourself. Meet with friends as often as possible. Maintain contact with your friends, those with kids and those without. We met with friends for lunch and dinner. Make new friends. We strapped on the baby and went for drinks (no, I did not get drunk with a baby strapped to me. Yes, I sat with friends at the pub and had a drink or two).

3. Give up. Who cares if the house is a mess? You have a spouse? Great. They can pick up a bit of extra work of needed. But screw it. As long as the clothes are clean then who cares? If you can afford to eat out, do that. If you can't, find some easy dishes to make and make cooking the one thing you do, screaming child be damned. In good news, as they get older, they get better at being entertained when put in one of those baby activity center thingies or on the floor with toys. That'll buy you fifteen minutes.

4. Who cares what they say about naps and how often babies need them? A child will sleep when they're tired. You can lead a horse to water... Child is screaming and you've fed and changed them? Pop them on a boob or bottle. That doesn't work? Try a swing, or just get the fuck out of the house. If you live somewhere cold, go to the mall and walk there. If that still doesn't work you might want to make sure there isn't something physically wrong.

5. Get some good carriers. I wore my son till he was well past two and started refusing to get into the carrier (sob! It made life so easy!). You get used to the weight; you'll be amazed how much you can carry. And when they get bigger you can put them on your back. When they're small, you can breast feed on the move! There are baby wearing groups all over who can introduce you to carriers that make it easier to deal with the weight (bonus: more people to interact with!)

In short, give up trying to have a clean, well-run house and a baby who follows a routine and just go with it. Whatever works to get you through. Eventually they settle into a rough pattern and things calm down.

PS: my house is still a disaster. We can tidy up, but 20 minutes after the child gets up/comes home, everything is all over again. I figure we've got another few years of this. Fuck it.

PPS: we still eat out more than we should. Oh, well.
posted by CoureurDubois at 8:04 AM on February 6, 2019 [17 favorites]

Have you tried a swing? My second one slept in a swing for probably close to six months. We'd feed her, swaddle her and then put her in. She'd be out cold in minutes. Let me tell you, we bowed down and thanked the Energizer battery Gods for all the sleep and sanity they allowed us to have on a daily basis.
posted by dancinglamb at 8:30 AM on February 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh, and as for worrying about nap and bed times and everything being just so. We just went about our business with the kid strapped on and he slept when he needed to. This included times when marching bands were passing by. On several occasions. Literally no reaction from the sleeping child. When he was 7 months old and also when he was 19 months old. Though I recommend not breastfeeding a child with teeth if there's any risk a marching band will pass by and start up just as they pass you. On the bright side, if that happens, nobody can hear you scream.
posted by CoureurDubois at 8:51 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

My top suggestion: call friends/family/pay someone. Feed baby, have them drive baby around or take baby to a mall or walk baby for 2-2.5 hrs. They can hold baby in loving arms, wear in a cradle, take baby to baby yoga.

You can sleep. Or take a bath. It will be hard but you can do it.

Do this as often in the week as you can, especially the first week. Then solutions will gradually present themselves.

My next top suggestion is try naps quite early, like 2 hours after waking up in the morning. But first, get some ground for yourself. It’s going to be okay in the end.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:52 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding a bouncy seat like the one that Rock Steady mentioned. And Nthing that you're not a bad mom or momming wrong - this is (awful) normal for a lot of babies, people rarely take their screaming babies out in public if they can help it (which is why you never see them), and just when you get the hang of it or find a routine that works (and you will), she will change or throw a wrench in it and that's normal too. Sigh.
posted by Mchelly at 9:07 AM on February 6, 2019

So sorry to hear you're going through this.

Your daughter sounds a lot like our son was at that age. Up until he was six months old, he would pretty much start screaming every time we even set him down for a minute. He'd fall asleep only on the boob or in somebody's arms, but he'd wake up as soon as you put him down. He's now three, and sleeps through the night probably about 50% of the time. I'm sorry to say I don't have any magic bullets for you, but I want to reiterate this:

Three months is still too early for most of the "methods" and is still very much in the "do what works until it stops working, and then flail around until you find something else that works" mode.

This is so true. With a three-month-old baby, everything is a phase. That doesn't make it better for you now, unfortunately -- this phase sucks!

I think the best thing we did was something somebody mentioned upthread: we just gave up on the idea of getting the baby on a schedule or even really of having a bedtime/naptime routine. It works for some kids, it doesn't work for others. Kids are different, and if your kid isn't one of the ones that does well with a routine, then it just won't work, even if you do everything "right".

I'm not saying this isn't stressful -- of course it is! But it sounds to me like you're adding to your sleep-deprivation stress by beating yourself up. You have a mysterious little human that can only communicate by crying, you're doing your best, and you obviously care. You are not a bad mom. Keep doing your best, try different things, and know that in three months you'll have a whole different bunch of things to worry about!
posted by number9dream at 9:17 AM on February 6, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks everyone who responded so far. I even teared up a bit at the words of encouragement. I know everyone knows but it’s so HARD you guys. She’s such a delight otherwise, charming and cute and I can tell she’s really smart already! But ugh these naps are really getting me down and the impending yawn and rubbing of eyes get me anxious and scared.

People keep telling me “just live your life, make her fit into it”. But... she is my life now! I have no life. I used to work full time and go out and shop and play with make up and bingewatch Netflix. There’s no such life for her to fit into. I have some mum friends but not many and otheriwse all my friends live very far away or work full time or have their own kids to deal with. My husband is AMAZING. so supportive and fully there as a co-parent. He works full time and he does his darnedest to give me evenings and weekends. This is a shared challenge, not just a mom challenge. I am in the U.K. and fortunate enough to be able to take a year off for maternity. It’s a blessing but also this feels like the longest marathon ever.

Some responses to much appreciated suggestions so far
- I don’t want to buy a swing because they can be expensive and I have no idea if she’d like it the one we bought out of a million choices. I don’t know anyone to borrow one from.
- we have a bouncy chair and she only just started to like sitting in it for maybe 15 mins at a time. No way does she sleep in it. Eyes wide open and looking around.

She’s just so weird about sleep. Just when she starts to doze off she startles herself and cries as if she’s almost scared to sleep? This is even when she is on one of us rocking and soothing. I don’t get it as I think she’s too young to be scared of sleep but it’s exactly how she acts.
posted by like_neon at 9:29 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Our first baby was like this. Things that worked for us:

1.) hold kiddo in your arms and gently bounce on an exercise ball. This worked for us every time, although it sometimes took a half hour . He usually stopped screaming during the bouncing and was awake.

2.) figure out if your diet is part of the issue. Baby kiddo had food allergies to milk, soy, eggs, wheat, beef and shellfish. We didn’t realize he was in pain until he started pooping blood at 4 months old. Once I cut those out of my diet entirely, he slept without the screaming production much better.

You’re doing great- this part is the hardest especially because of the lack of sleep.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:33 AM on February 6, 2019

Wait, so your child will sit quietly in the bouncy seat for any length of time? Who cares if she's asleep? Take it and run!

Try thrift shops and consignment stores and Craigslist if you want a swing that won't break the bank. You can often find them for super cheap. But ours only used the swing for the first maybe six months, so you may be reaching the limit, anyway.

You can do it! I know if feels like time has come to a standstill right now, but I promise you by the time they're three you wonder where the hell the time went. It starts speeding up again, and how. And then one day you'll find yourself begging your colleagues to tell you how they got through the preschool years, when the school insists on giving the child a nap -- the child who slept so poorly now gladly goes down for a nap if someone else offers it to him -- and then the child is up till 11 PM every night.

Or so I'm told.
posted by CoureurDubois at 9:37 AM on February 6, 2019

Not an expert but also the mother of a 3 month old in the UK! This is what I do, obviously just an antecdote.

I just feed him to sleep. I know a lot of people are against it, but reading info from La Leche League and Kellymom websites about how it’s natural to do this made me feel better about it.

He goes to sleep after feeding anywhere between 7 and 10pm. It’s coalescening slowly into usually being around 8:30/9. We do a bedtime routine starting around 7-8ish depending on the timing of his previous feed. So we bathe, massage lotion, jammies, read stories in bed until he’s hungry, then feed him to sleep.

Naps. If he falls asleep during the day, great. If he doesn’t, fine. I tried putting him down when he seemed sleepy and got the same results as you...nothing but crying. He naps for 1-4 hours a day and has 1-3 naps. Occasionally none. I usually try to take him out in the carrier or pram so he naps there for a little while at least. Sometimes he has the sleepy cues and he will feed and sleep, but most of the time he just doesn’t sleep at that point and gets on with the day.

I had to let go of all the conventional wisdom about “babies can only stay awake for x period of time or else they will become overtired terrors” and “babies x ages need x hours of sleep a day”. All babies are different! What also helped me let go of my dream nap schedule was my MIL telling me my partner only ever napped once a day for 30 minutes.

Why not just put him to bed at 10 and just go with the flow with naps?

Sorry if none of this is helpful. It’s hard I know and you are doing a great job!!! I know it seems like everyone is asking you “is he due for a nap now” “how’s the schedule going” etc etc etc and that puts pressure on you. Honestly though none of my NCT class fellow mums have a schedule either.

PS re swings, this one often comes down in price to around £40-50. We have it and it works well for naps sometimes. The weight limit is 9kg. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00RCXTT0U/ref=sspa_mw_detail_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 9:53 AM on February 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Try to at least get a used swing. They are worth every penny. My oldest baby and my nephew slept in them exclusively during the day.
posted by gryphonlover at 9:54 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I also love the "Don't let your newborn sleep for more than [however long it is again] or else surely they will die for lack of nutrition! I tried to wake a sleeping baby once. It didn't work. Literally, we poked him, we made noise, we tried it all. Nothing. I figured he would wake up when he had slept enough. He did. Because nobody just keeps on sleeping till they die if they're receiving regular doses of food. Come on, now.

There are many cultures where kids, including babies, aren't expected to keep any kind of schedule. No bedtimes. They just sleep when they're tired. There are lots of ways to raise a child and have them become
productive members of society. (See also, incidentally, the introduction of solid food in this regard.)
posted by CoureurDubois at 10:03 AM on February 6, 2019

Places you might find a used swing:

1. local neighborhood classified listings (do they have Nextdoor in the UK?)
2. Craigslist?
3. secondhand stores including but not limited to Goodwill
4. "nice" kids' consignment/secondhand stores
5. local parents' group -- Google and ask around

Good luck! I feel for you so much. Any money you can throw at this is well spent, if you need to, like, find a night nanny...
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:04 AM on February 6, 2019

((Sorry I got the gender of your babe wrong in my post))

Best UK place to get used baby stuff is usually a local buy/sell Facebook group. I found an active one for my area using Facebook search.

Again, you are doing so well even if it doesn’t feel like it and your baby is lucky to have such a thoughtful mother.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 10:09 AM on February 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Another thought - have you talked to your pediatrician about the possibility of silent reflux? Your daughter doesn't necessarily need to spit up to have this happen. It's so very, very painful and will happen after a feed. If she's only nursing for five minutes and not sleeping afterward, this may be the problem. My firstborn had it and we ended up giving her prescription liquid Zantac. Another possibility is trying Gripe Water. We bought it like it was going out of style. Looooooved that stuff.

As far as the swing goes, you can absolutely find them in resale or second hand shops. We also used a bouncy seat after feeds (you have to keep the baby slightly upright to help them digest). If your daughter is startling herself, are you tightly swaddling her? Sometimes that's all it takes to get them to settle. Also, what position are you trying to get her to sleep in?
posted by dancinglamb at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I feel you. Not sure if these will help, but the two things that were game-changers for us in the Infant Sleep Wars were:
The Shusher - portable white noise maker w/ variable levels of "shush"ness AND auto-shutoff
Merlins Magic Sleepsuit - this looks ridiculous but it helped to reduce the 'startle' reflex our guy would have about 5-10 minutes after he started going to sleep, but didn't want to be in a swaddle anymore.

Good luck.
posted by wearyaswater at 10:11 AM on February 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

One more thing, you ARE rocking this mom thing. I know it feels like you're not and you are totally exhausted. This will pass. The dishes and laundry aren't going anywhere. I promise. Drop everything and sleep when she does, veg on the couch. Fuck clean yoga pants. Baby corn starch powder is excellent for freshening up your slightly matted, yet stylish ponytail. One handed food is all the rage. Netflix is the best, especially if you like to binge watch (I wish they had it 16 years ago!).

You get a pass on all of this. You just had a baby and you are providing all of her nutrition. If anybody passes judgement, tell them they can do it differently the next time they push a baby out a 10cm hole. Until then, shove off. Big, big hugs from one mom to another!
posted by dancinglamb at 10:17 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

How is breastfeeding going, otherwise? Any chance you have oversupply? With oversupply, what happens is that the baby gets mostly the fore milk and none of the hind milk, which creates digestive troubles.

Anyway, I didn't worry about not nursing to sleep because I feel like it's a pretty standard pattern for breastfed babies and harder to resist than just accept. But what made a big difference was at around 4 months old, figuring out how to side-lie nurse, because then I could either nap too, or unlatch and read next to the baby. Till then, I had to hold him at a perfect 45° angle and bounce on a yoga ball for 20 minutes for each nap.

Things will look super-different in just 3 months when baby begins trying solids and napping twice instead of three times... so whatever associations you're trying to avoid with sleep and food are going to change soon enough anyway.
posted by xo at 10:20 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I feel for you! Our second kid is 8 months now and it has been a marathon for sure. 4 months is right in the thick of it; it's a really hard time. This is the stage where postpartum depression kicked in for me. The initial newborn excitement wears off and your baby still doesn't sleep and it feels like this stage will never end and your life is ruined. But just hang on because in a few months things will be very different - she'll be sitting up, playing with toys, eating crackers, lighting up like the sun when you walk into the room. Things will get easier.

A swing has been a huge help to us. My baby learned to sleep in her crib at night much earlier than during the day.
We'll still sometimes strap her into the swing for a nap if she is fighting sleep. We bought ours off of Facebook Marketplace and found that they held their value really well - you'll be ready to sell it on to the next family in 4-5 months and should be able to sell it for not much less than what you'll pay for it. I don't know how it is in the UK but in my part of the US, Facebook Marketplace is a great spot for baby stuff, better than Craigslist.

I think she's young to be worrying about sleep associations and "drowsy but awake." For now, it's okay to stay in survival mode. Keep her fed and warm, get her to sleep when you can, however you can, and focus on getting everyone through the next few months. You are a great mom and you have so much fun to look forward to!
posted by beandip at 10:37 AM on February 6, 2019

The Merlin Sleepsuit was a game changer for us at the 4-month mark. It's big and bulky to the point that the babies can't quite move their arms fast enough to startle themselves awake. It really did help, and since it's wintertime now, the bulk of it will not overheat your baby.

My baby would sleep in a swing, but would not sleep in a bouncer and would not even consent to being put down in a bouncer for any length of time. We had one and it did not get used (except by the cat), but we loved our swing so much that when our hand-me-down swing broke in the middle of the night, I was at the store the next morning promptly at opening time to buy a brand new one. So I wouldn't draw a conclusion that your kid wouldn't love a swing based on their interest in the bouncer.
posted by aabbbiee at 10:52 AM on February 6, 2019

I’ve never seen a British baby swaddled, but as far as I can tell it’s almost universally popular for newborns in the US. Maybe try that if she’s not too old?
posted by plonkee at 10:52 AM on February 6, 2019

Oh gad baby sleep is a shitshow, I feel for you. Whatever it is, it's not your fault!

Any chance baby has reflux so lying down is uncomfortable?

Any chance baby is hungry? A non-hungry baby will look milk drunk, with floppy arms and open hands. If baby has clenched fists, bent elbows, or a frowny brow, they may be hungry?

Also: do you use Facebook? Search [name of your neighbourhood] + "parents" or "moms" etc., and see if you have a neighbourhood FB parents' group. You may be able to find a neighbour to borrow / buy secondhand items from, or even just try out baby stuff before committing to buying new. For instance, my neighbour lent me a collection of used carriers and slings from her first baby, so I was able to try them all, spreading that task over a few days so the baby didn't freak out about being popped into a million carriers in a row. This allowed me to find one that worked and feel confident with which brand to purchase.

Good luck! Newborns are hard!!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:57 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

How long has she been like this? The best/worst thing about babies is that they are always changing the game on you, so neither good nor difficult phases last for long. Could she just be having a miserable period? In that case you just need to wait her out (while taking care of yourself as best you can) and try to get through to the other side.

Random suggestion: My 11 week old won't take a pacifier either, but I can soothe her to sleep by letting her suck on my finger.
posted by Rora at 11:32 AM on February 6, 2019

Could it be gas? Our kiddo gets gassy and my bro taught me this cool trick that you sit baby on your lap, facing away from you, and then you rock slowly back and forth. Works like magic for de-gassing bebe. My baby also gets super cranky (breastfed too) if I've eaten any sugar (especially chocolate) or caffeine ...like the only two damn things I MISS - but the battle that ensues after having them just doesnt seem worth the price right now :/

I think your baby just thinks you are way more fun than sleeping - finding the window for getting them to doze off is def. detective work..I've noticed the times between naps shorten significantly if anything exciting is going on. if kiddo turns into a screamer when I'm gonna a put him to nap, I usually
- swaddle him
+ rock him (can start quite bouncy and ease off)
+ shush loudly (again, getting quieter when he settles) or sing whatever or play something like Norah Jones or take him to the fan above the stove and crank that thing up
+ make sure it's quite dark or have something interesting behind me for him to look at (we have some black and white photos that he finds captivating so he just studies them quietly and passes out eventually)

sometimes I start the nap thing way too early and realize kiddo is not tired at all and then we just chill out together and try again in awhile.

have you thought of trying giving your baby a massage? some people swear by it. I hope it works out ok for you soon!!
posted by speakeasy at 12:47 PM on February 6, 2019

I don't have any great tips, just want to tell you that you are doing GREAT. You are alive. Baby is alive. Baby is growing and gaining weight and a delight when she's not fighting sleep! If you meet any moms or dads who tell you that their 4-month old is sleeping eight hours a night, they are either lying or so sleep-deprived that they can no longer tell time.

FWIW, my son's sleep improved a lot when he could reliably roll onto his stomach. He just didn't like sleeping on his back and I was too afraid of SIDS to put him on his stomach. He's 21 now, and still a light sleeper. It had nothing to do with me or his dad or any technique we tried or didn't try or didn't do perfectly.
posted by tuesdayschild at 1:46 PM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Baby sleep in the first 3 months is an utter shitshow, and you are being a good mom.

Nthing the bounce ball. We would watch a lot of Netflix with the sound off (or headphones in, since we had a Roku) and bounce for Olympic gold until the kid passed out, at which point, we would gingerly shift to the couch, and then slowly slouch more and more until the kid was lying on the couch. It helped us learn at what stage of sleeping-on-parent the kid could be put down. Like, how limp were they? What were the little signs? Were they having little funny baby dreams? Were my parent senses tingling?

And uh, to this day, my 30 pound 2.75 year old still naps best in my lap in the rocking chair. He is actually too big to fit comfortably, but by God, he wedges himself in there and gets his nap on. (I also like it now, because he is otherwise constantly in motion, and I don't get as much in the way of cuddles as I would like.)

Bonus: if you sing "Bounce bounce baby bounce bounce" to the tune of I Like to Move It Move It while bouncing for gold, your kid may, at the age of 2.75 suddenly hear that song on a Spotify playlist and start cackling with glee that is completely inexplicable to him, but will make you smile because apparently, some tiny part of them does remember and recognize all the love and affection and care you poured into their tiny, weirdo newborn bodies.

posted by joyceanmachine at 2:23 PM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

She may be going through a growth spurt. Both my kids’ sleep (which has never been great to begin with, as my husband’s whole family are genetically kind of bad sleepers) always goes to hell around a growth spurt, especially daytime naps.

Could be teething, too. My kids’ main teething symptoms are extra clingyness and screaming as soon as they realize I’m trying to make them sleep.

And honestly don’t ever ever judge your parenting by other people’s kids. Neither of my kids ever took a pacifier - and I tried. Neither ever slept in rockers or swings. My son will not fall asleep in the car or stroller (unless it’s 5 minutes before we get home, naturally). Frankly, I nursed both kids to sleep until they weaned and then my daughter had a bottle or (covered) cup of milk in bed at bedtime until she was 3 1/2 and my son at 15 months is still on bottles of milk for naps and bedtime.

If it were that easy to make a kid sleep when you thought they were supposed to, the huge industry of books, websites, and consultants for baby sleep wouldn’t exist. This is not you failing to do something. It’s babies being assholes. They do this. It sucks. You are exhausted and stressed and it’s not fair. But it’s not your fault. It will pass. It will get better. Just survive.
posted by olinerd at 5:08 PM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This community is amazing I love you guys. I’m going to come back to this thread whenever I’m feeling deflated. You’ve really helped validate that fumbling through this whole parent thing is fine and normal and my baby will turn out perfectly perfect regardless. And no offence, but some of your horror stories gave me a reality check and made me realise that there ARE some things going well for us and we are lucky in some respects.

I’ve managed to borrow a swing from someone in my antenatal group, I’ll get it from her on Friday so fingers crossed!

I found a Magic Sleepsuit on eBay. Amazon U.K. only has 6-9 month sizes. I’m a bit more dubious about this one but the starting bid is £4 and so far I’m the only watcher so hey ho not much to lose if I win it.

Last night I did try something new, I didn’t try to do a bedtime routine after bath. I just let Sunny hang out and when she grumbled I nursed her. In between nursing we just chilled in bed and had quiet chats. We did this three times and she had a final grumble and nurse at 10:30 like usual and went to sleep on my breast like usual and fed twice like usual and woke up at 7 like usual. What was unusual was there was wayyy less crying and stress about the whole thing. I think this thread helped me feel less guilty about doing it this way and approach it with a “whatever works” mentality. Thank you.
posted by like_neon at 12:32 AM on February 7, 2019 [14 favorites]

Ohh wanted to add - I drink a huge cup of chamomile tea (blergh) in the evenings and i dunno if it's placebo or not, but I feel like kiddo is a lot more content to drift off when I remember to.
posted by speakeasy at 2:15 AM on February 7, 2019

One other thought that I completely forgot - we found that when we put our son down and then immediately fled the room (no "good night", no kiss, no song, no hovering, no last-second loving looks) - he would go right to sleep. If we paused for even a second he would cry and carry on and we'd lose another 15-20 minutes. So our sleep routine tuned into just put him down and run from the room. It's possible your kiddo is too smart for her own good like ours, and is testing you to see if you mean it :/
posted by Mchelly at 4:48 AM on February 7, 2019

Hungry. She’s hungry. I have 3 kids (10,8 and 15 months) and the youngest does NOT give me hunger signs except for general fussiness. For a long time I didn’t feed him quite enough because he just didn’t seem hungry! Feed that baby until she is full as a drum, then put her down once she’s asleep- you can deal with the sleeping at the breast thing later. Parenting is hard, get the sleep you can get.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:48 PM on February 7, 2019

Response by poster: Another update for anyone still following this thread:

We got a swing two weeks ago. Oh my god. Okay it’s still not perfect and there have still been some screaming bouts but guys, she has not fallen asleep on me in two weeks. My arms and back feel sort of normal again!

And get this: over the course of 3-5 days her bedtime naturally moved up by half hour increments and now she’s pretty much going to bed at 7pm and getting up at 7am (with 3ish nighttime feeds).

We are more or less going with a book recommended to me in DM, Precious Little Sleep and using the swing as a progression towards independent sleep. It’s not gone perfectly! Before the swing she sometimes managed 5 hour stretches which she hasn’t done yet. BUT she’s going to bed without 2 hours of crying or me and my husband rocking her for an hour so hurrah! Naps are also getting a bit more consistent but still harder than bedtime (which is naturally the case). That last nap of the day is still a nightmare and I can’t wait for her to be ready to drop it.

I do wonder how much of it is the swing and how much is her natural maturity bringing on these changes. But whatever, I’m typing this during her first nap which is now going over 1.5 hours and NOT ON ME so whatever is causing it I thank the sleep gods for it.

But I’m trying to accept the fact that things will always be changing with a baby. We’ve set up her crib in her own room so the plan is to get her in there at 6 months. So that’s independent sleep, no swaddle, separate room. On the other side that may throw a wrench into the plans is the 4 month regression, inevitable teething, and we’ve been introducing a bottle (two feeds a day). Sigh.

I’m also trying to accept that I shouldn’t be held hostage to her sleep routines. Staying home all day and revolving my life around her sleep still doesn’t guarantee a perfect day. So, sometimes she sleeps in the stroller (she sleeps in the basinette now!! Omg!!) and I have to work with that because that means she/we can have some sort of social life.

As you can see, I am still visiting this thread, re-reading everyone’s experiences and words of encouragement. It helps.
posted by like_neon at 2:02 AM on February 28, 2019 [9 favorites]

Yay!!!!!! I'm SO happy for you! I'm telling you the swing was our saving grace for at least six months. Our second daughter loooooved it and slept in it every night. She's a week short of two years younger than her sister, so I really didn't care WHERE she slept, as long as she did.

The bottle is a good thing - it will allow you more freedom. Whether you are giving her expressed milk or formula, it means that you aren't the only one feeding her. And yes, get her used to sleeping out of the house - whether in the car, or in her stroller on walk. The same goes for not keeping the house entirely quiet. Keep the tv and phone ringer on, don't worry about outside noise or the vacuum (as if!). The more used to regular noise she gets, the easier it will be for her to adapt as she gets older.

This is such exciting news. I'm just thrilled for you! :)
posted by dancinglamb at 10:30 PM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Last update:
- She is off the swing and in her own crib in her own room. I repeat: IN HER OWN CRIB IN HER OWN ROOM
- The swing was an absolute game changer for getting her to fall asleep without being held. We only used it for 5 weeks, turning down the speed pretty quickly towards the end. We didn’t even do the 0 speed as Precious Little Sleep recommends, we just went to her bedside co-Sleep cot.
- It was maybe another week later we moved her to her crib. There wasn’t that much difference to her ability to sleep. Wow.
- We have gone with CIO. I never thought we’d do that but here we are. We started with the gentler methods and gradual extinction (Ie Ferber) but it actually wound her up MORE and made her cry more and longer. We’re one week into Weissbluth and there are still some tears, with two very bad hour long sessions, but overall it’s working for everyone involved, including the baby who is still her joyous self. I know it’s a controversial method but we researched the crap out of it to become confident that we could do it correctly and that it was the right choice for us.
- That said, I can’t say I wish we did it earlier. I don’t think she or we were ready. I have no regrets about the rocking, the carrying, the slinging, and the swinging as part of our journey to here. It’s not over of course (I know it never is!) and we’ve still got teething and weaning to deal with.
- So for any future parents coming in here for help, it does get better! Do what works for your family and your baby. You know your baby best and what works for them so have faith as a parent.
posted by like_neon at 3:42 AM on April 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

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