Will my child ever sleep through the night?
March 19, 2020 7:07 AM   Subscribe

My child is 10 months old and still needs to be soothed back to sleep 4-8 times a night. I can't do this anymore.

Since my baby was born, I've done all night wake-ups. My spouse is a super heavy/groggy sleeper who frequently abuses alcohol and I've just never really trusted him to take care of the baby at night. At this point I'm the one the baby wants/expects when he wakes up at night so that's an issue too.

Up until about 8 months... the baby would have good nights where he only woke up like 1-2 times to nurse, and he'd have bad nights where he was waking up every hour or more. During this time, he slept in his crib and I slept in a bed in the same room. I was incredibly anxious about co-sleeping because a relative's baby died in a co-sleeping accident while I was pregnant.

Around 8 months, it just seemed like his sleep was falling apart more and more and I was exhausted and miserable and so I decided to let him sleep in bed with me so I could get some sleep. There are advantages to this because I can just pop out a boob for him every 2 hours and not get totally woken up, but he's still waking me up every 2 hours, sometimes more because I also wake up whenever he tosses or turns or needs to burb or fart.

I used to nurse him or rock him to sleep and then lay him in his crib once he was asleep, and he would usually just stir a bit and then fall back asleep.

Now he's refusing to sleep in his crib at all. He won't take a nap or go to bed unless I'm lying or sitting in my bed next to him. So I have no free time without him and I'm exhausted all the fucking time and have absolutely no mental or emotional reserves to deal with anything, which isn't great considering the, uh, everything. You know. The thing.

Stuff I've tried:

-Letting him cry it out at bedtime or nap time. Sometimes he'll scream for 30 minutes or longer and I'll just give up. Sometimes he'll go to sleep on his own after screaming for 5-15 minutes, but an hour or two later he's awake and I don't have the heart to go through the whole thing again.

-Cry it out w/ graduated check-ins and cry it out where I just leave the room. Second is much more effective but, see problem above.

-All possible combinations of too warm/too cold. When he sleeps in his crib he wears a sleep sack. This seems to help sometimes but I dunno maybe its just random.

-Feeding him as much as possible during day. He eats a lot of "people" food... purees and small finger foods and milk thickened with cereal. He won't usually nurse much during the day, usually gets distracted and tries to crawl away. I don't know if he actually needs the calories from nursing at night or just the comfort.

-Stomach pain or acid reflux? He seems fine during the day. Loves to eat. Doesn't spit up anymore or burp much or show signs of discomfort.

-Tooth pain? He gets Tylenol sometimes before bed if it seems like teeth are bothering him, this doesn't seem to help.

-Sleep environment: dark room, white noise, humidifier.

I'm pretty ready to just let him cry all night while I hunker down on the couch with earplugs, but this will disturb my brother, who lives with us and does wake up at night when my kid is screaming.

I really, really don't know what to do. For 10 months I've been hoping or assuming that this would somehow get better on its own, but it never improves, it only gets worse, and I absolutely cannot handle this anymore.

(We have a regular appointment with pediatrician next week and I'm planning to ask her about it, assuming the appointment happens and isn't canceled because of covid19 overwhelm. Last time I asked her, he was more like 6 months and she didn't have much advice beyond waiting it out.)
posted by the turtle's teeth to Human Relations (14 answers total)
Best answer: I am so sorry. My first child had really bad sleep and it is soooo hard so first, hugs to you.

Here's some things to try for a week.

The best thing we did at about your child's age was move to a 2-3-4 schedule:

First nap 2 hours after waking
Second nap 3 hours after waking
Bedtime 4 hours after waking

My guess is you may be missing the window for the first nap.

If you can also get on at least a regular solids schedule it helps. Anything that helps this baby get into a rhythm on ANY level helps.

Second, you personally are probably in a sleep emergency. It's okay if you feel you have to be the night parent. But that means that your spouse needs to be the day parent for as solid a weekend as possible so that you can sleep all day those two days. They should take baby out with whatever baby will eat and drink and stay out for as long as possible, trying car and stroller naps.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:16 AM on March 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I forgot to add - sometimes he takes one nap a day, around 10:30-noon, and then he is usually exhausted and melting down around 5:30 or 6, and has to go to bed by 6:30 or 7. Sometimes he takes a second nap around 3:30 or 4 pm, and then his bedtime is more like 8. It's hard to establish a consistent nap schedule because if the nap situation isn't to his liking he will just scream for an hour instead of sleeping.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 7:16 AM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I know that this is a very personal decision, but when our son was 15 months old, we had him cry it out, thinking that it would be a long drawn out process. I remember how it went:

Night 1: 72 minutes of crying (not fun)
Night 2: 12ish minutes
Night 3: 3 minutes
From then on, it was fine, and we wished we had done it much earlier.

You being rested is an important part of being able to care your for your kid, right? When I thought of it in those terms, it made sense.
posted by umbú at 7:39 AM on March 19, 2020 [10 favorites]

Does he have a room of his own? Every kid is different, but our daughter did better once she was in her own room—she couldn't see us. We slept better too. The door also helps with crying it out.

We had a similar experience to umbú, in that she went for well over an hour screaming the first night, but then the second night was better, the third night was hardly anything, and then she was done.

Around the time she started sleeping through, she went down to a single long (~2 hour) nap during the afternoons. We missed the morning nap once it was gone, but having an uninterrupted night's sleep was worth it.

Every kid is going to go at their own speed. It's common for kids to not be sleeping through at 10 months. At his age, it won't hurt him by letting him cry it out—it's more of a factor of whether your nerves can handle it.

Be assured that yes, he will sleep through eventually.
posted by vitout at 8:19 AM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Try two naps a day. 1030-noon, 3 or 4pm for forty minutes and move the bed time later.

Sometimes they need a 15min cat nap at 5pm to make it to bed time.

My girl is 10mo she does 930-1130, 230-330 and bed at 730-8pm. Late for a baby I guess but it works for us.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:44 AM on March 19, 2020

Get your brother some ear plugs too, or ask him to stay somewhere else for a night or two while you Cry It Out.

Ultimately, you need to get to a point where your kiddo can fall back to sleep on their own and also they realize that if they cry, you won't come to them. Right now they have a positive association between crying and getting what they want, which you need to break.

My wife and I have a 15 month old that still wakes up during the night, but not really to cry, just because she wants to run around and shriek for an hour. We're pretty exhausted just from this, and it sounds like you have it much worse, so things need to change!
posted by Fister Roboto at 8:50 AM on March 19, 2020

Hey, we had this same problem, and I actually never posted the question here cause I didn't want to do Cry It Out. We just recently did a softer sleep training - "pick up put down", which took longer but has really worked. We're down to just one or two wake ups some nights, none on others. We're still working on it, but it's worked better than I dared hope.

One thing I will say is that getting rid of the nighttime feeding will be a big step. He definitely (unless he's barely eating anything during the day) does not need to feed at night anymore. Have you tried offering him water from a sippy cup? He'll protest a bit but not for long. It took one night of this before my little girl stopped expecting milk, unbelievably. If you're doing multiple feeds, stretch out to just one first, then drop that.

After that, there's lots of different ways to sleep train, but if you want more info on how I did it, let me know. If you need to take a few days to really get going on it, ask your bro to go stay with a friend for a bit maybe. We took a week off work to do it, so that we could do it without the stress of having to work after a bad night!
posted by greenish at 9:06 AM on March 19, 2020

We never did cry it out but managed to stop night wakings and later wean. I followed that "pick up put down" too when he was small enough. For me it was helpful to have a consistent phrase - like "It's sleepy time, put your head on the pillow and close your sleepy eyes." I would say this when putting baby down in bed. When he woke during the night, I'd take a significant pause (not just run over), then I'd talk to him from outside the room, and say "Mom hears you." and then repeat the phrase. To my surprise, most wakings he would maybe cry for 2 minutes and then go back to bed. also really stuck to naps even if I had to hold him during the nap. If baby is crying during naptime he might be overtired already, try naps earlier. Also do the whole consistent bedtime routine thing, with bath and book and bottle or whatever.

With night nursing, can you talk to a lactation consultant? Many insurances cover it. Mine was super helpful in helping me night wean and wean altogether when it was time. You don't have to do it all at once - if I remember correctly, mine advised me to remove the pre-midnight feed first. I think we discussed this during the day first and I told him the boobs were sleeping when he woke up before midnight :)
posted by beyond_pink at 9:11 AM on March 19, 2020

Response by poster: I guess I am having trouble squaring the advice here, or any of the ages I've read on the internet, with my personal experience, because I can't really find a middle ground between doing whatever he wants or doing cry it out.

If I don't do whatever he wants, he will scream indefinitely. If he's exhausted it might stop after 15 minutes. If not it might go on for an hour. So I've tried stuff like comforting him, patting his back, picking him up and putting him down, coming in briefly to say "I love you, you're fine, go to sleep," and he just continue to scream. I wake up next to him when he's bed with me and pat his back and tell him "I love you, you're fine, go to sleep," and if I don't give him the boob, he just continues to scream.

So it just seems like I either have to do what he wants forever or face an interminable amount of screaming.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 10:19 AM on March 19, 2020

I think for some kids, cry it out is really the only answer. If going back in to pat and reassure doesn’t actually make the baby feel better, then there is really no point to doing it. I think some people have a tendency to think that if something worked for their child it should work for anyone. But kids really are so different. Sleep training took longer for my first than people said it would — definitely more than a week, and he did the thing where he would finally fall asleep and then wake up and start crying all over again. But it *did* eventually work and it was worth it for everyone, baby included, to start sleeping better. Most of the crying happens at the beginning of the night and it does get better subsequent nights. Your brother can put up with a few nights of interrupted sleep for the greater good. Good luck!
posted by lomes at 11:50 AM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Until they are down to 1 nap it’s a bitch, I’m sorry.

Tackle night sleep first. Naps are so freaking tricky and at 10 months he might get to 1 in the next three months.

We did cry it out and here was our journey (at more like 6 months but I think the idea is the same).
- Tried to time awake times but to be honest until she got to one nap it was always a crapshoot. But did whatever it took to get her to nap, which was either rocking, boob or buggy.
- Never let her sleep past 4 (with an aim of a bedtime of 7ish)
- started a consistent bedtime routine starting an hour or so before bedtime. For us this was bath, quiet playtime, book, bottle, bed. Yours may differ. Just stick to a routine.
- Cried it out. Took about a week. We first tried gradual extinction and realised it just dragged things out.
- 15 mins of crying is NOT BAD AT ALL when starting out. Maximum she cried was 45 min. That was maybe twice in the week. The rest ranged from 5-20 mins.
- I still went in to feed in the night but at around 10 months she started having the odd sleeping through with no crying. So we decided to take that as a sign that she was ready to drop the feed (because she has shown she is capable of getting through without one). So we did CIO for that too. I think we were lucky, this was not too painful, relatively short cries.
- Naps came much easier after that. She had a very small bottle for naps up until a couple of months ago (she’s 16 months now) but dropping that bottle was pretty painless too. But like I said, it was much easier when she was down to 1 nap a day because she was tired and ready for it.

We used a book called Precious Little Sleep (recommended by a mefite) if you want more details.
posted by like_neon at 12:34 PM on March 19, 2020

Also re-reading your intro, as a non expert here, it seems like maybe your son went though the 8 month sleep regression (very common milestone), you introduced some soothing to get through it, but now it’s become a bad habit. This is super common. The book I mentioned above talks about this and talks you through it.
posted by like_neon at 12:38 PM on March 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

We did the Taking Cara Babies method for sleep training and it was a miracle. Worth the money for sure! Good luck.
posted by k8t at 6:43 AM on March 20, 2020

Nthing some kind of cry it out. I don't think the differences between methodologies really matter as long as you pick one and stick to it. My wife and I have a 9-month-old and have followed the advice in The Happy Sleeper and it has worked. It has comprehensive advice for nighttime sleep and naps, of which naps are harder for sleep training, but are still doable.

I would try to have him take two naps a day if you can and definitely stabilize the bedtime, even if you don't sleep train.

Sorry about your husband. I had to do all of my daughter's wakeups after the four month regression for about six weeks due to some insomnia my wife had and it was brutal.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:46 AM on March 20, 2020

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