Help my baby sleep (and us keep our sanity).
November 8, 2006 10:22 AM   Subscribe

My 8-month-old son has wildly inconsistent sleep habits. What can we do?

At night, sometimes he'll go down in his crib first try and sleep through the night, sometimes he'll never go down in his crib, sometimes he'll go down but wake up multiple times.

During the day, he absolutely refuses to go to sleep in his crib and must take his naps on one of us (usually my wife, since I'm at work). Very, very rarely has he napped in his crib by himself, and usually if we try it and fail, he won't take a nap at all.

Techniques like letting him cry himself to sleep don't work, since he pulls himself up to standing and gets increasingly upset until he starts choking.

Any tips?
posted by crawl to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What happens if he gets no nap during the day?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:27 AM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Buy the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby. I used to nanny for various families with infants, and their parents swore by it. It's the bible for exasperated, sleep-deprived moms and dads. Marc Weissbluth explains a baby's neurological sleep cycle and how it changes month to month, and he offers different tips so you have a few options to toy around with.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:29 AM on November 8, 2006

He'll grow out of it eventually :) Also while you say he absolutely refuses to nap in his crib at the end of the day he's only 8mths old (so is my daughter) so be firm, put him in the crib and stay right there until he eventually falls asleep (and he will because again he's only 8mths old). Keep nap times regular, even he doesn't sleep during his chunk of nap time so be it. A white noise machine might help a bit. Good luck. Our first was very difficult too, but #2 is much much easier so a lot of it is just personality. Good luck :)
posted by zeoslap at 10:30 AM on November 8, 2006

This is what our developmental therapist had us do when our daughter just wouldn't sleep regularly (she would get up, scream herself to vomiting, etc., etc..) However, these were at the year and a half old range, so you're probably going to have to be a little more flexible with an 8 month old child. (She said for babies under 4 months, that this was not recommended at all.)

1) Create a strict bedtime routine and stick to it, no matter what. At 7.30 there is a bath. At 7.45 there is a story. At 7.55 mommy kisses, baby bear kisses, at 8.00, turn out the lights. Do not deviate. Not even by five minutes.

2) Put a radio on between stations, getting a good white noise, and leave it on, only during sleeping hours. Turn it off during waking hours.

3) Put a lavender-scented something in there- we used the Scented Oils, but I felt they were a bit strong. Plug-Ins might be more subtle.

4) Ignore any cheerful chatter or general wakefulness. If he want to sit there in the dark and play, let him. If he wants to sit there in the dark and call for you, let him. Don't check in.

5) If he gets to the screaming and choking stage, stand outside the door. Contrary to belief, your baby can't actually choke himself to death by screaming or crying. If he can make noise, he can breathe- it's scary, but it's okay. If he does throw up, enter the room, clean up the mess, clean up the kid, and put him right back down to bed.

6) Don't give in after a couple of days because you're tired or overwhelmed. It only took us about 5 days to get our daughter on track, but sometimes it's so easy to say "Oh, we'll just skip the bath tonight." Don't skip steps on the schedule you create.

Things that might help, in general- some babies- even older babies, feel insecure when they're rolling around in a great big bed by themselves. Try a smaller crib, or try bundling him. Likewise, some babies don't like to be contained. Try looser jammies, or just no jammies at all.

Some babies have sensory issues. Try giving him a firm but smooth massage all over before putting him to bed. Try gentle joint compressions. Try tighter/looser/different material jammies. Try different material sheets in his crib. Try giving him a small square of flannel or fleece to hold (a few inches square- nothing big enough for him to roll over onto or to cover his face with.)

But mostly, try the schedule, stick to the schedule, learn to love the schedule. It was remarkable how quickly our daughter's sleep patterns became when bedtime was a regimented, scheduled event. 5 days at the time seemed like forever; 5 days now in retrospect, to cure more than a year's worth of all-night up and down fits is remarkable. She's now 4, and if her sleep gets the slightest bit wonky, we revert to the regimented sleep schedule and it's almost immediately effective.
posted by headspace at 10:46 AM on November 8, 2006 [3 favorites]

Techniques like letting him cry himself to sleep don't work, since he pulls himself up to standing and gets increasingly upset until he starts choking.

Then Healthy Sleep Habits... might not be the right book for you. Weissbluth advocates hardcore "cry it out" -- even if your baby cries so much he pukes, you're not supposed to go in and comfort him, or even clean him up until he passes out (page 301 of the 2003 edition). My doctor loaned me that book recently when I said my baby was having problems sleeping, and I was shocked by the harshness of the book (despite having an forward by noted pediatrician Cindy Crawford).

Many people say good things about Pantley's The No-Cry Sleep Solution. Didn't work for me, but I know people who swear by it. You might as well give it a look.

My advice would be to do whatever you can do to get him to nap during the day, since sleep leads to sleep. Will he fall asleep in a backpack or a stroller, so your wife can at least get her hands free? Do you have a car, and if so will he nap in the carseat?

Like zeoslap said, he will grow out of it. My kids both have had phases where they wouldn't sleep and I thought I would go insane, but it gets better eventually.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:57 AM on November 8, 2006

So many variables to keep track of, but a couple more things to mention:

1) We use a white noise maker, and have since he was born.
2) This has been going on for about 2 months straight now.
3) We keep a pretty good regular schedule, but not as strict as headspace's recommendations.
posted by crawl at 11:01 AM on November 8, 2006

Are you very anti-binky? Or does he already take a binky? It is the only thing that lets my son nap in the crib. Nighttimes have always been OK (not always great). But at four months, we started a multi-step routine: bath every other day (otherwise just a little sponging down of the face), massage with lotion, jammies, comb the hair, read a book, bottle, bed.

But 8 months is a really hard time. Even if you see no sign of teeth, he is likely teething. Plus he needs to practice his new trick of pulling himself to standing. Lots of body and brain stuff is going on right now. This is also prime time for separation anxiety: he doesn't want to sleep alone, he wants to be with you.

If you do decide to stick it out with the crib, it really won't be long before you see a change, I promise! Our son is 10 months old, and other than when his top two teeth came in at the same time, he's been sleeping through the night wonderfully for about 4 to 6 weeks now. By the way, he also slept through the night almost every night from 5 weeks old until about 6 months old. There are phases and cycles babies go through where they just don't sleep well at night, for many reasons.

You might want to check this out. About halfway down the page, Moxie talks about the "8-month sleep regression."
posted by peep at 11:02 AM on November 8, 2006

More data!

1) He has 7 teeth already, but that doesn't seem to make a difference anyway if he's actively teething or not.
2) He did sleep through the night reliably for a while (about the same timeframe as peep)
3) He's pretty much never had a pacifier (the only times have been when flying and he needed to pop his ears) and we don't want him to become dependent on one (but if it worked....)
posted by crawl at 11:14 AM on November 8, 2006

My son was like this, and he eventually grew out of it.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:20 AM on November 8, 2006

peep, that regression stuff is interesting. Looks like sleep problems around 8 months is common, and knowing/suspecting that it's because he's working on learning new things really helps make it more tolerable.
posted by crawl at 11:21 AM on November 8, 2006

Also, see this other AksMe thread on a very similar topic.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2006

Ugh. I am so not a fan of the cry it out approach. A PP's suggestion of letting baby cry until he pukes and then cleaning it up and leaving him alone again horrified me. Babies cry for a reason. They are not manipulating you, they are expressing a need.

My advice: if your baby needs to sleep on you, indulge him while he's in his babyhood. Get a good mei tai or sling, put babe in it, and go about your business. An infant needs to feel secure, and if he's standing up screaming until he chokes, he's not feeling secure. At night, it's perfectly okay to rock him to sleep, or to dance around with him until he's sleey enough to put back in the crib, or even bring him into bed with you. They're only babies for a short time, and they have serious attachment needs that shouldn't be ignored.

If you're in the market for a book to help you, please consider avoiding books that claim to have a "program" guaranteed to get your baby to sleep blissfully through the night. These "sleep training" books prey on the weakness of tired parents. Most are just variations of the cry-it-out approach.

If you pick up any book, I'd recommend Dr. William Sears' The Baby Book, or anything else written by him. He takes a whole-family approach, meaning that he helps deal with problems by considering the needs of the whole family so that everyone is happy.
posted by forensicphd at 11:29 AM on November 8, 2006

I think that a lot of different options work differently on different children.

I think one of the most important things for a baby is your routine, find a method works for you and your baby and stick to it.
posted by Gooney at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2006

The book, "The Happiest Baby on the Block", by Dr. Harvey Karp is definitely worth taking a look at. His techniques worked for us. Beyond that, the advice of your pediatrician.

The sling worked for us too, although we didn't use it for naps, only for putting our son to sleep before bed. Then it's tricky getting him out w/o waking him. But Dr. Karp's other techniques are excellent too.
posted by cahlers at 11:46 AM on November 8, 2006

My sympathies to you and your wife! It is so hard to be sleep deprived.

My youngest is 21 months, and still is up a lot at night, for no apparent reason. (Last night he was up for about 4 hours, with 5 to 20 minute naps, then awake again.) He was an early walker (9 months,) but like your son didn't want to sleep in his own bed. One problem was that I was his pacifier/blankie - he had to be nursing and stroking my skin to fall asleep. When he was in his crib I tried to get him to go to sleep on his own, but he would scream until he pooped, and then would scream because of that. I tried to get him to sleep without nursing but it didn't work. A couple of months ago he climbed out of his crib so we moved him into a toddler bed so he wouldn't hurt himself. I had to climb into bed to nurse him back to sleep.

The nursing in his small bed got to be too much for me, so I quit cold turkey on that (for sleeping) and instead have him lay on his back and I gently stroke his eybrows and bridge of his nose and eyelids. This seems to work pretty well and he usually falls asleep after 60 to 120 strokes (except last night! His brother and sister are both sick, so he may be getting it too.)

My first two kids would take a bottle of water to fall asleep, but my last will not do the bottle or pacifier (and I doubt at this point yours would if he hasn't been using it all along.) The first two kids did regular naps all along, but didn't sleep through the night until age 2. My youngest never did regular naps until this summer (18 month.)

As far as reading goes, you can try "The Baby Whisper" and the "Toddler Whisper" books for methods that may be a bit more gentle but gradual than some of the other methods mentioned by others.

Good luck!

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 11:52 AM on November 8, 2006

Best thing to get your infant to o things regularly is keep a regular schedule.

Nap time is nap time, because you say so and you know he needs the rest. Put him down, and let him cry himself to sleep. He won't choke himself, and at this age he might even be learning that when he makes those noises you suddenly come running in.

If you're that concerned ask your pediatrician. They might have some more useful tips to try, but my sister's daughter was the same way. We often skipped her daytime nap so she was ready to conk out instantly at night.
posted by PetiePal at 12:26 PM on November 8, 2006

This sounds pretty normal to me. He's telling you what he needs. He can't understand what you need. Give him what he needs and what your instincts are telling you he needs. If you make the personal sacrifices that it takes to let him have that closeness and touch that he needs now, you'll be rewarded with a confident, happy kid who won't be inclined to worry when you're not around. Don't let them cry it out as others have said. Your instincts rebel against that for a reason. Our kids napped on us and slept with us until they were almost 2. Then they were excited to get their own big beds and sleeping was never a problem... because we didn't teach them that bedtime is a period of fear, frustration and abandonment.
posted by ulotrichous at 1:07 PM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby does advocate cry-it-out-even-if-they-puke as one option, which did horrify me, and which I did not use. However, there was a LOT of useful and effective information in that book, as well as other options. I used a combination of this book and the No-Cry Sleep Solution, and the change in my daughter's temperament and sleep habits has been astounding.
posted by moira at 2:37 PM on November 8, 2006

My nephews have both got their own 'sleep music thingy', a toy attached to their cot where you press a button and a three minute tune plays (some kind of classical stuff). I think this works for the 'routine' aspect without being so rigid for you - whenever they go to bed, for a nap or at night, they have this exact same music playing. It really seems to calm them down, and get them prepared for sleep.
posted by jacalata at 3:26 PM on November 8, 2006

Wait it out. Try something new every day. Try lying down next to him in your bed and waiting quietly till he falls asleep. Try a pacifier (lifesaver for our 2nd!!!). Try rocking him to sleep while listening to calming music, in a darkened room, or even singing to him yourself, or even watching not-too-stressful TV. Wait it out, wait it out, wait it out ...

And throw out the Weissbluth. I believe that is abuse, much of what's advocated there. Personal opinion, please no flaming. It wouldn't help to take a look at Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution. And anything written by Sears. Still, it's YOUR baby and YOUR family and your own routines/rituals/approaches you're trying to establish. One size fits all just doesn't exist when it comes to child rearing andor child personalities.

The thing about that age is that 'routines' change weekly, if not daily. Eight months is, IMO, a bit too young for parents to be the master of their fates yet. Alas. This was our experience with our firstborn, who is a champion, routinized sleeper now (starting at about 18 mos. and until now, at 3 1/2). Our 2nd boy loved his paci from about 4 weeks out, and the result of that has been that I'm the most rested I've been in years. But of course: YMMV. Good luck to you. I remember the difficult first year with my firstborn ....
posted by melixxa600 at 4:29 PM on November 8, 2006

If you like graphs, these might be interesting to look at. The minute-by-minute sleep, eating etc patterns of this one couple's daughter in her first year plus: Trixie Metrics.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:42 PM on November 8, 2006

I've said this over and over since this question has been asked over and over. Have a consistent routine for bedtime.

In my house, bedtime is 8pm. At 7:30 the kids go potty then change into jammies. A story follows, then they get in bed. I tuck them in and we sing two quiet songs. That's it.

And this is true for all my kids ranging from 2 months to 5 years. Once in a blue moon one of them gets up. Now, understand that as the terrible twos come on, a parent has to reinforce the rule to stay in bed. One of my children is very strong-willed. He needed to be spanked for a few nights to understand that I ment business. Another of my children is very compliant by nature. She needed no reinforcement other than "stay in bed".

Be consistent as a parent and the child will know when bedtime comes that it's time to sleep.
posted by kc0dxh at 7:58 AM on November 9, 2006

So we eventually just tried to let him cry for a while. The first night, he cried for almost 2 hours before finally going to sleep and sleeping through the night. I went in and comforted him after 15 minutes, then 20 more minutes, then 25 more... etc. The next day he napped on us. The next night we did the same, and it took slightly less time. Repeat. After 2 nights, we started the same deal for naps.

Now he goes to sleep on his own in his crib after less than 10 minutes and sleeps through the night. Naps are the same, except that he's not quite napping as long as we'd like (typically he only does 30-45 minutes).

It's like a different life now. Thanks to everyone for their help.

No spanking. Pretty regular routine, although not down to the minute by any means.
posted by crawl at 12:45 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

« Older Windows Media Center--mpeg   |   I need more noisy toys! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.