Advice? My baby is a terrible sleeper

Whoa. Dopers are great at advice. :smiley:

Nat’s been able to flip himself onto his stomach since he was about two months old. It’s his preferred sleeping position, and when he started it it did help with gas wake-ups. He rolls enthusiastically back to front and around in circles, now.
We don’t have a car, and that was one of the things that did work for a while- car ride/stroller/front pack- but magically quit working about two and a half months ago. Now he seems to find motion disruptive, and sleeps badly when he’s being moved.

He won’t really take a bottle or a pacifier. We tried. He’ll eat from a bottle, but not much and not enthusiastically. He may be hungry, but I doubt it- I think it’s mostly comfort nursing.

Usually if he’s up longer than two hours he goes into hysterics, and he gives sleepy signals quite often right when picking him up from a nap, or within twenty-thirty minutes, but putting him back down means he cries until his next naptime. I could try keeping him up for longer, but… aagh. This is like learning to translate Urdu into Swahili with only a Latin lexicon.

We do have a carrier, but I’m not very big, and he’s getting on to twenty pounds, which makes carrying problematic… sorry, I’m a little distracted because he’s having hysterics from being awake too long.
Sigh. I try to put down before he’s being sleepy, but see the above re: sleepy signs right after waking up, plus throwing huge fits if I misjudge.

What about spoon-feeding solids during the day? And have you tried different types of pacis?

Oh, you poor thing. I dunno…this almost sounds to me like he’s hurting physically somehow. I would definitely consult his pediatrician. Have you tried baby tylenol? It’s possible he’s having teething pains before the actual teeth show up. Sometimes when my Kate is having a cranky day I’ll give her a dose of Tylenol and it seems to help, even though I never know exactly what it was that was hurting her in the first place (she doesn’t have teeth yet, either.) And try teething rings, too.

Racking my brain to think of other things I’ve read…Oh yeah…when I was trying to get Kate to take longer naps, I came across a technique that a lot of people swore by, although it didn’t work for me…apparently a baby’s sleep cycle is such that there’s a “wakeful” period at about 40 to 45 minutes. To get the baby to sleep longer, you have to get him through that interval. This technique said to barely wake the baby at about 15 minutes into the nap…just barely get them to stir, don’t fully wake them. Apparently this is supposed to reset the body clock, and the baby will sleep longer. Shrug Worth a shot, I guess.

Oh, and if it is acid reflux, you might try letting him sleep on an incline…prop up the mattress a little. That might help.

I have lots of sympathy for you. We went through exactly the same with Isabella from nursing to the one-bedroomer. She’s 3.5 now and still has a tendency to bounce up out of bed at three in the morning cranky and hyper. Nothing worked. All the great advice I’ve seen here didn’t work. Our specialists never said more than “put her on a schedule”. That’s not even possible. We’d get so excited because she was finally getting to sleep before THREE a.m and sleeping until seven and then one night she just wouldn’t sleep or she’d pop up an hour after going down. Pacis weren’t taken, solid food pushing didn’t help, Benadryl didn’t help. What I do think helped is once she started walking (at nine months!) she never stopped moving and her wake up mood improved as she could toddle all over the place. She is a VERY active child. That may be your issue too?

I know it’s really really frustrating. I went through her first two years in a sleep-deprived fog. On top of that I felt like I must have been doing something wrong. She wasn’t my first but I’d gone 15 years between. Only now am I starting to feel normal again.

Soo… when you go to put him down (either for a nap or for bedtime), what do you do? Do you have a routine? Do you rock him to sleep, or put him in his crib and leave, or somewhere in between?

I guess I’m thinking: If you’re doing X, try doing Y! If you’re doing Y, try X! Even if you tried it a few months ago – we’ve been surprised when something that didn’t work when he was 3 months old worked when he was 7 months old. For example, Jonah slept with us for a few months, because that worked best, and because it meant that I got some sleep. But then he started waking up even more (which did NOT seem possible at the time), and we decided to try putting him in his room in the crib – and it worked. We were floored! Like I said above, it’s far from perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was.

Another thing to think about: some kids need to cry for a few minutes to release energy before they go to sleep. Some of kids don’t. The “cry-it-out” methods tend to work better on the former type of baby, and tend to not work for the latter. If you can identify which kind of kid you have, you’ll know which direction to go.

Do you have anyone in your life who is great with babies, or with Nat in particular? If you do, and they can get him to sleep without a ton of fuss, talk to them about the very tiny details of what they do. Who knows, it may be something simple, like he likes to be held while you stand and sway, not rocked in the rocking chair (or whatever).

Also – and this may not help much with sleep, but you never know – try giving him a bottle of water to play with/drink from, when he’s not hungry. He may be thirsty, especially if it’s warm out! (That one NEVER occurred to us.) And if he’s teething, it’ll help to have something cool to chew on. And it might help him do better taking a feeding from the bottle, so you can go out sometime! Maybe to a hotel, to sleep. :slight_smile:

I’m so sorry. It’s so hard!

I’ll second everyone who’s said try putting him down not when he’s wide awake but before he’s visibly tired (I read somewhere once that the very first sign, before the eye rubbing and fussing, is the palms of their hands get really warm. Sounds like an old wives’ tale, I know, but I absolutely swear by that), The No-Cry Sleep Solution, getting LOTS of fresh air, and putting him down when he’s sleeeepy but not asleep.

And the bath thing is good too - plus a real solid sleep routine can do wonders. When I was struggling with this exact problem at around that age, I finally set a schedule. I figured about how much sleep she needed total, how much of that should be at night, and how many naps that left, and try to stick to a general timeline, the same each day. And at nighttime we would put her down at the same time every night, preceded by a warm bath (with sleepytime bubbles - another thing I’ll swear by), a quiet massage with lotion, a story, breastfeeding and a song. She seemed to learn really quickly what it meant and it seemed to get her into the right frame of mind.

This goes against the No-Cry Sleep Solution which I advocated, but I’m gonna say it anyway - will he sleep in your arms? I went through several months of my daughter sleeping ok in her crib at night, but refusing to nap anywhere but on me, so I would nurse her to sleep in my arms and then play games online for 2 hours while she snoozed. My arm would feel like it was going to fall off, but at least she slept! (And I think getting that solid daytime sleep was what helped with the good nighttime sleeping, and then of course the good nighttime sleeping made the napping easier).

I also wonder about the feeding, as mentioned. I had vowed I would breastfeed exclusively until 6 months but when she wouldn’t sleep, the doctor recommended starting a little bit of spoonfed cereal about an hour before bed and it really did seem to help.

Oh, and as far as taking a pacifier, try dipping it in water and then putting it in his mouth while it’s really wet.

Don’t worry, in the blink of an eye this stage will be over and you’ll be on here giving advice to someone else!

This doesn’t sound normal to me. My son had a hard time with regular sleep patterns. Turns out he was hungry. Not all kids fit the model of breast milk only for however long. We did the diluted cereal thing and it worked like a charm. Talk to the doctor. He can let you know how to introduce solid foods.

Buy the Ferber book.

Buy the Ferber book.

Buy the Ferber book.

And speak to your doctor. As Kalhoun points out, it could be something simple, like hunger.

He cries when you put him to bed? Have you tried rocking him to sleep? Putting him on the dryer in his bouncy? Walking him around while “shooshing” to him?

I’m sure you’ve tried all these things but he may just not be ready to go to sleep on his own. My nephew is just now starting to go to bed on his own, without being rocked or fed to sleep, at 10 months old. My sister tried several times over the past few months to get him to go to bed on his own and he would scream for an hour or more. So she gave up, continued rocking him to sleep, and tried again a few weeks later.

Our daughter didn’t respond to CIO until she was 7-8 months old. Before that she would feed to sleep in our arms every night. Granted, she was better at staying asleep than my nephew is, but she still fell asleep in our arms until she was ready to fall asleep in her bed on her own.

You have my sympathies. I’m sure it can’t be easy. But IMHO, I think a sleep psychologist is a waste of money for a 5 month old baby. Unfortunately, it’s probably just a phase that he has to grow out of. I would take him to a pediatrician before trying something as drastic as a sleep psychologist.

Good luck to you!!!

This is exactly what I was going to suggest. Also, barring any normal causes for discomfort (wet, diaper rash, hungry, gassy), try getting him to a schedule if you can. In my vast experience (okay, not vast - I only have one, but he was a TERRIBLE sleeper), it’s important to know about what time they start to get sleepy and to start slowing things down before it becomes really obvious - dim the lights, start speaking more softly, maybe massage. And for bedtime especially, some kids really need very clear signals that the day is done, even if they don’t sleep all the way through the night, like a bath, reading/singing time, etc. I was silly when I had my first and assumed, “Hey, he knows when he’s hungry. He should know when it’s time to sleep, too.” Sadly, that’s completely untrue for babies. You’d think that as creatures who are so attuned to their other needs that they would be hyper aware of the need to rest, too, but kids need help to learn how to sleep - some much more than others.

Also, even though lots of doctors will tell you that it’s important for a baby to learn to fall asleep on his/her own (and eventually, this will be important), some babies just can’t. I rocked mine to sleep almost every single night until he was 13 months old. After he was older than that, I’d lay in bed with him until he dozed off. It wasn’t until he was 22 months that he didn’t get hysterical and scream for three hours if I left. Trust me, I tried. And the amount of upset on both sides just wasn’t worth it, so we stopped.

Oh, and one other thing - I’ll second or third the people who’ve said that if sleeping with your baby works for you, don’t stop. Some babies need to know people are close by. My son was like that and if we didn’t sleep with him, either I or my husband or a combination thereof would be up and down five or six times a night - again, until he was about 22 months.

I sooo sympathize. My second daughter did not sleep through the night until she was TWO YEARS OLD. We were all about to go insane. After consulting with our doctor, he advised that she had simply gotten into a bad habit of having play-time at 3 AM.

I had a friend with a problem similar to yours with her infant. She actually consulted a specialist, thinking maybe the child had some physical or mental illness. What worked for her was lots of stimulation and variety during the waking hours. She was always doing something with the kid, but never for more than about 10 minutes on any one thing or in any one place. Thing is, a smart baby could be bored, but can’t really do anything about it. So she would cry.

IMHO this is definitely something the pediatrician should be consulted about. You have to go for regular checkups and vaccinations anyway, right?

Rocking stop working about two months ago, and now he freaks if he’s rocked. I do have a nap routine- nurse and sing, in the dark, and then put him down in his crib. Nightime is bath, story, changing with low light, nursing and singing. Takes about fifteen-twenty minutes.

Unfortunately (I seem to be saying that a lot) nursing to sleep only works if he’s hungry, so I can only nurse him to sleep if he hasn’t eaten recently. I generally only feed him when putting to sleep now, because he doesn’t usually want to eat between naptimes.

I think maybe tomorrow I’m going to get him up at five, when my husband’s alarm goes off, and start trying to wake at the same time every day. I’ll also call the doctor. Nat’s slept for a grand total of two naps today, and I’m trying right now to get him to sleep again. We’ve been at it since before four.

It might be hunger, but sort of doubt it, because he’s not eating that much.

I haven’t read this whole thread but these are the books I came in here to recommend. One important thing that I learned with my second child is that you have to put them down before they get sleepy. If you are seeing eye rubbing you probably waiting too long. Another lesson is that it is ok to let a baby complain a bit about being bored - bordem often begets sleep. Screaming and hysterical no, but a little fussy is ok.

That’s the part that stinks about kids, huh (other than the poop)? One day they’ll be sleeping through the night and conking out easily and the next, they have enough willpower to keep themselves awake or go through some developmental schwing where they suddenly decide they no longer require sleep and must practice whatever it is they’ve figured out - at 3 a.m. It was terrible, too, when all of a sudden the things that put my son to sleep just stopped working one day. I remember sitting in the rocking chair trying the same thing I’d tried just the night before and dissolving into tears when he wouldn’t stop crying. I was convinced he was sick or hurt, but it turned out he just went through a phase where, even though needed it, he just didn’t feel like sleeping.

I think the unpredictability more than anything else is what got to me when my son was teeny (not that he’s really old - only just over two). Good thing they’re so dang cute. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t last long.

Lissa Lisslar - If he’s not eating much, then he may well be getting hungry. Because when you’re 6 months old, there are probably a lot more interesting things to do than eat. If he’s just eating until he takes the edge off, then he’s all “shiney! let’s play!”. Well, sooner or later (and probably sooner) that tide-me-over has worn off and he’s hungry again. Maybe he’s sort of forgotten how to eat until he’s full.


Our son never slept through the night until his first overnight at my MIL’s house.

I am not your normal fussy, overprotective, OMG! kinda parent. But when I walked in the room where he slept and saw my 7 month old positively OUT under a huge down comforter on his stomach and he had slept through the night, my husband and I just went…hmmmmmm. Maybe zee old gherman mother in law knows sometink.

We upped the anti with our parenting-fu and added a hot water bottle in there. For when they are not hungry. Not sick. Just fussy. It works like a freaking charm and to this day, my kids (10 and 8) love their hot water bottles.

For us, it wasn’t a real sleeping issue, it was a barfing on command issue. (YAY ME!)

Anytime our son realized he was Not In The Action ( in crib and suppose to be asleep) he puked.

He would wake up shortly after being put down for the night, realize that he wasn’t a part of whereever I was and just BLEARRRRRGH. good times and the dog earned her keep, but I won’t gross you out and tell you how.

This went on from 8 months to two years. We ruled out allergies and illness. It was all about Control. It got so I could hear the click at the back of his throat and then the technicolor yawn.

I’ve cleaned more vomit up than a rock star manager.

He stopped at two and we now joke together about his barfing phase.

You spend the first years trying to get them to sleep and then the next years trying to get them out of bed.

Hmm. I mean, he’s not eating a whole lot, but I’ve tried upping the nursing today (mostly because I was trying to get him to sleep) and he’s puked twice from overfeeding.

I have a doctor’s appointment, but she’s not available until Wednesday. He’s only napped for a grand total of an hour and a half today, been awake for four hours, I just got him to nurse to sleep, and put him in his crib, and now he’s awake again, screaming his head off. Mr. Lissar is sitting with him to give him some kind of reassurance without talk. Argh. He’s just started rolling so enthusiastically that we can no longer leave him on the bed, even surrounded by pillows.

I have read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, and it doesn’t seem to work for us- partly because right now I feel like I can’t predict when he’s going to be sleepy. Maybe tomorrow I’ll just try sticking him in his crib after an hour regardless of any signs and see if that helps at all.
God. He sounds like he’s dying. His voice is all hoarse.

This turned out to be the problem my parents had with me, and a friend’s parents had with her older brother. We were both big babies and both breastfed. Our pediatricians told our mothers that we shouldn’t have any solids before something like six months, but our grandmothers knew better and recommended adding very small amounts of cereal to a supplemental bottle (funny how two women who never met gave the same advice!) and around your son’s age our moms gave it a try on the principle that though we were not yet six months, we were as big as a lot of kids that age.

In both cases it worked. As a newborn I slept less than 7 hours a day, much to my parents upset since all the books said babies slept most of the day. After the bottle with cereal, I apparently began sleeping a lot longer, though never as long as the books said I ought to. And I stopped crying for hours every day too, which was the more important thing as far as my frazzled parents were concerned. Later on, when my brother, an even bigger baby - over 10lbs at birth - was born, his doctor said I was probably hungry just as my grandmother thought, and okay’d letting my brother get solids “early” if she didn’t produce enough milk the second time around too. He never screamed for hours like I did.

Yeah, I know you say he doesn’t act hungry, but it’s also not necessarily about the amount he eats, but the consistency of it. Formula and solid foods are simply more filling than breastmilk. Meaning, they will hold off hunger for longer periods. Think of it this way…if you were on a liquid-only diet, wouldn’t you get hungry pretty quickly? And at 18 pounds, he’s a big baby for his age and likely needs something more solid to sit in his tummy.

Something else occurs to me…maybe he’s allergic to something you’re eating?

I was starting to wonder if it was a food allergy/sensitivity, too.

Another question: you say that he freaks out if he’s rocked – is that in a rocking chair, or just standing and swaying with him? I mean, will he ever fall asleep in your arms? I ask because if Jonah’s tired he won’t let us sit down with him. We have to stand and sway/bounce until he falls mostly asleep, and then we put him in his crib. Yeah, it’s a PITA in the middle of the night, but he does sleep.