Please wish us sleep

Tonight, we begin attempt #273 to DO SOMETHING about little girl’s sleep.  Regular readers may notice the change in nickname, which is the problem – she is moving beyond babyhood.  It’s not that I think there is an arbitrary point where she should learn to sleep, it’s that she is now 22 months old and I can count on my fingers the number of times she has slept longer than 2 hours.  I am exhausted.  She’s not even consistent – the extremely rare occasions when she’s slept for 5 hour blocks are generally preceded by a feeding orgy where she might give me 20 minute breaks between 3 or 4 hour long feeds, so I’ve paid heavily for my oblivion.

Of course it’s not really #273, we’ve tried hard to be consistent and give an approach a decent time to work.  We walked many miles during the early reflux nights.  When that passed we discovered she was an extremely light sleeper and would be woken up by things like moving position or someone walking past.  She refused wrapping, but we got a monitor and closed all the doors, avoided the toilet, and discovered that I could feed her to sleep lying on our bed then roll off without waking her.  That’s how the full-time co-sleeping started.

We expected the 4 month monsters, which turned into the 5, 6, 7 and 8 month monsters with no improvements.  Every now and then we would try something like cuddling after a feed but it always ended with hysteria and throwing up, a legacy of the reflux?  Then we rode out the 2 months, or possibly 3 or 4 my memory’s blurred, when she wouldn’t sleep without a boob in her mouth.  Eventually I stopped trying to detach her, made the most of it and caught up with my reading.  It was a major celebration when she let go.

We had a very stressful time with a lot of interstate travel at the height of her separation anxiety (did I mention she’s extremely clingy?), but surprisingly it led to a breakthrough – we got her onto a mattress next to our bed.  At that point, up to 2 hours with extra space in both beds felt like heaven.  I don’t sleep well when she’s sucking, probably because so much of it is comfort sucking, so I’ve never had the luxury of just letting her attach and not really noticing.

Throughout all this we tried dummies many times, lullabies, meditation music, white noise, wrapping, sleepsacks, fans on and off, air conditioners on and off and several variations of light.  I’ve tried pulling the nipple out, patting, rubbing, holding, singing, cuddling and Daddy.  But she’s very simple and very consistent – I want a real nipple until I decide to let it go.  Do not touch me, do not sing, do not cover me with anything, and do not turn the lights out.  And if you’re very lucky it might take less than 40 minutes and you might not have to do it again for a couple of hours.


At 18 months it got beyond a joke so we tried partial night weaning.  I didn’t feed between 11 and 4am and she didn’t sleep.  At all.  At least thats what it felt like after yet another night of going to bed at 2am.  She would wake up (again) sometime between 11 and 1am and then cry, ranging from screaming hysterics to gentle hiccups for 2 to 5 hours.  Some of the time she would sit on your lap quietly, but the eyes didn’t close.  In 10 weeks I got her to sleep without feeding a total of 3 times, one of those I went to bed at 4am, another 5am and the third I fell asleep with her on the couch about 3am, not good.  DH found me and I tried to move at 4am, which predictably woke her up.  DH had a much better record, which was why we persevered so long, and there were those elusive nights when she slept for 5 hours which kept making us think that maybe she was getting it.

Then we went away.  It’s not really polite to stay in someone else’s house and have your baby cry for several hours every night and it makes it rather hard to enjoy the holiday!  So she and I slept in one bed and DH and the big girl slept in another and she actually did quite “well” so long as I was with her and didn’t try to get up, only feeding 4 or 5 times a night. But I’m not willing to spend the next however many months or years with her attached 24 hours a day (remember the clinginess?), 22 months with only the odd half hour here and there free is enough.

Coming back has been disastrous.  She’s jetlagged and will either get up and play for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, or suck for a 4 hour block plus hourly wakeups and she’s back to waking when anyone breathes too heavily.  The big girl is also waking up every night and DH is dealing with her so we’re all exhausted.  I can no longer cope, crying is a nightly event and there are times I’m scared I might hurt her seriously (Note: my idea of hurting her is to hit her.  I know people do this on purpose every day, but I don’t hit my kids.  She is in no danger).  I know I’ve accidentally hurt her a couple of times in a minor way by squeezing her too tight or accidentally digging my nails into her.  And the guilt from it all piles on top of the frustration and the helplessness.

I’m sorry, believe it or not this started as a fairly positive post because we do have a new plan we’re starting tonight, but it’s now 1am and I’m writing because I’ve been trying to get her to sleep since 8.30 (ETA – she slept from 1am – 6am!).  Friday is a good day to start because then we have the weekend to recover if needed.  We’ve put a queensize bed in the big girl’s room and they’re going to co-sleep sideways across it, that way DH or I can fit in too when we are in there.  It’s worked quite well on holidays, and the idea is that maybe with someone else next to her she might be more settled.  And maybe without us coming in and moving around she might not be woken up.  And maybe without me right there she might not want a feed.  And who knows?  Something’s got to work eventually.  We’re going to put big girl in our bed to go to sleep at first and move her in later, until we see how it goes.  If we can get the rest of the night to improve then we’ll look at putting them to sleep together.

So that’s the plan if you’ve got this far.  I’d love to hear comments and ideas (or gasps of admiration that I’m still semi-functioning), although I have to admit I think we’ve tried most of the suggestions out there.  Except weaning off feeding to sleep, and given the complete lack of success of partial weaning and the huge problems it caused with her sister it ranks somewhere below anti-depressants for me on the list of things to try.  And unfortunately, I would happily have gone to a sleep school or paid a professional or even got a Granny in to help many months ago except we live in a remote town interstate from our relatives.

So there it is, I’ll accept any offers of luck but I’d really like people to wish us some sleep!

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anette on January 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    wish you many hours off uninterrupted sleep and yes I’m in awe of how you are functioning at all!


  2. Posted by Jenn on January 29, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Wishing you all the sleep in the world. Somewhere out there there will be a solution for you, and I pray this is the one. There are so many similarities to our story, and the sibling bed has had a lot of success, but normally hubby is in there with the boys as well.


  3. Oh, I hope it works out! I was ‘blessed’ with a non-sleeper also. I got sick of people telling me what I needed to do to get him to go to sleep and I’m pleased to say I just remained (somewhat) patient and helped him through at whatever stage he was at. We did the feed to sleep (both of us for the first few months!), co-sleeping, Daddy rocking him to sleep, crying it out (until he hyperventilated and I said we would never do that again), moving to a big bed, lying with him, sitting next to him.
    Fortunately for us, at 27 months we had a breakthrough. I cut his day sleep cold turkey, his uncle gave him the ‘right’ cuddly toy, and Daddy started doing the whole bath and bed routine and suddenly he was falling asleep by himself and sleeping 11 hours straight at night.
    I hope you find your breakthrough soon!


  4. Posted by Elizabeth on January 29, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    I wish you sleep. Lots, and lots, and lots of sleep. HOW are you still functioning?

    I thought my little girl was hard work, but wow. I hope this works for you. x


  5. Posted by Nats on January 29, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Holy Cow! Apart from the fact that I am so definitely in complete awe of you, your whole story is the kind of thing my nightmares were made of.
    I was so preoccupied with my son’s sleeping and obsessed with “getting it right” that I managed to work myself into a self-induced panic (and consequent meltdown) when told that if I didn’t get his day sleeping right, it would intefere with his night sleeping. His night sleeping was brilliant – 12 hours a night from 2 months (sorry – really not what you want to hear right now…). So you can understand why I, the sleep lover that I am, was terrified that it would go haywire if I didn’t get his naps right.
    And I turned into a complete nut over the days sleeps until I kinda got that if I let him dictate what he wanted, it all went rather well.
    Not that I’m saying that you should do this – clearly, my issue (if you can even call it that) pales in significance to yours. I’m just wanting to give you some courage and to let you know that I’m sending you all the luck in the world.
    I read somewhere that you’re never dealt more than you can handle. Well, looks like you’re made of pretty tough stuff.

    Oh, and I’m not just wishing you sleep. More like a narcoleptic coma. For about 3 days.


  6. Posted by Michele on January 29, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Oh! You and your husband must be both so strong and supportive of each other and your little girl. I found over 12 months of interuppted overnight sleep and short day sleeps hard. Was so relieved when he weaned overnight and I finally started getting lovely long sleeps again. Don’t know that getting pregnant is the way to go though.

    Hope you get to enjoy uninterrupted sleeps again soon…. and of course that your little girl begins to have long night sleeps!


  7. Thankyou everyone, it’s been a boost to see the comments and especially to hear that others have made it through!

    They are both asleep, now waiting to see what happens.


  8. I am truly sending you all my support and wishes for some decent sleep for yourself and your bub. I have had various sleep issues with all 3 of my kids….most notably, their inability to sleep without my boob in their mouth or very close to it. I wish I knew what else to say. It’s is such a bloody hard thing to go through. Good luck with it. I hope you find some sleep sooner rather than later!


  9. Posted by MummyTiff on February 2, 2010 at 2:53 am

    Deb, you could try what we find always gets our children to sleep – a pregnancy!

    Honestly I am RIGHT THERE WITH YOU (sorry for shouting!) when it comes to sleep issues although you are 2 months deeper into it than we got. Samuel woke pretty much every 2-3 hours for the first 20 months of his life and like you we tried EVERYTHING. But in saying that, also like you, we were consistent (when you say you have tried everything well meaning folk suggest that you should have stuck with one thing for longer – and then you wonder what it might be like to punch them in the nose before realising that might just be the sleep deprivation speaking!) and he would outlast us everytime!

    For us telling him that “mimi” was sleeping until morning and offering him other gentle ways of settling simply meant that he, and whoever was wtih him, stayed awake until morning! He WOULD NOT close his eyes without a breastfeed save for 2 occassions and then we got a very unsettled 20 minutes of sleep before having to start again.

    It was like he wouldn’t buy the whole “no mimi” thing or “mimi is sleeping” thing until there REALLY was no mimi due to pregnancy. It was like he went “oh right, this is what you want me to do”.

    Same situation exactly for DD.

    That is NOT to say that he still doesn’t wake – he does. But it is once a night or every other night and he normally just wants a cuddle with Mummy or Daddy (and sometimes he says “Me have some mimi” and will get upset but accept water and just ask “me look at mimi” – bless him!) and then will go back to sleep.

    TBH I have no idea if it’s the pregnancy that did it or if it was just around the corning anyway.

    In terms of not being near a sleep school – we were discharged as a lost cause! They ran out of suggestions to help Samuel sleep and basically said “sorry, nothing else we can do”. Always good to have the input but just pointing out that they might not help much either (although the poor things tried!).

    I am actually scared of only one thing with our soon to arrive baby – another huge period of ongoing sleep deprivation and honestly feeling like there is nothing we can do about it.

    I am thinking of you and hope you get some much needed rest soon.


  10. Well after two absolutely brilliant days, the best she’s ever done, it’s sort of drifted back to where it was before.

    However, just having her in the other room has made a difference. I thought it would be bad because I’d have to change rooms and thought it would be easier to just roll from one bed to another. But being able to get into the room, go to the toilet, turn on a light, even just roll over without worrying about waking her up has been good. It’s given me a little bit more privacy, even if it’s psychological. So we’ll keep soldiering on.

    Tiff there’s no way we’ll be adding any more, our little family is perfect even if the members have a few problems 😀


  11. I hope beyond hope it is going well for you now.


  12. My daughter is also extremely clingy and reading your post has actually made me feel better because I have felt so guilty for the methods I used to help my daughter to sleep and worried that the consequences of that have fuelled her clinginess. But now after reading your post I realise she has always been clingy and using the methods I did didn’t make her any worse.

    I only lasted 5 months till I cracked. I was not getting any sleep and my husband couldn’t go any where near her without her screaming the house down. I finally caved and called a sleep school. Someone came out to help me and I used their patting methods. It was hard work and I felt terrible not holding her. But she only cried for 40 minutes until she went to sleep. Compared with hours and hours of crying in my arms, trying to comfort with singing, rocking and breast feeding, it felt like heaven. It took many months of patting every night taking anywhere between 5 to 40 minutes, but eventually she got to a point where I can (mostly) just leave the room and she goes straight to sleep.

    I still have some days where she is very hard to settle and I have to return to the patting but I always remember those days of it taking hours and hours for her to settle. I really feel for you. I couldn’t cope with it after 5 months, I don’t know how you’ve done it for 22 months. I hope that you can find something that works for you very soon.


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