Hello Annie. Help! I need a good night’s sleep! I have a baby boy who will be 6 months old on January 31, and he is my first child. “What do you do about sleep?” is my question, and I’m not sure if you work with babies this young. My husband and I have read every book possible, Baby Whisper and Baby Wise are the two we are following. We have stuck with the E.A.S.Y. method (eat, activity, sleep, and you time). Our issue is that our son does not sleep through the night. I have charted his sleep, and in a 24-hour period he does get 14 hours daily, but during the night he only sleeps an average of 3 hours at a time.
My husband is more frustrated than I am, and I am not willing to let him cry it out because, as far as I can tell, it makes him more upset (hyperventilate and actually cry). Oh, and his night starts around 10PM, otherwise we are up at 6AM, and this way he will stay sleeping until about 10AM.
Our issue is that he does not sleep through the night. I have charted his sleep, and in a 24-hour period he does get 14 hours of sleep daily, but during the night he sleeps an average of 3 hours at a time. My husband is more frustrated by this than me. I feel like maybe this is his pattern, and I am not willing to let him cry it out because, as far as I can tell, it makes him more upset (he hyperventilates with real tears). Oh, and his night starts around 10 PM; otherwise, we are up at 6 AM, and this way he will stay asleep until about 10 AM.
He is always happy, and in between sleeps during the day, he is always up for 2 hours, and then he starts to get crabby and goes for his nap, and getting him to sleep can be a huge task at times too! He always sleeps in his swing, and we are trying to figure out how to get him off this prop!
Part of the problem is that we still have to swaddle him because his arms are out of control and he cannot fall asleep without being in a tight cocoon! So when we put him in his bed, he flips around, gets the blanket loose, gets out, is angry, and we start all over. Everyone just keeps getting more frustrated.
He’s a big baby (20 pounds), and it bothers me that we’re swaddling him and putting him in his crib while he rolls onto his stomach and can’t get back up. Being like that with his arms pinned to me seems like a set-up for suffocation.
Maybe you can tell me where we can get help (if this is not your specialty), as reading books is great and all, but I think we need an intervention. My husband thinks we need to have baby boot camp around here, and well, let’s just say I am the softer one, and it is not going to happen!
We have not started offering solids yet, although it has been recommended several times. We are both shift workers, so getting better sleep would really help everyone’s mental health! Thank you for your time.
Your son sounds like a normal little guy, although I quite understand how tiring it gets when no one in the family is getting a good night’s sleep! I don’t usually like to answer specific questions when children are this young, as there are often medical influences at play. However, what I can do is give you the big picture of where you’re at, which I hope will help you out. I certainly do offer a behaviour intervention service, and you can find out about it by clicking on the link provided.
I need a good night’s sleep: Find the optimum time.
Everybody understands that newborns have their own innate sleeping cycle and that it’s simply best at that point to work around your baby. At some point, however, usually between three and six months, your baby, if shown, can learn the benefits and joys of sleeping like everyone else, i.e., going to bed at a certain time on their own, sleeping through the night, and waking at much the same point every day.
I think from your letter that a schedule like that would appeal to you, so the question is how to get from where you are to where I’ve suggested. I’ve written many letters that explain the approach (just search my archives under “sleep”), but the more important fact I want to get across is why it’s important to sleep train your child and why you may want to persevere even if it means “real tears.” Right now, your son doesn’t know what a decent sleep could look like because you haven’t shown it to him. He has no experience. You try but he cries and then you stop which prevents him from ever travelling past his initial discomfort to see the benefits.
I need a good night’s sleep: Understand the rationale.
Sleep training is not cruel, and you are not being mean to your baby. What I’m really getting at is that if you let the prospect of your son’s anger, tears, or upset deter you from teaching him how to get a good night’s sleep, you may find it increasingly difficult to teach him many other things because he will use those same tears to prevent you. Listening to a screaming 2-year-old is no easier than listening to him cry now, and at that age, he will have a lot more tenacity and staying power.
Ask yourself: How do you want to bring your son up? No decision is made in a vacuum. The decisions you make now will affect both your and his future. Do you want to centre things around your son, or do you want him to fit in with the rest of the world? Do you want to rock him to sleep every night or have to sleep with him, or do you want him to be able to sleep on his own? These are decisions you should make as a couple, and I would very much suggest that you sit down together to discuss your approach. Being on the same page, backing one another up, and staying consistent are the foundations of good parenting.
I need a good night’s sleep: Start how you mean to go on.
If you want him to learn to appreciate a normal schedule, i.e., sleeping all night and waking up for the day at a reasonable time in the morning, then if I were you, I’d start now. The problem with swaddling and the swing is that they are only symptoms of a larger issue. Once you have helped your son learn to sleep on his own without aids, he will not need swaddling or a swing. (I certainly wouldn’t restrict his movements in his crib at his age.) He will know that when you put him in his crib, it’s time for sleep, and he will have learned how to get himself there on his own.
I should add that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be placed on their backs to sleep on a flat, firm surface free of any soft objects or loose bedding, and there is always a small risk of SIDS if the swing is used as a permanent sleeping place. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to try and limit the amount of time he spends in the swing to no more than an hour at a time. You should also make sure he is not left alone during swing time.
I need a good night’s sleep: Make a plan and use each other for support.
If you do decide to sleep train, then appreciate that it will be a difficult couple of days. Concentrate on bedtime and just follow through with the same procedure at naps. I know you’re both shift workers, but don’t attempt this unless you can do it together, as you will need to rely on each other both for support and to get extra rest during the day. I would also suggest that you follow the recommendation to put your son on solids.
I hope this has helped. Again, for specifics, go to my archive, where the whole approach is laid out, or indeed, follow one from your book. Irrespective, you should check with a medical practitioner before implementing my advice because there may be issues surrounding your child that I am not aware of. For more help with your parenting, please visit my parenting services page.
All the best,
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