thread: Gentle sleep solutions for a naturally wakeful bub?

  1. #1
    BellyBelly Member

    Sep 2004
    South Burnett, QLD

    Gentle sleep solutions for a naturally wakeful bub?

    Hi All!

    I started out determined to be a responsive, gentle parent, to help Hannah adjust to the world as gently as possible. I have read so many books and articles (including Pinky's 100 ways to calm the crying) on how best to approach my daughter's first few months of life. I wore her around in my hug a bub for many hours each day when she was really small, she sleeps right beside me in her cot, I breastfeed her on demand, rock/pat/feed her to sleep when she needs it etc. etc.

    The thing is, however, that at nearly 5 months of age (on the 21st of this month) Hannah's sleeping is really driving me nuts. She wakes between every 1-2 hours all night long most nights. Occasionally I'll get a 4 hour-in-a-row sleep - but that's not often. When she wakes, I try to figure out what it is that she wants - just in case it's something other than a bf - but more often than not, feeding her seems to be what she's after. So I feed her.

    When I explain this to people I am often told "you're making a rod for your own back" - a phrase I hate. Nevertheless, I am left wondering if I'm doing the right thing.

    Perhaps Hannah's sleeping isn't a problem for her (though I am not convinced that a baby so young needs so little sleep) - in any event, it is a huge problem for me. To the extent that I don't feel I can be completely responsive to her needs when I'm such a zombie myself. I understand that babies wake in the night, and if it were just 2 or 3 times a night, I wouldn't mind, but I am getting hardly any sleep at all. Sleep deprivation does some pretty nasty things to the mind and body! I have even resorted to trying things like starting solids at 4 months (which I only did for 3 days – she clearly didn’t need it for nutritional reasons and I felt guilty doing it merely in a desperate attempt to get her to sleep). I have, on occasion had to let her cry because I haven’t been in the right state of mind to pick her up. I am booked into Riverton sleep school for the 31st of this month. None of those things I imagined I would ever do – but I have to do something!

    I know there aren't any easy answers. But I was wondering what other parents with similar parenting philosophies would do in this situation? How can I maintain some sanity, get some sleep, and be a gentle mum? I have posted about Hannah’s sleeping elsewhere on BB, but I am really ultimately wanting to follow a gentle parenting path, and would prefer a gentle solution (if one exists). I don’t care if she doesn’t sleep through the night – but I do need some sleep iykwim!!!

    P.S we have been to a couple of doctors to exclude any physical/medical reasons for her wakefulness.

  2. #2
    Registered User

    Oct 2004
    Back in Brisvegas :)

    Jules - I really hope that someone on here can assist you with Hannah; preferrably before you go to Riverton. It's been such a rough road for you so far; I certainly felt for you that night when you & Hannah stayed over.

    I've had no experience so I certainly can't offer any 'real' help but just to reassure you that you are a TERRIFIC mother and to believe & trust in your instincts. Don't believe anyone that tells you that Hannah's sleeping patterns are your own making!

  3. #3
    ♥ BellyBelly's Creator ♥
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    Feb 2003
    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Australia


    Firstly *huge hugs* sweety, I know the lack of sleep is a killer and you are doing the best you can - so well done for doing what you do best. You sound like a wonderful mother and she is very lucky to have you there for her.

    I've noticed such a pattern of mums posting with / talking about sleep issues with four month old babies - it is a difficult time and I could have written everything you have said for my first - I tried the whole sleep school thing too, as much as it was against what I believed in - and you can imagine my frustration and dismay when the very thing I didn't want to do but everyone else swore by didn't work either! They gave up on me after two weeks! LOL! Marisa ended up sleeping through after two years, and not long after Elijah was born, so I truly do know how much of a killer sleep can be.

    I too hate it that people have plenty of useless comments for those wanting to be a gentle parent - always keep in mind that there is a nice little cheersquad on BellyBelly (picture us cheering you on in the background or on your shoulder LOL!) who will back you up 100%, we all believe in what you do and will remind you that you are doing such an amazing thing for your daughter. We'll also remind you where those annoying, interfering people can stick that rod! Remember there are plenty of statistics and experts to back up the benefits of what you are doing.

    The big thing for me is, no matter what parenting method you choose, the general difference I see between those who cope and those who don't is support. Does your partner help you during the nights? Do you have much family support? Can someone play with her during the day so you can get a sleep? If not, have you thought about a post-natal doula or casual babysitter/nanny to watch her while you rest - even if just once a week? ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE SUPPORTABLE!!! Accept all the help you need right now to get over this hurdle.

    You've read the best there is out there from the sounds of it and you can read as much info as you like and take what works for you - often a mish mash of everything we read. But at the end of the day, not all babies are great sleepers no matter what you try, so the main thing you have to remember is 'this too will pass' and get by as best you can by rounding up what support you have.

    If you don't have many friends around, joining a playgroup might be a great idea - it will introduce you and bubs to some new friends, will tire her out and make you feel alive. I always notice a huge difference in my kids moods and energy once we've been out for the day - my kids sleep so much better!

    What is your nightly routine like? Have you tried infant massage? Could your partner take her for a walk at night while you prepare dinner?

    So many questions but hopefully will give you some ideas and also help to work with it a bit more.

    As I have recommended to some other girls, "The Wonder Weeks" is a great book - she may be going through a developmental phase and babies are often more wakeful, cry more etc when they are having a developmental change or growth spurt or even early stages of teething - it's a time when it's very common to be facing any of these issues. Elijah started at four months and has been continually teething, so I have been going through many crisises of confidence of late but reminding myself all of this, I am coping much better with it. Tired as hell, but in my mind, I am content. I know I will miss this one day. Sick mummy... LOL!

    A thing I try to remember when I am feeling like I am going to lose the plot during bad days / nights is that baby is just trying to tell you things don't feel right just now and she's not trying to pi$$ you off or test your limits. Keep trying different things, keep doing what you are doing and you will get past this, I promise Motherhood is a bloody hard job, if you give into it and let yourself do what you feel you need to do, it makes it sooooo much easier.

    Good luck chicky
    Kelly xx

    Creator of, doula, writer and mother of three amazing children
    Author of Want To Be A Doula? Everything You Need To Know
    In 2015 I went Around The World + Kids!
    Forever grateful to my incredible Mod Team

  4. #4
    Life Member

    May 2003
    Beautiful Adelaide!

    Juliette, you poor tired thing........

    I echo everything that Kelly has said, and hope her post gives you some hope?

    Also, did have one thought. Do you think Hannah comprehends the difference between day & night? Does she maybe need some help getting her head round the difference?

    You may already do this, but here goes anyway.......when she sleeps in the day time, is it in a darkened room, or do you keep the blinds open? And when she wakes from a day sleep, what marks it as "daytime"? Music? Household noises? And at night, do you have a bath/massage bed type of ritual at Hannah's bedtime? And for night feeds, do you feed her in your room with the lights dimmed, or elsewhere?

    Just to give you an example, Charlie sleeps in the day with the blinds wide open, with the radio on, dogs barking, Olivia screeching etc. Bath/boob/bedtime is the cutoff between day and night, and that is when the blinds in our room get drawn, the Peacebaby CD goes on softy and the nightlight is all we use for light. Also, for night feeds, they are done in the dark, and I am "boring" as in I am happy to cuddle and smooch, but I don't talk much (just whispery sweet nothings) and I try and keep any stimulation to a minimum, just so Charlie knows it is "boob and back to bed only, because it is nighttime matey!"

    Hope this helps a little?

  5. #5
    BellyBelly Member

    Sep 2004
    South Burnett, QLD

    Thanks girls! The sympathy/empathy is just what I needed I think.

    Just to answer a few q's - I don't have a lot of support at home - DH is preoccupied most of the time - though I must admit he is getting better slowly, and can't really afford to hire anyone as DH has recently lost his job...

    One of the best things I have done is joining the local mum's group, and I also go for a "parent's with prams" walk every thursday. I also have a wonderful, supportive CHN (she is just fabulous). The Mum's group is great to get out of the house and around friendly faces who understand the trials of early motherhood, but I must admit it is pretty frustrating listening to them all talk about their babies who sleep 12 hours in a row (is that even normal for a bub of this age??)!! They all seem to have amazingly good sleepers!

    Hannah and I enjoy getting out and about most days - just because I know she'll sleep in the car (it's a 25min drive to our local town) and she sleeps well in the pram too. Otherwise at home she is lucky to get 2 x 20 min naps a day!

    I used to massage Hannah every day after her bath (I bought some beautiful jurlique baby massage oil), but she developed a really bad case of eczema so I was advised to stop for a while. We're only just starting to get on top of it now. I can't wait to get back into massaging her - we both used to love that time together.

    re: day and night, Lucy - the room is pretty light (just a lace curtain) during the day, and I've always put her down among the usual household noise, and we have the same peacebaby CD which is part of our night time routine. To be honest - I usually feed her in front of the TV before bed at night, which probably isn't the best - but the couch is so comfy! I will try feeding her in the dim light of our bedroom for a few nights and see if that makes any difference... During the night though, I keep stimulation to a minimum (except for the odd occasion when I can't resist her smiles and giggles!).

    I got 4 hours in a row sleep last night - so am feeling better about things today - and I managed to curl up with Hannah in our bed this afternoon for an hour (a very good day nap for her).

    Thanks just for listening to me whinge!

  6. #6
    Life Member

    May 2003
    Beautiful Adelaide!

    Juliette, it really sounds to me like you are doing all the right things, totally. I hope things pick up: you sound like you have got some good "coping" mechanisms in place.

  7. #7
    Kirsty77 Guest

    My sister also had a very wakeful baby.Kate would only sleep very little during the day, preferring to not miss a thing that was going on!During the night she'd sleep very little as well, which was odd for a formula feed baby!
    I did read somewhere that 'gifted' children apparently sleep very little.Maybe you have a genius on your hands!My neice is very artistic and a real little adult already!I remember she was trying to feed herself from a really young age!

  8. #8
    BellyBelly Member

    Sep 2004
    South Burnett, QLD

    Thanks Kirsty! Your post has given me hope (or at least something to think about in the wee hours!)

  9. #9
    Registered User

    Oct 2005

    Firstly what a great section of this wonderful forum and great timing!
    I have recently been at that stage of doubting myself and when I noticed this section fri/sat it was such a relief.

    Juliette, my daughter is 6 months on the 28th and still waking every 2 hours during the night plus shes usually restless from around 5 amish, sometimes earlier. Shes doesn't like to sleep during the day either and is very alert. My son was the same (hes 11 now) I succumed and put him on formula and solids early and he still kept waking every 2 hours untill 6 months or so. I vaguely remember my cahys nurse saying to me, once you get his day sleeps sorted the rest will follow. I'm pretty sure this helped with my son. That said it might've been easier at that age (6 months) as I still havn't got her into a routine. I suspect its the growth spurts that get in the way so I'm hoping once she has her 6 months one over and done with she will settle. I did get her day sleeps going really well when she was just over 2 months which improved her night sleeps but it only lasted a couple of weeks, then bang back to square one and no improvement since.

    After starting to get that extra sleep I found it harder to cope with the nights. Also she started getting harder to settle where the boob was the only way and unless I waited untill she was fully out of it she would wake the moment I laid her down in her cot which is beside my bed. It can take over an hour to get her in her cot at times so for most of the night now she is usually in bed with me. This I find much easier on me, I get more sleep this way, I have her in her grobag and have just started using one of those anti roll pillows.

    I bought my son up the same way (co-sleeping, not leaving him to cry etc..) untill I gave in to the pressure and did the controlled crying when he was about 3 and having trouble in his big bed (he slept in his cot fine I think). Yes it worked and I thought it was the right thing at the time, I'm not sure now. I did try everything else first for several months before I bit the bullet.
    But anyway the reason I mention it is if your worried you are spoiling her because of what peole tell you my son turned out to be a very sharing kid ever since he was able to say 'ta' and is very mature for a kid.

    Last week I nearly let peoples comments get the better of me, read all the boards I could which all talked about controlled crying and I put her down in her cot one afternoon, settled her then left her for just a minute to test her, the poor thing cried so much in that time she spewed just after I picked her up and I just knew I could never do that to her and then I saw this new section which confirmed that I was doing the right thing..

    Both of mine were also really windy babies with 2 differences, she vomits alot though much better now and instead of vomiting he cried in pain alot, I found the best way to cope with them being so demanding was to put myself in their shoes and not take it personally. I find if I do that I cope much better.

  10. #10
    BellyBelly Member

    Sep 2004
    South Burnett, QLD

    Hi Sherrie! Nice to meet you! Thanks for your response...

    Your little one is only a month older than Hannah! They sound like they have very similar sleeping patterns - Hannah is difficult to settle in the early morning too, and I usually resort to bringing her into bed with me. Sometimes it works, sometimes she's just determined that the day has started and we all need to be up too!

    I too, am using a grobag for Hannah - but was wondering about the anti roll thingys. Do you find it works? Hannah's been perfecting her rolling for a month and a half now, and I almost invariably find her sleeping on her tummy when I wake to her - and sometimes with her face smushed up against the side of the cot!

    Thanks for the reassurance...your son sounds like a real little treasure. I guess that's what we all hope for our kids - that if we treat them well, and respect them, that they'll turn out to be responsible, sensitive, caring people.

  11. #11
    Registered User

    Oct 2005

    I can't say for sure as she has never rolled during sleep time. She has been rolling from side to side for ages when playing but only recently started rolling onto tummy then back plus shes been shuffling across the room backwards so I wanted to be careful.

    Youur welcome and nice to meet you too

  12. #12
    Lea Lea Monkey Guest

    Hi Juliette,

    Believe me i can sympathise with you. ](*,)
    I have twin boys 5mths old and neither of them sleep well. My boys go down at 6pm and feed again at 2am but in between i could be attanding to them anywhere from 1 to 20 times.....
    They usually wake every 1 1/2hrs to 2hrs but not together, so you could say i am up all night between them. I am lucky my hubby helps as i just can not manage the nights on my own. I have tried the rolling things, but i find a rolled up nappy on each side is better.

    There doesn't appear to be anything wrong but they just wake. I roll them over and tuck them in and they go back to sleep, but this continues all night.... #-o

    Good luck, i would love to hear how things work out for you.

  13. #13
    Registered User

    Jun 2005
    near the water

    I have always had a unsettled sleeper, never the deep sleep. In the last week I have slightly altered our routine. I now feed Eliza in her room in with her Peace Baby CD on and pull the blind. She has always been a fighter to feed wanting to look around and play. It has seemed to relax me as well as her and feeding hasn't been an issue and falling asleep in my arms. Maybe Hanna is picking up your anxious feelings about her inability to fall into the deep sleep.
    Good luck