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New Mama seeking help with sleep issues -- any wisdom welcome

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

My 5-month-old dd will only nap for 20 mins at a time most days.  Ppl keep saying, "maybe she's just wakeful" and it's driving me nuts -- the kid is TIRED all day.  On days when I can get her to sleep longer even once, esp 45-90 minutes, she is much calmer, happier, focused, etc.  She obviously needs the sleep.


She napped 2 hours at a time several times a day up until 7-8 wks of age, then all of a sudden one day, POP!  Her eyes opened after 20 mins!  If she only does the 20 minute naps, she wants to sleep 4 or 5 times a day.  I feel like we're spending half the day napping/getting ready to nap!!!  Also, she falls asleep every time she eats on those days!


For naps, I get in bed with her and nurse her to sleep or mostly to sleep, depending on when I catch the "fluttering" sucks.  I was staying in bed with her past the 20 min mark, both to see what was happening and to soothe her back to sleep.  Very rarely I've gotten her back to sleep.  When she DOES get even one 45 to 90 min nap, she is calm, happy, etc. all day through evening!  But I'm not sure my success rate is making this worth it -- I REALLY appreciate some time with her napping and me being able to do things even if it's only 20 mins, and I don't think I'm helping her "learn" to sleep longer by staying there through the whole nap.  I tried doing scheduled naps (within a small window, for flexibility) complete with napping routine when she's naturally most tired during the day, but this didn't seem to help.  She would always go to sleep but wake 20 mins later.


At night, she's ready to sleep around 7p, and does best when she's in bed (sleeps with me and dh) until 6-7a.  She had been sleeping a 3-4 hour block, stirring to bf, then sleeping 2 hr blocks for the rest of the night, stirring only to bf.  Starting about a month ago, she's been stirring (and sometimes waking) every hour to 90 mins, thrashing around in bed while she's still asleep.  Within the past week, I've stopped swaddling her as she's outgrown the blanket and sleeps no better when swaddled anymore.  (The thrashing started while she was still getting swaddled...  I thought at first she was reacting to being uncomfortable all bound up, but there's been no real improvement since I freed her.)  At bedtime I rock her to sleep.


I feel like I'm in this horrible overtired cycle with her -- lack of naps leading to lack of nighttime sleep leading to lack of naps leading to lack of nighttime sleep etc.!!!  Am I keeping her from self-soothing by nursing/rocking her to sleep, so that when she gets through the first REM cycle at naptime, she can't get herself over the hump to deep sleep?  I absolutely don't mind nursing her to sleep, it's so cozy and sweet, but I also don't want to be hobbling her.


The pediatrician recommended "fussing to sleep," which sounded okay (I am completely and utterly ANTI-CIO, this sounded different) and I started to try it today but she quickly started screaming every time I laid her down in bed.  Not the intended result.  I called the pedi's office for support, and the nurse asked if I'd "read that book by Ferber"!!!


Sorry this is so long and involved but I am desparate for the healthy, alert, able-to-sleep-for-as-long-as-her-body-needs little girl I KNOW I have.  Am I doing something to hinder her?  What can I do to help her?  Or am I crazy?  Should I let go of the fantasy of sleep?

post #2 of 11



I've been there.  DD was like that from around 3 - 7 months.  I was sooooo frustrated.  But i would get 25 - 30 minutes.  And, so, we would do like 5 mini naps a day.  She just couldn't stay asleep through that little arousal period/over the hump.  No matter if she was on me, next to me, in the bouncer, in a swing, with a pacifier, etc. 


Sometimes, and I'd say maybe 15% of the time, if i put her in the bouncer to sleep, and then started to bounce it gently right before the time I knew she'd wake up, i could get her through it and she would sleep another 25 minutes.  It was pretty rare, but it was so important to me that i did that for a long time.  Until I was just so tired of laying on the floor next to the bouncer in a pitch dark room for what seemed like the entire day.  So then I tried put her in the swing.  Here is where i'd like to say woohoo, all problems solved, but no, it just let me go downstairs and get some water, see the sun, spend some time with DS before she woke at the 30 minute mark. 


One day, i realized she slept for 45 minutes once.  Then, over the next month or so it was more often that she did that than the 30 minutes.  Then, her naps went to an hour, then an hour and a half.  it was nothing i did; she just changed.  i can't entirely remember when we stopped swaddling, but it was late, I did a double swaddle with a bambinoland or aden/anais (without swadding, we had no chance) but i think we stopped around 11 months or so, i can't remember well.    From about 9 - 14 months she was a fabulous napper, 2 hrs in the morning, 2 1/2 - 3 in the afternoon, and, yes, her nighttime sleep got better, but, i will say it didn't get good until about 12 months.  A lot of my memory is a blur.


Anyway, i guess I wanted to say that mine was similar, and she did grow out of it.  I tried my best to get her as many mini naps as i could squeeze in, because sleep was so important in my mind.  it made me very sad/upset to think i was shortchanging her sleep, that she was tired and why couldn't i just figure it out.  it was super frustrating at times because no one around me understood.  I got a lot of 'she just doesn't need that much sleep, then, why is this such a big deal'.  I was very concerned she wasn't getting enough sleep and enough quality deeper sleep.  I'm one to schedule everything around my kids naps; i know not all are like that or understand, by my kiddos won't just sleep anywhere, and I'm pretty protective of their sleep time at home. 


I hope your babe grows out of this soon, I'm sorry i don't have any real ideas or help other than time..

post #3 of 11

There was a period for my DS when the only time he would nap longer than 20 minutes was either for long drives in the car or long walks in the Ergo carrier or sometimes in the stroller. If you have the time and energy this can be a great way to get your DD to sleep a long time if she really needs it. Go for a long walk or drive and maybe she'll sleep the whole time. My DS rarely fights naps, but when he is super tired and just can't get stay asleep I pop him in the ergo or the car and off we go. He is out like a light within minutes and will stay asleep as long as we are moving!

It's worth a try if your LO really needs the sleep.

post #4 of 11

Both of my boys have done the same thing. DS2 is 5.5 months and just now letting me put him down once asleep.. but he rarely sleeps longer than 30 minutes at a time. He is also wanting to take like 4-5 naps a day and seems to get tired quickly after waking. But what I learned from DS1 is that they DO grow out of it eventually. Some things I have tried that have given us some improvement--


*Keeping him up longer-- we started going for a walk in the mornings after he had been awake about 45 minutes (he typically would want to go back to sleep an hour after waking) so that he wasn't super tired yet, and this would keep him from getting grumpy (he gets really distracted and is very content when we are outside!) and try to keep him awake for 1.5-2 hours before letting him nap... he then would take a longer nap after that.


*wearing him in the Ergo for naps


*white noise/blackout curtains/a shirt of mine (for my smell) near his face while he is napping in bed


Have you tried nursing/rocking her immediately when she wakes up to see if she will go back to sleep? DS2 has been doing these long afternoon naps where he wakes every 30-40 minutes but nurses and rocks back to sleep and takes like 3 back to back naps


also, having a routine/schedule to our day has really helped..


hang in there, it gets better and they get more predictable with time! they are little for SUCH a short time.. (hugs)

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

I have to be patient?  Oh, man, maybe I'm not cut out for this...! Sheepish.gif


Thanks so much for the stories and suggestions!  I do feel like sleep is something to protect, such important rest/processing time for busy little brains/bodies/hearts/spirits!  So I have been feeling like a failure, unable to support my child in doing this very basic thing.  But that's not true; I see that I am doing lots of things to support her.  I guess I will just count on 4-5 naps a day, let her keep taking the edge off and get through the next couple of hours, it's better than nothing.  She always nurses after waking, but only a couple of times she's gotten sleepy again.  Only in the past couple of weeks has she started responding positively to any kind of carrier, so I'll work those into the day more.


We are just now able to go outside here where I live (well, comfortably without many many layers), so hopefully my Winter Baby will grow to love outdoor walks.  That's a lot cheaper than gas (she does tend to sleep well in the car)...

post #6 of 11

Swaddling worked wonders for us to extend nap time. She would sleep well at night between us but she needed a tight swaddle at that age to sleep longer than 30 minutes at a time.  

post #7 of 11

That was so my life, OP.  It really sucks.  The No Cry Sleep Solution book was a huge huge huge help with my son for naps and night time waking and I highly suggest it.  My guess is that the nursing to sleep is a problem for your DD....she gets into a lighter sleep, realizes she isn't nursing, and wakes herself up fully thinking that wasn't how she remembered things when she was last alert.


Also, in hindsight, my son had major problems with me drinking dairy and he also had reflux.  I really wish I had cut the dairy and that we had a better handle on the reflux.  Sometimes nursing, then keeping them upright for 20-30 minutes can make a big difference in not waking up due to reflux. good luck. this too shall pass.....

post #8 of 11

You've gotten lots of good advice already.  I have to say your situation sounds pretty normal to me as my DS was very similar.  His long naps would be 45 mins, but usually they were around 20 mins.  Your DD will eventually nap longer as her sleep cycles get longer.  Often the thing that worked for me (as PPs have mentioned) was to put DS in the Ergo and go for a walk.  I'd park at the mall (no outside walks as we've got similar winter weather to Vermont!), buy a coffee, put him in the Ergo and walk.  I got out of the house, he got a good nap.  If I didn't feel like going out, I'd vacuum and dust the whole house with him in the carrier.


Hugs to you mamma.  It's frustrating, but it will pass.

post #9 of 11

I think that was about the time I started DS1 with a pacifier for naps. He would sleep for long periods in the carrier but he was a biiig boy and my poor back couldn't take it. I decided that the pacifier was one tradeoff I was willing to make... sleep (for everyone) now, deal with getting rid of the paci later. He went from napping for 20-30min to 1.5-2h. I was sold.

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

Well, DD got her first cold this past weekend, so I sort of backed off on any sleep interventions, figuring she'd need whatever sleep she could get however she could get it.... And now she's several times fallen asleep on her own when I set her down for a nap (always after nursing), AND put herself back to sleep after waking!shrug.gif  LOL!  Except, she's also waking in the morning ready to play at 4:30-5:30, instead of 6-7a.  But it feels like there's a shift happening.  Fingers and toes crossed...

post #11 of 11

I just want to say that DS is 6 months old and I could have written this post, lol! Up until about 4 months he was an awesome napper, then BAM all of a sudden 30 min cat naps.  I just read the No Cry Sleep Solution, and I could just feel light bulbs going off in my head, like - why didn't i think of that!? I will say, at least for my DS, just before he hit 6 months he started sleeping better....for a couple days.....then he started getting super restless again.  he always gets extra restless when he is hitting a milestone, and he really does practice things in his sleep! right now he is cutting two teeth, learning to crawl, and hitting the "relationships" milestone....we aren't sleeping much at all! i hope this passes soon for the both of us!!

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