6mo fights sleep with crying and screaming at every nap and at night
Hi everyone. This is long so TIA for reading.
I'm having trouble with my just-turned-6mo baby's sleep at the moment and need some advice. He recently (last 4-6 weeks) has started crying and crying and fighting going to sleep at most naps and most nights going to bed. We co-sleep at night (he sleeps with his head on my arm, cradled next to me because that feels safest to me as he can't roll or move much without waking me).
Since we started co-sleeping at 2 months up until 4-6 wks ago he has been a beautiful sleeper, going to sleep quickly and easily with some combination of his sleep song, BFing him, patting his bottom, giving him his pacifier, white noise and shh-ing. He has always since birth napped during the day either in my arms on the couch or we lie down together in bed as we do at night. Occasionally recently he has started falling asleep in his carrier (we have an Ergo and a ring sling; he has fallen asleep in both a couple of times now). He wakes at least 3 or 4 times during the night to BF - every 3.5 hrs on a good night, as often as every 2 hrs on a restless night.
The problem is that now, he thrashes, cries, shrieks, bats pacifier away, refuses to BF, arches his back, and kicks like mad when I try to get him to go to sleep. I go off his tired cues and also roughly on the clock: 1.5hrs - 2hrs has been roughly his awake time between sleeps. One night he kept that up for over an hour and nothing would work to calm him (hubby and I even tried giving him a bath after about 40 minutes of inconsolable crying - he calmed during the bath but then went back to crying after).
It has been getting progressively worse. It started as the occasional meltdown at bedtime. Then progressed to most nights. I tried giving him more naps during the day, thinking he was overtired. That seemed to work for a while (maybe 2 weeks, off and on we would have a few good days in a row). But now it's gotten progressively worse again despite me trying to keep him well-napped and we're currently at meltdown at every falling-asleep time except for 2-3 of the real middle of the night ones (see our schedule from the last 24 hours below).
It appears to be worse when he's overtired, like if we've had a busy few days. It generally starts just as he is crossing the threshold of "drowsy" to "asleep". It's like he panics and freaks out that he's falling asleep. Or he will drift to sleep, stay asleep for about 7-10 minutes, and then wake in full meltdown mode.
It doesn't appear to be that he doesn't want to be held - if I put him down in this state the cries go from crying to screaming bloody murder. Once I put him down and he got distracted by his toys and calmed down, I waited half an hour until he was showing tired cues again and then tried again to get him to sleep and he immediately started screaming again. Sometimes when he's really tired, even just lying him on his side in my arms where he normally is to go to sleep is enough for him to start screaming.
It is like I am doing CIO (cry it out) with him... Only it's him doing it, not me. I'm TRYING to provide comfort, but he cries anyway.
His day before these started would be something like:
7am wake for day
8am-9am nap 1
10.30am-12pm nap 2
2pm-4pm nap 3
5.30pm-6pm nap 4
7.30pm to sleep for night
8.30pm wake for feed
11.30pm wake for feed
3am wake for feed
6am wake for feed
7am wake for day
His schedule now is all over the shop. But the last 24 hours went like this:
6am woke, nappy change etc, feed
7am-8am nap 1, went to sleep happy
9am-10am nap 2 after feed, went to sleep happy
11.30am feed, tried to get him to sleep, meltdown, gave up
1.30pm feed, tried again for sleep, meltdown, gave up, put him in carrier
2.45pm-3.45pm nap 3 fell asleep without any fuss in carrier
5.15pm feed, tried to get him to sleep, meltdown, gave up, put him in carrier, grizzled in carrier without sleeping
6.30pm bath, feed, fell asleep happy on breast
7.30pm woke, feed, tried to get him to sleep on my lap in loungeroom, meltdown, took him to bedroom, lay down with him, babbling interspersed with bursts of crying until 9pm when he'd finally take the boob again
9pm feed again, fell asleep happy on breast
9.45pm woke again, crying and screaming
10pm fell asleep happy lying down next to me
12am woke for feed, meltdown after, eventually back to sleep (don't know what I did to get him back to sleep; too tired to remember)
2am woke for feed, happily back to sleep after
4am woke for feed, happily to sleep
6am woke for feed, 7am tried to get him back to sleep as per normal, meltdown, gave up and got up
8am feed, then tried to get him to sleep, meltdown, gave up
9am tried again, meltdown, gave up, put him in carrier
9.45am whinging in carrier escalated to meltdown status; walked on the treadmill for five minutes and he fell asleep in the carrier
10.15am work crying, got back on treadmill for 2 min, he fell back asleep...
... and now it's now :'(
The carrier is sort of working to get him to sleep, but only if I'm moving. Time will tell if that's his new thing I guess, as it's only the last few days that he's started falling asleep in it.
I posted this question on the Baby Center "Teach your kids to sleep" board a day or two ago, and the advice I got back is that it may be he no longer wants to fall asleep with the sleep associations I have been using (like he's outgrown them), but does not yet have the skill of self-settling himself and thus the meltdowns. Alternatively the idea was maybe he's under-tired because I've been trying too often to get him to nap. The advice was that to get him back to falling asleep happily I would have to sleep train him either by CIO of some kind or another method.
I am really not keen to do any of the CIO methods (Ferber, extinction, etc). I bought the Sleep Lady book thinking that it wasn't a CIO method but (for my baby at least) it's too much crying for me. He isn't able to be settled by me patting / shh-ing while not holding him BEFORE these meltdowns started. And now that these have started, not even holding him, BFing, patting, anything works. So I've no idea how any sleep training method is going to work for us now without there being lots of crying.
So I guess what I'm asking is have you experienced the same failure of all your settling techniques to get your bub to sleep? How did you help them? I don't care about teaching him to fall asleep on his own. I just want him to fall asleep without having a meltdown. Ideas about why it's happening? Thoughts? Thanks if you got this far.