Long periods of restless sleep in 5 month old - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 08-26-2008, 10:25 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm hoping someone might recognize what is going on with my son. Our pediatrician has said what he's doing is fine/ normal/ he'll grow out of it, but it's really taking a toll on our whole family. And the pediatrician has addressed it as a question of "trained awakening," all night nursing, etc. when it seems clear to me that something else is going on.

Since about the time he turned 3 months old, my 5-month-old has been having long nighttime periods of restless sleep. I haven't found any references to this anywhere. It's not just that he awakens; it's that he has long stretches in which he is incredibly restless, perhaps correlating with a certain part of his sleep cycle? During these periods, he thrashes around and wakes repeatedly, and we've discovered absolutely nothing that helps him settle back down during these times. For example, last night he had one of these periods starting at 11:00. He started moving his arms and legs, rolling repeatedly from side to back, and opened his eyes. I nursed him; he closed his eyes again but was restlessly pinching me with his hands while nursing. He settled a bit as I continued nursing him, but by 11:15, the restless movement started again and he opened his eyes again at 11:20. (When he opens his eyes during these times he looks confused and a bit panicky). I tried to calm him by stroking his back and saying soothing words, and again he closed his eyes and drifted off for a bit, only to start thrashing again. He opened his eyes once or twice more and continued his thrashing movements of arms and legs and pinching/ clawing movements of hands until he finally settled down for good at 11:40.

These kinds of periods happen multiple times every night (last night, for example, they also started at 9:20, 1:30, 3:10, and 5:30, with wake-up at 6:10). It doesn't seem there's anything I can do to help him settle and sleep through them better. Pulling him close to me or putting him farther from me on the bed doesn't help. Holding his arms and legs so he doesn't thrash doesn't help (and I have to hold him so forcefully to keep him from moving!) Nursing or patting and soothing doesn't help. Trying to actually wake him up fully to break the cycle only leads to middle of the night playtime. I even wondered if he has some kind of seizure disorder and took a videotape-- again, our pediatrician said he's fine.

But I can't believe that my son is actually well-rested, and this is really taking a toll on him and on our whole family. My husband works nights and so I deal with this alone each night. We've been having my husband stay up with him for a few hours when he gets home while I get some sleep, and that helps for now. I think my primary concern is that there's something more going on here than typical night behavior, and my son WON'T "grow out of it." I hate that our pediatrician is treating this as though my son has simply learned to wake frequently through the night, and gave us a list of recommendations that included CIO! And I'm not sure where else to turn-- this pediatrician is known as one of the few in the city who is (supposedly) friendly to attachment parenting practices.

During the day, my son usually gets decent naps-- but he almost always naps only while one of us is wearing him, since that's the only way we've found that he'll typically sleep more than 45 minutes. If wearing him were an option at night, I'd do it-- but I have to sleep too!

I have considered the possibility of an allergy and tried to change my diet accordingly. Unfortunately, I am a vegetarian who eats dairy frequently, and I only made it through 48 hours without before I felt so weak and tired (I almost fainted) that I had to give up. I realize it's possible to be vegan and breastfeed, but I think the sudden switch was too much for my system. I don't know if there's any better way to try again.

Thanks for any help anyone can give.
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#2 of 9 Old 08-26-2008, 11:10 AM
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i'm so sorry. i have no advice, but i can empathize. my almost-5-month-old dd also sleeps incredibly restlessly. pulling her in and helping her latch on seems to help for about 20 minutes - then she's back to thrashing around. she went through a phase where she did that all night long and also during naps, which was very hard on me. now she tends to just do it after 3:00am and during naps. last night, she didn't start the thrashing until 5:00am, so maybe it's just a phase, and we are coming out of it. good luck!

ETA: this started when dd was about 2 months old.
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#3 of 9 Old 08-26-2008, 11:37 AM
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I could have written your post, mama! No advice here but just sympathy. I'm sitting here half asleep after the worst night of sleep since labor and childbirth, no kidding. Ds (10 mo) thrashes like you describe and we've been through the list as well: allergy? teething? fever? hungry? over-tired? new detergent? low humidity? stuffy nose? too hot? too cold? elimination diet? ready to crawl? on and on and on..... I've also been worried about some disorder.
Our ped also says it's normal. Do you or your husband have congenital sleep problems? Dh and I are troubled sleepers so ds's ped says it's probably congenital, unfortunately, but I just don't see how ds can be getting enough rest.
Like you describe, ds is a good napper if we hold him the whole time. And he wakes seeming to be rested and in a good mood in the mornings. I'm starting to think that it really might just be that it takes a long while for some babies to learn how to sleep. I don't know what to do in the meantime, however.....
My dh is also away for work on occasion and the nights seem endless.
I'm starting to resent co-sleeping. But I suppose it would be worse any other way....
eta: My ds also has that panicky look when the restlessness is going on and that can be scary for mamas, but I really think he is just not good at transitioning through sleep cycles and wakes himself confused and scared.
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#4 of 9 Old 08-26-2008, 04:59 PM
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Me Too!

But my dd never looks panicky... just angry! Like she wishes she would stop moving so she could get some real sleep! I was up last night from 2:30 to 5:00am just holding her (rocking or bouncing) while she wriggles around. Then eventually she stops and we lay back down.

I have also addressed reflux, teething, too hot, too cold, 100% cotton jams, wrapped, unwrapped, elimantion diet and nothing has had any noticable effect. It doesn't happen every single night but it almost always happens around 3am.

I don't have any advice but if you find some info please post! I'm clueless!
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#5 of 9 Old 08-30-2008, 01:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Well, I'm sorry no one has answers for us, but I'm glad to hear I am not alone! If anyone finds out possible causes please come back to share with the others. I guess we will all just keep making it through night by night, and I hope we all get more sleep soon!
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#6 of 9 Old 08-30-2008, 06:23 PM
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Well, it sounds like a bunch of us are in the same boat, eh? At least that's some comfort. My ds started out as a good sleeper, and still is for the most part, but does the thrashing around bit too.
I am ecing him, and I have found that sometimes the cause of his restlessness is that he needs to pee. After I wee him, he settles back down to sleep.
Maybe something to look into? :
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#7 of 9 Old 09-01-2008, 09:35 AM
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When my oldest (now 5) did this as a baby, I posted to the group and got back the answer "change her diaper." So that's what the problem turned out to be.

With our new baby, now 7 months old, when she's doing her "thrashing about," it's still an elimination issue. After she pees a few times (and has a few diaper changes), she goes back to sleep.

eta: we do EC with our new baby, so I actually "see" what's going on.
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#8 of 9 Old 09-01-2008, 12:57 PM
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My 6 week old has been doing this for about a week now. At first I thought he was hungry and looking for my boob but then realized that when I tried to give it to him that he was still asleep and just thrashing around. He has had a cold for the last few days so am wondering if that might be a contributing factor? He was tossing and turning all night last night. He never looks bothered by it at all though. His expression is of peaceful sleep but his body shows differently.
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#9 of 9 Old 01-21-2009, 04:51 PM
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My 6 month old does the thrashing around too - this post describes our nights to a tee. She didn't used to be so restlesss - it got worse after I went back to work at 3 mo, and especially bad since the holidays when I was home for a couple weeks, then back to work. It does make co-sleeping a little difficult. I really dont think that moving her out of my bed will make any difference -she'll just add getting upset to the routine because she's used to waking and me being there for her. I think it is probably something she will outgrow and that maybe some babies are just restless sleepers. I've been using the No-Cry Sleep Solution book and removing her from my breast just before she dozes off - after 8 nights this seems to be helping her - when she wakes she no longer insists on nursing which is progress toward being able to put herself to sleep. I think that is a good thing. I think I'm going to decide just to cherish these nights with her as she'll grow up all too soon.
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