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.