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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A bit of background:
We're 1st time parents who bedshare with a generally very happy baby boy. My husband works from home, and I'm on 24x7 baby duty so we're both always around. Breastfeeding is going well, and Baby (who just turned 5 months a couple of days ago) is huge at 29 inches and 20 pounds.
Baby currently sleeps about 11 hours total at night and takes 3-4 naps during the day, depending on his cues and how long the naps each last.
Starting at around 8 weeks we set the nap routine as book -> diaper -> nap and the bedtime routine as 10 minutes rocking and singing -> diaper -> 3 books -> bedtime.
We also read a lot of books throughout the day.


Now for the issue:
He's never liked naps and has pretty much always started fussing as soon as he realises we want him to sleep. Starting at about 3.5 months, Baby decided that a. He would throw a tantrum during all diaper changes and b. He hated the 3rd bedtime book.

It took me a couple of weeks to realise he was associating both with sleep time. By that point it had started happening elsewhere in the house. No matter where we were, if I brought out a 3rd book on a row, he began to cry.

We started doing nap diapers 15-20 minutes before naps, then returning to play for a while before moving him to bed to nap (with no book). He would fuss for about 2 minutes, then sleep. ..and the diaper changing tantrums stopped.

As far as bedtime goes, I added some cuddle/play with his linen swaddle blanket time in between books and lights (mostly) out. This helped for about a week before he started to get upset every time he saw the blanket. Since then he's progressed to being upset by the time we start the books to upset for his nighttime diaper to (about 3 weeks ago) starting to get upset as soon as we get in the rocker to start the routine off. By the time we get to book reading, he's in a full on meltdown. He often goes from fuss to meltdown in less than a minute now. I define meltdown as so upset that he doesn't even nurse and takes 30+ minutes to calm him down, even walking him around and singing. He started getting fussy even reading a single book during the daytime (this from a baby that absolutely loved books previously) so I think he was making a book=bed association.

In the last week I've cut the routine down to just rocking -> diaper -> bed, but even within that short time, he's almost always inconsolable by the time I try to get him to sleep. I usually spend anywhere from an hour to 2 hours trying to calm him down enough (rocking him on my chest, nursing, walking, singing, whatever) to sleep. He still ends up passing out with the sad little crying hiccups and then waking up several times in the first hour whimpering and needing to be nursed back to sleep.

We'd been doing a consistent bedtime, but I moved it forward thinking maybe he was overtired (no change). Then I moved it back slightly thinking maybe undertired (again, no change).

I'm at a loss and am considering trying the "surprise" method we do for naps (no routine=no chance to wind up to meltdown), but everything I read says bedtime routine is essential.

Has anyone else done away with bedtime routine and been successful? Or any other suggestions as to what I'm doing wrong?
 

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The good news is you have a bright child!

Personally I'm not a fan of strict routines. Some days he might be less tired than others. And at five months, if I recall correctly, three to four naps is too much.

Let him set his own schedule as much as possible. Mine nursed to sleep at that age, and did so when they felt tired. I was able to adapt to their schedule, because they did fall into a schedule of sorts. Just not a strict one.

Kudos for reading so much. I did, too. But you are setting up a connection between reading and power struggles right now. My advice is to relax and let him nap without a book, or without a freshly changed diaper (if the last change wasn't too long ago). Change things up and reduce the stress around sleep.
 

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Whatever books you're reading, your baby may disagree. And frankly, I'm a little concerned about whether your current treatment and understanding of your son is appropriate to his actual current development. He's five months old. He barely has object permanence, so it would be tough for him to have reasoned through the idea that book number three (not one, not two, three) means it's bedtime. Books are not particularly interesting to him yet - what he really needs right now are people. He needs to experiment with interacting with you, playing peekaboo and imitative face games. Books get in the way of that. He's pitching fits during diaper changes, but these fits aren't tantrums (which are generally considered to involve defiant or resistant behavior) because he's not developmentally capable of defiance at this point. If diaper changes upset him that much, what all is going on? Is there something about the changing experience that bugs him - does he have reflux issues that are aggravated when you hold his legs up, is he sensitive to chemicals on wipes or diapers, is there a light hitting his eyes painfully, what's up?

Babies have very different personalities, and what works for one may not work for another. My first kid seemed to need cuddling and rocking and soothing in order to sleep, so we did that. My second seemed to need us to leave her the heck alone so she could crash, so her "bedtime routine" quickly became "lay her in her crib, leave the room." Don't be afraid to play things by ear. What matters about this routine stuff is that it works for you and your child.

I would keep pre-sleep routines *short*, especially at this age, because when they hit that wall, they are seriously DONE. And I would make the pre-sleep routine as mellow for parents as possible, because babies pick up on parental tension something fierce.

And, if I might suggest an experiment? Some babies find typical "soothing" overstimulating. What happens if, instead of holding, rocking, nursing, singing, etc., you back off? Stay handy, but lay him down and take a seat nearby? Does he seem to wind up or down when you do that?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
He started paying attention to books at about 3 months, but they started becoming very interesting to him about a month ago. They became easily the fastest way to break his momentum when winding up to a meltdown. Show him a book, and he'd suddenly start giggling. Finish the book, and he'd start fussing again. So the sudden change to crying when reading even his favorites as book #3 was a very strange thing. I also find it odd that you'd tell me he's not interested in them.

I'm with him almost 24x7 focused on him alone so trust me, he's getting enough face to face play time (and I wear him when out of the house or trying to get a thing or two done around the house.) The vast majority of our interaction is face to face. We usually spend 5-15 minutes of each awake period reading books. It's just another way to pass the 2-4 hours between naps....definitely not taking up anywhere near the majority of his interaction time.

He no longer works himself up for diaper changes since we adjusted the timing a few weeks ago to be not *right* before naps. Now he only has a fit for the one during the bedtime routine. Before what I consider his point of association and after we got rid of diapering as part of the nap routine, he's been content during and happy after diaper changes.

As far as permanence, it confuses me how everyone insists that everything about a baby happens at their own pace (talking, making eye contact, crawling, walking, smiling)...everything, that is, except permanence, which is around the same time for every baby, or so the websites make you believe.

While he might not be capable of having a true tantrum, I use the term to distinguish between what a refer to as fussy (softer noises, no big tears, doesn't turn red, etc) and a full blown bout of angry cry that still instantly stops when he gets what he wants (the piece of trash I just took from him, another book, to be picked back up, etc). When I refer to a meltdown, I'm talking about a similar sounding cry that, instead of having an instant stop, takes time to wind down from. Those might not technically be the correct terms, but they are how I distinguish them in my head.

Regarding the question about sitting off to the side. I have tried that. He cries harder and tries to squirm in my direction. He's a very cuddly/clingy baby. Even when we are asleep he keeps a hand on me, and he gets quite upset if he wakes without me there touching him.

I think I'm going to kill the nighttime bedtime routine (other than his diaper change) entirely and see what happens.
 

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I think object permanence is learned naturally in many ways. When you announce that it's time to put coats on to go out and open the coat closet door... there are the coats, just like always. Same is true of going out the front door, opening the pj drawer, or whatever.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think peek-a-boo is inherently evil (unless it causes the child distress), I just don't think it's necessary. My children learned about object permanence and I never once played peek-a-boo.


I also find it curious that the same people who accept babies learn to anticipate the end result with the use of routine discount the babies adverse reaction to routine as coincidence.


Have you tried reducing the naps to only two?

Another suggestion : Go for walks. This is an age when children become more interested in their surroundings and natural sunlight is beneficial for sleep.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I haven't tried 2 naps yet. He usually goes from happy to fussy at about 2-3 hours awake so I've been leery to stretch his awake times longer. His naps typically average 50 minutes though so maybe less naps would force him to sleep longer each time.

I haven't tried doing much walking. Good idea.
 
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