at my wits end with lack of sleep

Baby is 6 months old. She still takes milk every 2-3 hours (at least), both day and night. Fine. For this reason, her cot is still in our room since she needs feeding often. Fine. But what is driving me crazy is that, starting about 2 and a half months ago, she has started stirring continuously from about 4am until I finally take her downstairs at about 7am. Maybe one or two of these stirrings are because of hunger, but there seems to be something else waking her up or keeping her from sleeping. Here is a diary of what happened last night, and it's pretty much what happens every night....

20:25 - 15 minute breastfeed lying down in our bed, transferred into her cot 20:40.

23:15 - 10 minute breastfeed sitting on bed and straight back into cot.

01:06 - 12 minute breastfeed sitting on bed and straight back into cot.

03:22 - stirring quietly to signify she will want milk soon but I leave her for now.

03:47 - she wakes properly for milk. Breastfeed sitting on bed for 9 minutes. Straight back into cot.

03:53 - farting, holding her toes, rolling around,. eyes wide open. Seems happy so I leave her.

04:00 - she's getting upset. I try shushing her through the bars of the cot, stroking her, speaking softly put the blanket back around her. Nothing works. Take her out and rock her, she's just restless.

04:05 - I take her in our bed and offer the breast. She feeds for 20 minutes (not sure if much genuine drinking went on, or just comfort sucking?).

04:30 - back into her cot.

05:00 - moaning again, I'm so tired, I take her in our bed and offer the breast again. Not sure if she takes it or not because I nod off.

06:15 - moaning again, moaning, moaning, moaning.

06:45 - I give in and take her downstairs.

07:05 - she asks for milk and takes a 7 minute proper feed in between playing.

Thanks to anyone who has managed to read this far. Does anybody have any ideas?

13 Replies

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  • Hi tazmania, I do remember there being a big growth spurt at 6months. Lots going on developmentally and physically too.

    If it were me I would just go with it and feed her where you feel she wants it.

    Has she started weaning yet? Just asking because my boy had tummy ache quite often in the early days even though he was 6 months when started.

    Sleep deprevation is so tough but this phase will pass :) then it will be on to something else lol.

    Good luck!

  • hi cookie, thanks for your reply. We started weaning about 3 weeks ago but this has been going on for much longer. She did have a huge growth spurt last week and I didn't mind this because although she needed feeding every 90 minutes through the night, she went straight back to sleep afterwards!! It's the waking when it's for something other than milk that is confusing me. It definitely started at the classic age where 'sleep regression' can kick in but I didn't think this was it because she had never come close to sleeping through the night anyway. But perhaps it is something to do with brain development. Just weird that she always feeds and then sleeps as normal until 3 or 4am, then the trouble starts. I keep thinking she'll grow out of it but if anything it is just getting worse. xx

  • Hi Tazmania, I breastfed all my 3 girls and in the beginning tried to feed and put them in the cot, in my experience babies do miss their mums and just want to be with Mummy. In my experience one of the pleasures of breastfeeding and sharing a bed with my baby is that I actually sleep longer hours than letting baby sleep on their own. I do appreciate that all families are different and what suits one may not suit another. I let my babies sleep with me until at the age of one. It may be that she also has colic or not feeling well. Be patient and hopefully this will soon pass. Also remember if she sleeps in the daytime, try and get some sleep if you can. All the best.

  • Hi Sumaria, thanks for your reply. I wouldn't mind having her in the bed if it didn't disturb my partner so much. When I went to stay with a friend, me and baby slept in a big bed together all night and we did feel much more refreshed. However, bringing her in our bed doesn't really stop her from moaning and getting frustrated after 4am - it works for a bit but not for long. Also when we stayed at the friend's house she still had a random hour at 5am where she wanted to play, and then went back to sleep at 6am. It's just all so confusing. I wish these babies could tell us what is bothering them! x

  • Some of our information on coping with tiredness may be of use to you: nct.org.uk/parenting/coping...

  • Hiya, it must be so tough you for at the moment, i feel for you, I can't function at all with lack of sleep.

    Have you considered putting baby in her own room? I know you prob haven't due to frequency and convenience for feeding, but it might just be the difference in you hearing her for a "proper feed" and been able to just turn over and have an extra hour if she's just fussing, but if she's having a little play and then settles herself again - happy days!

    breast fed babies do use us as a comfort as well as food, it may (or may not) help you both decipher the difference, so then if it's just comfort have you tried a dummy yet?

    Good luck, please let us know what ends up working, it may be just a growth spurt and a longer sleep pattern will be restored when it passes xxx

  • Some ideas that might help (these all come from things my NCT Group have tried with some success):

    Can she be on her own room? She may be waking up when you or your partner are moving about in your sleep. This helped us, though I moved our son as he'd outgrown his bedside crib and the cotbed wouldn't fit in our room the extra sleep was a bonus.

    Is she warm enough? If she kicks her blankets off have you tried sleeping bag or thick sleep suit with only a thin sheet over so doesn't matter if she kicks it off.

    Do you give her dinner? Try giving her an evening meal but not too close to bed so she'll be hungry enough to take a nice big milk feed before you put her down then she'll have a nice full tummy.

    Keep night time quiet, don't talk to her at all, just feed, shush, cuddle and kiss, say night night.

    Does she have a cuddley toy in there she can hug and stroke for comfort? You could get her a special bedtime one and if you put it under your top or snuggle with it before you give it to her so it's got your familiar scent.

    Is she feeding enough in the day? Make sure you feed her in a quiet place with few distractions. And consciously try to offer her the breast every 3 to 4 hours, at this age they get so carried away playing they sometimes forget to ask.

    You could also try expressing milk (or using formula for one feed) and getting your other half to do the first feed of the night so she's not automatically expecting a snuggley breastfeed with you.

    Also, have you tried picking up and giving her a cuddle before you offer her breast? She may go off to sleep with a little cuddle... Sometimes this would just make my little boy angry though but did work for others.

    Ok, I've waffled on enough, sorry for the random order I was putting as I remebered. It's hard as you want them to break a habit but don't want to deny them food. Good luck and hope you get some sleep soon! X

  • Have you considered sleep training. My daughter went through sleep regression at that age, it lasted for 2 months.I got to the point where I thought she would never sleep through again then she just reverted back to sleeping through. She does wake early sometimes,6am instead of 7am, but this is OK for us. Also she is 9months old and rarely asks for milk in the night, she is ebf.

  • Hi tazmania, just a little reminder that this won't last for long, it's just a new phase and hopefully a passing one. Make sure you catch up on sleep when she sleeps... I would consider getting a bigger bed if lo disturbs your artner but you fell you'd like her in with you. With my youngest(soon to be middle) he would come in for a feed with me and I'd often wake up in the morning with him attached to a very empty breast! We realised around 6 months that he was sometimes happy with a dummy and that many of his 'feeds' were just for comfort which he could get from me with a cuddle with his dummy... some babies just like to suck and if she takes a dummy then it means that the times when she is hungry then she'll get a fuller meal inside of her and probably feed for longer. No baby will take their dummy if they're hungry so no need to worry that you'll be denying her! Dummies come in different shapes so worth trying different ones, she'll have her favourite and if you're worried about her having it constantly then just remember to pop it out of her mouth once she's settled and playing again (this may not work at night and probably not worth trying to do if she is happily sleeping while sucking)... Good luck and remember to have a nap xx

  • Thank you all for these suggestions. I will try them all until something works!! They all make so much sense, but I've been so stuck in this dark pit of exhaustion for so long that I haven't been able to think it through logically. Because she rejected a dummy when she was tiny, I hadn't even thought about trying it again. Now that her weight gain is secure, I guess I don't have to worry about it interfering with feeding cues - I forget that she is much bigger now and I can worry less!! She does wake up very easily when we turn over in bed, so perhaps I just need to put her in her own room. If it makes it even harder for me then I guess we can always move her back. I feel such relief knowing that there are so many things to try. I'm not happy with 'cry it out' sleep training but I have tried other more gentle sleep training methods, and have had a little bit of success with this but not heaps. Still early days with this sleep training and if it has made a slight difference so far, perhaps if I keep going with it, it will help. xx

  • My less helpful experience, perhaps, is that my ebf cosleeping 6 month old is just ready to stay the day at 5. I keep him entertained until 6 when daddy gets up to get ready for work, I sleep a bit more, and by 7 or half past he is ready for a nap again. I don't like it, but what time he goes to bed makes no difference to this. Just like my husband can't make me go back to sleep when I'm not tired, a baby that isn't actually tired won't sleep longer. I find cosleeping means I sleep through most of the feeds and I have no idea how much he feeds at night, which is really useful when people ask, not! BUT I don't care much because it is a nightmare when I try to settle him on a separate surface. He doesn't like sleeping in a quiet place, he likes to be around people. Babies all have their foibles. You need to do whatever allows you to have the best sleep, I often find it easier to change what I do than what my baby does!

  • you make a lot of sense, craftingfoxclub. I've never really tried to change her feeding or sleeping habits too much, some gentle encouragement at self-settling is about all. you are right that it is much easier to adjust what we do to fit around them. I think it is a case of a bit of both that I need to try. Will hopefully get there in the end. Thanks again for your thoughtful reply.

  • Some fab replies above but I just wanted to add (and this isn't a criticism in anyway and you probably did it to give us an example of your typical night) the only thing I would add is - stop clock watching. I feel that, psychologically, it compounds it all. A bit like when you're at work waiting for your day to end! You're doing a great job and like others have said, this phase will pass

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