I received this long, but common plea from an attachment parenting mom:
“I just came across your blog site yesterday as I was typing in “co-sleeping, breastfeeding, not sleeping” in a google search. I am a very blessed mother of an almost 7 month old beautiful baby boy. He is what you would call “high needs” by Dr. Sears’ description in the Baby Book.
“He has a great temperament, but really needs to be constantly engaged, which is fine. I also happen to have the most amazing husband who is a work-at-home Dad as I work the job that keeps us in health insurance benefits. I work Tuesday-Friday, 7am-3pm. I took the full 12 weeks of maternity leave that were allowed through FMLA and my employer.”
“We read the Baby Book prior to our son’s birth, taking turns to read it to each other. So, we knew how to safely co-sleep but never really talked about that or attachment parenting as what we were going to utilize as parents. But we knew it was an option and knew it was safe, etc. After his birth, we sort of “glommed” onto the attachment parenting style, carrying, wearing (in the Moby) and co-sleeping. I am also breastfeeding. My son was born by c-section (not my choice really, but he was my first and he was a frank breech and 9lbs and it was too dangerous to attempt vaginal birth due to his size and my naive pelvis, not providing enough time for his head to mold). I wanted to have a natural, non-medicated birth but that was out the window.
“Anyhow. He was 9lbs 2oz at birth (I only gained 34 lbs during the pregnancy – he was not a fat baby, but rather came out with nice developed thigh muscles, and when they gave them their fingers to do the APGAR test at birth, he grabbed on and pulled himself up almost to sitting with perfect head control). He is now 22lbs, so he is growing right on target (although now a little chubby, but very strong). He doubled his birth weight by 4 months old, and has been growing steadily at 1-2lbs per month since.
“I bring up his birth weight and his strength because my ISSUE is that I cannot ever sleep because he just wants to nurse every two hours. He wakes up every 1.5-2 hours to nurse and I just can’t believe that it is due to some growth spurt (because it happens no matter when, no matter what) and I cannot believe it is due to him being undernourished. He doesn’t really cry unless it takes me too long to switch to the other side and get him set up. “We’ve tried having Daddy take him for a bit into another bedroom and he still wakes up. There have been literally, four times when I have been able to sleep for about 3.5-4 hours between needing to feed him, and they’ve happened very randomly (on days I was at work, on days when I was home all day – varying business of the day, etc.). We’ve tried the crib only for naps on days when I am not home, and he will nap for about an hour and a half. We’re trying to teach him it’s a safe place and a happy place. But of course, we’re not ready to put him there at night and we know he wouldn’t handle it well at all.
“My husband thinks that he wakes so frequently because he is next to the “boob” and that he knows it is right there, but we also know that he wakes up frequently when I am not right there. We’ve only attempted to have him fall asleep away from me a few times, when I have been desperate for sleep. We’re going on 7 months of me hardly sleeping, and of course, the time during the last trimester when sleep was difficult, so I am almost near a year of not sleeping and I am desperate for it (I am a nurse case manager with a case load of almost 60 people and my job is kind of stressful and demanding).
“I was wondering if you or any of your readers has any ideas. I don’t want to “ferberize” him – I want to continue to co-sleep and snuggle him, particularly when I am away during the day at work. Having that night time sweetness is so needed by both of us. But there has to be some idea we can employ to help me get even 4 hours straight of sleep. Any ideas????
“I feel like my brain and body are starting to fall apart and I need both in order to keep my job, my sanity, and most importantly, to continue being a good mom. I would just suggest maybe a night time feeding of expressed breastmilk in a bottle fed by Daddy, but because he nurses so frequently whenever I am around (he keeps the same feeding schedule during the day/evenings), I only have the opportunity to pump when I am at work and then, I usually only pump enough for the next day’s supply while I am gone, so I don’t have a stockpile of it in the freezer (just about a day’s worth just in case). We need help!!”
I’m opening this up to all the readers of this blog, but it also strikes me that one thing you could do is actually express enough breastmilk so that you could sleep away from home for a night while your husband takes care of the baby and bottlefeeds him if he’s having a complete meltdown. I might be violating the Official Tenets of Attachment Parenting, but it sure sounds like you could do with a night off, or even better, having your baby learn that they don’t need to nurse every 2-3 hours.
Having said that, he should naturally be able to sleep longer and long as he grows older, but I’m thinking more about what you three can do immediately so you can catch up on at least a little bit of your lost sleep.
Readers, what do you suggest?
I feel you mama.
About every three months I almost lose it, then we get one good night’s sleep. My kiddo goes through phases of what his “problem” of the day is – teething, hunger, growth spurt, excited about new skill, anxiety, etc.
My baby is 15 months old and still doesn’t “sleep through the night”. Things got better for ME when he could take a bottle from his dad in the middle of the night. We had pumping and supply problems, so at 9 months, we started formula (bad mama) – which was probably a mistake since my supply plummeted at that point (also the point I went back to work).
Our babe sleeps in a queen bed in his own room.
We all cuddle him to sleep and when he wakes up, I go in with him and lay down (and usually end up there for the rest of the night). His daddy can’t comfort him right now (though that hasn’t always been the case).
I’m one for trusting what your muffin tells you he needs. It may not be milk, but it could be comfort, sucking, and warmth. I figure we have a few years of suffering from sleepless nights and the resulting “attachment” and empathy our babe’s get as a result is worth our suffering. At least that’s my take. I have friends who let their babies cry it out and it works for awhile, then they have to “re-train” and are frustrated too. I’m not in the cry-it-out camp and couldn’t do it.
No real help, but lots of empathy and hugs.
Thanks for the empathy, Mamagigi. I too am afraid to try supplementing with formula for a night feeding because I have been back at work since he was just about 3 months old, and I am holding on to pumping just enough for the next day – I don’t want my supply to decrease.
I do realize that in the grand scheme of things, this is a short period of time. Maybe I can figure out a way to do an extra pumping to give my husband something to feed him at night. I don’t even need sleeping through the night yet – even just 3-4 hours would be so great. This week, since he’s older now (7 mos.), we started a schedule of napping and feeding based on what we’ve noticed seems to be his more natural cycle, only now we’re making sure that the conditions are ripe for it – two scheduled naps (which he’s taken to beautifully because it’s not that much of a change for him – we used his patterns to figure it out) and we’ll see how it goes. He seems to like the afternoon nap (about 3:30pm) when I get home and it’s our way of reconnecting after my absence at work. I am lucky to get home so early. We just started this past Thursday, so it could be a few days before we feel any change. I just have to remind myself to be patient! I also cannot just let him cry it out in a crib. It’s just not an option that me or my husband could live with. Thanks for being there.
Oh I so understand what you’re going through. I have a 17 month old ‘high needs’ boy #according to Dr Sears’ Baby Book# who I just let sleep with me from when he wakes around midnight #he’s good at sleeping on his own from 7.30pm until then#. He then has a bottle of formula then but may still wake at about 4am and have the last little bit of the bottle or will demand a breastfeed at that time and then again at 7am. But I have found that giving him a quick breastfeed at 7.30pm as well as a bottle and then a bottle at midnight is sustaining him and at least he isn’t waking every 2 hours anymore.
To give you hope, he has been slowly improving, and it’s just a matter of doing whatever you need to do to cope. My supply did drop awhile ago but I think that was more to do with being run down. My little boy still demands at least 3 breastfeeds a day and often more…but it’s just a comfort thing at this point. And we’ve had a lot of stress in our lives, so I feel he needs that comfort.
Good luck and I really hope you try and catch up on sleep on the weekends, if that’s possible in your situation. But well done on being such wonderful, caring parents.