Help this mom (oh yeah, and baby) get some sleep!

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 3, 2012 06:00 AM

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Dear Ms. Meltz-

HELP!!! I am desperate. I'm sure you get this sort of question all the time but I must ask it again. How do I get my baby to sleep through the night? I have read several books on the subject but either the advice seems too extreme or it doesn't work. I have an almost six month old and he won't sleep for more than two hours at a time. He was born a month early due to a kidney issue and he also experienced acid reflux which he just stopped taking medicine for. Due to the reflux, he couldn't lay flat so he slept in his car seat much of the time. I have tried for the last few weeks to get him on a routine but it still hasn't seemed to make a difference. I don't have much help at night from my husband which is a whole other issue, and I am wearing down fast. I also have a 3 year old who has never been a great sleeper either, and I work full-time. There must be something I am doing wrong or some strategy I am not aware of that will bring us all some much needed relief. Any advice you have would be very much appreciated.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

From: Desperately tired Mommy, Dracut, MA

Dear DTM,

When you say your husband's lack of participation is "a whole other issue," I'm sure it is, but I'm also sure that supporting each other and being able to spell each other could make a world of difference. You sound pretty raw right now, but at some point, I would urge you to explore with your husband ways to get the two of you on the same page, including some professional guidance.

Most of the get-your-child-back to sleep methods are not meant for infants, so you may have been trying them too soon. Also, they are misunderstood, including and especially Richard Ferber's so-called "let your baby cry" method. He would tell you -- and he did tell me, here in this interview when his new edition of "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems" was published -- -- that it's very important for the baby to fall asleep in the same physical place he will be when he awakens during the night.

If he falls asleep in your arms and then you place him in the bed (or in your case, car seat), when, in the normal course of a night's sleep, he awakens, he is disoriented. Not recognizing where he is wakes him up more fully and he needs you to recreate the conditions under which he fell asleep initially. So the trick is to transfer him from your arms to his sleeping place before he's actually asleep. Then when he awakens, getting himself back to sleep is within the realm of possibility. In the beginning, he may need some gently back caresses and cooing words from you, but don't pick him up. Gradually, over a few (or more) nights, he'll just need the sound of your voice, which you can eventually do from a distance ,including -- again: eventually -- from another room.

Have you considered co-sleeping? He doesn't need to be in your bed, just next to it, so that in order to comfort him, all you have to do is reach out. Hopefully, that would mean you're able to get more sleep yourself.

You sound so frazzled, though, that I think what you need before you even try to get this back on track is sleeping through the night yourself. Is there someone who can spell you for one or two nights? If not your husband, what about your mother or mother-in-law, or sister or sister-in-law, or a wonderful friend, or a night nurse?

Lastly, considering that you have the double whammy of two poor sleepers, you might want a consult from the Sleep Center that Ferber started at Children's Hospital.

I'm betting readers will have ideas for you, too.


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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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