I recently asked the Friends of my “Louise nhm Smith” profile on Facebook if anyone had any suggestions “My baby boy cannot be left to ‘cry it out’ as he gets himself so worked up which can end up in vomiting or choking! He eventually goes down at night but will not fall asleep other than on me and daytime naps are even harder since birth he flatly refuses to sleep once we lie him down. He just spits out dummies”. This mummy is really struggling with lack of sleep and needs some extra advice and support.
These were the responses I received. They are in no particular order. Thank you very much to Shona for putting these together!
NHM Readers advise when a baby can’t be left to ‘cry it out’
Gemma said: I had this, I used to feed to sleep and got into a massive rut and a lot of sleepless nights. I did pick up put down technique, you need to be consistent as I tried and wasn’t ready and went backwards but then I was ready and it doesn’t take long to implement, after awhile we just had to tap our lb’s bottom. Good luck!
Victoria said: I had this with my boy. I had to pursue the screaming and being sick. I would go in and lie him back down and keep doing it if he was sick clean him up and start again. I would try to lay him back down before he was sick. It took about a week/two weeks but it worked, before I did this I slept on his floor and all sorts trying to get him to settle, it was so hard and painful. Xx
Jenni said: Hiya, how old is your baby boy? Also have you contacted the health visitor, we had a sleep specialist come and although she told us everything we already knew it was nice to have support and encouragement. Our little girl was over two though.
Libby said: Went to a cranial osteopath with our first at 9 months old as she cried whenever put down. It was like a miracle! Cranial osteopath said she had a stiff neck down one side due to birth and did a few things while I held her. She went all relaxed like having a massage and the crying reduced massively and she could actually be put down. If not that then some babies are just snugglers, our 4th sleeps in our bed and we don’t mind as long as we are all asleep!
Kathryn said: How old is he? When my daughter was little she napped in the sling, now she’s 8 months she goes down for some naps in the cot but normally feeds to sleep. I wouldn’t do CC (controlled crying) or CIO (cry it out), babies cry for a reason.
Rachel said: We did something which was similar to cry out (but the health visitor was very keen to stress it isn’t)… put them down for nap/bed, do the normal routine and say “night night mummy loves you, back in a minute”. You literally go back in a minute and reassure them they’re ok by saying “night night, mummy loves you, back in a minute” over and over. They say it works from 6 months old, not so good on over 4’s. 3 days and my little one was sleeping through the night (our issue was 15 months old and still waking us up in the night, we’d managed to switch milk for water but he still wanted us at least once a night).
Lizzie responded: We did this too, only at 5 minute intervals. It took a week (and it was a hard week!) but it worked. My little girl was about 4 months when we did it. Her sleep since got thrown out again after going away lots and the hot weather over the summer, so we’ve since had to do it again. This time it only took a few days.
Heidi said: Have you had him checked for reflux? I’m not an expert, but crying when lying flat is often a symptom. Huge hugs, sleep (or lack of!) is so hard to deal with. I tried loads of things with my 2, none of which worked. In the end I saved my sanity by just accepting that was how they were and believing they would grow out of it in the future. Sometimes accepting is easier than fighting.
Karen said: I had this with my oldest when he was little. I couldn’t do the controlled crying, it was just too stressful and felt cruel to me (not judging anyone else for doing it, was just how i felt with my son, we all have to do what’s right for us individually) so I just used to sit in with him. We also had a single bed in his room as well as the cot, so on really bad nights I could just sleep next to him and actually get some sleep. With the sitting on the floor I started right next to the cot holding his hand and then every few nights would start just a little further away until I was sitting on the landing rather than in his room. There were still some nights where it all went backwards but gradually he got used to sleeping on his own. Looking back I realise it was a very short phase in the scheme of things, it just felt like it went on ages because it was so exhausting. So try to hang on the fact that it won’t last forever he will grow out of it.
Rachel responded: ^^^ this works. Used this for my daughter (a few times every now and again we’d have to reset her bedtime). Didn’t work with my son, but take a cup of tea, no eye contact or interaction and if young enough phone on night mode (didn’t bother my daughter). I actually quite enjoyed my 30 minutes of silence sat on her bedroom floor reading ebooks.
Rachel said: Oh so little, raise the cot one end, if it’s reflux related it might help. Fresh air and short walks until little one is asleep then head home. Leave baby in pram/pushchair but loosen outdoor clothing (my radiator was switched off in hall so it was always cool, and lots of blankets rather than coats so I could easily remove layers). Fresh air always helped me think clearer too.
Jenni said: Wow at 4 months, to be honest I would say this is completely normal. Still get in touch with health visitor though. I also lay my kids on their tummy at that age and found that helped.
Caitlin said: I fretted and worried over my son falling asleep on me but it doesn’t last forever. By around a year old he would be happy to fall asleep in his cot so they definitely grow out of it. I would say enjoy the cuddles while he’s little because they grow up so fast and soon you will be sad because he doesn’t need you to go to sleep anymore! Also if he stirs once you’ve put him down I would make a point of not picking him up and just pat/rock with your hand and shh. He should go back off without too much fuss as long as he doesn’t have a chance to properly wake. At this age it should take him around 20 minutes to be in a proper sleep so try waiting until you put him down.
Sarah said: My boy would only sleep on me for daytime naps unless we were out in the car or with the pushchair right up til he was one when I went back to work. My childminder would put him in the pushchair and go for a walk at nap time then gradually all she had to do was put him in the pushchair and push back and forth for 5 mins in the house until he fell asleep. We’ve been co-sleeping at night because he wouldn’t stay asleep in cot for very long on his own. Now he is independently sleeping in our bed we have moved the cot bed next to ours (one side removed and attached to ours with bungee cords so there is no gap) and when he falls asleep we are moving him into the cot until he gets used to sleeping there.
Charlotte said: Cry it out isn’t recommended especially at 4 months old. Contact your health visitor they can support and give strategies to help.
Louise said: 4 months is still so tiny. It really isn’t forever. Research is showing more and more that sleep (the elusive “self settling” and “sleeping through the night”) is a developmental milestone rather than something you can train. CIO isn’t something I could do personally, as it just didn’t feel right for us, but having an awful sleeper I feel for you. I do think 4 months is difficult to label them as bad sleepers though as they aren’t ready or able to manage by themselves at that age. I found the less I looked at the clock and less I counted the sleep I wasn’t getting the less pressure I felt and the happier I was.
Becky said: We’ve tried many things as our daughter’s routines have developed. We found that different things worked for a little while but then she’d change. Currently what works best for us is a consistent bedtime routine followed by putting on classical music and leaving the door slightly open so she knows we haven’t abandoned her. I should add though, she’s nearly 2.
Emma said: Sorry I haven’t read every other comment. The biggest issue is for the mumma to get some sleep, it will put everything into perspective. I didn’t sleep for 9 months, in similar circumstances and ended up having exhaustion. Some people can cope with little sleep more than others. I think the important thing is to get baby quickly checked for reflux etc, possibly borrow a baby carrier to see if that helps during the day and then find someone to help cover you for a night or for part of a day and get some sleep yourself. STOP worrying about house / hair / make up etc and just use every precious moment you have to sleep. These times are hard, somehow we all make it out the other side with our own stories. Don’t be too ashamed to ask people around you for help to get some sleep. X
Claire said: At 4 months they are too young to try CC or CIO methods.(which I am against anyway. But each to their own). They may have an underlying issue (could chat to HV about) or they could just like their cuddles. Some babies stay in the “4th trimester” longer. Have u tried baby wearing? Also this lady has a lot of excellent advice & also does 1-1 consultation to help establish the root cause
Skye said: Co sleep? Wear him during the day so you can get things done and he isn’t feeling abandoned. Some research into attachment parenting and/or 4th trimester might help. Also, wonder weeks app might give any indications if he is going through a developmental leap. Please don’t try CIO or CC. 🙁
Rebecca said: Both of mine napped in the pushchair, reclining but not completely flat. I have done CC with both of them but definitely wouldn’t try it at 4 months.
Helen said: At 4 months my little one napped in a sling or buggy and at night it was feed to sleep and co-sleeping using a cot attached to the side of the bed. 6 months later she was sleeping in her cot always and from just over a year slept through the night. Don’t stress about rushing to the cot, there’s plenty of time and you’re not creating bad habits.
Wendy said: At 4 months this isn’t a baby issue, this is a partner issue. How many nights a week is your partner doing? By all means look into things such a reflux but the best solution is for your partner to take responsibility a couple of nights a week. If you are on your own ask for someone to stay over occasionally so you can sleep.
Charlotte said: At 4 months there is a well known (not to me with my first) sleep regression. It’s hideous and the exhaustion can be overwhelming. I do not believe cio or cc work esp with such a littly. May be worth reading the wonder weeks book for development spurts that link to poor sleep periods, the no cry sleep solution book for gentler methods. I’d also strongly recommend getting a sling to use in the day and if needed to get to sleep at night, reflux checking and asking g for support. Support for someone to have lo so mum can nap through the day, support with cooking and cleaning so those jobs don’t feel overwhelming. This sounds like normal baby sleep behaviour. Neither of my 2 slept, in fact my 2 yr old is still going through a bad phase so I am now about to have a nap. Good luck to the mum, as some have said acceptance and support are the way to go esp at this young age.
Lisa said: My daughter, now 4, has serious medical issues and we left hospital at 2 weeks old with the fleeting instruction of ‘don’t let her cry hard for more than 30 seconds or so because she’ll go very blue and her organs will starve of oxygen’. That put the pressure on a bit. I have to say we are no role models and have no good bedtime routines as such but this was a case of survival. So, we just went with it. If she wanted cuddles, we cuddled, if she went to bed, I went to bed, if she fell asleep, I fell asleep. She co-slept (not necessarily suggesting this) and still does. She averaged about 6-8 hours broken sleep in 24 hours for 2 years. I’m not sure my story helps but my advice would be to just go with the flow, don’t resent the lack of sleep just accept it. That really helped for me, took the pressure off. And remember this stage is not forever. Big hugs tired mummy x x Oh and I would echo the comments for getting him checked out for reflux and other health issues just so you know what you’re dealing with. There used to be a place in basingstoke that sold reflux wedges (pillows). In intensive care they taught us a trick ‘a heavy hand resting on the tummy’ is quite soothing. We would start with a hand and then replace with a surgical glove filled with warm (tepid so you don’t feel heat or cold when you put your fingers in it, not hot) water. Obviously need to remove it when it cools and observe common sense safety precautions. X Oh and I would echo the comments for getting him checked out for reflux and other health issues just so you know what you’re dealing with. There used to be a place in basingstoke that sold reflux wedges (pillows). In intensive care they taught us a trick ‘a heavy hand resting on the tummy’ is quite soothing. We would start with a hand and then replace with a surgical glove filled with warm (tepid so you don’t feel heat or cold when you put your fingers in it, not hot) water. Obviously need to remove it when it cools and observe common sense safety precautions. X
Charlotte said: My little one was very clingy but putting a hot water bottle in the bottom of the crib for a bit before I lay him down worked really well (and still does at 11 weeks) it was the movement from warm mummy to cold bed which he didn’t like. Xx
Karen said: Sorry I haven’t had time to read all the comments. I have no advice to give really but wanted to say as someone who has been there it doesn’t last forever. My youngest had reflux so also couldn’t cry it out. I hope you get some support either from a partner family or friends who can look after lo while you catch up on sleep. Sending hugs as know how tough it is x
Jennie said: In addition to the advice above this is probably the best article on infant sleeping I have ever read (and I’ve read loads!). X
Gail said: Could be colic. So a baby carrier during the day and lots of boobie or bottle at night time and more baby carrier!! He is only 4 months, lots of walks in a pushchair. Don’t worry it won’t last forever!! If you are bottle feeding, milk allergies are very common. So you could try wysoy for a week just to see if it improves!!
Rachel said: I’m probably predisposed to think of it as it happened to my LO but he had an undiagnosed cow’s milk protein allergy and so was only comfortable sleeping upright on someone as he had pain in his tummy and didn’t like lying down. Maybe if all the other advice doesn’t work it’s worth ruling out especially if there’s a family history of allergies and there’s other symptoms such a persistent vomiting. Good luck, it’s so hard!! Xx And I’d definitely echo the other advice of getting some support, an hours nap in the day can make you feel like a new woman!! ️Xxxx
Marie said: I would certainly check baba out for silent reflux. Babies who don’t enjoy lying flat and who are clingy are often diagnosed with this painful heartburn condition. Either bottle or boob fed, it can affect both. Particularly if mum had antibiotics during pregnancy as these can affect baby’s gut health. I would advise asking GP for infant gaviscon to start with and supplement milk with probiotics to heal the gut and see how baby gets on… hang in there x
Aimee said: I spent the first few weeks/months sleeping upright in bed with my son on my chest tapping his back all night (i’m not kidding, all night!). I knew something was wrong from the start but no one would listen, after a huge emotional breakdown my HV listened and referred me to a paediatric consultant and he was put on Neocate for unidentified intolerances and he was a different baby within a week! He’s now nearly 7, grown out of most intolerances and just takes movicol for chronic constipation. Hang in there, don’t be afraid to keep complaining until your baby is seen by a qualified doctor. Be a complete pain in the bum for your own sanity so you can finally enjoy this wonderful time. Good luck x
Lindsey said: I had similar with my eldest who wouldn’t sleep unless close by in the day. When he was tiny he would only sleep if held or in his baby chair. I couldn’t transfer him to a cot as he would just wake up and scream. He did have reflux so possibly because it was uncomfortable to be flat although he would settle in his cot or crib at night. As he got older, he would only nap on the sofa or a mat on the floor. It wasn’t just at home as he didn’t like the cots when he started nursery at 10 months and slept on the floor mats like the older children. It was tough as it made it hard to get on with jobs while he was napping, but a forgotten memory now, but he still likes cuddles and is approaching 7.
Katie said: My little girl hated lying flat to sleep when she was younger. During the day we used to lie her on her front in her carrycot where we could keep an eye on her. She used the carrycot at night too instead of a Moses basket. She had silent reflux and I think the sturdier base helped her. We got a bean bag when she was around 3 months old and this really helped her to sleep during the day after feeding as she was propped up more. Moved her into a cot when she got too big for carrycot and put books under the head end to raise it slightly. Also used a folded blanket under her head which she still has now at 14 months. She started weaning early at just over 4 months and this really helped with the silent reflux and made her more comfortable and she was able to sleep a lot easier. I know weaning early is not for everyone but hopefully it will help too when you decide to do it. It doesn’t last forever and now she is a really good sleeper. Get plenty of rest when you can and don’t be scared to ask others for help so you get a chance to catch up on some sleep. As a first time mum I found this hard but it really did make things easier. X
Kimberley said: Worth looking at allergy of milk u use or breast if u eat milk products. Ask for help from health visitors. Good luck.
Marie said: My little boy was similar to this. Would cry so much he would vomit. At 5 months we sleep trained him. Best thing we ever did. I read everything I could find on the Internet, downloaded e-books and leaflets. I then came up with a plan to suit me.
First we established a bedtime routine – bath, pajamas, story, bottle, bed.
Then I sang him a song and cuddled/rocked him.
Once I put him down I said “night, night, mummy loves you” something like that.
Then I left the room. Of bourse he screamed. After 30 seconds I went back in and strokes his face and repeated “night, night, mummy loves you”.
Left the room and waited 1 minute and repeated.
Every time I left the room, I waited an extra 30 seconds.
I only ever left him 5 minutes at a time (though the research said longer). Only took 3 nights and each night the crying got shorter. I found the vomiting stopped as he calmed every time I went into the room. First night I remember it took an hour, then 20 minutes second night. Then less than 5 minutes the third night.
Hope that helps.
Liz said: Reflux? Both my daughters had it and would not go to sleep without being sat upright in bed on me, exhausting. They had meds for it eventually which worked after me nagging at the HV and doctor xxx
Sarah said: Neither of mine slept well til about 1yr. It does not last forever.
Agree with: cranial osteopath – helped my daughter. Go get checked out by Dr for reflux. Plus see Health Visitor.
Try baby massage. Helps with all kinds of things and can really promote sleep.
Go to Basingstoke Sling Library and borrow some slings to see if that helps in the day (or night when pacing floors as it helps the arms!)
Could try safe co-sleeping methods or mattress/bed by the cot/crib.
Could try wedge, lifting cot so that baby is never completely horizontal. Plus put a t-shirt around the mattress – a smelly t-shirt you have worn and sweated in for a few nights so it smells of you and your parfume/deodorant. Worked with both mine.
I also used white noise machine, baby music machine, warm bath with lavender, blackout blinds, regular routine (to the point of same pjs put in same place, same sleeping bag, same story, same song, same words and even me with the same jumper every night for months.)
Ruza said: So at four months, my boy would fall asleep in our arms, best times ever or in the pram/pushchair on a walk out. I have never done the controlled crying, personally I believe it produces too much anxiety in small ones. So nap time in the day was for both of us when I needed it. Sleep time at night was achieved with soft lullabies and rocking and then quiet sleep. E slept in the same room till six months. I was lucky that at weekends I swapped sleeping arrangements with my husband. E did not have a daytime sleep in his cot till about 15 months but that was something that evolved between me and his childminder.
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