Channel Mum Chat

9 months of exhaustion

Apologies in advance for this downbeat post! My maternity leave is coming to an end in a month and these past weeks I’ve felt more miserable than I thought possible given the year we have all endured. I don’t know what my 9 month old is going through whether it’s an extremely long sleep regression, leap or just rage but by god it’s nearly broke me. I’m writing this post having just picked up some beta blockers from the doctor (after several phone consultations about possible postnatal depression) and for the first time ever considering anti depressants. Has anyone else been reduced to feel in such an exhausted rut during mat leave that it’s lead you down this path?

I like to solve problems and despite many heart aches and some tragedies in life I’ve never taken anti depressants. I’ve tried so hard to try to get my baby to sleep better, bought some sleep consultant app (which I think was the start of my anxiety), tried a bit of controlled crying (but he just get so worked up and when we try and be consistent something has also happened like he’s wet his jammies or he’s needing winded) and my recent investment has been cranial osteopathy(?) I get In such a panic every night when I hear him scream, my heart throbbing and all I keep thinking is ‘by this stage your brother was sleeping through the night’ I know, compare and despair!! I’ve lost my confidence in how to settle my son at night. I start off by going in and he gets more annoyed, I pick him up and he’s still raging, I give him some milk (even though I doubt he’s hungry, he loves his food) and I wind him and try get him back down. If all fails I walk with him for a bit and lay him in our bed. I feel like I’m failing.

Please send any coping tips for getting through what I hope is a rough patch (first year). Thanks

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Hi @gill_w

Bless you I am so sorry you feel like this and I can assure you that your are NOT failing your son. My mane is Maggie and I am the Channelmum HV and sleep and parenting specialist.

Being a mum is one of the hardest jobs in the world and ten times harder when you are tired!!! It sounds like you are having a really tough time and you are not alone with his you feel, may mums feel as you do and it is always better to be open and honest abut this so you can get help and support. There is no shame in asking for help and it is good to talk about how you feel. Can I ask do you have a partner or supportive family around you?

Can you contact your HV and let them know how you feel so they can support you - there is help and support available and anti-depressants are on the many treatments that are proven to be effective in treating post natal depression and anxiety. If you had an infection or a broken arm you would not feel guilty for taking medication and getting help with with this. Our mental health is the same.

Can your GP sign you off work so your maternity leaver is extended? Have you had a menial health assessment done by either your GP or HV? If not please ask for one. As health visitors we routinely screen all new mums at various times doing the first year following birth for signs of perinatal mental illness. A validated questionnaire is used such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale see below you can score yourself online. Can you do the test and let us know your score?

When you say

This sounds horrible for you and I will share some links below to help with this feeling of panic. Many babies are not sleeping through the night at this age although they have the capability to do this and many still wake in the night until one year old. He may scream but he is safe and loved and will not come to any harm despite the yelling. To help him you ned to calm your yourself - it is very hard to settle a screaming child if you are stressed, upset or feeling panicky, Calming long deep breaths will help you calm down see the links below for strategies to help you. Try belly breathing - treating deep into your belly and then really pushing the air out slowly - you will feel your belly move in and out as you do this. Play calming music and anything that helps you feel calmer. Do not stand and listen to his screaming whilst you do this.

So I can help you, can you tell me about his bedtime routine and naps in the day? Is he able to to go sleep without you being there at bedtime or nap times?

I can help you improve his settling and sleep pattern if you are willing to work with me on this. You can do this - and we can restore your confidence - you are his mum and know what is in his best interests,. Sometimes we have to be firm to be kind and set boundaries - we can talk about this once I know a little more.

For now I suggest when he screams offer only water preferably in a cup or beaker - if he thirsty he will drink it. Milk contains sugar and will warm his teeth so one teeth brushed no more milk.

Have a look at the guide I have done on bedtime routines too see if this helps you perhaps tweak his bedtime a little

Do you have a partner to help with bedtimes in the evening?

Maggie

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Thank you Maggie so much for your reply. Both the GP and HV are aware of how I am doing and have been quite supportive, although at times it has felt like I have had to do my own searching for help, hence being on here. I think with a lack of counselling or CBT support at the minute the direction I have been given is to find charities out there or websites like mind or local mental health sites? When it comes to doing such a thing I’m exhausted and feel like all I do is google what a 9 month old should be doing by now.

we have a good bedtime routine for both boys and most nights it works quite well. I tend to deal with my three year old and my husband with our 9 month old. They have milk, stories then tuck in to bed. I still have to sit in my room until the 3 year old falls asleep and most nights my husband can put the baby down to self settle in the cot. This is all between 6.45 and 7.30pm

I tend to go to my bed around 9pm and fall asleep pretty quickly, however when the baby screams just as I’m going to sleep this is when I go into panic mode and I get angry as I am so tired. In the earlier days we had agreed anything before midnight my husband would deal with but this never quite worked as he’d be downstairs and I’d hear the baby right next door screaming. So I’d consistently have broken sleep.

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Also in terms of returning to work, I was in a way looking forward to it because I’m not enjoying being at home with the baby.

Tonight’s he’s cried/screamed inconsolably for an hour and he’s now in my bed lying next to me. This is not what I want and this is the second week of this resulting of him in my bed

Hi @gill_w

It is great your husband can put your youngest to bed and he will self settle - at least you know he can do this.

With the 3 year old would you consider using gradual retreat to get him used to going to sleep with you not in the room? See the link below for how to do this and wean him off your presence in the room.

You say are you angry is this because you are being woken up or because your husband is not dealing with your son? Or is it a bit of both?

Do you have a baby monitor? Can you put this downstairs with your husband so he does hear your son and then deals with it? Have you tried the wax or foam ear plugs to sleep in they are quite comfortable and do screen out quite a bit of noise.

You say

What time was this at? Would you be happy to fill in a sleep assessment form for me and sleep diary so I can help you with your youngest son’s sleep?

The sleep assessment form is below it is quite a lot of questions which are really helpful for me to get a full picture of exactly what is happening.

There is a weekly sleep diary below as well to start as a baseline and see progress once we start making changes

You can return it to the anon@channelmum.com email and say it is for me.

Have your GP or HV mentioned something called Increasing Access to Psychological Therapy Services (IAPT)? In England you can self-refer to IAPT In order to access IAPT, you must be registered with a GP and the location of this GP determines the services you’re eligible for. The current search for IAPT services on NHS Choices below

You might find this useful and it can be done virtually. Returning to work maybe just what you need - you can try it and see how it goes.

Once I have had your sleep assessment form back we can make a plan. Meanwhile it would be good to have a look below at the top 7 sleep training methods and how to use them. Rapid return is for older children who won’t stay in bed. Once you have looked at them we can talk about which one you think would suit your 9 month old son best.

I am off until Tuesday now

Maggie xx

Thanks Maggie, I have submitted the form.

With regards to my three year old I’m not in the frame of mind to do training on him again just yet. I will get to that eventually but mentally I can’t take any arguments from him whilst having the other one tiring us out.

When I said I get angry I mean I’m so peeved that my attempts to catch up on sleep are instantly scuppered by the one thing that is exhausting me in the first place!

The baby monitor is an app on my phone. I really do need to get my husband to sort it on his phone as well. Yes I have the ear plugs.

The GP is finally referring me to some cbt service I think. Feel like I’ve had to fight for that.

Hi @gill_w

It is is good to concentrate on one child at a time,

I do empathise with how you feel and I do vividly remember feeling like that myself. With hindsight I realise that being irritable and angry about not getting sleep was not helping me - I was being my own worst enemy. Instead I needed to show some self compassion and just recognise how hard this was and I was doing the best I could under exhausting and stressful circumstances. I needed to be my own best friend and give myself a hug and be kind and gentle with myself. Of course this is easier said than done. I will post a link to Kirsten Neff on self compassion whom I have found very helpful personally. Below is her Ted Talk and website - if you Google her you will find lots of her videos. On her website are a lot of free exercises and resources you can download

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvtZBUSplr4

I am pleased your GP has referred you for some CBT yes you do deserve it.I will take a look at the form and get back to you with my thoughts. Thank you so much for filling it in.

Maggie xx

PS The form has not reached me yet it will be in the system as soon as I get it I will get back to you. Please bear with us as it has been the BH weekend and I am very part time.

Hi @gill_w

I have nw located and had time to go through your sleep assessment from thank you for completing this.

A few things such me from reading your form which I I may I will go though one by one. I note you say he is not rolling over and I note you fear there may be an underlying cause to his sleep issue. What makes you think this? Is thee a family history of developmental or health issues?

Does your HV or GP have any conners over his development? It might be worth asking your HV to do a developmental assessment to help alleviate any fears over this.

Re the rolling does he have plenty of tummy time? Tummy time is good for spinal development and muscle strengthening. This will support his postural control needed for rolling, sitting, crawling and beyond. However, if he is now sitting or pulling to stand - he may now not want to spend time doing tummy time. Some babies do miss out on rolling and skip that stage, Are there any other aspects of his development you are concerned about?

There is a fantastic free app you can download called Born to Move there is a video all about it below. It shows how you can encourage tummy time and movement from baby through to toddler and a free app you can download.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqNswlgar9Q

I also note he has food pouches or jars. These are fine to be used occasionally but are not suitable as his main meals on a daily basis. Can you give him your family food mashed or cut up into small pieces. Your own food willl satisfy him far more than jars and pushes annd are much better for his diet and health. He is now of an age when he can pick food up and feed himself - sleep and feeding are closely connected.

Baby led weaning (BLW) you can offer soft finger foods such as

  • Avocados
  • Banana
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Soft cooked apples
  • Soft cooked carrots, green beans, zucchini, and beets
  • Very ripe peaches and pears, plums, and melon
  • Pumpkin
  • Green beans with the skins removed
  • Egg yolk
  • Meat or poultry
  • Liver
  • Slices of sprouted bread, cooked pasta, brown rice,

For ideas on weaning see below

and here

https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/spoon-feeding-compared-with-baby-led-weaning/

Channelmum has lots of information here https://www.channelmum.com/c/baby-weaning#! and this website has lots of essential evidenced based information on what to give and how to give it.

if he has Weetabix with milk at breakfast perhaps offer water as a drink in a beaker as he is drinking lot of milk each day. Offeri milk in a beaker as he gets older it is better to drink from a beaker and it also means he will start to take less milk an. At this age he needs 525 mg of calcium daily until 1 year old after 1 this drops to 350 mg calcium. 200 mls of milk contains 240mg of calcium so once they are taking other foods milk is not their only source of calcium see below page 2 for the calcium in different foods. So you can afford to cut down his milk intake a bit and increase his home cooked solid food which will fill him up more that jars and pouches.

https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/Calcium.pd

Food also has an impact on sleep see the link below

You say

"Bath every second night then downstairs, watch in the night garden and have milk with his big brother. Up to his room for 7 and has a story in there before being put didn’t in his cot”

Having milk downstairs in a baker is good. Once he has gone up to the bathroom to clean teeth after his milk and either bath or get ready for bed in PJs it is best NOT to bring him downstairs again but straight to his cot for the last part of the bedtime routine. The siting room is a stimulating environment he needs low lights and quiet activities,and story before bed

No TV I hour before bed as this prevents the secretions of the sleep hormone Melatonin so no screens an hour before bed. If you can have a gentle winding down time each evening with low lights.

You also say
"He has a dummy and a comforter and when tired but a awake he is put in the cot and tends to fall asleep?

Does he have a dummy to help him go to sleep.

He goes to bed at 7pm and is asleep by 7.05pm. This is very quick and suggests to me he may be overtired as most children take between 10-20 minutes to nod off. I wonder about putting him to bed a bit earlier what do you think? Being overtired can really affect their sleep. He also needs to associated bath or getting ready for bed with going into his cot and going to sleep. I am going to suggest you start the bedtime routine about 6.15 or 6.30pm on a non bath night and have him in his cot earlier by 6.45pm.

You say about his naps
"Morning between 30-1hr, lunch and hour and sometimes a wee 20 min before dinner?

What time is the one before his dinner and how long is this one? What time does he have dinner at?

Having a nap anytime after 4pm can have a knock on effect on sleep.

What time does he wake in the mornings?

Sorry to ask so many more questions

Maggie xx

Thanks Maggie for getting back to me, I really appreciate the time you have put in to help me through this tough time. I got a lot out of that ted talk video you sent.

With regards to the rolling no there is family history of development or health issues, quite the opposite. My eldest son rolled onto his front at 4 months I found this helped him sleep in a more comfortable position the more mobile he got and also when he moved onto solids this helped with his own reflux issues. However, I know, compare and despair! I will check out the recommended app.

Thanks also for your advice on the solids, we have been given him some avocado, banana, yogurt and other fruits lately, The pouches are a quick fix when I haven’t the time to cook everyones dinner and when out and about. I also take your advice on board about him drinking from a beaker, not just water but his milk as well. Do these need to be sterilised?

He does seem pretty tired come 6.50/7pm so maybe we should try put him down 10 minutes earlier to get himself to sleep. This is on the days he has not had a late nap. If hes with me the nap will end before 4.30. However one day a week he travels back from grandparents around dinner time and its a 20 min car ride and inevitably the danger nap takes place.

wake times in the morning tend to be anything from 5.50 - 7am.

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Hi @gill_w

Great to hear about the other foods you are giving him is his diet - I may have misinterpreted what you said on the assessment form as it sounded like he was only having pouches. We all need quick fixes on occasions!!

Glad you found the Ted Talk useful I am a great fan of Kirsten Neff she has helped me a lot.

Once they are over 6 months you do not need to sterilise anything - they are putting everything in their mouth anyway!

You say

I empathise trying to keep them awake in the car is a nightmare - I used to sing to mine, play nursery rhymes - given them a water to drink - anything to keep them awake, It can be a loosing battle though .

Yes try to get him in his cot 10 minutes earlier and see how that goes. Let me know on Monday how you got on over the weekend. It is strange but true but often putting them to bed earlier means they wake up later - which seems counter intuitive.

His morning waking is quite erratic - I usually suggest trying to wake them at there same time each morning as this helps to sync them for the rest of the day so you can do feeds and naps at roughly the same sort of times and help regulate their body clock this way see link below.

A suggestion I have is he is waking at 05.30am to help him go a bit longer is not to get him up till later. I will post a link I wrote on how to gradually stretch is morning waking time to later.

Some babies and children are natural owls or larks the link below can help you identify which your son is.

Good luck - let me know how things go.

Maggie xx

HI @gill_w

I have been thinking about you and wondered how things are going?

Maggie x

Hi Maggie,

It’s been another rough wee as we are in teething hell! How long does it take for the teeth to come through?

Last two nights Brody has came into our bed after hours of trying to settle him.

Hi @gill_w

Do not despair it will get better- it is very hard when they are teething. Do what you need to so you can cope.

Teething can go on for a while see the link and chart below to have an idea of the order the teeth come through in plus top tips for coping with it.

It is usually better to give pain relief on the first waking as this is more effective - it takes 20 minutes to work - if after 20 minutes it has made no difference then it is not teething. Teething causes discomfort rather than pain.

Keep working on the bedtimes and naps.

Good luck
Maggie xx