Samantha needs some hugs

If any of you are in HR and would let me pick your brains about something (not my current job--no worries), please email me. Thanks.

Poor Samantha writes:

"I'm at my wits' end.

I don't know where to start.  I do know that my head is pounding and my eye bags are now purple and I long for my baby to sleep for a 4 hour stretch.

I wrote to you over 3 weeks ago and told you how my 12 week old was waking every 2 hours (at least).  Well now I think she has got into the habit.  The gas that was waking her has stopped and I thought that the 12 week growth spurt would be over by now, but at over 15 weeks, she is waking regularly.  She cannot put herself back to sleep.  I'm trying to get my nipple out of her mouth so that she falls asleep without it in there.  Sometimes it works but she wakes after half an hour and nothing seems to get her off.  She gets so upset, she doesn't even realise a boob is being offered.

On top of that, she is finding it hard to get to sleep in the day.  She has switched on to the world and I think it makes it difficult for her to nap.  My husband has been away for the last 2 weeks so I have been the sole parent.  It's so hard when she wakes every 30, 90, 120 minutes during the night and then only naps for 30 or 45 minutes in the day. She is so tired when she wakes from her naps and it's getting harder and harder to get her off (even boob and bouncy chair are failing).  The other day I planned to walk with her in her carrier for an hour and a half to get her a decent nap.  The carrier always gets her off.  And it did - for 20 mins.  Then something woke her and she screamed.  She wasn't in pain because I could stop her from crying for a bit but I just couldn't get her to sleep.  In the end, she cried herself into a sobbing sleep, with me sobbing next to her.

I feel like such a loser.  Young teens have babies, women have twins and toddlers to contend with.  Some people put up with sleep deprivation a lot longer that my measly few weeks before melting down.  I only have one, lovely little baby and I'm exhausted and tearful.  I sometimes feel angry towards her.  I know it's wrong and I wouldn't do anything to hurt her, but I do feel like putting her in her cot and leaving her to cry because none of my efforts are working.  I don't want her to lose her trust in her mummy.

I'm quite certain that the reason she is getting so upset is because she is tired.  Plus, maybe she is picking up on my increased tension as the sleep deprivation continues.

I'm now really resenting breastfeeding.  I found it really hard in the early days but I persevered because I wanted my baby to have the best. My husband and mum were constantly telling how 'breast is best' and I continued.  However, I've never been the best expresser and with my husband's shifts and time away with work, the baby has forgotten how to use a bottle.  Now I can't even get a break in the day.  I long for some sleep.  My friend's baby can go off to its grandmas armed with a bottle (and pacifer - which my baby also has no idea how to use but does have an overwhelming desire to suck) and she can recharge her batteries.  Not me.  How can breast be best when the baby's mother can barely raise a smile in the morning??

I know time will be a great healer, I just feel so exhausted.  My in-laws keep saying how she should be sleeping for longer periods by now and perhaps I should start her on solids.  I just can't see her ever sleeping for longer periods - it's all so foggy.  I have bought Elizabeth Pantley's book, which I've read and will start the logs soon.

I love your website - it's such a comfort.  I know there is probably no solution - just to wait it out, so I'm sorry if I'm wasting your time. I think I'm just searching for hope and support."

Oh, honey. This is just so sad, and I have felt every one of the emotions you've written. Especially the part about how feeling like a loser because other people deal with much tougher things than this.

You're right that the ultimate cure for this is going to be time. But in the meantime, I have a few things to offer:

She's heading right smack into the 19-week developmental leap, which means she's in the middle of the 4-month sleep regression, which reduces many parents to quivering masses of pain and despair. Remember this post when we all shared how awful the 4-month stage was? Let's go back and read the two pages of comments (you have to click "Next" at the bottom of the screen to see all of the comments) about people going through this torturous stage. You are not alone. It ends eventually.

This is probably the worst time possible* for you to be the sole parent for two weeks! That's just adding so much on top of this that makes it worse. Of course you're completely fried. If there's any way to afford it, I'd try to get someone to come in to help you for a few hours a couple of times a week, at least.

Now, about your in-laws: Babies all slept longer when your ILs were parents because the babies all slept on their stomachs. I really wish there was some way for us to let our kids sleep on their tummies without risking SIDS**, because I'm absolutely convinced that that's why we're all so consumed with sleep--they don't sleep well in general, so it's not just that we're nervous or micromanaging or whatever. I get 5-6 sleep-related questions a day, and I just think some of them never would have been issues back in the days when kids all slept on their stomachs.

In theory, I think that if you want to quit breastfeeding, you should feel free to without guilt. Your daughter has already gotten way more breastfeeding than most kids do, and kids are fine on formula. In reality, however, I think weaning right now will make your situation worse because she won't take a bottle from you so that will add another whole level of struggle to your day. Also, weaning could (two days in a row with this warning) push you into full-blown PPD from the hormone drop.

Instead, I think you should ask someone you trust to take your daughter for 3-4 hours every other afternoon so you can stay home and sleep. Send along a bottle of pumped milk or formula. If she drinks it, she drinks it (and whoever she's with might take it--you never know what kind of magic someone will have, and most babies won't take a bottle easily from a breastfeeding mom), but if she doesn't take it, one afternoon isn't going to hurt her, and it'll get you a stretch to help fortify you for the next few weeks until she breaks through the developmental leap.

You can't deal with this all by yourself anymore. You've done everything right. There's no magical way to get her to sleep while she's working on this developmental leap, so instead people need to be helping you to maximize the sleep you can get each day. If no one knows how much you're dealing with, send your husband the link to this post, and ask him to help. Dealing with a not-sleeping baby alone is what propels women into PPD, so don't even begin to minimize what you're going through. You need someone else there to hold that baby while you sleep four 4 hours in a row. And not someone who's criticizing the fact that the baby's not sleeping. Someone who knows what a great job you're doing, and just wants to be part of your team when you need it.

Now, readers, please say something nice to Samantha.

* Maybe not exactly the worst time. A woman told me her husband left for an overseas two-week business trip when their first child was three days old. Yeah.

** Whoever can come up with a no-risk-for-SIDS tummy-sleeping device deserves billions and billions of dollars.