5 Month Old Breastfed Baby, Sleep Issues, Formula and Miracle Blanket

Updated on April 29, 2009
K.C. asks from Nashua, NH
17 answers

I think I may have a unique problem that is a combination of breastfeeding, swaddling, sleep, and sanity...

My 5 month old daughter Isabella was never a great sleeper. She cluster fed from the beginning and if it wasn't for the pump I think I would have either given up breastfeeding or jumped off a bridge!

A friend of mine highly recommended the miracle blanket which is sort of like a baby straightjacket. It worked in extending her sleep by an hour or two (when she only slept a couple of hours, it was very helpful) and it became part of our nighttime routine (bath, pajamas, lullabies, swaddle, nursing, bed). She gradually started sleeping longer and longer stretches - she was consistently giving us between 4 and 6 hour stretches pretty much all of month 4, a few times even going to 7 hours... Whenever she woke up (crying), I just nursed her and she ate quite a bit, and went back to sleep. She usually falls asleep while nursing, but not always - I've put her down wide awake a few times, and sometimes she fusses but always ends up going to sleep...

At her 4 month appointment, the doctor said we could introduce some rice cereal with breastmilk, if only for practice and not to replace a meal. We were hesitant but tried 2 weeks ago and she hated it... we waited a couple of days and introduced it again, and she seemed to like it more... then something miraculous happened - she slept 8 hours! Nursed her in amazement and she slept another 2... Then the next night, 8 hours again! And another 2... It was beautiful!

Unfortunately, it seems like she may be outgrowing the miracle blanket. The last time I had her in it she wriggled out of it (the last 8 hour stretch), and I'm afraid of it getting wrapped around her head if she wriggles too much, so I stopped using it. She hasn't slept more than 3 consecutive hours since.

The weird thing is she keeps waking up at night, crying, but NOT awake. It's the weirdest thing. Before I give her a feeding, I try to comfort her and calm her down and sometimes she gets a pacifier, and once she settles she's back to sleep for an hour or two... but she never opens her eyes. I wonder what is waking her up... Teething? She does drool but not accessively... Growth spurt? Eventually the pacifier just won't do it anymore or it will fall out and she will lose it or whatever and wakes up in another 5 minutes - then I know it's time to nurse her.

Some other things you should know - I had PPD pretty badly, and take prozac. I had depression prior to getting pregnant and tried not to need it, but ended up going back on at a lower dose while pregnant. After I had her (she is fine!), in combination with the no sleep, I needed to up the prozac and they said it was OK to do while breastfeeding. There is one other med that you can't take while breastfeeding, and the plan was to wean her off breastfeeding when I was ready and in need of that med (have been, have been suffering on and off delaying the decision) and introduce formula, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it. She is thriving and healthy and I don't think I could live with myself if I introduce formula and she gets sick... although I know all babies get sick eventually...

I want to try the blanket again, see if I can get her wrapped in it so she doesn't wriggle out - I read on the website you can leave one arm out, see if that helps... I really think this blanket kept her from waking herself up, but I don't know what to do without it to get her to stay asleep, which I know she can do!

But what it comes down to is formula. Now I have two reasons to introduce it, (I could do both for a while, I don't want to switch her cold turkey) - one so I can get going on weaning to I can take that med sooner rather than later... and two, so she may sleep longer.

I guess I'm looking for opinions, advice, suggestions, anything. I'm sitting here at work getting nothing done because I can't think straight from no sleep, continuing to surf the internet for some type of solution, something to TRY, because I can't keep my eyes open otherwise.

I never knew how much sleep deprivation robs you of sanity!

Thanks for taking the time to read this book...

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So What Happened?

I want to thank everyone for sharing their thoughts, experience, opinions and advice! (I love this website!) Ok, so here is what happened...

I re-read a lot of what I posted and I remember feeling like I was really on the edge of some proverbial line of sanity! At first, I tried keeping her in the miracle blanket with one arm out - this definitely helped her fit and stay snug in it through the night, and helped with her sleep - to the tune of 4 or 5 hours (much better than 2 or 3!). I did go out and buy a SwaddleMe in the large size, which will fit her for a while. This one isn't as restrictive as the miracle blanket and seems to be safer - she does pop her arms out of it eventually, but then the swaddle is really just keeping a blanket on her without being at risk of wrapping around her head/neck - it's got some mad velcro going on and I'm very impressed with how well it stays in place.

It seems I got my hopes up WAY too high that rice cereal was going to make her sleep longer! It really was just a fluke - she has eaten more since and has not slept longer than 5 or 6 hours. And, her subsequent shorter stretches that put me temporarily in the nuthouse may or may not have had to do with swaddling. This parenthood stuff really is a guessing game!

I'm still not sure if she's teething; I keep saying "oh it's gotta be happening now" but still no teeth! She's about 5 1/2 months now, I keep checking her gums and she likes to gnaw on my finger, but I don't feel anything. Could she be teething "on and off"? I don't know.

I am also trying to stick to my original goal of 6 months of breastfeeding. I know whenever we do introduce formula it will be gradual so she'll definitely get both for a while. Almost there! I've just resigned to the fact that I'm going to have to get up at least once during the night to feed her, and it sucks but it seems I am functioning on an average of 5-6 hours of sleep a night.

One thing that definitely helped a LOT (besides all of your input of course!) is the mantra "it won't always be like this, this is temporary" - I keep reminding myself of that and it's been helping a lot.

Thanks again everyone so much - I'll write more later if I think of anything but I have to run!

Featured Answers



answers from Springfield on

My 2 yr old still wants to sleep swaddled he has spd so I sewed some snaps onto his larger blankets and swaddle him and sleeps much better then if he goes w/o

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answers from Boston on

First off, K. - STOP beating yourself up! It sounds like you are doing everything you can to make sure your child is getting what she needs, and you are being a wonderful mom to her. I remember with my first I second-guessed every decision I made, I wanted to do it perfectly! With my second child, it was a little easier, but I think all moms second-guess themselves from time to time.

Now, I can't really solve the sleeping thing. We swaddled both our children until they were about 4 months old, and it was a difficult transition to "free" sleeping. :) They loved the swaddle, but eventually learned other cues to help them get themselves to sleep. At 6 months we used a sleep training method (the SleepEasy DVD, available on Amazon.) and my son now sleeps beautifully through the night. Unfortunately the transition is the tough part. I remember all to well the "hit the wall" feeling when you feel like you just can't take anymore sleepless nights. You can, though, and she will be a good sleeper - she just needs to learn how to do it herself. I suggest trying a pacifier or a lovie that becomes her new sleeptime cue, and at 6 months the SleepEasy method.

I can totally identify with you on the medication vs. breastfeeding. I suffer with Generalized Anxiety, and came off Rx first to get pregnant, through pregnancy, and through breastfeeding. I was able to endure the anxiety through pregnancy with the help of behavioral therapy, but with both my children, I "hit the wall" with the anxiety when they were about 5 months old. I needed to go back on Rx for anxiety, and I am ultimately glad I did. I'm a much more patient and fun mom now.

It's true that breastfeeding is complete nutrition for your baby, and that it has additional benefits. But guess what: Having a HAPPY mom is even MORE beneficial! Your daughter deserves to have a mother who enjoys life, who has the energy to play, and smile and laugh at her baby antics. I think that you have given her the best start in breastfeeding, and if you really need to wean so that you can be more present for your daughter, maybe it's time to do so.

I know you're afraid she'll get sick once you switch her over to formula. My daughter did: she got her first cold two weeks after she stopped BFing! I felt horrible, but now I look back and figure: she got over it, and her immune system is that much stronger for it. Unless your daughter has any other chronic health problems, she will be fine. Babies have been thriving on formula for generations.

Best of luck, and feel free to message me if you would like more info.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Burlington on

Hi K. - I've experienced some of the issues you've described here. Babies are wonderful & amazing, but really hard work!! The sleep thing, in my experience, goes up & down. I have learned never to get my hopes up by one good night of sleep, because something inevitably comes up to derail the progress you've made, particularly in that first year! I agree, try swaddling with a regular/bigger blanket if she doesn't fit in the miracle one. I also agree with the tyelnol! She's old enough for it (I prefer motrin once they hit 6 mos) - call your pedi for the right tylenol dosage for her weight. Crying in their sleep is often teething (again, that's what both my kids did, but all are different).

With both of mine they'd start out on their own, and once they woke up the first time, I would bring them into bed with me. I too am a FT working mom and appreciate all of your sleep struggles!! My youngest just barely had her first birthday and is finally sleeping (for the most part) on her own & through the night!! However, she's cutting molars and I find they are so much worse than the first round of teeth! Hang in there, do what is best for you and your baby. Don't feel bad (I realize that's impossible)... but don't take on too much mommy guilt!! Honestly, the first year as miraculous as it is, really is the hardest... Good luck!

PS - Make sure you're working in some YOU time to recharge... out with your girlfriends once in a while, do a yoga class or whatever you like to do, etc. That kind of time is VITAL (I am the worst at making time for me, so I realize it's tough, but it will benefit not just you but your whole family!).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lewiston on

K., I'm not familiar with the miracle blanket, but we swaddled our little girl in the "kiddopotamus swaddleme" sleeper and they make those in different sizes, she fit in one (although we stopped using it) until she was 7 or 8 months old. BabiesRUs has them - I even managed to find them at my drug store! Some kids just can't sleep without being swaddled, I have a friend whose little boy asked to be swaddled until he was two, they just used an extra large swaddling blanket. Sleep is essential for sanity (for both of you!) good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I've had some similar issues. Our son has never been a great sleeper. He's 8 months old now, and I'm finally starting to get some more rest. I think it's helped that we now have bedtime and nap routines in place. We also use a white noise machine and a sleeper called Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit. It looks a little like a snow suit without the attached feet. He can still move his limbs, but the suit is weighty and snug and makes him feel secure like swaddling. He just wears a onesie under the suit, and a blanket isn't necessary. You can find it online at www.magicsleepsuit.com. I still swaddle him for naps in a light stretchy blanket with one of his arms loose.

I stopped taking Prozac when we started trying to conceive, but found I needed something after the baby was born. My doctor and I chose Zoloft based on the data in Dr. Thomas Hale's book---Medication and Mothers Milk. I'm still breast feeding because the book put my mind at ease about the safety of Zoloft, and it's turned out to be an effective drug for me.

Good luck.



answers from Boston on

try keeping her in bed with you and nursing her at night when she stirs a bit. This is what i do with our 11 month old and i never wake up fully in the middle of the night. we both sleep soundly every night. See dr. sears



answers from Boston on

Hi K.!
What your daughter is doing is COMPLETLEY normal! My son did the same thing...swaddling is reminding them of being in the womb and they are all tight and cozy-its like being super tucked in but eventually they cant be swaddled because like you said they get out of it as they get stronger and they get too big for the swaddlers. Also once they start rolling you dont want them rolling while swaddled and getting stuck on their belly face down in the mattress. My son is the same age and we just stopped swaddling because he rolled and scared me half to death. They do get through not being swaddled it just takes time and patience. For us we switched to the sleep sacks-they are certified for reducing the risk of SIDS and they are kind of the next step from swaddling. Its like a blanket that zips on them and covers their pjs but its not tight like a swaddler-my advice would be to try that also does she like any music to hush her back to sleep like the mobiles or aquariums? Good Luck!


answers from Boston on

Not sure about the blanket - but certainly a more active baby wriggles out of things, and you need to keep her safe. The waking up could be due to teething and just being more active - you can't keep her in the blanket forever but you (and she) definitely need more sleep.

Usually adding solid foods help them stay asleep longer because they don't digest it as fast as breast milk, so they feel full. Mixing with breast milk is fine but it's not the only way. I think introducing formula is fine - if you are feeling guilty, DON'T! It's really important to take care of yourself in order to function, work, have a life, and of course to have a healthy and happy baby.

I have had clinical depression for many years - it got worse post-partum and I have been on several different antidepressants. They help (though they don't solve everything) but they can cause other problems. Some of them have a sedating effect, although you have plenty of other reasons to be exhausted too, so it could be a combination.

I tried everything - meds, "proper" diet, and vitamins. Two years ago I was clued in to a fantastic supplement from a research-based food science company, and my results have been life-changing. I am off my antidepressants (with my doctor's approval and help) and have a lot more energy. I am not tired, I can focus better, I sleep better, and more. I'm also off numerous other meds and over-the-counter things - and boy, did that money add up. I didn't realize how much of a bite from my budget it took when I bought $10 in vitamins here, $10 in calcium there, $20 in a prescription or $25 in a doctor's visit co-pay. I have friends whose doctors said they could take this supplement while pregnant and nursing too - no warning labels, no drugs in them, no chance of overdosing. SInce you are worried about your daughter getting sick, you could introduce the children's product to her cereal or her bottle, give her the best nutrition out there, and help support her immune system. The kids' product was formulated by the same scientist who was on the team developing ProSoBee and Enfamil formulas too, so he's an expert on liquid nutrition and pediatric developmental needs. I would think it would solve several of the problems you are asking for help on.

I'd be happy to share more and connect you with other moms, nurses, doctors, etc.

Keep working to get some sleep! There is help available!



answers from Boston on

Some of this sounds very familiar! We used the Miracle Blanket, but when our baby started to outgrow it, we weaned her off of it slowly. I got the Halo Sleep sack, WITH SWADDLE ATTACHED (it has velcro), and she used that for about a month (it's only in newborn size, but was plenty big). She could get her arms out of it in the night, but b/c it was velcro, and attached to the sleep sack, I didn't worry about her safety (like I would if she got out of the miracle blanket. Then after a while, I started the night with one arm out. Then a few weeks later, I took both arms out, but still attached the swaddle around her torso, so she felt secure. Now, she's 6.5 months, and she sleeps in a regular sleep sack, with no swaddle attached, and does fine. It was a process, but I'm glad we went slowly.

The crying and not awake could definitely be teething. My daughter had a week or so of TERRIBLE sleep right before her first tooth came in. Try the Hylands Teething Tablets. I also would bring her into bed with me if she was inconsolable, and she'd usually just fall right asleep.

You may also want to check out a book called Wonder Weeks - it discussed the developmental leaps that can disrupt sleep during the first year. There's also a book - I don't have it, but have heard good things - called "Bed Timing," that discusses certain time periods where changes in a sleep routine (like sleep training or removing the swaddle) are guaranteed to fail. It might be worth looking at as well, to make sure any changes you think about making are well-timed.

And finally, with the formula. The vast majority of health benefits of breastfeeding are in the first six months (w/r/t respiratory and GI infections). Maybe you could set a goal of 6 months (and a couple bottles of formula here and there aren't going to harm your daughter, particularly if it means you get more sleep!), and then wean to formula after 6 months. It's so important that you are healthy! I researched this a lot at first, b/c I have MS, and could have to stop nursing and go on meds at any point, and now that I'm past 6 months, I feel much more comfortable with the idea of weaning, if it was necessary for my health.

Good luck, and let us know if things get better! From my experience, 6 months is a good time for sleep. So you're almost there!



answers from Boston on

Hi K., you've got a lot going on! And a lot of good responses, of course everyone has an opinion and in the end you do have to listen to your instincts and figure out what works best for you & your baby.

As for the miracle blanket - I LOVED this blanket and used it on my daughter for I think 8-9 months or so. She moved all around in it, would wake up with her arm or both arms out but I put her in it only at night. We never used it for naps as she was a good napper. Finally I jsut left her without it one night and she was fine - but it was easily 8-9 months before I tried that. SHe just slept so darn good with it.

At this age we also used a binky shes only take the hospital one) for naps and nighttime sleep . I actually would put about 4 in her crib at night so she could find them! We took them away at about 10 months and she never complained.

When I put her in for bed when she was younger I would nurse her to sleep most of the time and sometimes put her in the crib awake so she'd learn to sleep through the night. 5 months is too young for sleep training anyway, plus you have to decide if that's the way you want to parent your little one who only has one way to communicate with you - her cries. There are those who believe you should never ignore a babies cries so that they learn to feel secure that you will respond when they need something. I like the Baby Whisperer solves all your problems book, by Tracy Hogg. But again, you have to find your way/routine. What we used to do was nurse before bed, then go in and do a "dream feed" without waking her - just pick her up and nurse her while she is sleeping, then put her back in, before I would go to bed around 11 or 12. THen she'd often make it tilt he morning. We did that also til about 8-9 months.

As for cereal I agree it seems a little odd for your pedi to recommend it so early. Really 6 months is standard but they don't NEED it at all. Unless your baby is giant or something, in which case some people simply can't keep up with the demand.

As for introducing formulae - if it comes to that I think you should empower yourself to do it. You need to make the best choices for you & your family. However, it's not really much easier than breastmilk in the middle of the night - BF is much easier except only you can do it whereas your partner can do the bottle with formula. Also, you can pump some milk for your partner to do night time feedings with breastmilk.

I have no experience with the depression side of things so can't comment on that except to commend you for looking out for your baby's health.

Hope any of that is useful - I agree with the earlier post that said it all changes al the time - just when you think you have it figured out it changes. It definitely could be teething in which case a little infants tylenol can go a long way.



answers from Boston on

This sounds a lot like my situation, minus the medication issues. My four month old baby boy started wriggling out of his swaddle a few weeks ago and we have been transitioning to sleeping without it. He is gradually getting used to sleeping better and not waking himself up. Like others have mentioned, I have him in the bed with me so as to minimize the disruption when he gets up in the night to nurse. Like your daughter, he slept pretty well for a few months, then recently in the past few weeks/month it has all gone downhill...now I'm only getting at most 2 hours of sleep at a time. I also work full time and am dragging my butt every day. I have just this week tried giving him formula a couple of times, but it hasn't seemed to increase his sleep at all (although it has taken the pressure off of me to constantly pump, which is nice). Lots of people have told me that it is normal for their sleep to fluctuate during these months and that there are often "sleep regressions" while they are learning another skill, like rolling over. It is really hard, the sleep dep. I just keep telling myself that it can't last forever, and try to take each day at a time, enjoying all the fun things with the baby. One thing you might try, like others have mentioned is to have a really solid bedtime routine--what clothes she wears to bed (I also recommend the Halo sleep sack), read a story, have a blanket/stuffed animal/pacifier, take a relaxing bath. As others have mentioned they do make larger size swaddle blankets so maybe you can try that too. Good luck. You are not alone!!



answers from Boston on

Hi K.
I am past the baby stage so I don't have info on your sleep dilemma (for the baby anyway) but to address your last comment about yawning-I have had great results with adding time to my day by taking food supplements for my vitamins. I have more energy now that I did in my 30's!
J. H



answers from Boston on

Hi K.,
I completely understand where you are coming from. My daughter is now 10 months old and slept in her miracle blanket until she was 6.5 months old. I tried several times to get her out of her swaddle wrap before this but she just was not ready. I too used the miracle swaddle and the velcro wrap at daycare. We used the miracle blanket just for her upper body around 5 months because she was getting too long for it and just left her feet out. She did fine with this.

At around 6.5 months I just decided to leave her out and see how she did and much to my surprise within the week she was sleeping great again. We just went cold turkey from that point on. I really feel when your baby is ready to get out of the swaddle she will let you know. I too asked for advice from other moms on mamasource at around 5 months because I was beating myself up about the swaddle and felt like my daughter would never sleep without it. Now 10 months old she sleeps great. Other mom's told me they used swaddle wraps for up to 8-9 months.

I think you need to do what works so you can sleep. Let's face it, everyone benefits from you sleeping. Do what you need to. We also use a noise machine, keep the room dark.

I think as far as meds go if you feel like you need to start taking a medication that will help you then you should probably try to start introducing formula. I am very pro-breasfeeding and still breastfeed. Mental health is really important and I think the best thing for you and your family is to take care of yourself. If you are recognizing that you may need another med than you are probably right. Sleep deprivation can also deepen depression.

I think you may want to try to wait 10-30 minutes when you baby wakes during the night to see if she falls back to sleep. It may include a little fussing but you don;t want to start a routine again of going in every few hours.

I hope this helps. Good luck. Another thing I learned is by the time your ready to go crazy something changes. I worked myself up about many things and they worked themselves out. Good luck. R.



answers from New London on

At this age, I would say she is definitely teething. My son started at 4 months. A little tylenol at night and in the middle of the night did the trick for a couple of nights and he would sleep much better, but honestly, I didn't get more than 4 hours of sleep until 10 and half months when he went on formula and had a better schedule of eating during the day. Try the tylenol and see if it helps. Don't give her too much, but I think if you were getting those long stretches of her sleeping and she was doing really well and then all of a sudden things changed, it probably is teething or she is developing gas from the rice cereal which is really constipating. So you could give her some gas ex too. They usually just cry out and then go back to sleep when it is gas. If she is constipated you could add some babyfood pears to it, which will help. But at 5 months, many many breastfed babies do not sleep more than 4 hours at a time ... so you are on your way if she was sleeping longer. :) Best wishes to you.



answers from Boston on

Totally normal reaction - ours wriggled out in a huge way about that age and it was so disruptive for her sleep cycle because she spent so much time trying to get out of her swaddle that she kept herself awake. After a few days without the swaddle she'll figure out her own groove and get into a normal sleeping pattern. You have to let her cry a little bit so she figures out how to get herself to sleep. Also, don't rush over every time she looks like she wakes up. Many times our daughter cries in her sleep but she's not really awake, and after 5-15 minutes goes back to sleep for several hours.

I BF'd till 7 months, but supplemented with formula because she needed the food/nutrients. Our daughter did just fine, she was in daycare. She did get colds, but it does help build her immunity. Summer would be a good time to switch to formula, less germs to catch and by the time the winter comes her immunity will hopefully be working nice and strong. Ours was going to full formula in October at the beginning of the cold season and was sick off and on the whole winter, but after a few times she managed to combat w/o much meds.

Is there another parent or caregiver that can help introduce formula? Every child is different in how they react. Give it a go.

Also, just when you think you have your baby's patterns down, they change or grow and you have to adapt to something new. No need to panic, they are growing, you are learning. Just when you get the formula thing down, she will be starting on finger food, then real food. It's always something new. At one year, ours just went off the bottle and formula all together. It seemed to go SO fast.

Sleep deprivation does not help, as long as your expectation is that it's an ever evolving process you'll be OK.

Good luck!



answers from Boston on

Have you tried swaddling her with just a blanket? You could even put some stick on velcro on it to make sure it stays closed.

You can find directions on how to swaddle in the book The Happiest Baby on the BLock.



answers from Boston on

you should first know that this is completely NORMAL behavior for a five month old. SHE SHOULD NOT be sleeping through the night! I'm sorry to say that your pediatrician is stupid for not telling you this in the first place, and to tell you give her rice cereal is also irresponsible. What rice cereal does is fills her poor little belly up with nutrient deficient food, yes, she sleeps longer, but this is detrimental to her digestive health! Please remember that Pediatricians are NOT parenting experts, they give you advice based on their own opinions. I suggest you do more research on sleeping. That being said, I can tell you my personal experience. My 8 month old has never had sleeping issues. We have shared our bed since birth. Every couple of hours she fusses a bit, I latch her on, and we continue sleeping, barely any sleep interruption at all! I have never been sleep deprived and my daughter is an excellent sleeper. Honestly I don't know how else you do it if you breastfeed!. Also if you work full time, this is a great time to re-connect with your baby. As a side note too, I have found breastfeeding at night helps you sleep better because of the hormone release(also helps for depression!) that occurs while you breastfeed. The most important thing I can tell you is babies at that age should not be sleeping for more than a couple hour stretches at a time!!!!!!Us moms try to come up with a million different techniques and contraptions to get them to sleep longer, just for our own sanity, not thinking of the health of our poor babies. Just take the poor baby to bed and nurse her during the night, your life will be so much easier! And you DO NOT need to supplement with formula! Check out some other resources and perspectives on sleeping and childrearing like http://askdrsears.com and get yourself the Baby Book by Dr. Sears (accomplished pediatricians that base their advice on having eight children!) http://mothering.com Le Leche Leauge http://www.llli.org/ Read the Continuum Concept by Jean Leidloft and Mothering and Fathering by Tine Thevenin and Co-Sleeping By James Mckenna. Also for a good alternative to the blanket, get yourself a sling. Babies want to feel swaddled and close to their moms, a sling is great because it does just that, and you can nurse on demand in a sling. I would suggest doing some more research on the subject, and also try listening to your own instincts as well. Your baby is hungry when she wakes up, she fusses because she needs YOU. Listen to HER. Good luck!

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