Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sleeping...or the lack thereof

You hear about all of these parents that have the best sleepers.  Children that started sleeping through the night when they were only months old! You can read on pinterest, all of these wonderful how-tos regarding sleep training and getting your child to begin sleeping through the night almost immediately.  THIS is not that kind of post.  I may know what I'm doing when it comes to nursing, increasing milk supply, and cloth diapering, but I am no sleep whisperer.

This post is not a how-to.  This is not a fix-all.  This is a "oh my gosh, you are not alone" post.  An "I feel you...I understand what you are going through...I get why you are exhausted" post.  BUT, it is also, a "there is a light at the end of these sleepless nights" and "it will get better" post. Finally, it is a "here are the things I tried that kind-of worked" post.

So enter into my world... let's travel through the past two years of my little one's life, and explore the many ups and downs that we experienced.

When our little bird arrived, we were still in the final stages of building our house! What was originally going to be finished pre-baby turned into a house that was not move-in ready until she was 6 weeks old!  Due to this hiccup, we did a couple things different than we would have if we were already in our home, but for the most part we maintained our expected sleeping plan.  

Sleeping Plan Goals (prebaby)
1. Our little angel would sleep in her own crib at night.  We would start her in the pack-n-play just because it is smaller, and then move her into the actual crib after the first few weeks.

2. Use a Levana Oma+ baby movement monitor with vibration and alarm.  Use a regular sound baby monitor, once baby was in another room

3. NO pillows or blankets. Footie onesies to stay warm

4.  Our little one would love sleeping flat on her back (... as stated by all doctors...)

What actually happened

**Levana monitor was used for almost a full year.  I love this monitor.  It vibrates to stimulate your baby if they stop breathing for a brief moment.  If they still haven't moved after a certain period of time, an alarm goes off.  The alarm went off a total of 3 times during its use.  Once, we believe it was because she stopped breathing for a short time (something that little ones tend to do while they are sleeping apparently).  The other two times, her monitor had actually gotten separated from her diaper.  Was this totally stressful to wake up to that alarm?? Yes.  Did it also make me feel good to know that the alarm would go off if no movement was felt? YES.

Our sweet little bird came home from the hospital one day old, and it was wonderful.  I had her little pack-n-play all set up in our bedroom.

Night 1: She slept well.  Too well... I actually had to wake her for her feedings every 3 hours.  

Night 2: She ended up spitting up some milk after one of her feedings.  I was scared to death.  How was she suppose to spit up safely while on her back?!?  I panicked, and she spent the rest of the night sleeping in her Rock'n'Play Sleeper, which elevates her back and head.  

Night 3-7: She continued sleeping in her Rock'n'Play Sleeper.  I woke her every 2-3 hours to nurse if she didn't wake first. 

Night 8: We began laying her flat in the Pack'n'Play again, after my pediatrician strongly encouraged me to get her comfortable with sleeping flat again. She did well, especially considering she was waking every 2-3 hours to nurse anyway.  At times she would stay latched for over an hour!  She wasn't getting milk, but she wanted to continue suckling.  I dug into the hospital bag and got the soothie (paci from hospital)--she took it! YAY!  Now mama could get a little more sleep. 

Fast forward to 6 weeks: We moved into the new house!!!! The only space that separates our bedroom from the nursery is our bathroom.  Beginning at 6 weeks, my little one began sleeping in her big crib in the nursery.  She continued to wake every 2-3 hours and I nursed in the nursing chair in her room. She would only accept the soothie paci during the day at this point. She's decided it's a no-go at night time...

Fast forward to 3 months: She continued to wake every 2 hours to nurse. I continued to offer her the soothie (paci from hospital). Sometimes she would take it, most times she would not.

Fast forward to 4 months: She continued to wake every 2 hours to nurse, and I was now back at work. I believe she began using nursing more as a pacifier at times than a true need to nurse for milk. Most attempts to lay her down in the crib resulted in her waking back up and I started the "nursing back to sleep" process all over. I began to buckle her into the baby swing in the living room to let the swinging motion keep her asleep longer....I was sleeping on the couch, just feet away from her.

Fast forward to 5 months: Nothing changed in her routine and needs. I'm getting exhausted from being up so much at night and having to function as a chemistry teacher during the day.  I need to start sleeping in a bed again!  I know she likes the comfort of the swing, the way it curves up around her body.  I begin letting her sleep in swing with no movement to get accustomed to that.  Then I try to simulate the experience in her crib:

Rolled up towels underneath the crib sheet create a little nest
Maybe two of the night time nurses are genuine needs of milk. All other times she is just using me as a pacifier to go to sleep (nurses for 5-10 minutes until she falls asleep). Once, asleep, she is staying asleep more often now that I have the "crib nest".  If she is still waking by 4am, I place her in the swing so I can get at least 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

6 Month Doctor Checkup: SHE IS FINALLY 12 Pounds (closer to 13) !!!! What does this mean?  She should officially be able to sleep for at least 4-6 hours without needing to nurse.  My doctor had not encouraged any form of "cry it out" method yet because she wanted my little one to reach the 12 lb mark first.   So, now it is time to break her nursing/pacifier needs.  SOOOOO much easier said than done....

My pediatrician encouraged me to nurse her before bed, and then not nurse again for at least 4-6 hours.  If she cried, I needed to let her.  She needed to learn to self-sooth.

I HATED THIS! I honestly knew she needed to learn to fall back asleep on her own.  I knew she truly didn't need any milk.  I knew, I knew, I knew... but it was still so hard.  I caved... I just couldn't hear her cry.  I continued on the path of self exhaustion.  Yes, I tried the paci...No, she wouldn't take it.  Yes, we tried letting Noah give her a breastmilk bottle..she would not cooperate.  She continued to cry until I held her.

Fast forward to 7 months:  I literally could not continue. She was now so dependent on nursing to put herself back to sleep that she cried to me every hour on the hour.  It had to stop.  I emotionally prepared for the crying.  I removed the "nest" so that she could fall asleep anywhere in the crib.

Night 1 of Crying it Out:  I nursed her to sleep per usual.  I laid her down for the night.  Like clockwork, she woke up one hour later.  We let her cry....after thirty minutes, I was crying.  I was literally humming hymns to deal with the guilt.  Noah was trying to soothe me. He hated it too but he saw the necessity in it.  She continued to cry... and cry... at 1 hour, the cries were quieter. At 1.5 hours, we just heard a few whimpers and then silence.  I peeked in the nursery, she was fast asleep.  She slept 6 hours straight!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I however, woke every 2 hours and checked on her to ensure she was breathing. (paranoid much?)

Night 2 of Crying it Out: I nursed her to sleep per usual.  I laid her down for the night.  Like clockwork, she woke up one hour later.  We let her cry...after 45 minutes- silence. I peeked in the nursery, she was fast asleep.  She slept 6 hours straight again!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This time I only woke once in the night to check on her.

Night 3 of Crying it Out:  I nursed her to sleep per usual.  I laid her down for the night.  Again, she woke up after one hour.  We let her cry...15 minutes later- silence. I peeked in the nursery, she was fast asleep.  She sleeps 6 hours straight again!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Night 4 of Crying it Out:  I nursed her to sleep.  As I laid her down for the night, she woke.  I left the room anyway.  She cried 5 minutes and then, she was asleep.  She sleeps for 6 hours.

At this point I was only waking up once around 3-4 am to nurse!  My sanity slowly but surely returned as this routine continued for several weeks.  We had a small set back around the 8 month and again at the 10 month mark.  According to several sources, these are common sleep regression ages.  Teething caused a few more minor setbacks.

Fast forward to 1 year: My little one was still "sleeping through the night".  Our schedule was:

              9pm- Final Nurse for the night
              3-4 am Nurse   (She now calls out "Mama!")
              6:30 am- Nurse
              Leave for work

At 18 months we hit another sleep regression, and  this one was pretty tough!  It is tough to ignore, "MAMA, Come get me!!!".  We had to do a mini "cry it out" series of nights again.

At 20 months, she continued to wake too much.  I went against other people's opinions, and decided to replace her crib with a toddler bed.  While others said this move should not be made until ages 3+, I decided her sleeping couldn't really get any worse--and if it truly did, I could bring the crib back.

So right before she was 21 months old. Noah built the toddler bed.  We also decided to add a sound machine (since her room is right by the living room---best purchase ever!!! Why I didn't start using one sooner?!?!?!?...) and a small light (I was fearful of her running into something now that she would be able to get out of her bed by herself). I had spoken with some BM friends and nurses, and they told me that at this age, I need to just cut out the night nursing all together.  I can't keep nursing her to sleep, because that continues to instill in her that she always needs me to fall asleep.  At this point, I agree.  The first night was tough.  She just did NOT understand why she couldn't have "Baba".  She got mad...upset... I felt guilty.  Noah and I finally got her in the bed and we sang songs.  She fell asleep.  Every few hours she would wake, and come to her door and knock as she called out to us.  Each time, I would go in, lay her back down, and sing until she fell asleep.

This continued for 3 weeks. Each night, bedtime got a little easier....she would sleep a little longer, and when she did wake and knock on the door, it would take me minutes to get her to lay back down and go to sleep.

Sometimes, she would fall asleep, but not in the bed... oh well :)
Note the folded quilt "bed pallet" I offer on the floor as well (I've spent some good sleep hours there :)

After about 6 weeks in the toddler bed, things became lovely. We would brush teeth, she would give hugs and kisses, and then she would walk herself to her room and climb in bed. I would sing one song, and she would be asleep.

Now, after 5 months. Corinna LOVES her toddler bed! Since we no longer nurse to sleep, she has learned to successfully go to sleep on her own if she wakes in the night.  If she ever has a bad dream, she simply comes and gets me.  She is able to navigate out of her room and into our bedroom.  She also quickly cooperates about going back to sleep in her own bed!  She prefers it! Our rule has become, if its not light outside, you have to go back to your own bed.

So, at 25 months.... at 2 years old, I finally feel like I have the sleeper that others have had since infancy (mild exaggeration lol).  My little one is a consistent 9:30pm-6:30/7am child who takes one 1-2 hour nap midday.  I know of little ones who have slept this long and longer since they were months old.  My child just wasn't that one.  Did my nursing hinder her sleep progress....probably some...maybe quite a bit... but that was our journey.  I don't think I could have done much differently in hindsight.  When you have to nurse on demand until they are 6 months old due to weight, its hard to break those habits.  That child is already at a cognitive age to know what is going on and what they want.

Loves her bed! Loves having a little (pretty flat) pillow and blankie.
She has ownership of her space, and shes enjoying every minute. 

Do I hope for a better "sleeper" next time? Of course.  It would certainly make life easier.  Am I prepared to do a replay of what I did with my first little one? Yes, but certainly with some changes.  I will begin the sound machine right away--it just helps to drown out the other noises in the house considering our nursery is in the center of our home. While I will nurse as long as it is wanted by my child and myself, I will cut out the "nurse to sleep" bedtime method much sooner than 21 months!!

While there were some serious months of pure exhaustion and emotional trials, in hindsight, it truly does pass quickly. There will be various causes such as teething, sickness, a vacation, etc. that will cause your little one's sleep habits to backslide, but know that with a little time, things will return to an ideal state.  Your little one will continue to grow, they will sleep better, they will still need you for something....and we will be there. With love, open arms, and understanding.

1 comment:

  1. A GREAT read! I think every mother can relate to some part of this :)


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