This topic is only interesting to new parents, however, it may be one of the only things new parents are truly interested in. Sleep. Where to begin a post on sleep? Sleep has been the biggest challenge that my husband I have faced as new parents (besides the run of the mill identity changing, the relationship rocking, and the life altering aspects of parenthood). Sleep, or lack thereof has turned us into different people, changed our marriage, and made our lives a fuzzy, swimming-in-molasses, exercise in endurance.
We started off all right. Our approach was simple: babies are babies, they need to be loved and snuggled and protected and held and nursed and rocked. However, we would give it a minute or two, a pause ala “Bringing up Bebe”, before doing all of the above. Our sweet son slept pretty well, pretty early on, even giving us up to 11 hours at around 3 months. We were over the moon, amazed that we had apparently hit the baby sleep jackpot. I felt that parenting wasn’t so difficult after all, and quietly started thinking about a little sibling for my good little sleeper. Then life started happening.
My husband had to move to a different town for his job, while the kiddo and I waited for a house to open up where he was. This took a month. I was a single mother for a month and it really gave me the motivation to work out whatever problems my husband and I had. I shudder when recalling that month. Then we moved. We moved and moved and moved. The house we moved into had to be cleaned out. Then our house had to be cleaned out. This all happened while my husband worked 10 hour days. That was another unpleasant month. Then mother in law came to visit. I won’t go into that. Then cousins came with children and boisterous fun. Meanwhile, the sleeping was on a long slow decline. We dropped from 11 hours to 8. Then from 8 to 5. 5 to 4. 4 to 2. 2 to 1, and finally one horrible night, it was down to 20 minutes. I still don’t know what it was. 6 month growth spurt, teething, moving, houseguests. All of the above. Whatever happened, at some point we decided we could no longer survive in this state. We fought often. My patience was running thin. One particularly frustrating and desperate night, I actually bit my own fingers in frustration and anger while I tried to lovingly, patiently, and calmly nurse my son back to sleep for the gazillionth time. It was time to do what we had previously, and somewhat smugly, assured ourselves we would never do: cry it out, sleep train, ferberize, control cry. Whatever we wanted it. We wanted it badly.
Whatever your thoughts on it are, I am now convinced that it was what our son needed and what we needed. He was ready. We were ready. It worked, and he slept from 7pm until 5:42am last night, the 7th night on our new program. Did I mention that as I write this, my son is taking his morning nap, contentedly in his crib? Not on my lap, or by my side, in a carseat or stroller. In his crib, which I put him in while he was awake. I cried, for the first few nights because I missed snuggling. He cried less. A part of me enjoyed being up all night with my sweet baby love. However, he is 7 months, almost 8 months old and it was time for him to learn to sleep and I am glad he did. I am a happier, more patient, even more adoring mother. What I believed to be teething pain was actually sleep deprivation, and my formerly fussy baby is now all smiles. I should also mention that my house is cleaner, we are eating better, and I actually went to yoga on Sunday.
We used the controlled crying method, as taught in the “sleep easy solution.” Having someone tell us what to do really helped when we began to question the plan on the first night. The book even has a portion dedicated to the moments of panic a parent experiences when their baby cries and they are intentionally not doing anything about it. The author tells us that this is one area where our instincts may not be trustworthy, after all we had been rocking cuddling snuggling nursing and loving our baby to sleep for months and he was only getting worse. He had dark puffy circles under his eyes and he was no longer the quick to smile baby we had come to know.
The first night was the hardest because he woke up every two hours as usual and cried. He didn’t cry long, but it was painful. It was painful to go in and see his sweet face in tears and not be able to pick him up and make it better. Now I know that I did the right thing, I did make it better, but what a lesson. With my next child, I will snuggle that baby sweet as much as I want, but I will put him or her down to sleep while awake early on. I will not repeat this mistake.
The second night was better, he slept for five hours before waking, then was up every hour or two for the rest of the night. The third night he slept for five hours, babbled and cried a little for half an hour, then went back to sleep for another five hours. The fourth night, he slept for five hours, woke up, then went back asleep for another five again. Day five, he slept until 3:45. Day six the same, and finally last night until 5:42. The naps have gotten better every day, longer asleep and faster asleep. He is now almost up to the 14 hours that is recommended for his age. I am so happy we did it. So relieved that my life isn’t so painful anymore. So satisfied when I count up the hours the boy has slept, knowing he’s getting the rest he needs. I am also enjoying our pre-bed/nap routine. I read him a book, and amazingly, this 7 month old sits calmly in my lap while I do so, occasionally looking up at me and smiling. The other day, he actually flashed me a gummy grin after I put him down in the crib. That was one of my fears, that being alone and frustrated in the crib would make him hate it and dread bedtime, but he actually seems calmer. Perhaps the consistency is a comfort in itself.
Update as of November 2013: this worked that once, and we haven’t been able to repeat it. We are co sleeping, and when my son cries we either feed him or soothe him. Most of what I said before is just words. I now realize that we aren’t going to sleep as much as we want, but what I do want is to be close to my son and give him as much love as possible.
I know that none if this is new, that there are a thousand blog posts out there just like it. I just thought I’d throw my own experience into the debate because it has been so life changing in such a short amount of time.