Friday, March 19, 2010

Sleep, perchance to Dream

I have written I don't know how many sleep posts over the past year, and never finish them. why? Because Sleep is still an illusive thing around these parts. When K was born, they told us "6 weeks is the height of the blurry period, and it all gets better from there". 6 weeks came and went, and Colic settled into our daily lives. We were up from 10pm-2am rocking her straight with an iphone blasting white static in her ear, or she screamed bloody murder. However, she was a great napper. So we counted our blessings and braced ourselves for the short battle to come.

Well then they told us "colic only lasts to 3 months 90% of the time." So we grit our teeth and made it to 3 months. She gave us some reprieve, moving her screaming fest from 10pm to 7pm. Now we still rocked her for 3-4 hours, but at least it was only until 10pm. In exchange her previously 2+ hour naps dropped and dropped until they were only 30 minute cat naps at a time. Then it turned out we had an overachiever who wanted to be in the top 10 percentile of colicy babies. If you are going to do something, do it 100 % I guess. So we kept on pushing through. the 4 month wakeful period came, where she wanted to wake up at 2am and play for hours on end. the colic did start to wane and by 6 months was gone. We thought maybe, maybe now we can get this under control.

Then they told us "most babies sleep through the night by 6 months." Well ours didn't like being told what to do, and instead decided to go backwards; she went from 5-7 hour stretches at night down to 2-3 hours, then down to 45 minutes at its shortest span. I was literally sleeping sitting up.  In amongst all of this we tried every conceivable sleep training method. They all worked for a few weeks, but then would regress to the point of me breaking my back by bouncing her to back to sleep every few hours. The naps remained 30 minutes long on the outside.

I came to a realization. They were wrong, They never told us not all babies are made equal; some are bad sleepers; some are restless; some simply don't need as much sleep as others. They were talking out of their asses as far as I was concerned.

We gave in to co-sleeping around 8 months, just to get some sleep. I relegated myself to the spare bedroom, where I spent many an evening with my arm propped on a pillow, K curled into my shoulder and my laptop on my lap until I could fall asleep my self. Yes I slept more, yes I got treasured mamma bear moments looking down at my innocent baby lightly snoring against my arm, and I felt giddy inside at those moments. I wouldn't trade them. But I never saw my husband. This was not a permanent solution.

So around 11 months, we thought, one last shot. We needed our sleep. We needed to not resent our child. We needed to start enjoying the daytime we had with her, instead of dreading the countdown to bedtime. To this day a baby cry anywhere makes my heart jump through my throat,  as it reminds me of the monitor going off at 2am, 2:30, 3:15. get my drift. Its my own personal version of Post Traunatic Stress.

We shelled out the bucks for a sleep consultant. She demanded we set up a strict routine throughout the day of designated eating, activity and sleep time. routine, repetition and consistency was key. For 6 weeks we were to go nowhere during nap times/bed times. No more car/stroller/carrier naps. No more pushing through just to get something extra at the store, or to catch the last hockey period at M&A's house. While we did not care for the demeanor of this sleep consultant, it did ultimately work....sort of.

We finally broke the bad sleep association habits Keira was so stubbornly holding onto. Some nights she even happily goes into her crib, grabs her lovies, roll overs and talks herself to sleep (more often then not this is still punctuated with crying, but at least its not constant). We still deal with, on average, 2-4 wakeups per night. Sometimes she just moans for a minute or two, rolls over and goes to sleep. Sometimes needs a check-in and she goes right back down; sometimes its a diaper change (she appears to be very sensitive to this); sometimes she is sick (like the past 3 weeks) or breaking a tooth ( all.the.time). Once in a blue moon, she will sleep straight for 10 1/2 hours, like she did in my birthday (and not since).

We tend to trade off now, and invariably at least 1/2 the nights in a week one of us will spend some time sleeping on the floor next to her crib. This is our cosleeping compromise. She can know we are there, but she has to sleep in her own space.

Sometimes she fights going to sleep really hard. Her naps are still erratic, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours; sometimes its 1 nap per day, sometimes its 2. She has a tendency to start waking up at 5am, even though we never get her "up" for the day until 6:30am.
Oddly enough, I feel zen about it though. I finally let go of the notion that she will sleep through the night anytime soon. And then it all became easier to handle. Without the expectation, I learned to roll with the punches. I guess that is what being a parent is, rolling with the punches. They don't come with instruction manuals, and that is in part why they are so awesome.

I alternate between laughing at clueless new parents who think their babies will be STTN by 6 weeks, and wanting to throat punch them when their babies actually do.

Here are a few things I picked up along the way:

1. whoever coined the term "sleep like a baby", didn't have one. Its loud, messy and sporadic.
2. the medical definition of sleeping through the night is five consecutive hours. Most normal people don't measure STTN this way. But it does mean when talking to other parents you never know what what their definition of STTN is. try not to compare yours to what little timmy is doing.
3. babies do not develop sleep habits until 4 months of age. So until then, do what you need to do to get them to sleep.
4. that being said, routine and consistency is key, so start early and start often.
5. practice the illusive "drowsy but awake"
6. some babies are good sleepers. some babies are bad sleepers. try not to compare your child to others. try not to beat your head against a wall if they don't respond to the popular sleep techniques.
7. I don't consider myself an "attachment parent". Heck I followed Ferber and other CIO methods, and to this day let K cry at bedtimes/naptimes if need be. But I beg of you, do not practice CIO on a child younger then 6 months. They are crying for a reason, not to manipulate you. It is their only form of communication. It means they need something
8. when you feel the need to throw your crying baby out the window (these days do exist), it is ok to put them in a safe place, step away and take a breather. This is not CIO; this is sanity building so you can go back and do what needs to be done without contemplating infanticide.

so let's end on a positive. A photo that looks peaceful and zen in its simplicity. Let's pretend K is this calm all day (and night) long:

Keira is 1 year and 3 months old


  1. Thanks for sharing with me what I've got to look forward to. :)

    I hope her sleep pattern changes soon...for the better.

  2. I feel your pain. It only makes me feel a little bit better that mine is not the only one.

  3. You are so wise, dear. I've seen you go through the different moods and thoughts. I know how difficult it can be, and I am so proud to see how you deal with it! I also really echo the maxim that parents do need to consider their own temperament, as well as their baby's, in deciding how to deal with their children - not just what 'everyone' says is right.