Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sleep, Sweet Sleep

I always joke that I've been sleep deprived for the past 9 years, since our first baby was born. I've been pregnant and then had a newborn, pregnant, newborn, pregnant, etc. I don't even remember what it is like to sleep in unless I have major stomach bug which isn't restful sleep so it doesn't count!

We coslept with Elaina, Zoe, Judah and Silas (not Abigail but that was her personality). Around 10-months Elaina started taking naps in her crib and then slept in her crib through the night. Zoe was around 5-6 months old I think. Judah closer to the 8-9 months. So with Silas turning 9-months-old earlier this month I knew the time was coming.

All three of us were starting to get uncomfortable sleeping in a queen bed. Not to mention his mobility made me fearful he might climb out of the bed and hurt himself. I kept waking up stiff and in pain from laying in one position for so long so he could sleep safe. And then there was the screaming. Silas was restless and would wake up and just scream and cry... all... night... long.

Finally one early morning, before the sun was up, I finally laid my crying baby in his crib and stumbled to my bed and just crashed because I just couldn't do it anymore. To my amazement... he stopped crying and he fell asleep. His room is in our room so I could easily hear him and go to him if he wouldn't have settled down. I got two glorious hours of sleep before the day began.

It was time!

Once you start the cosleep weaning there's no going back in this house. I was determined to get him to sleep in the crib from here on out. Don't mistake me either. I love cosleeping. But there's a window of age where it is safer and better for our family to have baby in the crib. He's actually napping in my lap here because I only have him sleep in the crib at night right now.

So night 1 actually went really well, as did night 2. Night three and on? They've been very touch-and-go but he mostly wakes around midnight (which is when I'm in bed but not asleep yet) and then again around 5am to nurse and go back to sleep.

The first night we put him down in the crib (not referring to that early morning I put him down from fatigue for two hours) was kind of funny and sad! He didn't make a peep. He just sat in the crib, falling asleep. He put his hands out to keep from falling. He was swaying and nodding off while sitting. I tried four or five times to gently position him to lay down before he finally succumbed to sweet, restful sleep. It was funny because I've never seen a baby do that but sad because he kept nodding off and jerking awake while sitting there, almost in confusion! Once he got the hint he was supposed to lay down he hasn't done it since.

After two blissful nights with way longer blocks of sleep between wakings he decided on night three to scream and cry and let us know he was NOT okay with this new arrangement. I just stood there and patted his back and shushed him quietly. Sometimes humming. I let him know he wasn't alone and mommy was there to help him go to sleep.

There's no rush, parents. If your infant is extremely upset they are not going to just calm down and go to sleep. They will just get worked up, scared, upset and have major anxiety until they finally pass out from exhaustion. Part of parenting is being their rock and their comfort. Be there for your baby. It won't be like this forever! And believe me I know it is frustrating! All you want to do is go crash on the couch with your husband and watch your favorite show or unwind... or shower in silence. There's a lot you want to do when you have a child(ren) attached to you all the livelong day once they're in bed! I know this but... it will help your baby learn to sleep on his own a lot quicker to guide them to sleep, rather than leave them to figure it out on their own by screaming until hoarse and exhausted.

It's a process, for sure. It's not easy but you'll only make it harder on yourself if you start comparing your infant to others or make your expectations extreme. Expect to lose some sleep still. Expect that baby may sleep the night through one night and then wake you up 5 times the next night. Expect that when he does wake up half a dozen times one night that it doesn't mean he's going to repeat it every night henceforth. Expect that this may continue into the preschool years. New ages and milestones bring different bedtime challenges. I think once you learn to roll with it instead of fight it you've just taken the first step to more peaceful sleep for all.

My sweet boy!

Take it one night at a time. Don't worry about tomorrow. Worry about the here and now.

So what do I do?
Anytime Silas is having a difficult time I gently help him lay down by guiding his body to a lying position on his side or tummy (remember that he's an older baby - put newborns and younger infants on their back if they can't roll over on their own!) and I rub his back until he's out, usually a few minutes. If he's upset to an extreme and won't lay down, usually screaming and reaching for me then I do check the diaper, try to nurse him and then rock him in the glider until he's calm before trying to lay him down again. He's upset for a reason and needs reassurance. After I get him calmed he'll go back to the crib much easier. He knows I'm here. Trying to calm an upset baby by forcing them into something scary or uncomfortable will only make it harder! For all of you! Show him bedtime is not a time for anxiety, show him that you're still there. Don't put on music to drown out your infant's terrified screams (oh it hurts my heart so bad when I hear parents do that routinely - there's no clocking in and out of parenting!).

I'll let you in on a little secret. Once Silas was in the crib Judah seized the opportunity to come back to bed with us (so we're technically still cosleeping, tee hee)! All of the kids did this. They knew to stay out when we had a new baby. And once we hit that window where baby needs to be in their own space the toddler of the family found their place next to me in the middle of the night again. Embrace it, cherish it. It only lasts a season and then it is gone... it won't last forever.

This is something I've had to learn from experience. I was not a patient mother when I had my first baby. I compared her to other infants and wondered why she wouldn't sleep in her crib, on her own. I regret to say that there was a night I did try to let her cry it out. She cried and cried until she was gagging and I was crying along with her while yelling and pleading at my husband to do something. I didn't understand why she would only sleep with me. When I finally relented and realized she just wasn't going to be a typical American baby I brought her back to my bed until she was ready to sleep on her own. We were both much happier when we coslept in mutual agreement instead of me fighting her on it.

And I laugh now when I say she wasn't going to be a typical baby. Because the truth was that I WAS LIED TO. She WAS a typical baby. Infants are hardwired to survive through their mothers. They eat, sleep, breathe mommy. It's NORMAL. They form an attachment to you because it is necessary for their survival. Understanding that, and understanding "the fourth trimester", eases the stress of raising a baby.


The Mommy said...

I think as soon as the baby is born, it is so important to remember that no matter what is going on, "it's only a season" !

Susan Sene said...

Logann is JUST now able to put herself to sleep. And when I put her in bed she doesn't always immediately cry. We are getting closer!! :) but she still wakes at night and I do have to remind myself it's only a season! :)