Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night (after 10 months of bad sleep habits)

We were not one of those lucky parents whose child began sleeping through the night mere weeks, or days even, after they were born. Some infants have no sleep issues at all, of which I am insanely jealous. Our boy definitely does not fall into that category.

I didn't mind waking up numerous times a night to nurse him, because he'd almost always go right back to sleep. For a short while, we actually bed shared, which made sleep so much easier for everyone involved - I could fall asleep while nursing without getting a crick in my neck from sitting in the rocking chair, and G would sleep much longer and more peacefully when he was with us.

But he was getting bigger by the day, and even our normally roomy Queen bed suddenly started feeling small with the three of us in it together. Plus, he started getting to the age when he didn't need to nurse 4 or 5 times a night, but I would be so tired that if he stirred I'd pull him to me without even a glance at the clock to see how long it had been since he last nursed. And, being a stay-at-home-mom, I wanted to make sure my husband got as much sleep as possible, since he had to be up early every day to go to work. I could always catch a nap during the day if needed, so I'd wake him up only if needed. So the minute baby fussed and began waking, I'd latch him on and go back to sleep.

We moved him into his own room permanently when he was 4 months old. The transition really wasn't so bad; he handled moving from our bed to his crib well. I still was waking up and nursing him 4 times a night or so on average - and because I'd often fall asleep in the chair nursing him, I probably spent more time asleep in his room than I did in my own bed. Everything seemed to be going well, and when he was nearly 6 months old, he began going 5 or 6 hours between feeds at night - which meant there were some nights I only nursed him once or twice!

But then... we moved across the country back to our home town in Virginia at the start of September. My husband stayed behind in California to finish his stint in the Marine Corps, so it was just baby G and me in a little bedroom in my parents' house. We didn't have any of our own furniture yet, so he was staying in a travel crib. Having his crib two feet from my bed with nowhere to nurse him except in the bed, caused us to accidentally co-sleep again. It was harder to listen to his cries without a few walls between us too, so we also started nursing more frequently during the night as well. It was a very stressful time as well, with renovations going on, and being separated from my husband, that I really just wanted to sleep sometimes, and would even resort to sticking my boob in his mouth a mere two hours after he'd last nursed.

The renovations dragged on and on, and though we were only supposed to stay in the little room for a few weeks, it was nearly Thanksgiving by the time we moved into our own space with our own furniture. So poor little G was back in the habit of sleeping with us and nursing frequently through the night. It was hard to deal with the transition of getting him back into his own crib, in his own room. For a while we co-slept through part of every night (usually the second half, because I'd nurse him around midnight, lay him in his crib, and then head to bed. He'd wake up around 4:00, and Ethan would bring him to me instead of me going into the baby's room. That just guaranteed I'd fall asleep with him on me, and we'd stay like that til morning).

We finally did manage to stop co-sleeping, as hard as it was for me to drag myself out of my warm bed and walk barefoot on the cold, hard, floor... (it was winter). And though he had reduced to only waking at midnight and then only once (sometimes twice) more, it seemed he would never be sleeping through the night. PLUS, he was not putting himself to sleep yet and needed our help, rocking him, holding him, or patting his back in the crib.

Once he hit 10-months-old though, we decided to really go for it and try and get him to sleep better. I was never okay with the cry-it-out method fully, but knew picking him up every time he cried only made him clingier and more upset when we didn't. I'd read some articles and blogs that said that the baby would put themselves to sleep after crying for merely 20 minutes, but G was never one for that. He would scream for 2 hours on-and-off before going to sleep with our help, so there was no way that after a short 20 minutes he would ease himself into sleep. Ha!!

After discussing it with the pediatrician (and reading extensively), we decided we'd let him cry for 15 minute stretches, then go in to soothe him without picking him up as we'd done before. I wouldn't let him fall asleep while nursing right before bed, and would instead put him down drowsy so he could get himself to sleep. I also wouldn't nurse more than once a night.

The first few nights went better than we expected, though still painful and heartbreaking to go through. He did put himself to sleep within 30 minutes (we would go in after 15 to pat his back and comfort him, then leave when he'd calmed down a bit) the first few nights, which was a surprise. Right as we were getting ready to go back in a second time, TA DA he was quiet, and asleep. Those first two nights he woke up a couple short hours later, and did scream and cry on-and-off for about 2 hours. But he would put himself to sleep in the end (still, with us going in every 15-20 minutes), and then magically slept until morning. (6:00am or so). At that point, I'd nurse him in bed with me and we'd go back to sleep for an hour or two.

On the third night, he didn't wake up after going to bed at 8:00 until 5:00am, at which point I nursed him and put him back in his crib, and he slept until 9:00. WAHOO. I love my sleep and I feel more rested than I have in over a year! Yesterday was the fifth night, and though it took him longer than I hoped for him to go to bed in the first place, he did pretty well. Although he did wake up at 2:00am, and my husband had to go in to pat him on the back for a few minutes. But that didn't put him to sleep, so he came back to bed and all I know is that we both fell asleep and G never woke us back up, so he must have put himself to sleep. He didn't wake up again until 7:30!

He also has begun taking only one nap during the day, though it is normally at least an hour and a half. The other day it was two and half hours long! That was marvelous! Because when he took two naps a day, at most they were each only 45 minutes long.
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