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June 28, 2005 / allyo

So, sleep…

I’ve been wanting to write about sleep, namely, the Boy’s, for some time now. Let’s see, this is about the most polarizing parental issue around -oh wait, right, besides the bfing vs. formula one!

First, my sleep philosophy, as it were. Babies need sleep. Sleep is best acheived by some sort of routine, a schedule, even. What I do not believe is that all babies must cry in order to achieve sleep.

Hmm. Short, but sweet. How unusual for me. Oh, another note. I’ve suffered from insomnia my entire life. I clearly recall wandering around the house as a child, unable to sleep. (I also clearly recall being invited into my grandparents’ bed whenever I was lonely or scared.) For me, teaching Jamie to sleep, and that bedtime and sleep are GOOD things, are imperative.

So, a short history of sleep in the Ally household. Jamie’s longest sleep stretch has always been at night. As a newborn it might have been as short as 3-4 hours, but it was at night. He also went through a nightly period that our lactation consultant called "the witching hour." A period of 2-4 hours of, well, crying, mostly. Not colic because it wasn’t at the same time every night, and he didn’t exhibit any signs of discomfort, just general discontent. The period usually lasted from 6-8, 10-12, or 11-3 (am). That last one was the killer. Also, he cluster fed every night except 1 (maybe 2, my memory is a little fuzzy already), his first 3 weeks. (And of course at the end of those three weeks I had a case of fore/hind milk imbalance and had to take measures to reduce my supply.)

Day sleep was fairly unpredictable and while he did nap, never in stretches more than 2 hours, tops. Everything I read, even Weissbluth said, he’s a newborn, get him to sleep in any way you can. For us that alternated between nursing, rocking, walking (mostly with dad), or the swing. Although the swing was more of a, thank-god-he’s-asleep-it’s-6 am-and-we’ve-been-nursing-for-two-hours-nonstop-damn-am-I-starving, type of tool.

Now the period between 3 and 8 weeks is pretty fuzzy, but what I do know is by 8 weeks, when I returned to work, he was sleeping damn well at night. I know this because I thanked god every day I wasn’t one of those exhausted moms (or dads) of a newborn wandering around in a shell-shocked, sleep deprived state. Our schedule was roughly, down for the night around 7, nurse at 10:30, sometimes nurse at 2:00 am and/or 4/5 am, then up for the day and nurse around 7. I had long since discovered that as long as I got at least one 3-hour block of sleep, I could function pretty well.

The period between 7 and 10 pm was sometimes a little dicey and many nights I would find the only way to keep Jamie asleep was to hold him. By following Pantley’s suggestions I was able to transition him to his crib. I started by holding, then lying him on the couch next to me, then to the crib. For me it boiled down to convenience. Mad Dog isn’t home most nights and I got sick of climbing up and down the stairs every time the baby woke up. I wanted to eat dinner and maybe watch a bit of tv so if it meant for a couple of weeks he slept on the couch next to me, I didn’t see any harm, as long as he was sleeping.

As we approached the six-month mark, we hit several nights of sleeping from 10 pm to 5 am, and boy, was I thrilled! A baby who slept through the night, no crying neccessary! However, I’d read in several places that this could all go to hell once teething and milestones entered the picture. And that is exactly what happened. Oh, and don’t forget two months of non-stop ear infections.

Our solution to this was to co-sleep. Most nights he’d start out in his crib, but if by 9 pm he’d woken 2-3 times, I’d just take him to bed with me right off the bat. At this point we could hardly tell from one day to the next if he had another ear infection and it was easier to just keep him nearby.

Fast forward to last month, no ear infections in about a month (and none since!), teething is obviously going to go on forever, as he’s been teething since he was about 2 months old and has 2 bottom teeth to show for it, and I’m getting pretty tired of full-time co-sleeping. Bedtime is all over the map, naps have been shot to hell, basically our routine has gone to hell. So, starting again from scratch, we’ve reinstituted an earlier bedtime (6:30 at first, now it’s more like 7-7:30) and have had some serious talks with our daycare provider about his nap schedule.

Now, there’s been some crying involved. After all, you just don’t say to an 8 month old, hey kid, time to go to sleep now, an hour or two earlier than usual, without some crying. But the crying has been attended by one or both parents and it took us about a week to get to the point where we either lie down on the bed or sit in the rocking chair, read our story, and then lie or rock quietly until Jamie’s ready to nurse and go to sleep. And, the past couple of nights he’s woken between 10:30-11:30, at 2:30, and at 5:30. Heaven. Hopefully we’ll drop the 2:30 feeding soon, but right now I’m not going to push it. He’s not drinking a ton of milk at daycare now that we’ve introduced solids and I’d just as soon keep the feeding until he drops it on his own so I can be sure he’s getting enough breastmilk.

Next up, Mad Dog will be giving him a bottle one or two nights a week so I can once again leave the house in the evening without fear of returning to a crying baby up way past his bedtime. It’s been a long road, but honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is what works for us and I just wanted to put it out there.


Forgot to include a couple of things. Two big reasons why I’ve not really considered crying it out. First, Jamie usually goes down pretty easily. Twenty mintues, tops, once we’re in our routine. Plus, he wakes to nurse only and goes right back to sleep.

The othe reason is he goes from cranky, complaining crying to all-out, hysterical crying complete with gasping and choking, in, oh, about 2-5 minutes. Believe me, I’ve timed it plenty of times, as recently as two nights ago. Even if I were dying to try CIO, I really don’t think it’s a good idea for this type of child.


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