Sleep, that wondrous mythical beast. The elusive monster. The current crack in my breaking heart.
She’s six months old. She’s eating solid food. She’s crawling like a champ. She’s pulling up on furniture and walking along it. She continues to push the boundaries both in exploration and in “discipline”. She is so so smart. So so mobile. So frustrated with her own limitations. And still just so little.
We have been co-sleeping. And by co-sleeping I mean in our bed. When she was newborn, she mostly slept on my chest while I was in some type of seated position. Reclined in the hospital bed, legs stretched out with my back vertical(ish) on the back or arm of the couch, sitting together in the rocking chair. When she got a little bigger, and I got a little braver, she slept in the rock-n-play at our bedside.
****Insert Minor Tirade****
The rock-n-play is not recommended for babies to sleep in due to SIDS. However, basically everything is not recommended due to SIDS. I would have minor panic attacks dang near constantly because of warning labels containing those stupid letters. SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. As new parents, you are bombarded with “advice” and do-this-don’t-do-that instructions from everywhere. Friends with babies, parents who had babies 30 something years ago, internet, hospital nurse and pediatrician, actual pediatrician, even stupid diaper commercials…and virtually every method of swaddling, sleeping, diapering, feeding, playing etc has a counter argument for how that activity causes SIDS. Our culture has devolved so much that no one can take any responsibility for their own selves. Every product must come with a warning label and disclaimer information. And yes, legit warnings like “not for use at temperatures above ___ or below___ ” can be super useful. But things like “don’t feed your newborn diaper cream or it may cause SIDS” are just obnoxious. And for me, as a new parent with some level of common sense but no actual experience in keeping a human person alive 24/7, I could either act based on the little experiences I have, or totally flip out and melt into a tiny puddle of panic and lose the precious little bit of sanity I have worrying about whether my carpet is hypoallergenic and if that’s a good thing or bad thing and will it cause chronic bronchitis when Hannah is like 15.
Surprisingly enough, I took the rock-n-play that my sister used as a bassinet with great success that she took from another mother that had used it as a napping station with great success and I let my baby sleep in it. And after two nights of literally zero sleep watching her to make sure she kept breathing, I made the decision that it would be OK. That as long as I didn’t cover her face with blankets or let her sleep in it strapped to the roof of my car, we could both sleep soundly and she would be fine.
At about 3 months, we tried putting her in the crib in her room across the hall. It did not work. It happened to coincide with a terrifically horrible reaction to cow’s milk in my breastmilk. We would put her in the crib, she would fall asleep, and about an hour later would wake up crying, inconsolable and covered in spit up . I would feed her until she was quiet and try putting her down again. Once the weight of her body was no longer supported by mine, she would only stop crying long enough to allow a river of spit-up to pour forth. We tried it for a couple of nights, eliminating cow’s milk from my diet, but the crying didn’t stop. I just couldn’t handle it. I was pumping just enough milk during the day to provide for her meals while I was at work. I was committed to NO FORMULA and refused to give her bottles when I was available to give her breast. After several nights in a row with two hours total of very interrupted sleep before heading in to the office, I gave up and let her back in the rock-n play next to my bed. At least I didn’t have to walk across the hall to get to her.
And then she started rolling over. Sort of. She could roll one direction but not the other and couldn’t get herself off of her tummy on the flattest of surfaces. We caught her a couple of times having rolled her face into the crevice of the rock-n-play, unable to roll herself out. She could breathe, but not well. I figured that was about the time the rock-n-play warning label kicked in and it was time to try the crib again. But she still woke up so often. And I was still so tired all the time. And Shelby was not getting any rest with me getting up and down all night, her shrieks from across the hall. We were a miserable little family.
So one weekend morning, I pulled her into bed with me to feed her in the side-lying position and we both fell asleep. I woke up about 30 minutes later with her sweetly cradled in the crook of my arm where the cat used to sleep and it made me happy, a very rare thing those days. I closed my eyes again and we rested that way for another hour. I started doing this more routinely as she would wake – put her in the crib at night, feed her in the bed in the morning. And then “in the morning” started getting earlier and earlier. And then I hit a really rough patch and the thought of ever having to get out of bed was too too much so I just fed her to sleep in the bed to start with. And then I just kept doing that. We would wake up a couple of times a night, I would roll her from one side to the other and fall asleep with her in my arms, protected from falling out or being rolled on by her father. I would always wake with her gentle cries and try humming to her, but if that didn’t work, I’d just let her suckle even if I knew it was for comfort and not for food. It was all going beautifully. We were all getting good rest, neither having to wake fully in order to get back to sleep, everyone felt safe and warm. But I knew the time was coming when I’d have to kick her out.
The doctor told us that at 6 months, her body can sustain her overnight; there is no medical need for her to have access to food once she goes down. The longer I let her hold onto the crutch, the harder it would be to wean her from it. The harder it would be to wean me. So we made the decision to really start thinking about sleep training once we got back home from the wedding. We got back home and slipped right into our old routine. I don’t know if it was the time difference that initially set it up, or just her body regulating rhythms or whatever, but her bed time started getting earlier. Which meant my bedtime started getting earlier. Not a big deal, I’m not doing much outside the home right now anyway. But it’s hard to get the baby fed and bathed and all the dishes done and the lunch made and spend any time with the husband when you get home at 6 and have to go to bed at 9. And as long as she was in our bed, someone would have to be with her to make sure she didn’t roll herself off no matter how soundly she was asleep. And she has been sleeping more soundly lately. She usually wakes once or twice a night, but sleeps so heavily and well that I started getting the feeling her “wakings” were more because she wanted to roll and I wouldn’t let her, and then her face was smack in my chest and so of course it made her want to suck.
And then a few nights ago, I fell asleep with her nestled on my right side and woke up with her on my left side and didn’t remember how she had gotten there.
It didn’t worry me so much that she had moved on her own. What worried me is that I didn’t register or record this movement. Obviously in the night, I had felt her move and had rolled her over to the other side but I did not wake up enough to recall it. I had to face the reality that this time it worked out, but it could have just as easily been that I had slept soundly enough to roll onto her and not notice. That was Tuesday. Wednesday night we started officially sleep training. For real this time.
What we are doing seems to be working. Of course, it has only been 2 days. If it continues to work, I’ll write more about what we did/are doing but I’d hate to be all braggy here and have it blow up in our faces and not have it accurately reflected for someone who might link here after googling advice on sleep-training. She sleeps 9 – 10 hours and only wakes once loudly enough for us to notice. I hope it works long term. I hope that soon I’ll be able to sleep just as well again.