Sunday, April 11, 2010

Five Nights of Hell Part 1: There is no No-Cry in this sleep "solution"

We have been having sleep issues with Sam. To say the least.

He is 6 and a half months old and still does not sleep through the night. Not even the kind of "sleep through the night" that authors on baby sleep warn you is only 5 hours. ONLY?!?

I'd love 5 hours!
Sam sleeps for 3.
Or 3 and a half.
Or 4 and 15 minutes (once in a while).
Or 2 and a half.
Or 45 minutes (thankfully this is also rare).

On occasion (and usually for several nights in a row) he will sleep for 3.5 hours then be up for 2. Like between 11pm and 1am, just when we would love to be going to bed. He enjoys following these kinds of nights with a 6am wake up.

I think he hates us.

We kept waiting for that magical age of "sleep maturity" when babies start sleeping longer and longer chunks of time. We are still waiting. And being forced to listen to other parents sing the praise of their 6-hour, 8-hour, 10+ hour sleeping babies. This is particularly frustrating when
a) their babies are younger than Sam, or
b) they still complain about their baby's poor sleep pattern.

Because are you serious? I have not had longer than 4 hours of consecutive sleep in over 6 months!!!

And we don't know what to do. Some people would say that we have done this to ourselves by letting him sleep with us when he was young, by letting him nurse to sleep, by holding him too much. I don't really believe that any of that is true because I know many mom's who are just as attached and who have fallen into similar "accidental" parenting traps (re: nursing to sleep), and their babies sleep like proverbial babies.

So what is it about Sam that makes him such a night-wakeful baby?

It's not that he wakes up hungry, because we are able to rock him back to sleep without a feeding. His room is not too cold or too hot. He's not teething. Yet. He has good naps during the day. We have a predictable bedtime and bedtime routine that we all enjoy.

We've tried Elizabeth Pantley's No-Cry Sleep Solution: The ever-baffling advice to put your baby down drowsy but awake and let them learn to fall asleep on their own. The goal is to teach the baby to soothe himself to sleep initially so that when he wakes up in the night he does not need our help to go back to sleep.

Pantley's take on this involves getting the baby sleepy but not asleep,
putting him to bed,
then if he fusses or cries, pick him up and soothe him until he is drowsy again,
repeat as many times as necessary.

Sam's take on Ms. Pantley's strategy:
get drowsy in mum's arms (this is nice),
realize that she is putting me down and startle immediately awake (hey, what?!?),
look at mum, smile, kick my feet playfully (this should work :),
realize that she isn't going to pick me back up,
get picked up again and repeat as above, until . . .
wait, I get what's happening here and I think it eff-ing sucks,
now I'm going to continue to cry even when mum picks me up,
now I'm going to get hysterical,
now dad has taken over, but he is offering nothing new so I'm going to continue to cry hysterically until I pass out from exhaustion.
Two hours later I will wake up anyway.

Mum and dad are frustrated and feel guilty that Sam basically cried himself to sleep despite the so-called No-Cry strategy. Sam has learned precisely no self-soothing skills. Everyone is exhausted. So now we are here: part one of five nights of hell (hopefully fewer than that). Sam has been upstairs crying in his crib for 30 minutes. PLEASE DON"T JUDGE ME!! Especially if you are my mother-in-law and you are reading this.

How did we get here? Six and a half months; 26+ weeks; 200-ish days of no good quality sleep!!! And it's not just us. Sam has dark circles under his eyes. He's rubbing them after he's been up for only an hour. The child is chronically tired.

Nothing has helped him sleep longer. He slept in bed with us for the first 10 weeks of his life, then in a co-sleeper beside us for another 6 weeks, then in his own crib in his own room. He has been eating solid foods for a month now. I top him up generously before bed. We have a white noise machine. And a fan. He has a nightlight. He has a favourite stuffed bunny. Nothing helps. He has never slept well. Never.

(It's now been 45 minutes - David is doing a check - there are still furious tears sounding from upstairs)

We finally weaned him off off nursing to sleep (thanks in large part to David who was willing to do the first few hard nights of rocking whilst denying Sam his nipples). Now he drifts off easily with a soother in our arms. We introduced the soother with the goal of anyone other than me being able to put Sam to bed. This was an important achievement because I have to go back to work soon and will be working mostly nights, so Sam has to be able to settle with his dad.

Even though he goes down easily, he continues to wake up a truckload of times in the night and the bigger problem still exists: we are all pooped. So we have moved on to "crying it out".

I cringe even to write that. I hate the idea. I never thought I would do it. It goes against everything that I thought about myself as a mother. I fear (irrationally) that it will undo all the attachment that Sam and I have developed; break his trust in me. They say that after 6 months it is ok to do CIO if that's your choice - that the trust bond is well established by then - and there is little (if any) evidence to indicate that crying for a few nights causes trauma, but I still feel like a dick.

I have not cried yet. I did earlier in the day while I was thinking about all this. But now that we are actively in it, I'm feeling kind of numb. Except not really. My chest is tight and there is a lump in my throat that would come out in one big fat sob if you asked me how I am doing.

(one hour - my turn to check) We have a 90 minute cut off. If he's not asleep we bail on the plan and have created all this stress
for nothing, so please Sam, be asleep by then. It's bad enough that I'm making you cry, at least don't have it be for nothing.

I'm going to go read someone else's blog for a while so that I don't have to think about my poor neglected baby upstairs.


(68 minutes in and he sounds like he is loosing steam. I am a terrible evil mother.)


(85 minutes and he is no longer crying, just complaining quietly. Maybe that's because he has lost his little voice. Sob.)


We've reached the 90 minute mark. Sam is still wide awake and complaining, but not so much crying. We've decided to continue and see how it goes. It would be such a shame to give up after putting him through all this . . . but seriously, if we get to 2 hours and he is still awake, he is clearly not ready to self-soothe . . .


(112 minutes - we can't believe he is still awake! He is definitely down to a quiet whine now, but still.)


Ok, Sam is asleep. I just checked on him and gave him his bunny and covered him with his blanket and kissed his sweaty little head. And cried a little. It took 116 minutes, but we made it through the first night of hell. I'd call this a success if I didn't feel like such a douchebag.

And my boobs hurt.

Thanks for being with me through this. See you tomorrow night . . .

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