Tuesday, August 23, 2011

sleep training. warning: lenghty post

Yes.  We're still talking about sleep training.  This time though, I'm talking from the other side.  Monkey is finally sleeping.  It took a really long time to get here, and I was never really sure that we WOULD get here.  In fact, it's only been about a week since he's started taking consistent naps.  I thought maybe if I shared what we went through, maybe it could help someone out there in blogland.  You're probably thinking, come on, so your son wouldn't sleep.  WTF are we still talking about it for?  I am still amazed at how much missing some sleep affected every aspect of my life.  My marriage suffered the most, but my health suffered, my kids suffered, my house is seriously neglected.  I didn't even feel human towards the end.  I was just sort of crawling through the days, just hoping to make it through until I could figure something out.  I got to the point where I couldn't even come up with anything new to try to get Monkey to sleep because my brain felt like it was swimming in molasses.  So here's what happened:

Monkey didn't sleep well from day 1.  He had his nights and days mixed up for the first two months or so.  Also, just like his brother, he didn't want to sleep anywhere but with me.  I had a cradle next to my bed, but he would never sleep in there for very long.  I tried anything I could think of to help Monkey sleep.  I tried t-shirts I had worn so he would smell me close to him.  I tried elevating his head, swaddling, not swaddling, laying him on his side, and on his back.  I would end up falling asleep holding him in bed because I was so exhausted.

Once we finally got Monkey's days and nights straightened out, he and I were sleeping in the living room.  I would sleep on the couch, Monkey would sleep in his swing.  Then he suddenly started waking every hour or so.  I was so frustrated, and couldn't find an answer.   I was so very tired all the time, and it started affecting everything.  I was cranky and short with my husband, and very quick to anger with Scooch.  [Let me just pause for a moment to say, Monkey wasn't just waking up.  He would be fast asleep, and just start screaming.  Not just screaming.  Ear-piercing, out of breath, turning purple screaming.  It was like he was in pain.  He couldn't settle easily either.  It would take quite a while to calm him down and get him back to sleep.]  It got to the point where I would bring Monkey onto the couch with me to sleep so we could both get some sleep.  He would still wake a lot laying with me, but was able to easily go back to sleep.  Sometimes I would have to roll over so he was laying on his other side.  Of course I couldn't rest during the day because I had Scooch to take care of as well.  At first, the only waking hours Monkey had during the day were during Scooch's nap.  Of course.  

On top of all that, Monkey went through normal baby colic as well.  He would be the best baby all day long, sleeping for hours and hours.  Then darkness would settle, inside the house as well as out.  Monkey would just scream.  I would walk back and forth in our lounge, just bouncing and swinging him.  My back would ache, my arms would ache, and Monkey would be hoarse from screaming.  I would change his clothes and his diaper to make sure nothing was picking or pinching or rubbing him.  I would undress him and lay him on my bare chest.  Of course then all he wanted to do was eat; but at least that would stop the screaming for a bit.

So now Monkey is about 5 months old.  Colic is over, thank goodness, but he still isn't sleeping all night, or in his own bed.  Even his naps during the day he sleeps on the couch.  If I venture too far, he wakes up.  During a two hour nap, he usually wakes three to four times.  And he only takes one nap a day.  We had friends come stay for the weekend, so I had to move off the couch.  I brought Monkey into bed with my husband and me.  He slept in my arms all night, only waking to eat.  After my friends left, I kept the air mattress up that they slept on in our extra bedroom, and moved in.  For the next few months, Monkey and I shared that bed.  When he slept, I slept.  He would take a 30 minute nap in the morning, with me holding him.  Then, when Scooch went for his nap, I would take Monkey to bed and he would normally sleep until Scooch woke.  I would sleep then as well.  This was when I started to come out of my fog a little.  I was finally catching up on some sleep.  I still wasn't sleeping great at night because Monkey would have me up two or three times, and sometimes would still have restless screaming fits for an hour or more, but it was better than I had been getting.  Plus I was getting to nap during the day as well.  But since I was following Monkey's schedule, I wasn't able to get a thing done in the house.

At this point, Monkey is around 8 months old.  I had tried CIO (cry-it-out) three or four times.  The problem was that 1) he was used to sleeping with me, and 2) he wasn't used to sleeping in his own bed, and 3) he didn't know how to fall asleep on his own.  That third one was the biggest thing.  The poor kid did NOT know how to fall asleep.  I had completely robbed him of learning this ability and I needed to fix it.  Monkey would scream during CIO for 4 hours or more, and then start to doze off sitting up in his bed.  It was painful to listen to.  It tore my heart out.  I was determined not to let him cry again.  This was my plan:

I was going to spend a week more sharing a bed with Monkey, but would let him fall asleep on his own.  I wasn't going to nurse, or rock, or anything.  At first it took him over two hours or rolling around, trying to suck on anything he could get in his mouth, but he did it.  I felt like that was a huge victory in itself.  We kept at it, but one week turned into a month due to illness that had all four of us down for a while (everything I read said not to do sleep training during illness).

Finally the time came for Monkey to move to his bed.  I nursed him before bed, put him in his bed, and then sat in a chair in his room.  I figured having me there, just like when we shared a bed, would help him fall asleep.  Good idea in theory, but not in practice.  He would pretty much stand and the end of his bed, as close as he could get to me, and cry.  I would lay him down, rub his back, and try to go sit down again.  In the end, I ended up helping him to sleep most nights by rubbing his back or jiggling his bottom to simulate bouncing him.  This killed my back worse than walking around with Monkey during his colic days since I was all bent over his cot for over an hour a night.  BUT, he was in his own bed.  All night, every night.  Another huge step.  He would still wake up three to six times a night.  On bad nights, he would still wake every hour like he used to.  I realized he still hadn't learned how to fall asleep and still needed my help.  I tried CIO again.  Same result as before: he would. not. go. to. sleep.  I would pick him up just once, and he would lay his head down and pass out.  Oy.

Things sort of naturally progressed from here, and for the next month or two, I ended up rocking Monkey to sleep every time.  We had switched to bottles by now (that last illness wiped out my milk for good, dammit).  So Monkey would have a bottle, then I would stand and bounce him back and forth until he fell asleep.  Sometimes it took just a couple minutes, sometimes it took over an hour.  He would still wake up just as much at night.  It was a comfortable routine, but I wanted to sleep all night.

Then one night, it happened.  I had been rocking/bouncing him for over an hour.  My arms and back ached again.  I was frustrated and wanted to scream.  I was talking to Monkey in a way that I never thought I was capable of talking to my kids (have you seen this book?  yea, that's pretty much what I was saying to my baby).  So I laid Monkey in his bed, told him I loved him, and walked out.  I went downstairs and Mr. R and I started commiserating and discussing what was going on.  After a couple minutes, I went to turn on the monitor, and heard nothing.  No screaming.  No crying.  Only the hiss of the sound machine in Monkey's room.  Mr. R and I looked at each other.  We shared a look of mixed feelings: shock (could he REALLY be asleep?!), confusion (are you sure it's on??), elation (we're finally getting somewhere!), relief (goodnight, I'm going to bed too!).  Monkey was actually asleep, and slept all. night. long.  Of course I didn't.  Oh no.  I still woke at the times when Monkey normally woke.  But.  I woke to find Monkey NOT waking, and that was enough.

Of course it wasn't as easy as all that.  It took about two weeks of Monkey screaming when I put him down before he would go to sleep.  I hated every second of that screaming, but I knew I had done this to him, and this was the only way to fix it, as much as I hated to admit that.  I had hoped I could find a gentler way of getting him to sleep, but nothing worked.  Nothing (believe me when I say this, there is sooo much more of the story that I haven't told you here.  you might just be reading all day if I did).

Now, here we are at almost 11 months.  This is our nighttime routine now:
Fix bottle (yup, he 'helps' me)
Say goodnight to Dada and Scooch (Scooch helps shake the bottle)
Bottle in Monkey's room
Snuggle on Mama for a few minutes, but NEVER until he's asleep
Loads of squeezes and kisses
Into bed with a chewy (cloth diaper that he chews on)
Mama leaves and says goodnight one last time

Monkey now sleeps from about 7pm to 7am, and naps between 3.5 and 4.5 hours each day.  Seriously.  It's like he's a different baby.  He's happier.  He's growing faster.  He's eating more.  He's learning sooo quickly.  The house is clean (although untidy most of the time).  I've started cooking again, slowly.  I'm not angry all the time (oh, and I finally started sleeping through the night again myself!).

So, if I can give just one piece of advice.  This whole mess was caused by one simple thing.  I never let my baby fall asleep on his own, so he didn't know how, and needed me to help him get to sleep every single time he ever woke up.  My advice is this: do not rock/nurse/snuggle your baby to sleep.  I know you want to.  I know it's nice and feels good and it's so special to share that time with your little one.  Even in the thick of it, I still enjoyed snuggling up with that warm little body to go to sleep.  But don't do it.  Let your baby fall to sleep on their own.  You will both benefit from it. 

I read several books through all of this.  I liked this one best.  It talks about how sleep works, and what to do from the beginning, not just how to get your older baby/child to sleep.  It also deals with adult sleep troubles and problems that can come up with your children later on down the line.

If just one person reads this and benefits from it, then it was worth writing.  Now, go get some sleep!

1 comment:

  1. So glad he found his groove! Mine is sleeping better, but still up 2 + times a night (between 7 and 7). He naps decently...or he did....we just set his world in a tailspin by bringing him to daycare 3 days a week. He's not a fan and his nap schedule is suffereing from it. Here's hoping it gets better before it gets much worse!!
    Thanks for sharing your story and I'm so happy to read the happy ending!! xoxo