Friday, March 12, 2010

Sleep, and the lack thereof

i love sleep.
No, really. i LOVE sleep. love it. not in the 'oh yeah, i like to get enough sleep when i can' kind of way. in the 'i would sleep ten hours a day plus naps if i got the chance' kind of way.
No, i don't have a sleeping disorder (unless you consider children a disorder!). i just love sleep, that's all... i love napping, i love dreaming, i love the feeling of waking up completely refreshed. i even like it when i feel like i've overslept.

Unfortunately, my sleep schedule has been consisting of less sleep, more wakefulness for quite some time. Say, 5 years or so. Now, don't get me wrong. i LOVE my kids. but MAN, do they ever frak up a parent's sleeping!

caution: ranting ahead!

When i was pregnant, i of course had trouble sleeping comfortably. that was fine. i just slept extra to compensate. When my daughter (now a precocious 4 year old) was born, we (read 'I' ) decided to *gasp* co-sleep with her (you can insert the 'tisk tisk, what a bad mother' here if you desire), a la European tradition. It was GREAT (except having even less room in bed) but i could sleep. lots. and did! baby fusses, you wake up enough to stick boob in mouth, baby nurses, and you fall back asleep. worked beautifully.

eventually, we graduated her to a co-sleeper (essentially, a bassinet that attaches to the parents bed, with one side down to allow the parent to easily access the child while in bed). this was also good. after a little coaxing, we were able to separate the co-sleeper and convert it into a mini-crib, still in our room. fabulous. unfortunately, this meant i had to start getting up to nurse, usually 4-8 times a night. this cut into my sleep allotment a fair bit, but i coped. little girl napped a lot during the day, and tended to get pretty drugged up from the oxytocin in breast milk. so she slept well, when she was sleeping.
over time, we moved her to her own room, and then graduated her into a  full size crib. at this point, she was slightly under a year old. then we made our first big mistake. we decided to try sleep training. specifically, the cry-it-out methods i had read about.
You might have the idea it didn't work. that'd be an understatement. after weeks of trying the techniques for a few days, then stopping because it wasn't working at all, we ended up with a child that would have panic attacks, scream and eventually vomit every time she was placed in or woke up in her crib. it was great. Really great. We ended up chucking the idea of using the crib at all, and putting it in storage. we took her mattress, and laid it on the floor (so she couldn't fall and hurt herself) and started trying to get her to sleep on her own using no-cry methods (ie i would nurse her until she was lightly asleep, then put her down, and hum while touching her back until she was fully asleep... then i would eventually creep out of the room. it took forever, but was still less stressful than the screaming). Middle of the night feedings were okay, it was just getting her to sleep that was the problem.

skipping forward a bit,  by the time she's two or so, she's in her own big-girl twin bed, she can put herself to sleep, and she sleeps fairly well, only getting up for potty stops and the occasional glass of water. easy peasy. okay, that's a bit of a fib. it was a lot of patience and hard work extra patience getting her to learn to sleep comfortably on her own.
As parents, we patted ourselves on the back, and finally got some fairly good nights sleep.

then i got pregnant again.
see previous cycle, only different.
pregnancy: fine.
co-sleeping: fine. my joints don't love me as much as last time, contorting to allow for monkey-boy to sleep with us, but i'll survive.
little man into co-sleeper: fine. later than with little girl, but it works okay. still wake up every 90-120 mins for feedings, most nights.
we finally get him into his own room when he's around a year. in a crib. it's 'okay'. getting him to sleep is a task of patience (nursing, rocking, humming, and tiptoeing... then some days repeat X 3 or 4 if he's teething or unsettled) and he's still nursing every couple hours (which i think of as 'normal'... or at least 'normal' for my kids)
Unfortunately, he's not as easy a sleeper as his sister was. he only sleeps maybe 10 hours a night, including wake ups..  and often doesn't nap more than an hour a day. he also doesn't get nearly as sleepy when nursing, so getting him to sleep at all is more of a challenge.

i've actually thought about starting him with some sort of self-soothing techniques/sleep training, but i'm holding off. why? Gods know i'd appreciate a little extra sleep (i really don't function that well on less than 8 hours!) Primarily, i know that if i start anything that is going to involve extra crying, instead of having ONE whiny kid up in the middle of the night, i'll have TWO.... plus hubby getting even less sleep because he'll have to deal with one of them while i deal with the other. it's a no-win situation.

it's times like these i almost wish my kids used soothers or sucked their thumbs.... but they never needed the habit, b/c i had the original 'soother' available to them all night... *sigh*

okay, i'm done venting.
i am looking for... well, not advice exactly, but maybe just... support?
most (NOT ALL) of the other parents i know in person give the impression they either have 'perfect' children, or little hellions, so i don't feel i can necessarily rely on any of them for decent advice on my essentially 'decent' kids.

yeah. okay. i'm done now.
g'night all. i gotta go try and catch a few hours sleep. i'm sure going to need it.


  1. Your experience is very much like mine was. Except for 2 colicy babies and all 3 of you didn't nap much after 18 months (this was for my own sanity - nap = not going to sleep at night) I always thought the baby that slept through the night was a myth! (I still do)

    Feedings every 90 mins to 2 hours for a total of 6 years - I wouldn't change a thing!!

    And I fully believe in the "family bed" I just wish it had been king sized LOL

  2. I don't mean to sound judgemental, but in my experience the people with the "perfect" kids, more often than not are the parents that put a LOT of work into their sleeping/eating/playing/communicating etc. That being said, there are some kids that aren't really kids at all, but little angels that are just perfect because of some fluke. But still, most of the time, its parents that have worked really hard with their kids on different issues.

    Regarding sleep training, it is as difficult as honest writers say. It takes sometimes weeks of training before anything progresses. The key is consistency. There is a lot of information available on the web with multiple different tactics that do not involve letting them cry themselves to sleep. Including some which allow you to be in the room while training them, just without the rocking/nursing.

    I am one of those people with a "perfect" kid, but it took a hell of a long time to get them that way. A LOT of hard work, tears (on both accounts) and a lot of reinforcement and repetition.

    This is not advice, but simply a gesture to let you know that there is hope. Your kids aren't bad, they just haven't learned to sleep on their own. It is trainable, its just a big commitment on both parts. There is light at the end of that exhausted, fuzzy tunnel.

    For example, if you ever watch the supernanny show (no I'm not supporting parenting advice from a reality show).......take a look at those kids. Punching their moms in the face, spitting, biting, breaking things. I'm sure yours can't be that bad (there would be a blog about it). If you watch the end of the show, (different methods by different parents)'ll see their behavior turn around.

    There is HOPE........there is SLEEP. Its just a lot of work to get there.

    ~One committed mom.

  3. @ mom - thanks. i'm sure in a year or so i'll only have to worry about getting up for potty breaks. it's just a little tough for now.

  4. @ committed mom - no, my kids are absolute darlings compared to anything i have seen on tv (i don't actually watch tv at home, but occasionally catch episodes of things while visiting). they both communicate at or above their age levels, and are more 'precocious' and 'inquisitive' than bad in any way. however, for a one-year-old, that involves things like trying to figure out how to use a tool (such as a maraca) to turn on light switches or knock over things on shelves so he can get to them. like i said... precocious.

    my only real 'issue' with my kids really is the sleeping... and it's mostly the 1 year old. i just can't see doing anything different than i have been that would have a _better_ result in a reasonable time frame. (and no, i don't think my emotional stability could take 2 screaming kids every night for a month. i'd end up medicated, i'm sure. so i am not thinking i'd even try!)
    thanks for your imput

  5. parenting is hard. really hard- no matter what anyone says or how it might look from the outside. do what works for you and your kids and don't look back, you are definatley not alone! my youngest is going to be a year in a few weeks and i have been holding off dropping her late night feeding for a few months- i am so tired but i know that it will mean a lot of crying (for me and her) it is just hard. it took a long time to get her to nap on a good schedule in the daytime and it took help and support from good friends and hubby to get there, idk maybe this will be the week but maybe not. hang in there!

  6. tina - thanks for the positive thoughts! hopefully you little one will be improving their sleep schedule too very soon!