I LOVE Tim Minchin, but I have to be honest, this video is quickly beating out Storm for my favourite. It gets funnier and funnier the longer I am a parent. Parenthood has been so interesting. It is so fun 98% of the time. I am so incredibly blessed. Jacob isn’t colicky or grumpy or ambivalent, he is an incredibly happy, active, spirited little boy always smiling and laughing. He loves playing and discovering new things. He can play by himself for an hour at a time easily just chattin away to his toys. When he is awake you can just see how behind those beautiful blue eyes his brain is just working away. He just wants to take everything in. However, sleep evades him. Poor guy. His eyes get so red, he gets so cranky but he just wont sleep. Its almost like hes afraid that he is going to miss something. My hubby is back at work now and so its just Jacob and I during the day and this also leaves all the night time feedings/wakings to me. I didn’t realize how blessed I was to share the midnight feedings with hubby until they were gone. Now at almost 4 months Jacob and yet to sleep through the night and is still is up every 1-2 hours through the night. I’ve had some people mention that it is probably just the 4 month sleep regression but he never really made progress to regress from. He has been pretty consistent at going to bed around 830 waking up at 12, 2, 3, 4,5 and then at 5 being up for the day.
Somewhere along the way Jacob built the habit of nursing to sleep. It never started that way but what started as falling asleep nursing here and there and had become an insufferable need to nurse himself to sleep. I realized this had happened and how huge of a problem it was a few weeks ago. I was so beyond exhausted the thought of keeping my eyes open one more second was enough to make me cry, I was so over-tired and worked up that it was taking everything in me not to curl up in a corner chew my own hair and cry. Hubby came home and took Jacob so that I could go have a nap. Wonderful! I laid down in bed, got all comfy, the blankets started to get nice and warm and cozy. I closed my eyes. And just as I was about to drift off into the wonderful world of dreamland, Jacob started screaming….and screaming…..and screaming. My husband is an excellent father. He has the patience and warmth that I always dreamt the father of my children would have. Finally I realized i wouldn’t be getting any sleep so I walked downstairs. I noticed a full bottle sitting on the end table that hubby had obviously just made and Jacob obviously wasn’t interested in. Hubby was pacing bouncing and shushing Jacob and I could hear him whispering, “its ok Jacob, please stop crying, your mommy needs some sleep, you keep her up all night”…..have I mentioned I love my husband so much??? I walked over and kissed him and took Jacob who instantly stopped crying and buried his head in my chest. I sat down to nurse him, he took 2 glugs and promptly passed out in my arms. Hubby and I looked at each other in utter defeat. Clearly the boy wasn’t hungry he just needed the comfort of the boob to settle down and sleep.
Since then we have been on a journey to stop this habit and to build new ones. It has not been easy. I think I have read every sleep book, website, blog etc. out there. Nothing seems to work. We are having the hardest time getting him to sleep at night and he only naps for short bursts, usually when we are running errands he will nap in the truck. I want to pull my hair out. Keep the room bright during the day and dark during the night. check. use a white noise machine or a fan/humidifer. check. Swaddle. tried it. Dont swaddle. tried it. Have a routine. check. Keep consistent. check. Nothing would change the facts. He sleeps in only small bursts and needs to be nursed to sleep. Sleep when your baby sleeps is wonderful advice but when he only sleeps for twenty minutes and it takes you fifteen minutes to wind down and fall asleep, five minutes of sleep is nothing but a huge tease that often makes things worse.
I figured this process isn’t going to change overnight. And it isn’t going to be easy. There is going to be a huge extinction burst. So I figured the best way to attack the problem was through shaping rather than cold turkey. Lets tackle this one problem at a time. The first problem was the nursing to sleep. At this developmental stage he can easily go 4 hours without eating so that was the target. I would feed him at night and if he woke up before the 4 hours was up (which he always did) I would pick him up and shush him and rock him and offer him his soother (which he always refused, in fact it makes him scream louder) and when he fell back asleep I would put him back in his crib and go back to bed. This led to him waking up more frequently, and it took me longer to get him back to sleep. I was now lucky to get 2 hours of sleep a night total. I was napping whenever he napped but I frequently broke down in the middle of the night, even knowing that intermittent reinforcement is the absolute worst thing you can do when trying to change behaviour and I would nurse him to sleep. How on earth do you convince yourself to stand there and bounce and shush for an hour when you are so tired you cant keep your eyes open, or keep your head up and you feel like you are just going to collapse on the floor and take the baby down with you when you know you could sit down and nurse him for 3 minutes. he would be asleep, would sleep for longer, and you could go back to bed. I am doing better here, the more he gets used to it the better he is doing (go figure) but after weeks of doing this I still break down. I’ll feed him at midnight and crawl back into bed with utter determination ” I will not feed him again until 4am” but then hes up at 2 and screaming and wont calm down and husband is in the next room able to hear everything trying to sleep so he can get up in a couple of hours and go to work, and I am ready to collapse and before I know it the boob comes out and the babe is asleep. I know if I could just be strong for a few solid days that this behaviour would change faster but I simply do not have the willpower. Jacob is just more stubborn and persistent than I am. I need my sleep. I can’t think straight without it. Just as the song above, as the night progresses I get more and more desperate.
Jacob is getting pretty good at falling asleep without nursing now. I still occasionally default to it but I generally go 4 hours at night without feeding him now.
Step 2. Get him to fall asleep in his crib by himself
The way the “experts” suggest doing this is putting him into his bed drowsy but still awake. If he starts to fuss a bit to let him, this is how he learns to self-soothe “they” say. However if he starts really crying pick him up and soothe him. The SECOND he stops crying putting him back down. Repeat process until child is asleep. Be consistent. Each time you do this process it will take less than the time before until he has learnt to self-soothe and will put himself to sleep. If your child wakes up in the middle of the night give him some time. Let him fuss, he probably isn’t even fully awake himself and will put himself back to sleep if he starts screaming then do as described above.
Well my clever boy figured out this game by the second night. The first time I did this it took one hour forty minutes to get him asleep in his crib. He woke up 40 minutes later and it took another hour and a half to get him asleep….im sure you get the drift. eventually 4am rolls around I haven’t had any sleep at all, i break down and nurse to sleep. By the second night he realized that if he screamed I would pick him up. So he would jump over the fussing and go right to screaming. The second I would touch him he would stop, the second his head touched the crib he would start. Honestly! Scream. Stop. Scream. no middle ground. Ugh! I couldn’t keep up.
My cousin suggested I read the Baby whisperer book which describes the EASY method (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You time, repeat). She said she used it with all her children and swore by it. (I have the best cousins ever!) I had tried Happiest Baby on the block and found now reprieve in it. But this book made sense to me. So I am now attempting it. However the routine and heavy schedule does not change the fact that Jacob is unable to fall asleep by himself.
It has now been 7 months since I have slept through the night. 4 months since he has been born, and being in the third trimester over the summer meant no all night sleeps then either. I cannot even begin to describe how worn out I feel. As the song says, while I love my child, I would be lying if I said the thought of throwing him down the stairs or smothering him has never crossed my mind. Of course I would never do that, and I know that if I am ever getting to the point where this isn’t just a casual thought in passing that I can get my husband up and he will deal with Jacob happily so I can have a break. But the thoughts have crossed my mind. The process has given me some sympathy for all those mothers out there that you hear about that kill their children and then themselves. I never understood it. I do now. If you don’t have a strong support network and if you child is doing this crap where they never sleep, perhaps they are also colicky, you have no reprieve. I understand how a woman could snap and kill her child. Realize what she has done and realize that life is no longer worth living and end her own life as well. It isn’t pretty, I know I will never get to that point again I have a really strong support network. Jacob has gone to visit Grandma for a couple hours so I can just friggen sleep already.
But I am worn out. I am living off of coffee and the lack of sleep is going to start affecting my milk supply soon. So I have started something I swore I would never do. My darling baby is following the EASY schedule and if he just wont sleep we are following the Ferber method. From developmental psychology I know that in the first year of life there is no such thing as spoiling a child, you need to respond to their every whim. Ferberizing, or letting the child cry, can create life-long attachment issues and trust issues. But following the true Ferber method does not mean throwing your child in their crib and letting them cry until they puke and pass out, which is where I think the method gets a lot of bad rap. It is about giving your child 5 minutes to cry and then going in and soothing them and trying again. The first time I broke down and said I can’t. I cant do this anymore, hes just going to have to cry it out, was yesterday morning at 5am. I sat in my room beside him and cried myself. I was up checking on him and soothing him every 4-5 minutes, progressively I would let him go a little longer and little longer but I never left him alone more than 8 minutes. Just didn’t have it in me. It also took an hour and forty minutes to get him asleep. At 730 we awoke and started the day and the day went so much better than days have gone in a really long time. We then followed easy. As soon as he woke up I changed his bum, dressed him and fed him. He played for a bit and then at 9 went down for a nap. He fell asleep instantly, no crying or nursing involved. He woke up, I fed him, he played for a bit and then started to get tired. He was a bit of a crank and cried for about half an hour but then slept for almost an hour. Today putting him down for a nap took less than 15 minutes and he has now been asleep for an hour and a half. After a day and a half I am already feeling some semblance of sanity returning. I feel like now I finally have a plan that I can work with. And having a solid day time routine instead of only having a night time routine is wonderful. I know that Jacob is going to wake up somewhere between 10 and 40 minutes from now. I could have gone and had a nap with him, or clean the house or FINALLY find some time to get back to blogging, or whatever. It is wonderful having predictable time for me.
Jacob is such a wonderful and perfect boy. I am trying not to beat myself up. There is no such thing as a perfect mom. But I am trying and with a bit more sleep on my side I know I can do better, even if that means having to let my beautiful baby boy cry for a bit. I am making sure I am making up for it during the day being EXTRA attentive to his needs and playing with him lots when he is awake. It will all work out. I just keep reminding myself that as much as this sucks, soon he will grow out of it and with it, the baby snuggles with go too, and the baby giggles and hugs and kisses and the cute way he splashes in the tub and babbles all day long. I am trying so hard to just focus on those things because I know I will miss them. Sleep deprivation aside, I still stand by becoming a wife and a mother were the two best choices I have ever made and I love both roles very much.