One of the hardest aspects of motherhood (for me) has been lack of sleep. I look back now and wonder how in the world I did it. When Avery was 3 months old, I went back to work. That, however, did not mean Avery was sleeping thru the night. Far from it. I would be up 5-6 times a night, feeding him at least twice, and still trek to work the next day – which involved an hour commute after dropping Avery at daycare. So that meant 10 1/2 hours away from the house, a couple hours at home before I crashed and slept 1-3 hours at a time before doing it over again.
Some days were almost unbearable and I would put my head down on my desk for a few minutes, hoping it would shake my radiating headache from sleep deprivation. Luckily I had amazing coworkers that completely understood – and even offered to hide me in the corner so I could take a nap. Another coworker (father of 3 under 3) told me that he would take his lunch break in his car and just nap. Great idea, except I’m a horrible napper. My adrenaline is going so fast that it takes me forever to calm down and go to sleep – so although tempting, I couldn’t do that.
This went on for months. I kept trudging along hoping Avery’s sleep habits would improve. I had heard of some babies sleeping after 3 weeks (Lucky Aunt Cindy!) and others that didn’t sleep through the night until they were 3 years old (Yeah, that was you Marcus). We tried new bedtime routines, I read 3 baby sleep books, and then every time we got close to Avery sleeping thru the night, he would get sick. We’d abandon the ‘cry it out’ method and replace it with coddling until he got over his infection. Then we’d start over again.
At one point, the doc gave us the OK to take away his nighttime feedings – he was eating enough during the day to sustain himself thru the night. I was told the process may take a couple nights of him being very mad at me. So, I planned to do it while my Mom was visiting. Avery would wake up hungry and we’d offer him water. He’d get mad and cry and wail for a bit, then settle down. My Mom took the brunt of it, letting me sleep once Avery was settled, but still needed to be rocked a bit before being put down. This went on for a couple nights, but it worked. From then on he only had water in the middle of the night.
Great, right? Well, yes and no. Now instead of waking up and feeding him for 20 minutes, it meant giving him a dropped pacifier and if he wouldn’t go down, rock him back to sleep. This took less time, but he was still waking up 3-4 times a night. We were closing in on a year, so for Avery’s birthday Grammy sent Avery an early present…
A foam mattress for his crib, and I bought a white noise maker, thinking these two would do the trick…
It didn’t help. I kept the foam mattress, but returned the white noise maker (Thanks everyone for suggesting it, but it wasn’t for us. I think it actually scared Avery and he prefers it just to be quiet at night). When Avery turned 1, I was content. I was used to the lack of sleep and just accepted that he’s going to be one of those babies…that never sleeps.
At his 1-year check-up, Avery’s Pediatrician asked how he was sleeping. She asked details about our routines and
suggested demanded that we stop rocking him. He might be associating sleep with rocking and when he wakes up in the middle of the night, needs that to get back to sleep. Without it, he would be able to put himself back to sleep by himself, ideally. So we went home and that night, sat on the floor and read books while Avery drank his bottle. I also put a small lamp in his room – enough light to read, but dimmed so he knew it was bed time. Then when the books were read and his bottle was gone, we put him down (awake) and left. And with that, he was asleep. Well, some nights he cries and we check on him after 5 minutes, but no more than that.
Since we nixed the rocking chair, Avery has been sleeping thru the night 2-4 times a week! I can’t explain how amazing it feels to get a full (uninterrupted) night’s sleep. I feel like a new woman! At first, I would wake up every couple of hours and listen… then go back to sleep. Now, I’m down for the count and most nights wake up to my alarm 7-8 hours later. Uninterrupted sleep for that long… A-M-A-Z-I-N-G ! I haven’t had consistent sleep like this for over a year! And because I know Avery will sleep well, it means I don’t need to get to bed at 8:30 every night. I actually have time to curl up on the couch with Vinay and watch a show together… we even shared a snack last night after Avery went to bed!
I wouldn’t have dreamed to do that months ago. Before I would have jumped into bed as soon as everything was picked up and packed for the next day – hoping I could get at least 2 hours of sleep before Avery woke up. Now our house is a little quieter and everyone is much better rested. I know he won’t sleep thru every night, but it’s worlds of difference from months of struggling…Finally. It only took 13 months!