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Wednesday, 31 July 2013 20:57

Help! All I Want Is Sleep...

When Clara was born, I read a book that encouraged families to develop a cycle with their newborns - breastfeed completely (both boobs), have some playtime (ie - no falling asleep at the boob), and then naptime. Feed, play, sleep, repeat.  

This book made an enormous amount of sense to me because it discouraged behaviours right from the beginning that I hoped would not continue past my child's first few years of life anyway. It discouraged what it called 'snacking' every 20 minutes, because it can wear out a nursing mother, giving her no time to sleep or get anything else done, and because 'snacking' every 20 minutes is definitely one of the contributers to childhood and adult obesity, it made sense that this was a habit you might not ever want to start. I'm no doctor, but as a parent, this obeyed my instincts completely. 

It also discouraged allowing babies to fall asleep while nursing, because then it might become something the child would always need to do to fall asleep, making it impossible for a nursing mother to step away from her baby for any length of time, as well as not allowing the child the independence to learn how to fall asleep on their own. 

This book suggested that a baby who followed the feed-play-sleep cycle (no 'clock watching') would fall into their own schedule, which would probably last anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours, and by 12 weeks old, most babies would be sleeping (on their own - no 'crying it out' required) about 6-8 hours over night. 

We struggled with following this schedule, because Clara was colicky for the first 6 weeks of her life, and would frequently cry for about 8 hours straight from about 7 or 8pm until 3 or 4am. Did I say 'frequently?' I think this may have been EVERY night for the first 6 weeks... So, I did a bit of clock watching, because her cries didn't change after feeding, and no matter what you did with her - change her diaper, take off clothes, put clothes on, swaddle her, snuggle her, burp her, Ovol, tylenol... the list goes on.  I needed the clock to tell me after what seemed like hours of listening to her scream that it had only been 30 minutes since she breastfed a large amount and was certainly not hungry yet. We were also probably somewhat inconsistent, because if she fell asleep - no matter how it happened - we took advantage of it.  We had been so determined before she was born that we would never become one of 'those parents' who would put their kids in the carseat and drive around the block, but after having a baby like her - if we had any hint that this might work (as it was, she screamed in the car too), we would have driven her around all night and taken turns sleeping. 

One night, after just over 6 weeks, Clara slept through the night. I woke up at 8am, certain that my poor angry baby was no longer breathing because she had fallen asleep finally at around midnight the night before and I hadn't heard a peep from her since, but she was breathing. And that morning she woke up happy. And from that night on, she slept beautifully - her colic mysteriously gone.  By 3 months, Clara was sleeping 12 hours overnight, and it was bliss.

Clara, sleeping in her crib at about 8 or 9 months old - looking SOOO much like Audrey.

When I was pregnant with Audrey, it didn't occur to me to do things any other way, but life sometimes has different plans. Audrey would have cooperated. Audrey would have been fine, but life with a toddler sometimes means that your newborn doesn't get the focus your first child received.  The biggest difficulty I found with Audrey was the concept of giving her 'full feedings', which was nearly impossible with a toddler who wasn't on board with giving you 30 minutes at a stretch to focus on someone other than her! So Audrey got used to snacking. And it felt like I was feeding her constantly - because I was. I was feeding her little bits of milk here and there - usually every 30-90 minutes.  Not that she was bothered by this - Audrey was the most easy going infant imagineable, but it sure was draining on me. 

During the day, things have gotten much better, but it has been over 9 months, and I'm still waking every 2-3 hours to feed Audrey in the night. Most nights, by 4am I'm so exhausted, I just pull her into bed with me so I can sleep while she nurses. I don't even care anymore if she's using it as a crutch to fall asleep, because I just want some rest! 

In hindsight, I really wish I'd tried harder to follow the same routine with Audrey that we did with Clara, because then maybe by now Audrey would be sleeping at least most of the night, and maybe we even would have been able to move her into the crib for nights permanently instead of giving up and having her sleep in a playpen in our room. 

But now I'll never know how things might have been, and despite the fact that I'm exhausted at least half of the time, I know that 'this too shall pass'.  Someday I will again have the luxury of sleeping straight through the night - most of the time. And someday Audrey will be old enough to be bribed by her pretty 'new' toddler bed (although I seriously hope we don't have to wait that long...) and she will no longer sleep in our room. 

Someday...

Has anyone else struggled with any of this? Any advice on getting a baby to sleep when you're exhausted, or ways to discipline myself to NOT bring Audrey into bed with us (half the time I don't even remember doing this, so I must be doing it in my sleep...)? I just want to sleep... 

Read 1928 times Last modified on Thursday, 01 August 2013 14:04

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