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I love my sleep. I cherish it. I crave it. But most of all, I miss it. I am good at sleeping and I used to look forward to going to sleep. That all changed with the birth of my son. Evenings are now a time of uncertainty. Every night I wonder, “What will tonight bring?” Of all the changes that come with having a baby, not being in control of my sleep has been the hardest.
Lack of sleep is a parent's new normal
You get a lot of advice when you are pregnant, whether you want it or not. Perhaps the most oft repeated advice I received was to sleep while I could. (That, and go to the movies, which I now realize was excellent advice.) Stressing the importance of sleep is now the one piece of advice I myself can’t resist sharing every time I encounter a pregnant friend or co-worker. In theory you know you should get your sleep while you can, but nothing can prepare you for the SEAL training type of sleep deprivation you experience with a newborn or teething infant.
My husband and I have relied greatly on our instincts when it comes to our son. One thing we have learned is that there is no magic formula that works for all babies, all the time, or even works for one baby all the time. We haven’t always followed the “rules”, but we have always tried to do what we thought was right.
During the first two months of Henry’s life we put him to sleep on his stomach. It was the only way he would sleep for longer than 20 minutes at a time. At his eight week wellness check, our pediatrician explained very gently but, very firmly, that by putting our baby to sleep on his stomach we were doubling his risk for SIDS. That night we put Henry down to sleep on his back. He also slept for five hours straight! This should have been our first clue that what worked or didn’t work one night may or may not work the next, but in our sleep deprived state we merely high-fived ourselves for doing what was right.
That most anticipated event - sleep
Henry continued to sleep fairly well from eight weeks through to his four month birthday. Right around that four month mark, everything changed. Henry went from sleeping for 12 hours each night to waking up two or three times a night. I was back at work full-time and would get up with him each time he woke and nurse him back to
sleep. I’ve read that breastfed babies often take longer to start sleeping through the night and I’ve also read that breastfed babies are more likely to awaken at night for feedings (Sleeping Through the Night
, Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D.). Henry is now 11 months old and he is still waking up anywhere from one to five times a night and when he wakes up, he wants his mommy. In fact, a recent visit to the pediatrician ended with the doctor suggesting separation anxiety as the culprit for Henry’s night waking. In other words, Henry misses me while I am at work and wakes up at night to get some mommy-time in.
Sarah and Henry wide awake
This post was intended to share my family’s experiences as we attempted sleep training with Henry but in reality the only sleep training that has happened in my household is Henry training his father and me that 1) we are not in control, 2) neither is he, and 3) with babies, nothing lasts forever and there is no magic solution or perfect answer. There is no normal when it comes to infant and toddler sleep. Some babies sleep through the night at six months, or even before, and some don’t. Mine doesn’t. My goal for now is to simply get the rest I need and survive my child’s normal-for-him sleep pattern, all without having to let him cry it out (and thereby breaking my heart) every time I put him to bed.
So where are we now? My husband and I recently decided to implement some of the practices I’ve read about in Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution
and Jodi A. Mindell’s Sleeping Through the Night. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post…