I delivered on my first major deadlines at work in the last few weeks. And spent my evenings making a website for my Dad. And somewhere in there, I nursed and played with my little girl — although, truth be told, her Dad did most of that. And as a result, I got run down and eventually ill, but I kept on turning up to work and I kept on dragging myself out of bed in the middle of the night.
I was going to write this article about the scientific arguments against “cry it out” or “controlled crying” (and I will get around to that article) but I realised I’m too tired and the nagging cough is getting to me. Instead, you get a top-of-the-head rant about health and priorities. To some extent, it’s about why we’re even talking about cry-it-out and sleep issues and why I want to compare the “sleep whisperer” book (Save our Sleep) with Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution which I’m reading now. But that’s for next time.
At work today, I met another one of those annoying parents who tells you that their four-month-old is sleeping through the night and has been since they were six weeks old. I don’t dare ask if their child sleeps in another room, has been crying it out or whatever. I trust that there are some children who magically do that. Mine isn’t one of them. I’m thrilled because, instead of waking four and five times a night, she’s currently only waking twice a night.
I was amazed to read in Pantley’s book that “sleeping through the night” actually refers to sleeping for five hours or more in a stretch. My darling does that happily, so long as it’s from 8pm until 3am. Try and give her that “dream feed” that Tizzie Hall talks about and you’ve set her up to wake at 12am, 2am and 4am.
So what am I like after 10 months without a single solid night’s sleep? I’m run down. I’m simply not functioning at the top of my game.
Let me give you the quick re-cap:
I started co-sleeping in the hospital ward, which enticed one nurse to comment, “Oh, that’s what the black women do!” (sorry, readers, but Australia can be amazingly backward at times; our African immigrants are quite recent, and I assume she was referring to the Somalian women who are some of the newest members of our community.) These wakeups were quiet and delightful.
Back home, we co-slept and baby woke every other hour. I slept when he slept and it all went as well as could be expected. I was amazed at my resilience and felt quite rested.
At six weeks, bub was going to sleep mostly as desired, but only with a tight regimen of swaddling, swaying and thumb-sucking (ours, not hers) thanks to Harvey Karp’s Baby Bliss. Some nights were very, very tough.
At around three months, as predicted, things started to get a little more manageable. We still had the incredibly alert baby who would watch a person with an unnerving unbroken stare so long as they kept talking to her. She still took 45 minute naps — none of this two hour stuff for her.
At five months, we decided she would move from our bed into a cradle next to our bed as a transition to her own cot in another room, on the basis of various books mentioning that permanent sleep cycles start around this point. My partner built a cradle that would rock and sleep went smoothly until the six month growth spurt.
From then until now, it feels like we’ve permanently been entering or exiting a growth spurt. We ratchet up to five wake/feed/sleep cycles a night and then down to two then back up to four and so on. And I’ve become very used to it.
We’ve decided we need to do something about it for two reasons. The first is that about a month ago, our little angel outgrew the cradle beside our bed, so now she *has* to transfer to her crib or sleep with us again. We’d like her to sleep in her crib because although I might sleep well when she’s snuggled in bed with us, her Dad doesn’t. The second is that she’s started getting cranky and difficult for him during the day and screaming rather than take a nap — and it’s a vicious cycle.
Some of our changes are already paying off: he’s lying down with her in our bed for daytime naps and she’s sleeping up to two hours sometimes for one nap and having two naps most days.
We started out with feeding her to sleep in her room, laying her down in her cot and then bringing her in to sleep with us when she first woke up. As that’s been working, I’m now feeding to sleep but in her room, laying her down in her crib, feeding her in there again for the first wake-up and then bringing her to us for the second wake-up. We’re making little adjustments based on instinct, negotiation, things we’ve read online and Pantley’s book that we bought three days ago. Suffice to say, last night she only woke at 3am.
The weird thing, though, is how I’m responding to the extra sleep. The 3am wake-up is harder to recover from when I get there after five hours of sleep. Last night was the third night recently where both she and my man are fast asleep and I’m restlessly checking Facebook on my iPhone in the dark.
Of course, nothing is predictable with a baby. She just woke at 10.11pm and I’ve fed her. She’s back asleep in her cot. Who knows, tonight could be another four wake-ups night. If it is, at least most of them I won’t need to get up for.