How it’s going: Sleep, Part 2 (of 487)

Part 1

I’m slowly letting go of the fantasy of having an “easy” child.

That’s not so say that baby girl is difficult.  Most of the time, she’s a delight.  She smiles, she laughs, she plays.  She’s shy and curious and a thinker.  But she is also sensitive, strong-willed, and squirmy, all of which interfere with that other, all-important S-word: sleep.

Putting her to sleep has been a chore since she was tiny.  Rather than a quiet, snuggly time with my daughter, it’s a writhing, screaming, bucking battle we both have to endure, and while she eventually sleeps, I walk away exhausted.  I dread bedtime.  I find myself becoming annoyed and frustrated when she won’t go to sleep or stay asleep, and that’s not how I want to feel about a routine that occurs at least five times a day.  (I don’t feel that way all the time.  Sometimes I feel nothing but compassion.  My child is miserable and, try as I might, I can do nothing to ease her suffering.  And there’s the guilt, of course.  What right do I have to be anything but grateful for these moments, even the hard ones, when we went through so much to get baby girl here in the first place?)

Every time I think we’ve turned a corner, it ends up being a U-turn, and we’re back where we started.

Take this week, for example.  Tuesday, baby girl took three gloriously long naps–one for two hours and two for 90 minutes each.  It was kind of heavenly, considering her normal nap is 45 minutes, and lately, she hasn’t even been sleeping that long.  And Wednesday, after a promising morning nap of 2.5 hours, by that evening, she was back to a quick, 30-minute snooze.  So what was different about Tuesday?  Oh, yeah, she decided that 2:30 that morning was a great time to be W I D E AWAKE, and it took over two hours to get her back to sleep.  And then, she slept for maybe 45 minutes until about 6, when she was up for the day.  So those naps were desperately needed.  Poor baby was exhausted.

And that seems to be the real problem.  My poor girl is always borderline sleep deprived.  She can’t stay awake more than about an hour without becoming Queen Crabbypants, but it often takes up to an hour to get her to sleep–for a 45-minute nap.

I’ve tried everything.  A few things work some of the time–rocking and patting, swaying and patting, bouncing and patting, babywearing with a combination of walking, rocking, swaying, and patting, all in combination with using a pacifier–but nothing works every time.  And she seems to figure out my tactics.  She’ll start crying as soon as I sit down with her in the glider, knowing that it’s time to go to sleep.  So I have to mix it up.

Here’s how the typical nighttime sleep routine goes:  I get her into a clean diaper and pj’s; we read a book in the glider (it’s not just for going to sleep); we tell Aba goodnight, and I take her to our room.  There I swaddle her (because at 4½ months, she still needs to be swaddled or 1) she will startle herself awake when I put her down and 2) the constant movement of her arms and legs will wake her up) and begin the cycle of movement that will eventually put her to sleep.  I sway back and forth until my hips ache–or until her screaming makes it clear this is not the strategy that’s going to work tonight; then I sit on the edge of the bed and bounce until my quads burn; if that doesn’t work, it’s a combination of both, bouncing and swaying on the bed until my back feels like it’s going to break.  Meanwhile, she screams on and off until I position the pacifier or find the right combination of movement to calm her again.  The whole ordeal is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining.

For a while, I thought it was reflux.  I thought she might be in pain, which would explain the screaming and arching her back.  I eliminated dairy from my diet, which seemed to help after her reflux peaked at around the 4 month mark, but it didn’t make bedtime any easier.  Plus, I’ve always second-guessed that as the culprit when her “symptoms” magically disappear as soon as I stop trying to put her to sleep.

Hubby gloms onto every new thing that works, thinking that it’s THE thing.  I’m more cynical, knowing that just because a trick works once, doesn’t mean it’ll work a second time.  Just because it works nine times in a row, doesn’t mean it’ll work the tenth.  He’s also quick to claim that she “always” does this or “never” does that at bedtime.  Which is just not true.  Perhaps that’s the most frustrating thing–there’s no consistency, despite my best efforts.  It doesn’t seem to matter what I do, we can’t establish a routine, let alone a schedule for sleep.

I keep hoping it’ll get better, that this latest bump–waking every two hours last night–is a phase or gas or part of the 4-month sleep regression or a growth spurt.  I keep hoping that in a few months, it’ll get better.  But I’ve been thinking that since she was three weeks old.  There was a period of about 10 days, before the sleep regression hit, when it was better.  It didn’t take as long to get her to sleep, and she was sleeping 6-8 hour stretches at night.  I would love to get back to that, even if it means her naps stay at a measly 45 minutes and we have to try to squeeze four of them into a day.

I’m just so tired of being tired all the time, and I’m sure my baby girl is, too.

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15 thoughts on “How it’s going: Sleep, Part 2 (of 487)

    • Thanks, Cristy! And I just wanted to let you know that I have been reading your blog, and I’ve wanted to comment on several of your recent posts, but Blogger hates me and won’t let me comment either from my phone or my computer. Regarding She-Beat, I don’t know the specifics in your state, but has anyone referred you to early intervention? I hope she’s well on her way to chasing her brother all over the place!

  1. Hi hon,
    I’m not going to go into advice. But one important thing: Reflux has nothing to do with dairy. If you suspect it, take her to a doctor. There are three ways to treat reflux: Anti-reflux formula (“sits” heavily in the stomach), medication, or a combination of both.
    If you want to know more feel free to drop me an email – Bunny has it and we’ve had it under control for a while…
    Hugs!

    • Thanks, Mo! Baby girl doesn’t spit up much, but I occasionally hear what sounds like reflux to me, and she arches sometimes not related to sleeping. She had a few really bad days, and I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but after a few days of no dairy, she seemed to start to feel much better and has for about a week now. Maybe she just had a sensitivity to it, and that’s what was causing the tummy aches. We actually have an appointment with a new pediatrician in a couple of weeks, and I’ll definitely ask about it then. I’m just not crazy about her current doc and wouldn’t trust her advice on the matter anyway!

      • Bunny has “silent reflux” – where the food comes up the esophagus but she doesn’t spit up. It’s basically heartburn on steroids.
        Arching the back is a huge symptom, along with sleep issues. Another thing you can do is listen to her after a feed. After a certain age you can actually hear the liquid coming up and going back down. I get that you don’t trust the current ped…. In the meantime try BFing her in an upright position (if you’re not doing that already), and also keeping her upright for half an hour after feeding (of course that’s not practical at night – but it should help during the day). Sometimes a dairy intolerance goes with reflux (and colic) – but not always. For Bunny it was reflux only, no tummy aches. But she dropped down from the 25th percentile to the 3rd, and her sleep was AWFUL. Once we got it treated she was a like a brand new baby (in a good way 🙂 ). Anyway enough rambling… Good luck! Keep me posted!

  2. Ugh I’m sorry. I have one who fights naps until she is in a full in rage. She sleeps in the stroller 100% of the time, so that’s my go to when she won’t go down for a nap. Unfortunatly we have have had thunderstorms and heat advisories this week so that has not always been possible! I feel you! It’s ok to feel frustrated even though you worked so hard to have her! The pain from the past does not make parenting easier! It just makes us appreciate the happy moments more!

  3. Long time reader first time commentator..congrats on baby!!!
    I also had a very long road to get to my babies .. Ivf, late term stillbirth of twins then prem twins (29w)
    I also invisioned the sleeping baby in arms however what I got 2 tired, cranky, on reflux medication 😦 who Refused to sleep..
    What I did was used a combination on tizzie hall save our sleep and contented twins by Gina ford.. Yes it’s sleep training but it worked and then I got some sleep which made for a much happier mum! I started when my guys were corrected 4 months .. It was a bit crazy for a few nights and you have to get hubby on board too but generally after that sleep has been pretty good ..
    Sleep is so important to you and bubs we knew that 7pm was knock off time and someday’s I really looked forward to that!! Good luck xx

    • Thanks, Karli! I’m so sorry about the loss of your twins.

      Thanks for the recommendations. I don’t think I’m ready to go down the sleep training road yet, but after a few more nights like last night, I might change my tune!

  4. Girl, I could have written this exact post a few months ago. HOURS of effort to get her to sleep. HOURS. So much screaming. I thought I was losing my mind. You know what finally worked for us? Gradual extinction. A la Ferber. Aka Cry It Out. Not for everyone, but if you’re interested, get Ferbers book and give it a shot. Good luck! It gets better!

  5. As I write this comment, I’m watching my own baby girl sleep, half-swaddled, in her crib. She goes down fairly easily each night provided that, 1) a binkie is involved, and 2) the binkie does not fall out of her mouth (if it does, she wakes up screaming, as if we’re torturing her). We are SLOWLY transitioning away from the swaddle, but it’s rough. In fact, most nights, we engage in swaddle wars – swaddle, unswaddle, swaddle, unswaddle, until we find something that works. She squirms around CONSTANTLY, and I want her to be able to flex those little squirm worm muscles, but without a swaddle it’s almost impossible to get her calm enough to sleep. And, I too miss those days of 6 to 8 hour stretches. Just in time for me to start work again, Daphne stopped doing that. A typical night goes likes this – Sleep 8 to 12, wake-up eat (Of course, we go to be around 10:30, so if we’re lucky we get an hour or so before she wakes up). Sleep 12-3 or 4, wake up eat. Sleep 4 to 6, possibly feed again or pop the bink back in, possibly put her in the swing, because OH MY GOD WE ARE SO TIRED, for an hour until we have to get up at 7. It’s brutal. I’m away at work for most naps, but nothing has changed since she was a month old, except for her awake periods. The longest nap she’s taken in a month, was two hours, and that was the day after her 4-month vaccinations. My point of all this: You are not alone. Like at all. I am one big under eye circle at this point.

    In July, while at my family’s cabin, I spoke with my cousin who has twin girls around 2-years old. He said the worst time for sleep for them was months 4 to 6. He claimed it got better after that. I had a hard time believing him because every night, I’d hear his girls cry for a good 45-minutes at bed time. They practiced CIO. It certainly didn’t seem like much better option to me. BUT, I hear so many parents rave about the results, that I may consider it at some point. I’m thinking when Daphne can sit up unassisted and roll from back to front.

    Now that this comment is the longest in the history of ever, I leave you with this. Have you tried probiotics? For you and for your girl? I notice a HUGE improvement in crying/fussiness when I supplement both of us. We’ve been using Gerber Soothe, but I want to graduate to a better, refrigerated version for her, something like what I take.

    • Yeah, swaddling only sort of helps contain her flailing arms, but not for long. She usually ends up with what I like to call (“angel wings” before working her way out completely. But it’s still necessary. We tried the sleep sack for a few nights, and that was not happening.

      I have mixed feelings about CIO. I’ve also heard from those who’ve done it that everyone is now sleeping so much better, but she screams so much in my arms, I can’t even imagine if I just left her to figure it out on her own. And the sound if her crying just breaks my heart.

      We were doing probiotics for a while–the expensive refrigerated ones–but it didn’t seem to make any difference with her sleep and/or crying, unfortunately. I wish there was a magic fix, but I think at least part of it is just her temperament. Hopefully growing out of this phase will help some–for both our girls!

  6. I just wanted to say that I swaddled one of my twins until she was 5.5 months old – if it works, DO IT! Do WHATEVER works until it no longer works, when it comes to sleep.

    That said, my daughter was a challenge with sleep. And HANDS DOWN, her worst month for sleep with the BIGGEST sleep regression was 4 months. And it lasted for 5 long weeks. Maybe even 6. She did what your little one does – where nothing would work. But at 5.5 months old, she started to scream just a little less and was just a little easier – and then we sleep trained her using the cio with checks method (checked on her at 2 minutes, then 4, then 6, etc.) And it worked – and she’s been an amazing sleeper ever since. Hang in there!!! It will get better.

  7. I am typing this one handed on my cell as my 9 month old naps beside me. I completely relate. We tried wearing, bouncing, swaddling etc. Different things worked at different times. Helen has fought sleep since she was born. Now she is cruising and crawling, she is exploring more. Our routine at work seems to be working better. However at 4 months she wanted to party at 2 a.m. At 6 months we discovered baby swim lessons in the afternoon helped her sleep at night. We tried Cio and she started to fight the crib, so we modified it and now stay in the room while she falls asleep. I feel for you.

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