Saturday, April 20, 2013

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

When I lived in my Philadelphia apartment, the couple who lived in the apartment above me had a baby who was not only a beauty, but was the elusive white whale of infants, in that from night one, she slept six to eight hours in a row.  As a result, both parents seemed perpetually perky, although they politely attributed her sleeping skills to pure luck.  Owen was not such a sleeper, but in the first few months I considered us pretty lucky all in all—he never had his days and nights messed up like some babies do, and in general, after eating his fill, he was usually willing to fall back asleep with rather minimal fuss.  Of course we did have a few hell-ish nights in which he was fretful and awake, but Owen’s witching hours were the witching hours of a colicky baby—from 3 to 9 pm; once he went to bed for the night all was generally well.

And then things got even better, so that by October and all through November, Owen went down in his crib at 8, slept for 7-8 hours, woke up for a feeding and then went back to sleep until 7.  “This isn’t so bad!” we thought.  “We can do this!” we chirped.  And indeed, we might even have felt rather good at it.  Upon which – of course – came December and Owen’s sleeping fell to pot, where it has remained ever since, crumbled and broken into two-hour intervals.  On a good night.

We found ourselves slipping into bad habits—for example, putting Owen to sleep for the first round of the night in his bugaboo in our dining room, which quickly became the only place he would go to sleep.  At the time we were doing it, we knew it was a no-no, but at the time we were doing it, we were EXHAUSTED and didn’t care where he slept as long as he was sleeping.  To make a long story short, it got so that Owen would only nap in his bugaboo (which he was quickly outgrowing) with the ocean on the white noise machine, and this was after we had walked him around our dining room table until we were sick with dizziness.  Then we’d have to tiptoe around the first floor, taking care not to wake him, getting angry at the pets when they did, and trying to watch movies over the ebb and flow of the high tide in the next room.  In the evenings, he’d fall asleep in the bugaboo first, and then end up in our bed, pleased as punch to be there, and getting up all night long every two hours for feedings, which all the books say he did not need.

I read a sleep book recommended by our pediatrician, Sleeping Through The Night, by Jodi Mindell, and we decided to commence sleep training.  We would put him in his crib, and be prepared for him to cry, upon which we would go into the room and pat his back very neutrally and then walk out again, being neither too sympathetic nor too entertaining.  It was supposed to take 45 minutes the first night, 1 hour the second, and 20 minutes the third, after that tapering off.  It did take 45 minutes the first night, but the second night he went right to sleep, and the third night cried for about ten minutes.  Hooray!  We were pleased.  However, the gist of this kind of sleep training method was that once Owen learned how to put himself to sleep, then when he woke up in the night, he would eventually put himself back to sleep on his own accord.  The only potential roadblock to achieving this goal was – you guessed it—babies who got up to comfort nurse. 

So at the moment we are at a bit of a standstill.  Owen goes to sleep in his crib (and takes all his naps in his crib), but he wakes up two hours later and joins me for a night of Milk! Every! Two! Hours!  It is not ideal, and I am often dumb with lack of sleep (Sean has forbidden me to use the word “thing”, as my speech had disintegrated to sentences that were basically “can you take the thing and use it on the other thing so that that thing can be put in the thing.”)  And I have a feeling that if I were home all day with Owen, I’d be less likely to tolerate being so involved in his night.  But I am away from him a good ten hours during the day, so although I had never been a proponent of the family bed, I find myself mostly okay these days with sleeping in one.

I’ve been culling the blogworld for similar tales of sleep woes and have found many interesting stories of babies with sleeping prowess and babies who are sleep challenged.  The most helpful entry I’ve read is this one, in which the author more or less reaches the conclusion that we have reached.

Perhaps the most realistic piece of advice I’ve received regarding babies and sleep has been to not get attached to any kind of sleeping routine, because the minute you get attached, it changes, and usually not for the better.  Although discouraging, this seems to be realistic advice. Owen was sick with his first cold last week and for three or four days he did not sleep much at all, instead choosing to snuffle and writhe and scream and arch his back.  After a few nights of that—during which we regressed back to the bugaboo and the ocean in the dining room—I was so pleased he was willing to sleep in his normal two-hour stints, that I had indeed forgotten what it was about that routine that had so annoyed me in the first place.

We have also done many of the things recommended to make his crib seem a hospitable place.  We play in his room, so that it doesn’t only have sleep connotations; we do a consistent books bath boob bed routine; we have a nightlight; we have a somewhat creepy turtle that makes ocean sounds while projecting lights on the ceiling so that it looks like Owen’s room is underwater (this is more soothing than it sounds!); and when Owen was sick last week we also got a humidifier that, quite by chance, also projects stars and the moon in various colors on his ceiling (Hmmm, should I be surprised that Owen is having trouble sleeping through what seems to be the Led Zeppelin laser show on his ceiling?!)

Now Owen has recovered from his cold, and has been napping beautifully in his crib during the day, but the past few nights has initially cried and talked and screamed for 45 minutes plus, before I finally go back into his room and nurse him to sleep again, upon which he is placed happily oblivious into the offending white Ikea prison.  Will he do the same thing again tonight?  I certainly don’t know.  Last night after all that initial protest, he only woke up for snacks at 12 and at 3—not too bad, really (and I should also clarify that when he does wake up to nurse, he only takes about 5 minutes to get his fill and then immediately falls back asleep again).

The ironic thing, of course, is that Owen refuses to do what at this point I would almost kill for—and that is to go to bed, and sleep a beautifully linked chain of peaceful, uninterrupted hours.  The most exquisite of luxuries!  In the meantime we are playing it by ear, cobbling together a routine that eventually will work for all of us, and being certain that come, say, junior high, Owen will not be sharing our bed.

Now really, does this look so terrible?!

1 comment:

Judith Ross said...

Ahh, sleep, elusive sleep. Sadly, I'm getting to you with this information too late, but out of curiousity I recently read "Bringing up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman. I know, my oldest has entered his thirties, but he was hell on wheels when it came to sleeping. He, like your Owen, needed to 'snack' through the night. In France, according to Druckerman, they do something called "the pause" when the baby is just a few weeks old. By waiting a bit, they eventually get them to hitch together that two-hour sleep cycle into one blessed night. So I have no useful advice -- though there's other good stuff in that book that you might find useful -- I do send you loads of empathy. The fact that I am on the cusp of 60 and still remember this says a lot.