it’s been a while since i’ve blogged, but i have some pretty good reasons (i think anyway). i’ve been keeping busy with a little freelance design work, wedding photobooks for photographer friends, and my son, who doesn’t want to sleep without my arms around him.
as i write this, my fingers, toes, and any other extremity that could possibly be crossed, are crossed, in hopes that my 15 month old son doesn’t awake from his slumber (as i watch him toss & turn on the video monitor). these past few months have been tiring for all of us. our awesome little sleeper has turned bedtime into something we’ve all come to dread (mostly). i used to look forward to the peaceful few hours that we had to ourselves, but now i start to worry in advance; how long will it take to get him to sleep? how long until he wakes up? will he wake up 2, 3, 6 times tonight? will he soak through everything and need a bed and bum change at the crack of stupid? will i fall back asleep? will my hubby have the mental and physical capacity to function properly at work without an adequate amount of zzz’s?
little man was always a great sleeper, right from the get go. yes, he was! i know people will say this about their child when it isn’t necessarily true, but he really was. around 6 weeks old he started to sleep in 6-7 hour bouts, wake to nurse and then fall back to sleep for 2-3 hours. it was pure bliss because i knew that when he finished nursing we could all get a little more shut eye. man, those were the days: stick a boob in the baby’s mouth, he was relaxed, full, content and wouldn’t you know it, sleepy. and then he started to grow, and change, and learn more and more each day. and he started to eat people food! not just his beloved breastmilk. around 8 months old (ish) he started waking at least once a night and wouldn’t go back to sleep without being rocked (insert very big thank you to my husband who has always taken his role as daddy very seriously and believes that i need breaks to keep my sanity! go hubby!). looking back, that wasn’t so bad. in fact, i’d take the once a night wakings if it meant that we could all get a little more sleep.
mid-march is when things started to go awry. the little guy went to sleep with his usual routine; jammies, snack and cartoons, then upstairs for teeth, bum change, sleep sack, stories and then cuddles in the rocking chair in his room until he fell into a peaceful slumber. and then he decided to wake up less than an hour later. we tried everything we could think of but no luck. he didn’t fall back asleep until the crack of stupid a.k.a. really super early in the morning, the time when usually you’re coming home from a fun night out of drinking and dancing, wait what? (see my post “sleep, what’s that again?”). basically things have been kinda off since then. the frustrating thing is he’s pretty good about going down for naps. we cuddle and rock in his room, he falls asleep and i lay him down, no complaints, no fuss, no crying. just sleep, usually for 1-3 hours.
over the past few weeks things escalated. he decided that he would not sleep at bedtime unless he was being held. this honestly came out of nowhere, or so it seemed. perhaps this was coming and we just didn’t realize it, i’m not sure. one Saturday the little guy decided to wake up every 2 hours and then stay awake for 1-2 hours. urgh. and at this point i have no liquid gold (a.k.a. breastmilk) to offer him, but boy, i wish i did. Sunday night was pretty much a repeat of Saturday. not fun.
my patience level was at 10% and quickly decreasing. i was ready to break. don’t get me wrong, i love spending all day with my son, but there comes a time, usually at the end of the day, that i need a little “mama” time and he was not co-operating.
i began reading books, articles and anything i could find in hopes that someone could give us a some guidance (and maybe teach me a little more patience) but the only things i kept finding were about letting my child cry it out (CIO). i am not a fan of this method. i have my reasons, which you may or may not agree with, to each their own. here are a few good articles to read 10 Alternatives to Crying It Out, Science Says: Excessive Crying Could Be Harmful, and ‘Cry it out’ isn’t more effective than ‘no cry’.
i finally found something helpful in The No Cry Sleep Solution book by Elizabeth Pantley. (buy it here). it was close to the end of the book (pages 207-213), for those of us parents, who are “at their wits end”, who are ready to snap and who really don’t want to use the CIO method. it didn’t solve our problems but shed a little light on the situation. i also found another great article or two online (and of course i can’t find them now to add links!) that talked about babies who were nursed and rocked at bedtime and a few different suggestions on how to get them to fall asleep on their own.
a lot of what i found was frustrating because they talked about creating a routine and sticking to it being one of the biggest things to establish. well, we have a routine. a damn good one if i do say so. and we’ve had a routine since little man was probably 4-6 months old (which we’ve changed as necessary as time goes by and his needs change). the articles & books that finally helped me to understand really what was going on basically explained that the reason our son may have decided he doesn’t want to be put down is that he only knows how to fall asleep by being held/nursed/cuddled etc. it made sense when i thought about it, and honestly, i don’t know why i didn’t think of it before! of course: 95% of his entire life he fell asleep in my arms (the other 5% belongs to his dad but it’s now closer to 70-30 as my hubby has been amazing with giving me “breaks” from mama duty). i started reading more about different ways to try to get my son to fall asleep on his own because this new “don’t you dare put me down” attitude was becoming mentally and physically exhausting for us.
we decided to try one method that suggested rocking him until he was drowsy but not quite out and then laying him down to fall asleep on his own in the crib. sitting beside his bed, letting him touch us, hug us, etc, whatever it took to make him feel comforted and know that mom & dad were still there for him and not leaving him when he felt he needed our “touch”, just not holding him. the first night took 3 hours to get him to bed. 3 HOURS. we put his glow worm beside him and the soothing sounds seemed to help lull him to sleep. and so we thought, ok! the glowworm might be the trick up our sleeve that we need to help little man fall asleep on his own! along came the next night … one hour till sleepy time! the third night, one again! when we first put him in the crib, he whined and cried but only for less than 5 minutes. as each night went by the crying and whining stopped! we thought we may have figured things out and then the 4th night came along: 2 hours to get him down. the same for the 5th and 6th, etc … he would start out very sleepy and relaxed in my arms, i’d lay him down and he’d immediately sit up and then stand up at the edge of the crib reaching for me. i ignored him and started the glow worm in hopes of distracting him. this worked, sort of. and then he’d play with the glow worm, then stand up. then play with Mr. Owl (his cute little owl/blankie toy). then lay down. and repeat.
i basically was fed up and starting reading again. reaching for something and then i thought, he’s so young. he just wants to be held. what on earth do i have to do that’s more important than cuddling with my son and making him feel relaxed, comfortable, safe and loved? i decided to forget everything i had read and try going back to a modified version of what i was doing before. i rocked my son until he fell asleep and when i laid him down in his crib he stayed asleep! i tried again the next night and he fussed when i transitioned him from my arms to his crib, so i started the glow worm and patted his back; he relaxed and passed out again. we’ve been going strong since (knock on wood).
my son needs me. he’s my baby. the most important thing in my life. he’s my world. i’m his support, his lifeline, his comfort, his safety and most of all, his mama. this cuddle time will only last for so long and before i know it he won’t want to be rocked. he won’t want to have so many hugs and kisses. he won’t need me like he does now. i think we, as parents, need to stop wanting our kids to grow up so fast, because when they do, we’ll miss these days more than we realize. xo.