Tuesday, February 23, 2010

To sleep, perchance to dream....HELP!

Well hello there, dear readers. In case you follow this blog and wonder why I don't post all that much, the answer is quite simple: the baby doesn't sleep and therefore neither do I and therefore I am beyond tired. All. The. Time.

So, I am asking for your help. We are completely tapped out of ideas. I will give you the back story and I would love your advice.

We are second time parents, so this should not be rocket science, but it is. Our older boy is now 3 1/2. Thomas is 13 months old. Jonathan didn't sleep more than a couple hours at a stretch until he was 15 months old, so this isn't new, but lack of sleep when you have one kid is much different than when you have two. Also, as I will detail below, we were able to deal with his waking in a different fashion.

Our philosophy is basically attachment parenting: baby-led weaning (I nursed J until he was almost two and I was five months pregnant with his brother); babywearing (see previous post); co-sleeping (see details below); and being very responsive to the babies.

With both of the babies, we co-slept full time for the first six months or so, and then brought the baby to bed with us after the first or second night-waking for the rest of the night. This was necessary with Jonathan, as we were in the middle of renovations and his crib was in our room.

We were somewhat desperate as he rounded his first birthday and was still waking up four and five times a night, but we realized that any of the sleep "solutions" were very hard with co-sleeping in the picture. So we were waiting until the renovations were finished and the crib went into his own room. And we functioned rather well, all things considered. Though I wanted more sleep, I was able to sleep between his wakings. He would nurse for a few minutes and then we would both fall asleep. It worked ok. It WAS annoying that the intervals between his wakings got shorter and shorter as the night progressed. Four hours, then three, then two, then one, etc. Which meant that he was the most wakeful after 3:00 a.m., which is JUST when I need to sleep the hardest. Nevertheless, we managed. And, miracle of miracles, the NIGHT that we moved into our addition and moved his crib to his room, he slept for ten hours straight. TEN. And the next night he slept eleven. And that was that. He is now a GREAT sleeper and rarely wakes in the middle of the night.

So. We never really had to do any sleep solutions for him, though we were prepared for the No Cry Sleep Solution as well as Dr. Jay Gordon's "program." Now, neither of those has worked for Thomas. And then my wonderful chiropractor, herself a mom of two small boys, sent me an ebook which had a gradual approach, which let the child cry, but we would be in the room with him, first beside his crib, and then a few feet away, etc. etc. etc. Supposed to do a few days on each segment. We have never managed to get away from the crib.

So here we are. I still nurse him, but he does not fall asleep, most of the time. And I am about 90% successful at putting him down when he is still awake, though very quiet. And about three quarters of the time, we are able to get him to go to sleep "on his own" at the beginning of the night. Starting with a book or two and ending with sleep, about 45 minutes. Which isn't bad. Same deal with the 3 year old, only his routine includes a bath and songs, etc. And it is ok if both of us are home, we split the tasks. The OTHER twenty five percent of the time, it takes an hour and a half for him to go to sleep. Much of the time is spent with him in the crib and one of us sitting next to the crib. Most of that time he is not crying, but if we try to leave, he starts screaming. Bah.

But as annoying as THAT is, the real problem comes after that. Some nights he will sleep for about six hours, until 1 or 2 a.m. Then he starts a waking cycle that is enough to make the strongest man weep. He wakes up with a roar and a scream, and continues yelling until we get in there. If it is me, and he nurses, he gets quiet instantly. If my husband goes in, he yells for another three minutes and then settles. About half the time we can get him quiet and back to bed in fairly short order: twenty minutes or so. (And occassionally, about once a week, he actually POINTS to the crib, or tries to throw himself back in it, and he goes right back down, two minutes, start to finish. And each time that happens, we have a glimmer of hope. Sigh.) But the other half of the time, it takes more than an hour for him to go back to sleep. Again, much of that time is spent with him in the crib. It is MUCH easier to rock him back to a deep sleep and put him down, but we are desperately trying to get him more used to falling asleep without being held. On good nights, he wakes only two or three times after he has gone (finally) to bed, usually at about 1 ish and 4 ish, and then 5:30 or so.

On bad nights? Every two hours. And it is making us crazy. Last night is a good example, and please bear with me with the details. Hubs got home at 6:45 and I immediately took the baby in to put him to bed. He was already dressed for bed. At 8:15, hubs came in to relieve me and the baby finally was asleep at 8:30. Did you get that? Almost TWO HOURS. He woke up with a yell at 11:30. I nursed him and put him in his crib and patted him. I was almost out the door at midnight when he jerked up and stood up and started yelling. I finally managed to leave at 1:00 a.m. Did you get that? An hour and a half. And then he woke up at 4:20. Hubs got up with him and got him back down and he crawled back in bed at 5:00. Baby woke up twenty minutes later. M got up again with him since he hadn't gotten to sleep. Baby slept on him for a while and then he was able to put him back in the crib. M lay down on the guest room bed (Thomas' crib is in the guest room) for another 20 minutes. Finally T was wide awake at 6:15. I heard him roar awake without the monitor and got up to give M a break. Marcus wasn't going to be able to sleep since he needs to be up and at 'em at 7 to get to work on time, but at least he could get some space. So, to sum it up, we had a crappy night, and Marcus essentially was awake from 4:20 on.

As I said up at the front of this super long post, I was able to deal with Jonathan because I just pulled him into bed with us. I have tried that with Thomas, but the problem is that he just does NOT unlatch when he nurses. He will nurse the entire time he is in bed with me. Constant. I can fall asleep and then wake up two hours later because I am in a cramped position and he is STILL actively sucking. And that created a real painful situation for me. I actually didn't think that was the problem, and got myself looked at. The doctor suggested not letting him nurse like that and magically, the pain went away. So....no co-sleeping now. We have him in a crib in his own room and we get up and go in there and rock with him or sit by the crib.

Some people say, "Let the baby fuss for a bit before you go in." Which we do, when he is just whining and fussing. But most of the time he is YELLING, at the TOP OF HIS LUNGS. (Have I mentioned that he is a loud kid?) His room is right next to his brother's room, and until we have a plan, we are loathe to just let him cry. And we realize that unless we are totally committed to a plan, if we negatively reinforce the crying by sometimes going in and sometimes not, it will get worse.

His sleep hasn't always been this bad. Couple times a night was routine for the first nine months. Once he started solids more, the sleep got really bad and he would wake up five and six times a night. That is when we started getting super cranky. But we weren't happy about letting him CIO because he really seemed like he was in pain. Finally we thought it might be reflux and the doc put him on Zantac. Worked well after about a week, and the sleep improved for about two weeks. (only waking twice a night) Then got bad again and we upped the Zantac. Better for two weeks and then not so much. So the doc put him on Prevacid. Got better for about two weeks, and now not so much.

I would say that now, about 20% of the time he seems super uncomfortable and REALLY gassy. And 20% of the time he seems really mad. And the other 60%, he is just awake. Sometimes for a looooong time. But I am loathe to let him just wake up and cry and cry and cry if there is a 1 in 5 chance that he is really uncomfortable. That just seems mean to me.

But we are both shattered and short-tempered. The 3yo gets the brunt of my short temper because he is a willful 3 and I don't have much patience for that at the best of times. My diet has suffered tremendously (who wants to eat veggies and fruit when you have had four hours of broken sleep....only cake gets the serotonin levels up to functioning capacity.) Marcus and I have ZERO time together as we HAVE to fall into bed the very second that Thomas has gone to sleep if we are to get any rest.

I am pretty strict about naps for T....morning and afternoon. I don't do things that make him miss them, if I can help it, since he sleeps so little. He rarely naps for more than 45 minutes, and often only 30. I KNOW that naps are important and sleep begets sleep and all that. He just doesn't sleep ever. ONE night this week, for the first time in two months, he woke at 1, got right back down, and then woke at 6:20 for the day. Heaven. I tried to replicate that entire day, as well as the naps and bedtime routine. FAIL. Very disheartening.

So people, I need help. If you have done any kind of sleep solution, could you give me specifics about how it worked for you? I can read the books, but it is disheartening when they say, "for a few nights" and it hasn't changed in two weeks. So I need real-world advice. Did ANYTHING work for you? What do you do about the yelling waking up the pre-schooler in the next room? How many days or weeks did it take to work? HELP!


Beck said...

He's 13 months old? Okay, old enough. WE used a sleep program called... hm. "Sleep Tight", I think, and it's by an American doctor. Basically, the first night you keep the kid up so he's so tired that he falls asleep as soon as he hits the mattress. Rock him, pat him, whatever it takes.

The next night, keep him up ALMOST as long. Almost. And you keep this up, gradually moving the time back by little bits until you have him at the time you want.

There's more to it than that, so you should look it up, but it's worked BEAUTIFULLY with each of our kids - within 2 weeks, they were going to bed at 7:30, SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT, and there was no crying.

nicole said...

Oh, I'm so sorry you are going through this. It sounds terrible. We have been blessed with pretty good sleepers. We have done some crying it out, but it lasted about a week before regular sleep set in. I know--you hate me. Have you considered putting his mattress in your room, on the floor? Maybe if he woke up and saw that you were there, but was not in your bed, he would be able to go back to sleep? Good luck! I'm sure you will get lots of good advice.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry this is happening for you. My kids were both not very good sleepers too. I really relate to your post.

This is about the time we lost our minds too. 15 mo old screaming in one room, 3 yr old in the other. K didn't co-sleep very well. She just didn't sleep well in bed with us. We actually had to borrow a crib (we just never needed one before!)

We tried Good night, sleep tight (methods similar to what you describe sitting by crib but not picking up) for about 3 weeks and it ruined us for almost 9 months. All of the attachment practices we had going for us during the day (prior to that book's advice to ignore her crying) went right out the window. She just didn't trust us anymore.

She started to say, "go away" when she wanted/needed comfort. She was so sad all the time. AND still NOT sleeping. But the sadness lasted for 9 months after we stopped. I tell you this b/c I remember being willing to try anything. And I regret being THAT desperate.

My suggestion- email Elizabeth Pantley thru her website for direct advice. If you've tried her book and haven't had success yet, maybe she can offer more ideas. She answers every email personally.

We went back to No-Cry methods and it was worth it and bed-time is not a crying event here.
Hang in there- from someone who has been there- it won't be like this forever, no matter what you do. So trust yourself and be as loving and responsive as you can.

Anonymous said...


THIS IS HORRIBLE! Why are you not institutionalized for sleep deprivation?!

I don't have any advice to offer since we used CIO (it worked for us, but I respect that it doesn't sit well w/ many people), but I have a lot of sympathy. You must be at your wit's end!

One thing that strikes me about your post is putting the baby to bed at 6:45. Is this common? My 2 always had a bedtime of 8:30 -- my theory being they'd probably sleep 12 hrs or so, and I'd rather have them sleep later than wake me up before the sun rose (this may also be a northerner thing).

Regardless of what you chose to do (Beck's idea sounds good), the most important thing is that you & M are sharing the pain…ugh…I mean "sharing the responsibility" and are on the same page w/ parenting ideas.

Good luck!

Julia said...

So, so hard... I am so sorry that this is working out this way.

The first thing I wanted to say is that this really is a short season and he really will learn to sleep through the night. I don't say this to sound unfeeling or like you shouldn't find something to try, but just to keep in mind as an encouragement. You will NOT always be this sleep-deprived and you WILL make it through this challenge. Almost all the babies I know, AP-parented or not, are sleeping on their own and through the night when they're 2 or 3. I just think about how quickly Violet's life so far has gone, and I feel like her turning 2 is probably going to happen before I know it.

My first was a worse sleeper than my second, but I'll tell you what has allowed me to cope and function. With my first, I coslept and nursed a lot at night until it started to bother me and keep me from sleeping, at around 18 months. We then night-weaned her but continued cosleeping. I will be honest that it did involve some crying, but we said a lot of "nursing goes night-night" and cuddled with her in bed and eventually she would go back to sleep w/o nursing. We were putting her to bed in her crib at this point and then bringing her to our bed at her 1st waking, but with no nursing. If the problem with the cosleeping is your discomfort from nursing, you could try night-weaning.

My second (now 14mo) is still a very agreeable cosleeper so we haven't taken any steps yet. She goes down in her crib, then comes to bed with us after her 1st night waking and nurses off and on until morning. She is a peaceful bedmate, though, so I haven't gathered any motivation to change our habits.

Hang in there, Kimberly, and know that it is OK to make the decisions that are best for you and your family, no matter what the rest of us are doing or thinking. :)

Karen said...

Oh, poor all of you. He sounds crazy smart! Sometimes they just figure out the system and work around it.
I like Beck's suggestion. I have never heard of it before, but it sounds out of the box and creative.
We used Weisbluth and it worked - however, I cannot say it would not involve more crying than other plans suggested at this point - my understanding is that the more sleep deprived they are the more they cry. We sort of hit a sweet spot with the book when our 1st baby was 5 months.
Having said that, I will offer this little tidbit of holistic advice -at the risk of seeming too bossy or whatever - you guys need to give yourselves permission to do whatever it takes to get more sleep - remember the rule to "never say never." Your marriage and your health and the well being of all four of you are both more important than any particular parenting principal.

I realize I have not address the health component. Henry had severe GERD and when we maxed out on his prescription meds for his weight, the gastroenterologist told us we could dose him with cherry mylanta between doses if he seemed to be having an episode. He also slept on his tummy on an inclined mattress - not that it is easy to keep a 1 year
old in that position.

Lots of sympathy. Sleep stuff is just so so hard and gets worse until you finally get the rest your body needs.

Can you talk to an herbalist about soothing tummy teas or chamomile or other natural "Sedatives" to help unwind him? Poor kid, he must be pretty exhausted.

Kimberly said...

You people are great. And some have emailed or IM'd me with ideas, too. For instance, maybe he is hungry? (Her kid was.) I am thinking of nightweaning anyway, and maybe a banana at night would stick and help with the nightweaning, too.


Thanks again folks....keep it coming.

Melodie said...

My suggestion is offer him a bedtime snack. Get him good and full before bed, then nurse a little too.
I really feel your pain Kimberly. While I haven't had to worry as much about my second child waking ten times a night, my first child did. Luckily when she went into her own bed she started sleeping right through the night and as become a deep sleeper. I think it was to make up for the hellish first two years. The second one wakes about 3-4 times per night and lots from 4:30 onwards. She has never been much of a napper either. 1/2 - 1 hour tops! Ugh!

Barb said...

I just happened to click on your blog through the "next blog" button. When my youngest was 17 months, we had tubes put in her ears. The next night, she slept through the night for the first time in her life. It turns out that her short Eustachian tubes gave her pain after she laid down for any length of time. She's nine now and we've been sleeping through the night ever since. Good luck!

Gretchen K. said...

Only have 1 kid for now, but we used the cry-it-out with her and it worked. But she was not in pain any of those times, only attention seeking. If there was a 1 in 5 chance she was hurting, it may have been different for us.

I'm so sorry and can't begin to image how frustrated you (and M) are.

I like the idea of a full tummy at night. Also, when our DD was 13 months old, she was up at 7am, napped from 10-11 and 3-4, and was in bed at 8pm. Perhaps, J is ready to give up one of his naps. Getting less sleep during the day may help him get into a deeper sleep at night because his body needs it.

I pray our next child will be a good sleeper. But if he's not, I know who to call for help and a should to lean on!

Keep us posted on how it's going and how we can be praying for you.