On Sleep--Part One

{ Monday, June 14, 2010 }
We're big fans of Dr. Sears in our house and have several Sears parenting books. One piece of advice that is repeated in a few of the books is: if you resent it, change it. I've been resenting our sleeping situation for some time now, but felt powerless to change it which just added to my resentment.

Well, let me start from the beginning. For the first several months of her life, our bean slept in a bassinet beside our bed at night. During the day, she would only nap in our arms, but she was good for 2-4 hours at a time in the bassinet at night. After a couple months, she outgrew the bassinet and we transitioned her to her crib at the foot of our bed, which went fairly well and she even napped in her crib a few times, but at close to 4 months that all changed. There were a lot of things going on around that time--the weather got cooler and we stopped sleeping with a fan on, we weaned her from her swaddle, maybe she was entering the four month sleep regression, but whatever the cause, she flat out refused to sleep in her crib.

Now, you may remember that I posted a researched explanation of my thoughts on co-sleeping and had come to the conclusion that I wasn't sure we could do it safely and I wasn't really comfortable doing it full-time. I later said that I was too scared to bring the bean into our bed and had (almost) given up on co-sleeping until the day the bean decided she'd had enough of her crib. We had spent one night where the bean had been up every hour. She would wake up, we'd go to her room where I'd change her and nurse her back to sleep--a process that took a good 30-40 minutes. Then I'd very slowly and carefully lay her down in her crib, hoping she'd stay asleep and then spend 10-15 minutes trying to get myself back to sleep. Add that up and that gave me about 15 minutes of sleep before the next wakeup. I was a zombie the next day and the following night was the same deal--up every hour until one time I tried to put her down and she screamed the moment her head hit the mattress. Normally, I would have started the whole routine over again, but I was so desperate for sleep that I brought the bean into the bed and there she stayed the rest of the night. I tried to put her in her crib the next night, but it was the same deal--screaming at the top of her lungs when she touched the mattress and that was it. We were full-time co-sleepers ever after.

For the most part, we've loved it. The bean doesn't have to fully wake up when she's hungry, so she goes back to sleep faster and easier. I don't (usually) have to fully wake up to feed her, so I also go back to sleep faster and easier. The boy and I are both a little neurotic, so having the bean in bed is perfect. We just lay a hand on her chest when we want to check her, rather than having to squint across the room in the dark and wonder if she's really breathing or not.

In my original sleep post, I worried about safety. Here's what we've done--we removed two pillows from our bed so now there are only two thin pillows that we keep as close to the top of the bed as possible. We sleep with the fewest, thinnest blankets we can get away with and keep them folded down to waist level. We make sure our fitted sheet is tucked in nice and tight and we routinely check that our (firm) mattress is pushed all the way up to the headboard, with no gap. We also use bed rails--at first just one on my side of the bed, but then two once the bean started moving around more in her sleep. I laugh now when reading my sleep post because I said that its hard to get in and out of the bed with a rail up and you know what? It REALLY is, especially when you're carrying a sleeping baby that you don't want to wake up, but we make it work. For many months, we also had large feather beds on the floor on either side of the bed to soften the fall if the bean were to accidentally fall out of the bed, but we now feel more comfortable with our setup and don't worry about falls as much.

OK, now for the part that I have been resenting. We worry about falls and, for that reason, don't leave the bean alone in the bed. So that's 2-3 naps per day plus bedtime (which is at 7pm for the bean) that I have been trapped in our bed (or at least the bedroom) while the bean is sleeping and I am not. I have alternated between the optimistic (this is forcing me to take a break and rest!) and pessimistic (I have dishes and laundry and cooking to do!) viewpoints, but at the end of the day, it just wasn't working for me. I resented it. I wanted to change it.

We've tried several things, such as making a bed on the floor in our living room for the bean and something I call "crib bootcamp," which ended up being as painful as it sounds. (Crib bootcamp meant the bean wasn't allowed to sleep unless she was in her crib and, faced with those options, she chose to not sleep at all). Our results have ranged from minimal success to full out failure and, in case it isn't already obvious, cry-it-out isn't a strategy we're interested in trying.

I love the bean to death and I want to spend almost every moment with her, but I would have loved to have a few moments to shower or clean the house or even just sit on the couch and stare at the walls instead of lying next to the bean nursing every few minutes.

I'm going to share a solution with you in my next post. I hope I'm not tempting fate by calling this problem solved but, knock on wood, cross my fingers, and throw salt over my shoulder, its been working consistenly for over a month now so I'm hoping we're on the right track. Stay tuned.


Dan.i and Dr.u said...

same exact issue over here@!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

We have a very similar issue, so I'm very much looking forward to reading about what's working for you. We're still holding BG for most of his naps (the ones where he isn't in the ERGO or the car, that is). I'm told they do eventually sleep better--one day!