Solving Sleep Troubles: Part 1

It seems like I have been obsessing about sleep for my whole adult life. Between my insomnia and chronic fatigue syndrome I spent the first part always thinking about my own sleep: timing, how activities will affect the sleep I can get and the energy I have, etc. Now that I have a baby, I think about her sleep.

When she was first born I didn’t too much. My husband is awesome and took her for half the nights so I was assured of getting several hours of continuous sleep no matter what. I taught her to sleep in her pack n play by the bed, and her time asleep slowly improved, and by 2 months old she consistently gave us a 4-5 hour stretch at the beginning of the night.

Then she hit a wonder week. And it all went to hell. Specifically, a hell of one month of one hour chunks of sleep with the occaisional two hour chunk thrown in. All the good sleep patterns we’d developed disappeared. And as she grew, she slept less hard. She woke extremely easily. Cutting her nails while she was asleep? Impossible. Moving her, even when she was in the deep part of a sleep cycle, out of your arms? You had maybe a 1/4 chance. She fought sleep like any baby, but what was really hard was how hard it was for her to STAY asleep. (And for the record, we did NOT coddle her. We were loud, we moved her, we did all the right things while she was young. And as she grew, despite constant exposure, those things began to wake her).

Finally, at 4 months, she would give me 2-3 hour stretches at night for the most part. This wasn’t ideal, but we could function on it. The real problem was that she wouldn’t nap most days, because as soon as she’d fall asleep something would wake her. She was grumpy and exhausted. I was getting exhausted. Something needed to change.

I heard from people who did cry it out and had it work fabulously. A few nights of hard, and then beautiful, happy sleep. I looked into it. I thought it would be good for her in the long run. She NEEDED to be able to put herself to sleep so she could nap, since she slept too lightly to be transferred. I saw one method which involved picking baby up and comforting her to calmness when she cried before putting her back down, and I thought maybe I could manage that.

One night a few nights ago I was up with her from 3:30-4:30 and she would. not. sleep. I was exhausted. I gave up and said, that’s it, we’re doing this. I took her into her room and laid her in her crib awake. She laid there a few minutes, then cried some. I picked her up, soothed her to calmness, and laid her down asleep again. I left and waited outside the door. She talked to herself a bit and then…nothing. Silence. I crept back in. She was asleep. It was so easy! I felt stupid for not doing it earlier. I went back to our room and cried to my husband that she didn’t need me. I really do love nursing her to sleep…I just needed her to be able to put herself back to sleep during the brief awakenings she has every hour.

She slept the rest of the night (until a little after 8) and woke up happy. I woke up happy. It was nice having our room back to ourselves. I had missed having her there in the night, but the little break made me happier to see her in the morning.

I figured we’d spend the whole night in her crib that night. I knew it might be harder starting the night there, but how hard could it be?

A lot harder.

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