Archives for category: Sleep & lack thereof

We’ve been in Europe since Sunday morning and Gia isn’t sleeping. This is different from her usual sleep issues though – it’s worse. She has been awake from evening until around 3am for the last three nights, four counting tonight. It’s 11:54 pm and she’s been crying, walking around our room, eating and reading books since 8pm. That’s FOUR HOURS. I feel awful that jet lag and traveling to new places is affecting her like this. Questions have been running through my head: did we make a mistake? Are we selfish? Mean? Expecting a toddler to travel around with us? We knew it would be a tough adjustment, but I never would have imagined it would be this bad. 

She’s been passing out around 3am and we’ve all been sleeping in until 9 or 10 and missing half our day, although our days have been miraculously nice. We’ve have an apartment in Menton, France for three days. Tomorrow we drive back to Italy to hang out on 0the Italian side of the riviera. Gia is enjoying the food and the sun and loves exploring. Just not sleeping. 



Gia’s sleep in the past two months has completely deteriorated. Leap 8, or the cognitive surge that happens around a year old, or whatever you want to call it, hit our household like a devastating hurricane in mid-July – three nights in a row in which Gia was awake for 3-4 hours in the middle of the night, followed by a night later that week in which she was awake from 11pm – 3:30am. I waited for it to subside but it didn’t. 

Gia would have trouble going to sleep, then wake up a couple of hours later and no matter how much breast feeding, rocking, playing, feeding or CIO we did, she wouldn’t go back to sleep until the wee hours. Even bed sharing doesn’t work anymore – she just gets exited and babbles and does acrobatics. The worst was the couple of times we did let her cry for awhile out of sheer desperation, and she sobbed for so long that she fell asleep in a heap on top of her sea horse toy and we had to wake her up to move her, then be up with her for another two hours. 

I felt desperate and angry. I yelled in the middle of the night. It went on for weeks with only a couple of nights of relief here and there. It’s been chronic and the fallout has been humbling – issues at work, issues in my relationship, all in a haze of exhaustion. The feeling of waking up AGAIN to her cries is awful. It feels like I’m being burried alive or tortured (no disrespect to actual tortire, I know it can’t compare it’s just how I feel in the moment). I haven’t been excited to see Gia in the morning because I’ve been up with her all night. The last night I was up with her – four nights ago – ended with me taking her to bed with me, sobbing into my pillow while she nursed and flailed around for another hour. 

Our pediatrician said he didn’t think sleep training would work at this point – she’s too excitable. He also thought that when she started walking, she would start sleeping. Well, a couple of nights after that appointment, she did start sleeping – she slept COMPLETELY THROUGH THE NIGHT FROM 8pm – 6am for two nights in a row. It was the exact night she took her first real steps! Last night she was awake for an hour so we don’t know if it was an anomoly or if things are getting better for now. 

Either way, I decided to night wean her cold turkey. She doesn’t need to nurse all night anymore and it agitates her. J thinks she’s waking up to nurse and is willing to take care of her in the middle of the night and re-evaluate things in a week. For now, I’m not seeing her in the middle of the night at all – only J is going in because when she sees me she cries and fusses and wants to nurse for a long time. We will see what happens. 

And of course, now that she’s sleeping and the pressure of being up with her for hours has subsided, I miss her so much. She’s been hilarious and adorable these past few days. I wish I could go get her and cuddle with her all night. I hope that we can keep creating a healthy routine and setting limits with her so we will all start getting some sleep and feeling better. 

I have to just take the plunge and write a quick post because I miss this community! My posts will probably be shorter and less reflective, and more about Gia and wedding updates, but I’m going to try to be more active. 

Last night Gia took a bottle from me for the first time since she was a month old. I was away from her for four days while she stayed with Jen at her childhood home. I missed her but thoroughly enjoyed going to see Tarzan by myself with a waterbottle of vodka and lemonade and a bag of coconut curry cashews… 

Anyway, despite pumping four or more times a day, by the time they got back I had barely any milk. I was pumping nothing and even with her nursing on one side, just a dribble. Now we have to give her bottles after nursing but since my supply isn’t completely gone, I’m trying to get it back up by nursing and pumping and eating lots of carbs and fats and drinking water and lactation tea. She got used to taking a bottle while we were separated and now she’s nursing and then drinking a bottle all in one cuddle session. 

Gia has overall been sleeping a little better with only one wake-up around 2am, until she got a cold, and another leap started. This week I’m dragging myself out of bed after just a few hours of sleep and getting through work bleary-eyed and hyped up on caffeine again. She is doing great though, crawling, standing, climbing onto to couch and getting down carefully all by herself. She even opens her bedroom door with the handle. She also says “up,” “mama” and “uh-oh”. I’ll do a one-year post soon. 

Here are some pics from her birthday party at my in-laws!

Cake time:

Smash cake: whole-grain banana cake “iced” with Greek yogurt and fresh strawberries by yours truly:


Wonderful old friends and my very pregnant SIL!


Opening presents with Mama:


Wiped out from all the partying:

July 4th boat ride:

Happiness:

Uncle and cousins!

Better post this before the 9-month mark!

This month has been a game changer in terms of both physical and cognitive development. Gia’s movements, social interactions and interests have taken a huge leap!
 
Weight: 21.5 pounds 

Size: 12 months/18-24 months, depending 

Teeth: four on top, four on bottom

Development: fully crawling, pulling herself to standing, starting to cruise, carefully sitting back down by putting one hand down first, playing peek-a-boo,  turning pages of books, mimicking sounds like “up” and “uh-oh”. I think she may still be slightly cross-eyed so we are going to have our pediatrician refer us to an optometrist. 

Naps: 3 with nanny, 2 on weekends with us

Favorite activities: reading books, clapping, knocking down block towers, standing up and walking while holding our hands, and LAUGHING while we’re being silly. 

Food: loves zucchini and apple oatmeal with flax seed, vegetable soup with beans, pieces of beets, broccoli, asparagus, etc, sautéed greens, berries, and noodles. Oh, and definitely breast milk!

Sleep: Not fun. Leap 6 has been a bitch, and interesting considering how alert and interactive Gia is. A lot of her ability to self-soothe is still there, but it’s as if she’s moved on to needing new ways of connecting anyway. Some nights she has trouble going to sleep, and she’s harder to settle after her night feeds. She wakes up twice. I’m planning to wean her from one of them once her teething and sleep regression settle down. I nurse her in bed and we sometimes end up bed sharing in the early morning hours; the rest of the time she’s in her crib with a knitted blanket and her fox lovey. We’re doing some research and consideration of how to organize Gia’s sleep again now that her behavior has changed so much. I need to figure out how to help her sleep better now that she stands in the crib staring at us!

 

 
  
  
  
  
As far as mom life goes, I’be been struggling with my work environment not being as healthy as I’d like, low pumping productivity, and sleep. On the positive side, being a mom just gets better and better. I find it easier to care of Gia without feeling anxious and overwhelmed. J and I have started going out more during the weekend days since we’re always home at night for Gia’s bedtime, and it’s been FUN! We are working on our relationship too, and it’s slowly paying off. Playing with Gia together is the best – she loves to read books, dance to Paul Simon, and ride around with J on my exercise ball chair. Making her laugh is more fun than going out drinking any day! Well, we least for now.

 
The other day I was watching Parenthood and there was a cheesy, cathartic but well-edited scene tying an episode of parenting strife together. I thought, very clearly, I can’t believe I almost missed out on this. I can’t believe I didn’t realize how incredible having a baby is. I am so, so happy.  Being Gia’s mom is the best thing I’ve ever done.

  
Two weeks ago Gia stopped going to sleep as easily. With the time change, her bedroom was light at 7 pm when she usually goes down, but it wasn’t just that. She wasn’t calming down while nursing and when I put her in her crib, when normally she would roll over and close her eyes, she was popping up, wide awake and crying. A few times that week it took an hour or more to get her to sleep, and several times in the middle of the night it took the same to get her back to sleep. When I opened the Wonder Weeks app, a storm cloud loomed over her little head. 

J and I discussed her baby craziness a few days later and decided we just wanted to support and comfort her, rather than take a hard line. We let her sleep in bed with us after her first waking a few times.  At the same time, she started crawling on all fours and pulling herself to standing. She wants to stand and “walk” holding our hands all the time! She also claps and says “uh-oh” and “up”, although I’m sure she doesn’t know what they mean. We weren’t about to do sleep waves while she was standing in the crib, peering over the top screaming. I suppose you could, but it didn’t feel the same now that she can pull herself up. 

It’s been pretty rough.  I did have a couple of freak-outs at 3am. One night I removed myself and slept in the nursery because I couldn’t be the best mother in that moment. I had to listen to her cry in J’s arms for awhile, but she’d already nursed for 45 minutes and I knew she was okay. She had trouble sleeping for two weeks and is just starting to get back on track. We changed her bedtime routine to 7 and bedtime to 7:30, and I started doing a dream feed so I could skip a night waking. (Why didn’t I start this earlier, it’s great! She’s so mellow and goes right back to sleep and sometimes I get to sleep six hours straight.) 

The best thing I did during this sleep regression was take two warm baths with Gia. One night when J was away on business and Gia seemed really amped up I drew a bath and pulled her in with me. We hadn’t done this since she was just a few months old. We lay there playing and nursing for a long time and she went right to sleep that night. It was nice so we tried it again a few nights ago. 

 
During the day though, this sassy little girl is pretty hilarious. She cracks up at the silliest things, lies on her back staring at books like she’s reading them, andslurps down the broth at the end of her soup bowl. I feel a lot less anxious about taking care of her, aside from her weekend naps which really stress me out (she naps perfectly for the nanny but with us will only nap in stroller or ergo). She’s very interactive. She’s started a music class on Fridays and we start swim lessons this Saturday.

  
  
  

Gia has had at least three colds in her short life, all lasting around a month. Right now she’s had one for two weeks accompanied by a bad hacking cough which keeps her from sleeping. For several nights now she’s been back in bed with me nursing all night. She still goes down at 7pm, and we haven’t had to do any sleep waves since the first week of sleep training. Since getting sick she at least was making it until 11 or midnight, but last night she was awake at 9:15 pm, right as I was drifting off to sleep! She nursed pretty much all night. Then tonight we found a tooth cutting through her top gums! No wonder she nursed all night last night, and anytime I took my nipple out of her mouth (sorry kid, sometimes I have to go to the bathroom for ten seconds) she screamed bloody murder.

 
My whole body hurts from side-lying all night – back, hips, shoulders. I know it’s because the poor girl is sick and teething, but it’s really getting to me again. J suggested I call in sick this morning but I had a busy schedule and dragged myself in. I have faith that her sleep will go back to one night waking soon though, since the nights she feels okay she still sleeps 8-9 hour steer his, then another 3-hour stretch. I’m just trying to hang tight.  

at the doctor… again

 

I do feel good overall though. There is so much stress at work and I miss my family, but I’m also feeling lighter in a lot of ways.  Our routine with Gia is comfortable and I think we’ve gained a lot of confidence in parenting both separately and as a couple. Gia is just adorable and I love her so much. She’s smart and notices everything. She laughs like crazy. She eats leafy green vegetables like a champ. She crawls and knocks over blocks. Taking care of her (except at night) is just so fun and amazing!

Gia was seven months last Friday. It was also the day our angel baby was due. In some ways, it feels like Gia is her and they are the same.

 

eating Korean food – she went after those chopsticks, even greens with spicy sauce!


 

roasted asparagus

 
  
 

natural history museum – first dinosaur!

 
 

SUCCESS!

Gia has been sleeping so well, even with the sniffles. So here are the final Happy Sleeper Sleep Wave stats:

Night 1:

– 2 waves, 13 minutes of crying total

– longest sleep stretch 4.5 hours

Night 2:

– 3 waves, 25 minutes of crying NOT AT ONCE BUT IN TOTAL (we wouldn’t let her cry that long without comforting her), then we felt so awful so J went in and cuddled her and read her another story, then put her down, then 0 sleep waves and 30 seconds of crying

– longest sleep stretch 5.5 hours

Nights 4, 5 & beyond:

– no sleep waves, no crying
– longest sleep stretch 7.5 & 8 hours

Since then I think we’ve had one night in which she cried a little. She usually fusses and coos for a few minutes, rolls onto her tummy then falls asleep. On three separate occasions she’s slept over eight hours. She is having trouble getting back to sleep after her long stretch. We usually change her diaper and nurse her in bed for awhile. If she cries when we put her back down we don’t really do a sleep wave, just hold her or cuddle her and try again until she drifts back off. This isn’t the method in The Happy Sleeper – they suggest no more than five minutes of nursing, then a sleep wave, but I’m so overjoyed at how far she’s come that I don’t even mind the hour-long 3am session. J thinks we should try to reduce her crying and nursing somehow, so it’s up for debate.

Naps

We’re also working on naps. She naps well with the nanny but not so much on weekends, so this long weekend we’re trying to keep up her three naps a day, at least one of them soothing herself to sleep in the crib or rock n play. Today she took a full 2-hour nap in the nursery, falling asleep on her own with a bottle (the nanny suggested this) and loud sound machine. Side note: Yes, my 20.5-pound baby still naps in the rock n play, she loves it so much so we’re just really careful she doesn’t tip over!

Evaluation of The Happy Sleeper

I’m a big fan. I’m also pleased that we didn’t have any interest in sleep training until after she was six months old; I wouldn’t have started it any sooner than I did even if I’d known there was a middle ground between attachment “nighttime parenting” (meaning, being up with your baby alllll night long evvvvery night) and cry it out. I do NOT feel that this is a cry it out method. Cry it out is letting the baby cry on their own until they stop, or waiting longer and longer periods with no intervention. We were very consistent with five-minute reassuring checks and the two nights she cried a lot we stopped the checks, cuddled her and read her a story or nursed her. And like my friend pointed out, Gia was spending almost every night crying throughout the night anyway, so how is it different to let her cry briefly two nights in a row? In fact, now that she’s falling asleep so easily and enjoying hours on end of delicious sleep, with us right next to her in our bed ready to comfort her as soon as she wakes up, I can’t help feeling that she’s much less confused and distressed. ALSO I’ve noticed a few times that she’s fallen asleep in one position, and when I check on her again she’s in a totally different position, so she’s actually woken up and put herself back to sleep!

I made some comments about this in my password-protected post, but I don’t think many people read it, so I’ll reiterate here. I believe that providing structure and boundaries is one of the most loving things I can do for Gia as a parent. I want her to feel secure knowing what to expect much of the time, so that she can then build independence and be comfortable with flexibility. I can see now that had we continued to be up with her throughout the night for months or years in the future, it would have created a feeling of chaos and confusion in our household, not to mention the resentment Dr. Sears talks about in The Baby Book as an indicator that something has to change (Dr. Sears is NOT necessarily a supporter of The Happy Sleeper, he actually suggests bed sharing and nursing all night, but he also points out that haggard parents are not the best parents). In Parenting from the Inside Out, Daniel Siegel talks about how much having a child brings up your own issues from childhood, and how to work through some of this so you can be present and supportive as a parent. I want Gia to feel a sense that that world is okay that I have never felt. Not in the global warming or Donald Trump as president sense, because let me be clear, the world is NOT okay, but I want her to inherently know that she is treasured and cared for no matter what. Looking back on my own childhood helps me draw the conclusion that setting healthy boundaries, explaining things to her clearly and respectfully, and not allowing myself to become angry or depressed often will contribute her sense of security and self-esteem.

The Happy Sleeper isn’t a destination or an answer to everything; I’m sure there are many difficult nights in our future! But it sets the nighttime tone and has given us confidence that we can implement a plan when we need to, and that when Gia has trouble sleeping due to teething or illness or travel, we can get back on track fairly easily. I’ve always had trouble sleeping. For some reason I dreaded bedtime as a child, was fearful and woke easily. I remember having a sinking feeling as bedtime approached and feeling like getting in bed was just an inevitable period of anxiety and sleeplessness, and I still struggle with occasional insomnia and night fears. I don’t want to pass this on to her; in fact, I’m trying not to allow my anxiety to pass on to her in many different area. I hope Gia can generally enjoy bedtime and getting a full night’s rest.

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Saturday night: 

Who do I believe: myself, my partner, my baby, my own mom, my sisters who both have toddlers, the moms in my Mommy & Me group, other friends who have babies, the breast feeding community (book: Sweet Sleep), attachment parenting sleep styles (which means I have a baby barnacle attached to my nipples all night and barely sleep but is the path of least resistance) or the sleep training community (now my soul is dying)?

We nurse to sleep. Move Gia to her crib. Put her back all night long. End up bed sharing in the wee hours of the morning. Come up with a sleep plan we don’t follow because it doesn’t really work (The No Cry Sleep Solution, although I greatly respect this book and wish it would work better for us but Gia is just too persistent). Every night Gia’s sleep gets worse. I think I can’t take it anymore, only to be hit with a night worse than the one before. A typical night is bedtime routine at 6:30, nurse to sleep, put her down slightly awake at 7, she falls asleep, then is awake at 10, 11:30, 1:30, 3 – 4:30am, crying and laughing, then my alarm goes off at 6. I’m in a haze and my relationship isn’t fun anymore and I survive at work on coffee and have severe anxiety as nighttime approaches again. When she goes to sleep I lie in the dark listening for her first cry. I inevitably get confused, wishy-washy about our plan, passive-aggressive, and sometimes just plain aggressive in the middle of the night. I end up crying and nursing her in the bed, then getting ready for work in a bleary haze.

I know this is “normal.” I also know that the women in my group are NOT experiencing this. They’re still struggling with a few nights a week of difficulty getting the baby down or an extra night waking, but it’s nowhere near what we’re going through.

Did I hurt Gia with my “attachment parenting”? In my conviction to be there for her physically and emotionally, did I make her too needy? I’m terrified of this. I was such a sensitive kid, still am, and have so many serious attachment issues. Too many to even describe. Let’s just say I’m deeply insecure in my relationships. I have confidence in many areas of life, but on a personal level I’m impressionable, need a lot of reassurance, and also can be chaotic, both nasty and needy at the same time. I wanted to just love Gia and give myself to her completely so she never experienced this, but I’m slowly realizing that as far as sleep goes, both napping and nighttime, I haven’t given her enough autonomy and consistency to build her own confidence.

Yesterday I randomly texted a friend of mind who is also a psychologist. She’s someone I really look up to and trust. I don’t know her that well, but I know she’s happily married, is in recovery and therefore vulnerable but strong, and wouldn’t be okay with a harsh cry it out method. I thought she bed-shared because I’d seen pics of her and her sweet baby boy in bed together a few months ago. I asked her about it and explained what we’re going through, expecting her to reassure me that bed sharing is necessary and normal in our situation. But no, she said her boy has been sleeping in his own room for weeks thanks to a book called The Happy Sleeper and something called The Sleep Wave.

I literally grabbed the diaper bag and Gia and walked out of the house, drove to The Pump Station and bought this book. This morning I spent two hours reading it, taking notes and creating a plan, then the rest of the day reviewing things with J. We have to be on the exact same page or it won’t work. Already there are a lot of barriers – she wants to do bottles at night but I can’t produce enough milk for that. We can’t decide whether we’re ready to move Gia into her own room. Anyway, we came to some compromises and agreed on a plan.

Even bedtime, which is usually the only thing that works, has become a struggle. Gia cries after her bath and won’t settle down, a time that used to be fun and sweet for all of us. The Sleep Wave requires the same early bedtime we’ve been doing, but instead of nursing to sleep tonight, I nursed her and then we read to her. Then J took her to her crib and I made myself scarce. (This is because Gia is obsessed with breast feeding.) We let her cry for five minute increments. Every five minutes J went in and said the same loving confident mantra to her: “Time for sleep Gia, we love you, we’ll be right outside.” It took two cycles and then she went to sleep.

I can’t tell you what it does to me to hear her cry. I was in the kitchen crying myself. The distress and sadness I feel chips away at my soul. I swore I’d never ever do it. Gia needs help though. She’s just not sleeping. The past few nights she’s slept a total of like seven hours every 24 hours, no exaggeration. Even though she’s always in “bed” for 12 hours, she’s awake for most of it, then takes 30 minute naps during the day. The Happy Sleeper states that babies her age are ready to find their own soothing techniques. I know all there is to know about positive and negative sleep associations, ideal hours of sleep, nap schedules, nighttime routines, early bedtimes etc. I was beginning to want to throw it all away and just accept bedsharing for the next year or so, but even that stopped working for us. I was in a state of complete panic. I cried this morning when I woke up. I cried on the phone with my mother. I cried in front of Gia. 

Sunday night:

I woke up at 5am this morning confused. Then elated. It felt like Christmas morning but better.

After the sleep wave was over, J and I watched The Martian, ate frozen pizza, drank wine, I took a Xanax (not kidding), had ice cream, then fell into a deep sleep. 

I couldn’t wait to see my baby. I took her into the nursery where I’d been sleeping by myself and we had a sweet cuddly nurse. 

She was happy today and napped okay. Not great. Tonight’s sleep wave was harder than last night’s. I’m going to try to sleep now myself. Wish us all luck, and you other sleepless mammas out there, I’m sending you compassion and strength.

 

 

Big news story for a six-month-old baby – Gia’s sleep has been awful. Occasionally she’ll sleep five hours at a time, but for the most part, since November, she’s had trouble falling asleep, wakes up every hour or two, nurses for an hour, or is awake crying or wanting to play in the middle of the night. It’s driving me bonkers, but by the light of day I realize that this is so normal for a baby and what did I expect?! She slept pretty well as a newborn, usually only nursed twice (except for cluster feeding nights) and had a long stretch of about six hours every night, so we’ve been a little shocked with this transition. First I thought it was the four month sleep regression, then the holidays and traveling, then leap 5… Well now there’s nothing to blame it on. 

Part of the problem is comparing her to the other babies in my Mommy & Me group. Apparently most of them sleep “through the night” now and are night weaned. Seriously?? I cannot imagine Gia not nursing at least twice in the nighttime. I would literally have to watch her scream and sob for two hours if I didn’t nurse her. I’ve tried to detach her often as soon as she’s done to cut back, but with Gia, if she wants to nurse, she’s going to nurse. Do I have horrible boundaries? Am I “spoiling” her? It’s confusing. I chose a lot of attachment-style parenting because it just makes sense to me – babies are so little and helpless. If I don’t feed her or change her diaper or comfort her, she can’t do it for herself. I want to be there for her. Our society and my bank account require that I keep working, but she’s just not ready for a strict schedule or to sleep in a room by herself. 

I read The No Cry Sleep Solution and made a sleep plan for her a few weeks ago. We’ve stuck to the early and very organized bedtime routine and she usually goes down right at seven now. The issue is how to get her to stay sleep and sleep in her crib. 

I could analyze Gia’s sleep forever and I won’t bore you. But after going over and over all the suggestions and stories of other babies, it’s been comforting for me to see other bloggers here struggling with sleep and trying to sleep train in a gentle manner. I appreciate the honesty and the very real accounts of what other babies do at 3am! I need to turn here for support.