Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To Sleep... or Not...

I don't normally use this blog as a place to whine... but I need help. I (naively) thought that I would be granted never-ending patience when I gave birth. I never dreamed I could yell at my kid. But sleep deprivation makes you do some crazy stuff...

I'm going to preface this post by stating the obvious- I love Spencer. Every time I think about just how much I love him, I get all teary-eyed. And I get really defensive when someone (other than me) calls him "fussy" or any synonym of fussy. I give my standard response "he's such a good baby- he's just tired." And it's true- he is a good baby. He's got such a cute personality and he's a joy to have around... except when he's tired. Which brings me to the reason for this post...

Spencer is having difficulty sleeping. He's never been a fan of sleeping, not since day 1 of his little life. All the books and articles I've read say that babies' sleep is pretty disorganized for about the first 3-4 months of life. I think I was subconsciously thinking that once he hit 4 months of age, all his sleep problems would somehow be resolved. Now that he's hit 4 months (and is a few weeks past 4 months), I'm finding that's not the case. And I'm going crazy.

I've got 2 friends that have little boys the same age as Spencer. They are able to fall asleep on their own, take nice long naps, go down to bed early and are generally great sleepers. Spencer does none of those things. And when they talk about their awesome-at-sleeping babies, I find myself thinking bitter and resentful thoughts (which in turn makes me feel like a horrible person).

Spencer can't put himself to sleep yet... I have to rock him to sleep, until he's passed out cold. If I just lay him down when he's tired, he screams. Bloody murder. And instead of screaming himself to sleep, he gets more and more upset, 'til I have to go pick him up. His naps last only 30-45 minutes (which is barely enough time for me to brush my teeth and shower, let alone sleep myself). If we put Spencer to bed earlier than 8:30pm, he either cries forever, or he sleeps for 30-45 minutes, then wakes up. He thinks he's just had a nap and stays up for hours more, until he finally passes out.

He's been sick for a week, which I know hasn't helped. Then I got sick. Then Cory was out of town. Then Cory was sick. It's not been a fun week. But now we're all finally getting better, I'm going to try the "sleep training" again.

I've read lots of articles on sleeping tips, online and in various other baby books. I've read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. All of this only makes me feel like the worst mom in the entire world. I feel like I'm failing my child. I want him to be well-rested, so he can continue to grow and develop. I feel awful, because I know he's so tired. I feel guilty for being unable to get my kid to sleep. I get all these emails about how much sleep babies need and then I stress out over it, until sometimes I can't sleep. He rubs his eyes all day and by the end of the day, his eyes are so red. He can't seem to get over his cold, because he won't sleep. Poor baby!

Like I said... I've got major mom guilt and one overtired child. I want him to sleep. I don't know what to do. We can't seem to get on any consistent schedule, despite me trying every day, all day. I've come to dread nap time, because it's usually a battle. I spend 30-90 minutes (depending on the day) trying to get him to go to sleep. And then he's only asleep for 30-45 minutes. It's extremely frustrating. And meanwhile, I'm ready to pull out my hair and he's getting more and more tired.

Like I said, I need help. Advice. Or words of comfort. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's gone through this. How do I help him learn to fall asleep on his own? What time do I put him to bed? How do we get on a schedule? What am I doing wrong? Please help :) You all are experienced moms (and dads) so must have lots of good tips. Help us!


MiriamR said...

hey Sarah hang in there :) Um I know some people hate baby wise and some love it. I personally read it to page 50 and then took what I liked and it worked until Alexander turned 6 months old. I just used the put them down for naps with 2 hours in between and no rocking to sleep but I started that when he was really little and it worked until he turned 6 months old. Then he wouldn't sleep anymore for a month and I wanted to have a nervous breakdown just so I could get some sleep. We asked the doctor and they all have different opinions they said first try a routine at the exact same time every time. dinner, bath pj's reading while the baby lays in bed so they can put themselves to sleep try that for a week. We tried and it didn't work so then they said the let the baby cry themselves to sleep. Honestly that was the only thing that worked. She said let him cry watch the clock for 10 minutes if he is still crying go check on him but don't pick him up tell him he is fine leave again and watch the clock for 10 minutes if he is still awake go check to make sure he is ok etc. This WORKED but luckily it worked the first night at exactly 10 minutes he stopped crying (longest 10 minutes of my life)I had already weaned him off his middle of the night feeding by now though too he would eat at 9pm and then at 6am. I know people hate the let them cry but I felt ok as long and I was checking on him to make sure he was fine every 10 minutes. Eva slept well with these tactics until she turned 1 and I think it was a personality thing with her, we put her in with Alexander after that and she slept fine after that, didn't like to be alone. However with the Alexander thing he slept MUCH MUCH MUCH better and easier when he finally got his own room (as a baby). We found out that we were waking him up alot during naps and night time by having him in the room with us. Oh and we put a huge blanket on his window for night time and nap time to stop the distractions and only him and his blanket in his crib (no bumbers toys or anything like that). You can use a black out blind or curtain (we just used a blanket though) Hopefully you can get him "trained" just for your own sanity. Sleep deprivation is the WORST. sorry about the overload on info we seemed to go back and forth on the sleep thing with our kids. Any small change and BAMB they would change their sleep habits.

Lindsey T said...

I'm sorry Sarah, there's nothing worse than not getting sleep!! The only thing that has ever worked for me is letting them cry it out. And, unlike stories I heard, my boys cried for a LONG time. It was torture and the only thing that got me through was my husband staying up to listen while I put earplugs in and tried to sleep. If I listened for too long I would cave and go pick them up, which just sets you back. It's been worth it everytime even though it's torture while you're going through it. Sleep is worth it, for you and him!! Good luck!!

NaDell said...

He doesn't fall asleep when he's eating? My kids would usually do that. I'd feed them half of their food, then change them, then feed them the other half and they'd go right to sleep, at least for a little while.
Our kids liked the swing or even sleeping in their carseats in the crib (it seems to cuddle them more and it also tilts them up a little so they don't spit up as much). I know a lot of people like a fan or other white noise going, but we just kept up our regular TV going or radio or something during the day so they would be used to noise.
I COMPLETELY understand about lack of sleep. The hardest part for me of the first 18 months or so is waking up to crying every time you wake up. It gets so frustrating. Even more so if the crying starts as soon as your head hits the pillow. Is he a good eater? Does he act like his tummy hurts or something?
I hope his crying stops soon for you. My first was a big crier and we had to hold her with her back to our front with our hands on the bottom part of her tummy and stand bouncing a little to calm her down. She was one tough baby. The other two weren't as bad. Hopefully the fourth is even better than the third. I guess we'll find out next year. Our theory was that it's best to have the worst one first so you know what you "could" be getting into.
I hope that makes sense.

Brett said...

BabyWise was a great resource for us. We didn't follow it to the letter, but it was the main guide for our strategy.

The most important thing to remember is that every baby is different and the fact that Spencer isn't doing what other babies do/did is totally fine. It doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong, it doesn't mean anything is wrong with him... it just means he's as unique as he's supposed to be.

Now I'll just keep my fingers crossed that you'll both start getting more sleep - exhaustion is awful.

Scott & Gini Berrett said...

i read part of baby wise but got too paranoid about how i was putting Benson to sleep and how much he was sleeping, etc. so i had to stop.
it sounds like you are doing a great job at being a mom. i really think it depends on the baby. Benson sleeps great but i have a cousin and her baby is the same age as benson and he has totally different sleeping habit and it has been really hard on my cousin. he's almost one and still isnt sleeping through the night- shes tried everything.
i'm not saying that to tell you to give up hope. but dont think you are doing anything wrong. i wish there was some magic potion you could give him to sleep good...
try to find a family or friend close to watch him for an hour or two for the next couple days so you can catch up on sleep...and then brainstorm and make a plan.
trying to be strong and think clearly while being exhausted will drive you crazy.

i know of a pediatrician that would put their nursery in the basement and they would sleep in the upstairs bc they were really strong on letting babies cry it out. its hard though- headphones work really well though.

sorry that wasn't anything specific...but dont worry- all mothers have a breaking point and have limited patience. its normal, and dont let anyone tell you otherwise. you are doing great!

Brett and Emily said...

First, and most importantly, I have to say that Spencer is going to turn out great because he has AMAZING parents! End of statement.

I really don't have advice because I am a clueless mom trying to figure out each and everyday of this motherhood adventure.

I personally think every baby is different, hence why I don't think there is any book out there that has all the right answers. Us moms just get to try out what we think is best from the information we find, which can become quite the journey.

Abby had a hard time sleeping for a while and we tried a million different things. We think she had acid reflux. We tried elevating her 30 degrees in her bed, and that helped a little. (There are wedges for this, or you can go the cheap way and use law books to prop up on top half of the bed like we did. The law books needed some good use.)
I went off dairy for a while because some say the babies are sensitive to dairy at the beginning. (I don't really know if that helped much, other than I went through cheese withdrawals.)

A couple other things that helped if he has acid reflux:

Keeping her upright 20 minutes after a feeding.

Infant massages

Gripe Water (a combo of ginger and fennel). You can get this is the medicine isle at Target or Walmart. It is suppose to be natural and seemed to help quite a bit. I really like Gripe Water!!

All I have to say is that I love you and you are amazing! Spencer is one lucky guy to have you and I adore that baby. I almost took him with me back to VA. (He would have fit as a carry on.)

Brett and Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben and Jade said...

To keep it short, Hammy didn't start sleeping until 10 1/2 months, and I almost died. DIED, I tell you. My marriage almost crumbled, my children almost found themselves abandoned on a hospital stoop, and I almost completely lost all sanity. It's amazing how not sleeping really destroys everything. We did lots of things, some of it may have worked and other things may not have. But the quick counsel I'll give is make sure you pray EVERY night that Spencer can get as much sleep as his little body can to help him grow strong. Then pray that you can sleep while he is resting. And then have Cory give you both priesthood blessings to help the sleep you get be enough for right now. Some nights those prayers were answered bountifully -- other nights a little skimpily. But we could definitely tell the difference when we didn't pray for it at all.

Good luck, toots. Know that others have been there, and none of us are judging you -- we're mourning for you. Of all the challenges of parenthood, I think the most simply act of getting less sleep can be the most difficult in the long run.

Heather and Matt Jensen said...

Ah, the age old problem! When my first was born, she wouldn't sleep by herself unless I was holding her. She would lay on my stomach and sleep all night long. Doctors say don't put them on the stomachs, put them on the backs, but at 2 months old I finally realized why she would sleep all night when I would hold her, she was on her stomach. So I layed her down on her stomach, and she slept the whole night in her crib. I didn't sleep much I was so worried about her being on her stomach, but it worked and she slept fine since. My second was a back sleeper, and took a little longer to try and sleep on her own. but it will happen! Don't give up. The crying thing works, you just have to get through it. Gripe water is the BEST! You are an awesome mom, just being a mom is hard work. Just know your doing the best you can, and the lord wouldn't have given you spencer if you couldn't have handled him!
Good Luck!

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Poor darlin'. I mean, you, Sarah. You sound exactly like me until four or five months. BabyWise and Baby Whisperer worked really well for us.

Let me rephrase: BabyWise saved my sanity. Until I read it, I didn't realize just how much long term trouble I was creating for myself (I won't speak for anyone else) and my son by letting him eat himself to sleep.

Miriam's advice is wonderful. I would like to add that I think most of our sleeping issues were eating issues. I just never nursed all that well, especially with my first. It was a constant source of stress, discomfort and awkwardness for me. I wanted desperately to be one of "those moms," but I just wasn't. I formula fed my third baby by five months and was enormously happy after I made the decision.

My midwife always said you can train a baby to do ANYthing in three days. I have found that true until my kids are well past toddler phase. Your consistency will eventually pay off, I promise.

You are doing the right things, keep at. They get older. :)

In the meantime, sleep when the baby sleeps, even if it means Cory has PB & J for the next three months for dinner. Let Cory wake up and change diapers in the middle of the night, or take a turn rocking (he probably already does); it will make you closer as a couple and a family. Find an older, wiser woman in your ward to hold your little tyke for an hour so that you can do something you want to do, or nap. Use and abuse grandma. They love it!

But above all--understand that many women have experiences just like yours, and that not everyone has that automatic mothering instinct even when you love your man cub to pieces. Ask for help. When your visiting teacher says, "What can I do?" then give them something to do--babysit, fold laundry, bring an extra meal before you implode, etc. etc.--you will BOTH be blessed for their service.

I know we haven't met, but I'm sure you are awesome and wonderful; I can't imagine Cory choosing any differently. You will get through this and then one day you'll be one of those wise old moms that people get advice from!

Science Teacher Mommy said...

PS. My kids were all tummy sleepers by three months. And yes, I always lied to my pediatrician about it.

Stacy said...
We used this book and it has the whole beginning of the book online if you click "look inside" then you can read it and see what you think. We actually took Niles to a sleep specialist because he was the worst sleeper ever. It was really stressful on the whole family. That's how desperate we got so I know where you are coming from!!! If he is like my kids the whole "crying it out" doesn't work. They get more and more upset and never settle down. Well maybe after hours they would but I can't handle that as a parent. Just like with nursery at church after a few minutes most kids stop crying and start to play. Nope not mine they will cry, like scream cry the whole two hours. We don't do nursery very much. :) The sleep specialist advice was basically this.
1. Have a short routine that you follow everytime they go to bed. ie. Read a couple books, hugs, prayer(nighttime), and lay them down. Everytime.
2.Naps needed to be at the same time everyday. So should bedtime. She also said they need at least 4 hours from when they get up from their last nap to when they go to bed at night. So if they get up at 4 they can go to bed at 8.
3.She said use a timer. When they start to fuss wait 15 min then go in. After that you can go very 5 min, then go to 10, and on and on. I think it is the ferber method?? But the timer was key. So you could see how long it really was, when your baby is crying it seems like an eternity.
4.Be consistant. Do the same thing in the same place every time they sleep. It really cuts down on your mobility but it made a huge difference for us.

Good luck feel free to call me if you want to chat. We have four horrible sleepers over here so I know how you feel. I know first hand these things make a big difference.

Cassidy said...

I feel for you, Sarah. My first baby didn't sleep through the night until 10 months. I tried to let him cry to sleep around 5 months, and it was so terrible that I gave up and kept doing everything else I could to get him to sleep. He never even napped for longer than 30 minutes until he was a year old. I feel like my second is my reward for all of that because she is like all the stories of perfection that you hear. But, I do feel like I knew better about some things the second time around.

I hate to admit it, but my MIL kept telling me that a fan in his room to break up and block out the noise would help him, and because it was the dead of winter, I refused. But I think that makes a big difference.

If he isn't in his own space yet, do it. You will wake him up more than you know just by being near him. Its a mother child connection thing, I swear.

And if he is sick with a cold, he could be waking up because he can't breathe well. Try running a humidifier whenever he will be in one room for a while. It has worked for us (I even have to trade off between the kids rooms when they are both sick because we just have one, and the kid with the humidifier is always doing better in the morning).

And I would vote to let him cry it out otherwise, but not for too long and you may have to leave while he does that for dad if you can't handle it. I did.

Good luck. I hope things get better soon!

Allison said...


This is what we did with Paige (I think it's the Ferber method, maybe not)- in bed, cry 5 minutes, one minute to comfort (without picking up or feeding) then 10, then 15 etc... until 30 minutes, then every 30 minutes if she was still crying (at least that was the theory, but she never cried that long). At nap time, if she cried for an hour,(we did the 5 minute intervals at nap time too) I would just get her up. Having her go to sleep by herself also really helped with night time nursing. I think it took her about a week, and sometimes if our schedule was different or if we had visitors, we had to go back to being really strict about the routine again. I nursed Maggie to sleep her whole first year for naps and night time and then we laid by her at night to get her to sleep until she was 2 1/2. It was kind of a mess, and looking back, she probably didn't get enough sleep. Ashlee was an easy sleeper. It can be so difficult. I remember hearing a story about parents with colicky babies - some exhibited symptoms of PTSD, it's just so stressful.

Hang in there - it feels like it, but it won't last forever. He really is such a darling baby and with 2 great parents - you'll get it figured out.

(Now, I lay by Paige and read her books for nap time, but didn't start that until she was almost 2. I just missed snuggling with her.)

Jenny said...

Sorry to hear of your sleep troubles! That can be so rough. Remember momfidence, confidence in your mom-self. Ask, read, learn, and trust your instincts. You'll figure it out.

It is a great thing for a baby to learn to fall asleep on his or her own. How to best accomplish that task is different for every baby, and for some babies it is SUCH a tough thing to learn! But it will happen eventually.

When your baby gets so overtired that he's crying like he's about to die and you feel that stress building inside, don't be afraid to lay him in the crib and take a moment to cry yourself, pray, or get a snack and try to reconstruct your inner peace. I found that even just a few minute break was helpful at moments like these.