Oh, my! This past month has been brutal. Until today! It's 3am, and I can't remember the last time I felt so good. I'm giddy!
You see, Joanna is quite different from the way our little Ollie Bear was. Oliver was, well, a nightmare as a baby. I love the little guy, but all he did was scream all the time until he was about four months old or so. Getting him to nap during the day was a struggle. Between the hours of 7am and 7pm, we were just miserable. The only peace we got was at night. He woke up a couple times at night, but he'd always go straight to sleep after he ate. He'd eat, I'd burp him, I'd put him down in his crib, and things were good.
Jo's had the opposite problem--for this past month, anyway. Her first couple of months, she was a pro sleeper. She'd give us 8 hour stretches. She'd sleep 13 hour nights, getting up once. It was amazing. She's a happy baby, too. She rarely cries and throws fits. If she's upset, it's because there's something wrong, like a wet diaper. We can't believe how easy she is as a little one, at least as it compares to those first few months with Oliver.
Recently, though, she's struggled to sleep at night. I'm not talking about a few rough nights. Basically every night for a month, she's been waking up every hour or so. It has been killer. During the day, she's this adorable, cooing, smiling baby. At night, it's--well, it's not good.
It all started when she started breaking out of her swaddle at night. She'd wake up, bust out of it, and cry. I'd get up, reswaddle her, and put her back down. Over the period of a week or two, I started utilizing bad habits just to make things easier. I'd nurse her to sleep and transfer her to her bassinet (and, later, the Pack 'N Play) asleep. She stopped learning how to put herself to sleep at night, and she continued to break out of her swaddle, crying.
We decided it was time for sleep training. You don't typically use sleep training (like our favorite Ferber Method) until six months old, but we didn't know what else to do. We didn't want to use it to get her to sleep through the night or anything like that (4 month olds aren't ready for that yet). We just wanted to use it to teach her to sleep unswaddled.
It didn't work.
When you use the Ferber Method, you let your baby cry, but you go to your baby every few minutes (there's a set schedule) and soothe your baby with your words and touch. If your baby doesn't go to sleep after an hour has passed, you stop using the method and wait a couple more weeks to try again. When we used this method on Oliver to teach him to sleep unswaddled, it worked in less than half an hour. With Jo, she fought it for the entire hour. Brutal.
We let her continue sleeping swaddled, us waking up every hour or two to reswaddle her. I decided to try a technique that hadn't worked on Oliver--putting Jo to sleep with one arm out of the swaddle. It was very hard to get her to sleep (hours!), but once she did, she slept for a three hour stretch. That felt like a miracle. The next day, she slept for nearly a five hour stretch. I thought the problem was fixed!
It wasn't. Jo started to wake up again every hour or two, all night, every night. What was wrong? We didn't know. It led to a lot of tears of frustration and desperation. We just wanted to be able to get a stretch of sleep--even three hours, just to complete a single sleep cycle. Nope.
I tried putting her to sleep with both arms out of the swaddle. That didn't work. One night, about a week or so ago, Andrew swaddled her up out of desperation. She didn't break out and slept for about six hours. Oh. My. God. I felt like a new woman. Screw it, I thought. We'll just let her sleep swaddled until she's a teenager.
The next night, she woke up hourly again. Cry.
We decided to try the swaddle thing one more night. If she was going to wake up hourly, then there was no point in swaddling both arms in.
Well, that night, I was laying in bed, and I heard some quiet cries. When Jo just fusses, we let her fuss, on the chance she decides to put herself back to sleep. We wait to see if those fusses turn to cries or not. I had to use the restroom, so I got up and did that. On my way back, I decided to peak at her.
She was face down.
It was the single, scariest moment of my life. She wasn't just sleeping on her stomach. Her face was down, into the mat of the Pack 'N Play. I tipped her shoulder, and she immediately started screaming. I've never been so happy to hear her scream, and I started crying with relief. I was shaking and told Andrew what happened. No matter what, she needed to have at least one arm free. First, that would make it harder to roll over from back to front. Second, if she did flip, at least she'd have use of her arms to be able to push her head up and to the side for air.
We used the next few nights to teach her to sleep with both arms out of the swaddle. There was very little sleep happening. I started to get short with Andrew during the day, and he started to stay up with her downstairs for a few hours to give me a short stretch of sleep until he couldn't stay awake anymore.
He started to worry how the lack of sleep was affecting his job. He worried he'd fall asleep behind the wheel.
Saturday night, we decided to try sleep training again. We shipped Oliver over to Grandma Colleen's house for the night. I moved the Pack 'N Play to the living room to give Joanna her "own" room. At 7pm, I nursed her and plopped her into bed, both arms out of the swaddle. She cried. We soothed her every few minutes (3 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 7 minutes). She fell asleep. An hour passed, and she woke up. We didn't pick her up. We soothed her every few minutes again. An hour passed, and we did the same thing. Another hour passed, and we did it again. Twice, I changed her and nursed her, but for the rest of her wake-ups, we didn't pick her up. Finally, at 4am, she fell asleep for a stretch and slept until 7:30am.
The next day, yesterday, we made the decision not to let her nap in her Rock 'N Play bassinet. She sleeps in there too well, and we didn't want her to get her days and nights switched. So, for her naps, it was back in the Pack 'N Play. None of her naps were more than an hour. We knew she had to be really tired, but she wasn't caving. She wasn't going to put herself back to sleep.
...until last night.
Thank you, Joanna. You've done it! You've learned how to put yourself to sleep again.
Jo was very tired at 7pm. I swaddled up her legs but kept her arms out. I nursed her and put her in her Pack 'N Play. She started to cry. We used our method, and she fell asleep in about 15 minutes.
It's 3:30am now. My breasts are full of milk and ache a bit, but I feel incredible. I slept from 8pm to 2am. Six hours of sleep. Straight.
I couldn't go back to sleep at 2am. I worried about Jo. Was she on her stomach again? I had to go check. Nope! She's sleeping flat on her back, arms down at her sides, just snoozing away.
Every night won't be like this, I know. She's probably making up for all of the sleep she lost over the past couple days. Here's the thing: I don't mind getting up to feed her and change her when she needs it. One, two, even three times a night, I'm all about it. Here's a fresh diaper, here's some warm milk, here's your crib. But I physically cannot handle getting up and walking or rocking her back to sleep every time one of her sleep cycles ends. Actually, that's not fair. To be honest, Andrew (he's such a saint, I swear) does most of the nightly work. He needs to sleep, but I really need my sleep. I think it's genetic. At 60, my dad still sleeps 8-10 hour nights and naps on his days off. When I was 18-20, I still needed to sleep 14-16 hour nights. When pregnant with Oliver, I needed to sleep all the time--all day, every day. I only wanted to wake up for a few hours a couple times a day. I couldn't handle staying awake through an 8 hour work day, and I remember trying to get my shift shortened to get more sleep (that didn't work). At 29, I typically don't function well on less than 9 hours of sleep. Before Jo was born, I'd need to get a 12 hour stretch of sleep a couple times a week. That entailed going to bed right when Oliver did at 7pm and sleeping through until 7am the next day. This nonsense of waking up every hour or two just hasn't sat well with me.
I know, being a parent of a baby comes with sleep deprivation. I get that. If Jo wasn't sleeping tonight, I'd be pushing through it. Somehow, we've made it work and have gotten through night after night of no sleep. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and I'm so, so, so, so happy that the sleep training has worked. At least for tonight.
Thank you, Joanna. We're coming up on 4am, and you're still snoozing. There's going to be an end to our sleep deprivation. I've never been so happy in my life.