The idiom of sleeping like a baby means you had untroubled sleep and no worldly worries to keep you awake. It does not mean you slept through the night. I would love to know where this colloquialism began and introduce them to our dear Baby A.
A always went to bed easily. We’ve done the exact same routine in the exact same way since she was about a month old. Until she was about six months old, she slept well for her age and only got up when she was hungry.
Then she started teething and it was a downhill slide. Before we really knew what happened I was sleeping with her on the nursery floor and up with her every hour. She was hungry and tired and generally cranky. I was a zombie.
I went to the library and checked out every recommended book. I spent what time I could between working, caring for A and not sleeping reading the books. All of them emphasized a going to bed routine and a strict daily schedule that was geared toward women who were home with their babies during the day (Thanks for the extra guilt sleep experts!).
Those weren’t the issues! She was going to bed well and even when she did fight it, she went to sleep in less than 30 minutes from the time we started bedtime. Plus, she’s at school which means she’s on a schedule and since she wasn’t sleeping, it seemed counter intuitive to continue to add to her sleep debt and overtired state.
Most of the books recommended some version of Cry It Out. (Note: I’m not for or against cry it out. I strongly believe every family makes the best choices for their child and for some this is the best option. For others, it isn’t. I’m not going to debate this.) With A, CIO didn’t work for us. She’d get so riled up and mad that she was mad and crying that she’d eventually throw up. Given her other issues, very quickly this became a non-negotiable, not-going-to-work for us option.
We got a recommendation from her pediatrician and started implementing the plan, which put a lot more work on J and seemed to be helping, only to be foiled by the Fourth of July neighborhood festivities on July 3, 4 and 5. It was a nightmare.
She was miserable, I was miserable, J was miserable. We kept hoping she would grow out of it or that something would click and she would realize that sleep is essential for everything. In the mean time, she’d learned to walk, babble constantly and bounce. She was on the move and expending more energy.
The week of Sept. 20 was a new low for all of us. Baby A was sleeping on the floor in the office with me and while she wasn’t eating all night like she used to, she was getting up at least four times a night. But I was conscious enough to notice that as she stirred, she would start to spin around while sill asleep and then sit up, still mostly asleep. She would fold herself in half a few times to try to go back to sleep.
When that didn’t work, she would stand up and cry. Since I was next to her, I could cuddle her before she would normally stand up. Intervening at that point meant she slept for longer periods. This was a lightbulb moment for me. It meant she wanted to sleep, but wasn’t able to stop herself from sitting up and ultimately standing. In other words, she was standing before she was awake and then upset because she was standing.
Two weeks ago, on Sept. 25 I caved and bought an Express Sleep Plan from The Baby Sleep Site. I’d done a lot of research and this seemed like a good starting place for us. The initial investment was only $49, less than a dinner out. I was nervous and concerned that it would be like all the other recommendations and either impossible to implement or would force us to start weaning her (which we can’t do for health reasons at this point).
With my first log in, I stopped being concerned. The questionnaire we filled out asked questions specific to A and allowed us to include her school schedule (bottles, food, naps) and her nursing schedule for consideration. Only after seeing our specific plan, did I realize implementing this plan would make things go smoother at school for her and her teachers! As everyone espouses, babies thrive on routine.
That night we put the plan in place. She went to bed as usual, but now that I had a definition of awake but drowsy, I put her in her crib earlier than I typically would and started implementing our specific sleep phrase.
Directly from our sleep plan, “It is important that she is awake enough to know she is going down in the bed and that the actual process of putting her down isn’t waking her up, but rather, she is already awake. In general, we want her eyes open as she goes into her sleep space, since this rules out her being too drowsy. If you are questioning whether she is too drowsy, it is always better to err on the side of being more awake, since this allows more learning opportunities.”
She went to sleep easily that night and for a few hours slept soundly. Plus, I now had an actionable plan that I could turn into a checklist, complete with if/then statements so J could be an active participant.
I called my parents after putting her down and my dad said, “Best $49 you’ve ever spent.” It was as true that night as it was last night.
In just two weeks, we went from A being up four times a night to just two. In the last two days, we’ve moved her wake up time from 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. at the earliest. I’ve gotten at least one solid REM Cycle for two nights in a row. Last night was a record, I slept from 11:39 p.m. until she got up at 1:57 a.m. It’s not quite the five plus hours at a time I used to get, but after 15 months of little sleep, it’s pretty amazing.
I am confident using this plan, we will continue to make progress. She is already waking up happier and her naps at school are starting to get longer.
Now, our next hurdle will be the time change. Wish us luck!