November 6, 2010

Sleep training

It was 2am, or some other ungodly middle of the night hour. I was standing over S's crib with my hand on his back while he cried, hoping to get him back to sleep quickly and hoping he didn't wake up his brother in the next room, when I had a horrifying flashback.

It was 2am, or some other ungodly middle of the night hour. I was standing over K's crib (the same one we use for S) with my hand on his back. I had been in that position for maybe an hour, leaning over the crib with my back aching, body totally exhausted from sleep deprivation, praying and praying that he would finally sleep. As he calmed, I slowly tried to remove my hand from his back, he stirred and started crying again immediately. I put my hand back and tried again in a few minutes, this time just letting up on the pressure at first, then slowly removing one finger at a time from his back. After performing this delicate act, I then had to navigate to the door and try to escape to my own room. Any creak of floor or door, trip over a forgotten toy, or other misstep could end all my hard work. I knew, because it had happened on many other occasions and would happen many more times.

With a jolt, I yanked my hand away from S and moved away from the crib. I WOULD NOT be repeating that life of insanity, a perpetual war of the wills to get my second child to sleep. Spending all night and day hoping for sleep, trying to deal with the crying and the crankiness and the neediness. I couldn't do it. I'm still suffering the effects of K's bad sleep habits and issues. At four, he still regularly wakes up at night, sometimes for hours at a time. I don't want two bad sleepers on my hands for the years to come.

Things seemed OK with S's sleeping habits at first. He napped pretty well, definitely for longer periods than his older brother ever did. Within a month or two, we were able to lay him down partially awake and he would fall asleep. He regularly slept for a 5 or 6 hour stretch at night, which was heavenly. But it all fell apart, for various reasons. It has continually gotten worse so that now at 6 months old, he sleeps worse than he did as a newborn and sometimes worse than K did.

When in doubt, get help. I found a book on sleep at the library: The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight. The author states in the beginning how we often make it seem like bad sleepers are bad kids, that there is something wrong with them. Yet, as parents we aren't doing much to actually teach them how to sleep. We assume (I definitely did) that they should just begin to sleep well, that they are either good at it or not. But, as is true with so many things with life and parenting, it isn't that easy. We have to help our children to do what they don't yet know how to do.

So, I have begun the sleep coaching process outlined in the book, with S. I'll work on him first, since he is younger and currently a worse sleeper, then I'll move on to K. The biggest changes to make are to set up a routine and stick to it like glue in the beginning (while they learn). Routines don't come easy to me because I like to be flexible with my time. However, I've seen how well that works and how little actual freedom I have when my kids and I don't sleep and have to deal with regular meltdowns. So, the routine must become a priority. Helping him to wind down before bed, helping him to find comfort in things other than me (like his pacifier, blanket or a toy) and staying nearby while he goes to sleep for a few weeks (without holding him, or letting him hold on to me, etc) are other parts of the process.

As of today, napping is going much better with S, as is going to sleep at night. Middle of the night waking has gotten exponentially worse, but at least I'm not feeding him every time he wakes up anymore (because we need to break that "sleep crutch"). And I have to give this time to work. Often things get worse before better. I'm trying not to give up and revert to old ways that only sort of worked, just because it is familiar. Familiar means no sleep, and I don't want that!

1 comment:

  1. A tired mommy makes for a tough day!

    We went through something like this with Cayman...nothing nearly as severe. What worked for us sounds like the track you are on now - sticking to a routine bedtime, always having the same toy in the crib for her (it's the one you still see in all her sleeping pictures on my blog), and when she did cry when we laid her down we walked out anyways. She would cry for awhile alone in her room. Kids may go through an emotion of abandonment at that moment but it will not cripple them from learning what security is in a household that provides the unconditional love, and consistency of it like you guys do.

    Good luck!