Amidst the many things that I didn’t know I was not prepared for before Foster arrived sleep is probably one of the biggest among them(so far). Ahhh, sleep. You crazy, mysterious mistress.
Well meaning people try to give you advice before baby arrives. I can’t tell you how many times people told us with a big grin on their faces to “sleep now because you won’t be able to once baby arrives.” Well, what the heck does that mean?! As if there is a magic sleep bank where you can store your extra sleep hours and use them when you need them. While that would be wonderful, sadly, it just isn’t the case. So, Aaron and I would just smile an nod when folks would give us this well meaning advice. Then once we got home we would try to console each other choosing to believe that we would sleep again one day…right?!
Months later when Foster arrived we found out first hand what everyone was talking about. They were kind of right but in my opinion they made it sound way worse than it really was, but I guess the unknown is usually worse than the known.
You do get very little sleep for a while. Really I have discovered so far that there is an eb and flow of sleep. Just when you think you’ve got the beast tamed something changes. Your baby starts to wake in the night and has to figure out how to put himself back to sleep(sounds much easier than it is), he starts teething, he has a growth spurt, or he just simply wants you. I don’t say this to be discouraging. I say it to remind you to have grace with yourself (and to remind myself). This is after all a journey not a destination…even when dealing with sleep.
The first couple months I would wake to feed Foster every couple of hours. Since I was breastfeeding I was feeding him more often or he was just an extra hungry baby. It was one of the two or both. He was sleeping in our room in his Rock ’n Play next to our beds. We tried to put him in several other things to sleep in at night. We started with the Pack n Play, no go. Then went onto a bassinet, nope. He just looked so little and alone in such wide open spaces. I think the Rock ‘n Play made him feel a little more safe, like he was in a cocoon. So, since it worked for us, that’s what we went with. It was working out pretty well. When he woke up hungry I would just pick him up to feed him and then put him back to bed and he drifted off to sleep pretty quickly.
By about two to three months he got to where he was going four to six hours without a feeding and that was a big deal! A couple nights he even went eight hours and it was amazing but kind of like seeing a unicorn. I didn’t count on that happening very often.
Then something happened when he turned four months. Have you heard of the four month sleep regression? Well, it’s a real thing or at least it was for Foster. After this happened sleep became VERY difficult since he would wake up screaming because he didn’t know how to put himself back to sleep.
It got to where we would put him do bed at 7:00pm and then he would wake up screaming at 9:00pm about the time we were going to bed. I would feed him until he fell back to sleep or rock him until he fell back to sleep and then put him back in his bed. This pattern would continue throughout the night. He would wake up about every two hours or sooner. This go around it wasn’t because he was hungry. It was because he woke up startled himself and couldn’t get back to sleep. This quickly became very exhausting for me and I knew something had to change.
So, I went to the internet, books, friends and articles to find a wealth of information on the subject of sleep and boy howdy there is a lot of information! It actually became too much to take in and I ended up very confused, very tired and emotional…all the time!
I cannot tell you how many conversations I had with my husband about what the right thing to do was and how many tears I shed over the subject. I just wanted to do the best thing for my son and I was stressing out in a major way because I just didn’t know what the best thing was. So, I decided to try everything.
The first thing I tried to do is put him down sleep but still awake. I cant tell you how many times people told me to do that and acted like it was so easy. Well, it wasn’t easy for this lady and her baby. I would do it. Rock him to sleep then put him down still awake and as soon as he felt a shift in my arm he would freak out. He would wave his arms and legs and his eyes would get huge. I felt so insanely bad for putting him down. He acted like he thought I was going to leave him forever and that also made me feel horrible! So…I would pick him back up.
I also tried to put him in his crib and then sit next to him so he knew I was there and “shush” him until l was blue in the face. This didn’t work either. He would just stare at me making sure I didn’t go anywhere. Once again, I felt horrible! So…I would pick him back up.
Then the worst and hardest in my experience I would put him in his crib kiss him and then leave the room. Oh my goodness gracious…torture! I would pace the house praying that he would stop crying but he never did. The crying just go louder and my heart would almost break in two. So…I would go back in and pick him up.
I felt like I was failing my son, failing as a mother and failing myself because I was exhausted! So, I decided to let him sleep in bed with me and Aaron.
Co-sleeping. I never thought I would co-sleep. Not that anything is wrong with it. It’s just something I didn’t visualize myself doing when I thought about my life with Foster. But there I was tired and wanting my son to feel safe. Oh, and for him to get sleep as well. Poor baby was so tired from not getting sleep because he was so afraid I was going to leave him. So, the whole situation was a hot mess.
I convinced Aaron this was the best option despite his hesitation (he is a very deep and active sleeper), so he was afraid he would roll over on our son. A valid fear that I also possessed. My solution was to sleep in between both of them. Protecting them from one another. Brilliant(not so much)!
There I was in the middle of the bed. I usually had a boob out so I could nurse Foster and we would both fall to sleep in the process. I tried so hard not to move because I was afraid I would wake him up or hurt him. He would still wake up about ever one and a half to two hours. Once he was awake he would cry a lot because he couldn’t go back to sleep. I would try to comfort him, get up and rock him and nurse him. Sometimes those things worked but there was never a guarantee.
Picture it with me, boob out, middle of the bed, sweating(because hot flashes are a real thing), arms falling to sleep (because I was trying not to move), crick in neck(again with the moving) and my son was about to wake up any minute. Sound like a cozy night sleep to you?! Me either! But, it was my solution and I convinced myself it was the best one.
That is until I started crying everyday out of exhaustion and lashing out at my husband because of, you guessed it, exhaustion. I went back to the drawing board to try and figure out an answer to our sleep problems. Every method I tried was too extreme for us.
Until one day I found a book called Secrets of The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. This book was absolutely a God send. I read it like my life depended on it and it equipped me with the tools and confidence I needed to help my son sleep.
That coupled with a visit to the pediatrician where I was informed that Foster was not gaining weight (in fact he had lost weight) because my supply was exhausted from feeding him all night.
It was clear a big change needed to be made. Read about our sleep journey to find out what I did and how it worked for us!