I first wrote this post when my daughters were 9 months old. Looking back on it today is a trip, especially because we just survived a 2 year sleep regression with Emma. Jane has been a wonderful sleeper, but has dropped naps completely at day care! Here’s where we stood 2 years ago.
How do you survive the first year of motherhood?
“Sleep when they sleep,” they said.
“Nap when they nap,” they said.
But what do you do when they rarely sleep OR nap???
It feels like it’s been WEEKS since I last slept through the night. Between the girls being sick and their 9 month sleep regression (yes, that’s a real thing!), I don’t remember the last time we got a good night of sleep. Or a good day of sleep, come to think of it.
Needless to say, we are exhausted. And running out of steam. Quickly.
So I went on a search desperately seeking sleep advice. I visited various websites, made about 473 phone calls to doctors and nurses and grandmas and friends. I felt like I was on a quest for the Holy Grail. And I may have found some solace.
I stumbled upon a sleep blog where the author’s words caught my eye and made me really think:
“Sleep deprivation… UGH. There’s a reason it’s commonly used as a form of torture!”
SHE’S SO RIGHT!!! I’ve definitely been suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation. I’m normally a pretty logical person. I have a short fuse and sometimes I can be pretty ditzy, but I would say that I can make sense of things and think on my feet for the most part a majority of the time.
But lately, I’ve been feeling sluggish, extremely short-tempered, angry, and desperate. I realized a couple of days ago that after 9 months of NO SLEEP, I am beginning to suffer from sleep deprivation.
Here’s what I found out.
1. Everyone goes through this.
2. It’s all my fault.
3. It can be fixed.
Let me explain.
We (people) have sleep associations. When we go to bed at night, we lay our head down on a pillow and pull the blankets up to our chins. Throughout the night, we wake several times, even if we don’t remember it. We readjust the blanket, fluff our pillow, and fall back into Sleepyville with little issue.
Now imagine you’re a baby. To fall asleep, you need your wooby, a blankie, a pacifier or a bottle, and maybe even a session in a rocking chair. All of these things are supplied by the adult in charge of you, and have been since you came home, since you can’t figure out how to get your little legs to rock the chair or how to make your hands bring your choopie to your mouth. So your adult provides you with all of these things to help you get to sleep. Thank you, adult!
In the middle of the night, you awaken, find that your choopie is gone, or that you can’t fall back asleep. You look for a bottle, but it’s not there. You try to find your choopie, but that’s missing, too. And for the life of you, you cannot make your crib rock! So you cry out, and hope and pray that your adult will bring you one of the things that you have come to depend upon to fall asleep.
I’m totally guilty of doing this to my poor littles.
Luckily, this is a habit that we can break! It’s not too late!
After speaking with our pediatric sleep specialist, she confirmed all of the information that I had found on the internet. It is time to readjust our bedtime routine, and take away those sleep props.
Last night, we ate dinner at 5:00, had some fruit at 5:30, and took a bottle at 6:00. From 6:00-7:00, I changed the sheets on their beds, put them into their pjs and nighttime diapers, and then read them a bedtime story. Finally, Hershey and I braced ourselves for a fight. We knew that putting them down in their crib without that bottle that they fall asleep on every night was going to be a war.
We turned off the lights, kissed them goodnight, and placed them in their respective cribs.
They were both asleep before their little tiny heads hit the beds.
Now, we did NOT have a restful night of sleep. They woke up several times throughout the night. BUT the awakenings were over by around 2:30-3:00. I woke up at 5:00 thinking, What did I miss?!
At 5:55, Jane and Emma woke up for the morning. They seemed happy and refreshed. Both went down for a nap at around 9:00. Jane is sitting next to me right now, just finished her mid-morning bottle. Emma is still sleeping.
I’ve also discovered a couple of other things.
One size does not fit all. It seems like Emma sleeps longer in the morning, and needs less of a nap in the afternoon, while Jane needs a longer afternoon nap and sleeps for a shorter time in the morning.
Limiting toys with flashing lights and music before sleepy time really does help them to unwind. Think about if you went on a rollercoaster and then tried to lay down to go to sleep. Probably wouldn’t work out too well for you.
If they wake up after 20 minutes, play with them quietly for 10, and they will usually go back to sleep.
During this time, they are going through the biggest brain development phase of their lives. They are busy in their cribs at night practicing new skills in their heads. Provide lots of time during the day for them to practice their new skills, and once they master those skills, they will sleep better!
And finally, the piece of information that rocked my world the most — THERE IS NO SCIENCE BEHIND STUFFING THEM TO MAX CAPACITY BEFORE BED. Just because you give them a bottle and put them to bed doesn’t mean that they will happily sleep through the night with a full belly. In fact, the opposite may take effect (they may be sensitive to pee-pee diapers, in which case they will waken to a sopping wet diaper, begging to be changed).
I hope that you find this helpful, and that you (and I) find some peace soon! Remember to be patient with them — I often find myself losing my temper because I, too, am exhausted, and I have to tell myself, “They are going through SO MANY changes in those little bodies, and every change is a change to their routine and need. BREATHE!”
This, too, shall pass.