I’m going to apologize ahead of time for the length of today’s post, but if you’re willing to listen to me whine a little, please read to the bottom. I have an incentive for anyone who’ll help me out and share any wisdom you have when it comes to tackling toddler sleep.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve been a little obsessed with Babycakes’s sleep patterns.
Okay, a lot obsessed.
I’ve read many books and websites that all supposedly contain the key, the magic formula, to perfect night sleep (naps are a different beast which I admit I have passed on to her daycare teachers to battle – and luckily they have had surprising success). We have implemented many routines and tried many strategies to help her fall asleep on her own, stay asleep, and/or go back to sleep on her own if she wakes in the night.
Here’s my conclusion: It’s all bollocks.
There is no magic formula. There really isn’t even a consensus as to what a magic formula might look like because NOT ONE PERSON ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET KNOWS HOW TO GET BABIES TO SLEEP CONSISTENTLY.
There, I said it.
Here’s the thing. The hubs and I worked for literally months to get Babycakes to fall asleep on her own at bedtime. We have had a solid bedtime routine in place since she was like three months old. I gradually shifted the final steps around so she went from nursing to comatose to nursing to really sleepy, to putting her down awake enough that she fussed a few minutes after I left the room. Then we did the big leap of putting nursing BEFORE books and the goodnight songs, and she got to the point in short order where I could lay her down while singing the final verse of her goodnight song, she’d look at me, roll on her side, and I’d walk out of the room. The first couple weeks, it took 5-10 minutes of fussing before she’d fall asleep (and on the occasional night when it took longer, the hubs went in and worked his Daddy magic to get her down). Every now and then, she’d have a crap nap day and would fall asleep while nursing, but it didn’t seem to do any damage to bedtime overall.
But beyond that, we could never get consistent with her nighttime sleep habits. Sometimes she’d go like a week or more when she’d sleep from bedtime (which has been between 7 and 7:30 for a long, long time) until 4 or 5am, at which point she’d nurse and go back to sleep for a couple hours. And then she all of a sudden would start a stretch of waking every two hours and sometimes having a cryfest in the middle of the night for two hours straight. We were sort of on survival mode for a while, but I wasn’t back to work so at least I wasn’t blerging my way through the day.
Aaaand then I went back to work and we started daycare and the onslaught of Constant Sickness.
Between the ridiculously slow and apparently painful teething, the separation anxiety (my mom’s theory) of going from “always home with Mommy” to “with Not-Mommy all day” in the span of a week, constant colds and post-nasal drip that have resulted in numerous puke-in-her-sleep episodes that we don’t discover until 3am when I go in and get hit with the smell of vomit, and last week’s double ear infection (from said constant congestion), survival mode hit Critical Mass.
It became a game of “Let’s just do anything to get her back to sleep.”
Sadly, many of the habits we’d broken (namely nursing to sleep) have become crutches to eek out just a couple more hours. Our lofty plans to night wean have been put on the back burner until such a time as we can get her healthy enough to not need the extra soothing and/or she sleeps a consistent enough stretch that we can rest up for the certain nightly battles of a strong-willed 13 month old who quite clearly indicated to me this morning, through baby sign language and baby babble, that she wanted “more nursing” when the hubs brought her to our room at 5:45.
(You can tell how wiped out I am because I just wrote, like, four paragraphs that are actually crazy long run-on sentences. And I kinda don’t care.)
In some respects, I think we’re content to function in survival mode for another month, at which point my mother will have retired and moved to Charlotte to live with us. We will then be able to pull Babycakes out of full-time daycare, which should do wonders for her overall health. I will probably relax, which should help Babycakes relax, and maybe we’ll all start sleeping better. But most of all, my mom is a veteran mom, and among other things, she is planning on making a solid, consistent, long afternoon nap that Babycakes falls asleep for on her own a reality. In turn, that should help night sleep.
Or so all those “experts” tell me.
But survival mode – which basically means we go to bed at 9:00 every night like we did when Babycakes was a newborn, we bargain with each other in the middle of the night over who gets to try and put her back down when she wakes at 2:00, and I guzzle Coke through the day like it’s my job – will only get us so far. Because a couple other weird problems have surfaced in the past few weeks.
We don’t know if it’s the fact that four or five teeth are imminently about to erupt, if it’s because of the double ear infection, one of the dreaded “sleep regressions” that you basically have to suffer through every other month, if she’s waking at the wrong point in a sleep cycle, or what. But two things are happening.
First, her morning wake time has gotten stupid early. Like “you should only be getting up this early for the day if you’re catching a flight to Disney World” early. Sometimes it’s before 5am. It’s ridiculous, especially since she doesn’t get a nap at daycare until after 11:00 (despite needing one at 8 or 9). What use to be her “snooze button feed” is now “I’m up for the day.”
Second, she’s not waking happy. For the most part since we moved her to her own room, she’d wake up happy and we’d hear her babbling to her loveys. She’d play for up to 45 minutes before starting to complain. Now, all of a sudden, she wakes up crying like she’s been abandoned. The hubs thinks she’s starting to be scared of the dark, but she’s always had a dim nightlight in her room, so she’s never even slept in a pitch-dark room.
We’re stumped. Nothing we’ve tried is getting her back to sleep at that point. All that helps anything is bringing her to our bed (which use to be a weekend morning treat to play after she woke at 7:30 or 8) and letting her nurse for 45 minutes or more.
I’m asking – no, BEGGING – for advice and help from the veteran moms out there. How do I get Babycakes to sleep longer in the morning again? How to we get her to wake up happy? And for the love of all that is holy, HOW do we even start planning to night wean?
Fair warning – we are not cry-it-out parents. Do not tell us to just turn off the monitor and let her cry herself back to sleep. We’ve tried that a few times and it does not work. She will cry at the top of her lungs for an hour or more until I go in and let her nurse. I can’t take it. I lie awake knowing she’s in there crying her eyes out, and I’m laying there crying MY eyes out in turn. Plus, given the post-nasal drip, her sensitive gag reflex, and the aforementioned puke parties, CIO is not a road I wish to trod.
CIO aside, I will open-mindedly listen to any and all advice anyone may have. In fact, I am so willing to take and try anything, and so desperate for more than 3 consecutive hours of sleep in a single night, that I will give one commenter the Kindle book of their choice.
Leave me a comment with your advice, and on Wednesday, September 30th (that’s one week from today), one commenter will be selected through a random integer generator, and I will giveaway to that person any Kindle book you want from Amazon.