Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Have I had a blog titled Sleep before? Maybe. But in general we haven't had too many complaints so I haven't talked about sleep that much. No, Sam isn't sleeping through the night. But for a while he was really close to it, and two or three times he really did sleep through the night. But now? Not at all. At all. And really that doesn't bother me, what bothers me is the inability to go to sleep. That's where the problem is. He used to be able to fall asleep pretty easily in his crib. He would sleep for a about 4 or 5 hours, then wake to eat, and join us in bed, waking every three hours after that. His total sleep was probably around 10 hours, excluding the intervals where he would wake up half way to eat or whatever. Then he would usually get up for an hour or two, then take a morning nap. Now, he won't fall asleep before like, 9:30 or 10 at night and ONLY if he's laying against my chest or in my arms. Sometimes other people's arms will do, sometimes not. When he falls asleep, I can move him to his crib. As soon as I lay him down he instantly wakes SCREAMING. As soon as I get him back in my arms, he falls limp over my shoulder, at peace. Makes a mom feel super special, but completely impractical. I have work I have to do, and pretty much my time to work is after Sam goes to sleep. If I have to be his mattress while he's sleeping, then I can't get my work done.

I get a little annoyed reading all the various formulas for getting baby to sleep. Everyone swears by this or that. Some babies sleep easily from practically day one and others don't. And I think there is this notion that if your baby sleeps through the night right away then you (the parent) are doing the right thing. If your baby isn't, you're not. I highly doubt this is true. I think it's far more complex than that. I think some people are easier sleepers than others. Regardless, our situation isn't working, and I need to try to find a fix.

It seems that lots of babies who were sleeping well start to have problems sleeping at this age (around 7 months). Well, it makes sense. He is so much more social, he is getting his first teeth, and he has started solid foods. So sleeping alone could be really difficult for him, the teething could be making him uncomfortable, or perhaps digestion issues make him uncomfortable. At this point I certainly can't pinpoint the cause of our little guy's struggles. I have read, however, that many parents swear by a consistent bedtime routine. I had one for a while and that's when sleep was best. After starting to work, routine has gone out the window.

Aaron and I do not have a consistent routine ourselves. Aaron is working all hours of the day with classes he's teaching and classes he's taking, starting at 7:30 am some mornings and going until 9:00 pm or later some nights. Our meals have been known to happen at any hour of the day and we don't get in bed before midnight. I am teaching two days a week and am gone 11:00 to 5:00 on those days. We really just try to get the stuff we have to get done done. So, as we tried to settle into the semester (which is somehow half-way done already) we started to let Sam's bed time get later and later, basically letting him decide when he wanted to go to bed. Until, alas, we have our current scenario.

SO tonight I begin the bedtime routine again. When he gives sleepy signs around 7 or 8, I will start a routine of baby massage (gotta lotion his dry skin anyway), pajamas, reading, rocking, and bed. I don't anticipate immediate success. But I've got to try something.

These concerns always raise questions for me. I know that humans are very habit-oriented and I realize we are trying to start good habits now. But really, aren't the needs of a 7-month-old sleeper different than a 7-year-old? Maybe he DOES just need his mom and that's ok? And is it wrong of me to try to force him into something more convenient for me? Which is harder: Forcing the routine or letting him develop some inconvenient sleep habits? Am I really looking out for what's best for Sam or am I just looking at what makes my life easier? And if it's the latter, is that perhaps what's best for Sam anyway?

Augh. Parenting is tough. I SERIOUSLY don't know how single parents do it.


Tammy B said...

finding that compromise between what is best for the whole family and what might be best for its smallest member alone is a tough one. Good luck finding the balance that works for you.

carol said...

I think your routine sounds like a good idea. It's probably time to start more structure. And parents need to get stuff done too. I've been told, don't know if it's true, that before they are a year old babies can do things to get attention and postponing bedtime is one thing kids do. Probably not consciously thinking what they are doing but by getting attention, they repeat what got them attention. I don't know. Letting Sam cry a little will probably be harder on you than him.

You are in a tough situation, your schedule changes every term. What you feel is best for you is what is best. Isn't that a help? :-)

IME said...

Max went through a similar phase at about the same age. He kept upping the ante and getting more and more persnickety about what we had to do before he'd go to sleep -- it got to the point where it was just silly. :)

To teach him to go to sleep on his own, we started out with a consistent bedtime routine -- bath, nursing, book, song, and then to bed. We made sure to start bedtime before he was showing signs of being tired (because by the time we were ready to lay him down, he was too tired). We tried to get him to bed by 7 p.m. -- ironically it was harder to get him to sleep well and nap well if we put him to bed later (sleep begets sleep).

After a week or two to get him settled in the routine, we started putting him into bed when he was awake (instead of nursing/rocking him to sleep). He fussed about it quite a bit the first night (we kept going back in to tuck him in), fussed a little bit the second night, let out a single peep the third night, and went to bed really well forever afterwards.

He was still waking at night to eat at that point (and would do so for quite a while longer), but I'd just nurse him and he'd go right back to sleep.

Molly had the opposite problem -- she was great about going to bed but TERRIBLE about waking multiple times a night. Good luck! I hope you work out a good routine/sleep schedule for all of you!