Two months ago – I drafted my next post, but I was afraid the moment the words hit the screen – it would all end. By “it” – I meant the miracle that finally happened at 20 months old. Kara slept through the night…in her OWN room for an entire week. Here I am – two months later with a baby snuggled beside me as I type in the dark. FML.
In the Beginning – The First Few Nights
One of the things people always tell you about having a baby is that you will undoubtedly sleep less. Nothing could have prepared us for what “less” really meant. For the first few nights – it meant the precious little lifeform you just brought into this world is the sole reason for the delirium caused by sleeping in 45 minute intervals. As a new parent – the delirium makes you unsure of yourself – what are you doing wrong? Is she hungry…again?? Oh! It must be her diaper…check for the little blue line! Maybe she’s gassy…yes, let’s keep trying to burp her. Swaddled?? Oh…baby, you don’t like being swaddled? Maybe if I use THIS type of swaddle. No? Maybe THIS ONE? No?! OK NO SWADDLE. (And of course – then the nurse comes in to your unswaddled screaming infant, swaddles her – and then SHE STOPS CRYING). #ParentingFail.
She’d sleep longest when held – so finally, that was when we realized that what little sleep we were getting, we’d have to go on a major sleep diet and take turns holding her. It was the only way for her to sleep and for us to sleep…in shifts. And of course the whole time, my overly-interneted mom brain kept whispering…hold her to sleep and she’ll get used to it…you’re setting her up for bad sleep habits. Oh wait – that depends on which article you believe on the internet…babies this young don’t form habits. You can hold her a little longer. Oh, but don’t nod off – because SIDS is waiting around the corner. DON’T DROP THE BABY!
The first night home from the hospital, my mother came over to take the midnight shift so Khoi and I could get some sleep. I felt like I had slept for DAYs after waking up 3 hours later. We came out to the living room to see my mom, sleeping baby in arms, reclined back with pillows propped up behind around and under her arms.
The Fourth Trimester (0-3 months)
She’d fall asleep nursing, only to wake up again when we laid her down in her crib. We lived by the 4 S’s (Harvey’s Happiest Baby on the Block) – the swaddle, the shhhh, the suck, and the swing. It was a circus act getting Kara to bed. Khoi would hold baby, bounce up and down and side to side, while shhhing to her. He even took up singing. Though not very well.
We always stuck to the same routine – and every night, we’d dread the ensuing battle to begin. We stayed consistently adamant about the “baby in crib” rule and never let her sleep in bed with us. I was OVERLY paranoid of SIDS, flat head syndrome, or torticollis, so during the daytime, if she didn’t nap in her crib, I wore her in a carrier. At night – we got rid of her rocker and she was in her crib. I was living in a state of exhaustion and paranoia, but once she fell asleep…instead of getting shut eye myself – sometimes I’d just stare at her and YES – I’d miss her. Sick. Isn’t it?
The REAL Fun Begins (6months)
Ever heard of wonder weeks? Well – they SUCK. When we finally thought we had it down, she was only waking about every 4 hours at night and had settled into her routine, at about 6 months – she got crazy on us again. Suddenly – nothing seemed to work. This is where the whole “babies can’t sleep if they’re overtired” thing seemed to set in. As an adult – without kids – not being able to sleep because you’re tired sounds RIDICULOUS. But it’s a thing. A real and painful thing. Suddenly aware of her new world, it would take us almost 2 hours to put her down for the night.
We got desperate and talked to a sleep coach (something you never even hear about until you become a parent). It’s an entire profession born entirely on the kind of desperation that sleepless nights brings. What she told us was, of course, things we thought we already knew, stick to a routine, minimize distractions (we got rid of the crib mobile) and let her “learn to sleep” on her own. Who knew humans had to learn how to sleep?! Although most of what she told us wasn’t a surprise, what she did give us was a feeling that we were not alone and that by helping Kara learn to soothe herself – we were not inflicting a lifetime of psychological damage. In a sense, she helped us feel a little less guilty about letting Kara cry. As a new mom – I could not bear the sound of her crying, but Jill (our coach) said something extremely logical, “she’s crying right now on and off for about 2 hours anyways because she can’t sleep right? So you might as well try it and see what happens.” So we did. Slowly at first, the first 5 minutes felt like an eternity – I watched a movie with headphones on, volume at full blast, just to not hear her (but of course – I still could. I could FEEL her cries in my soul!) and I would cry, too.
But over the course of a weekend, she learned. And after that – she went down right after her nightly routine content as a pie.
Still tough, but bearable (6months-12months)
Her napping and nighttime sleep routines were fairly down pat. There’d be some weeks harder than others, but for the most part – we were looking at a baby who’d sleep in her crib, wake once a night, and nap for Grandma during the day. We took our first vacation – and she stayed pretty consistent – but she started pushing back her once a night waking later into the early morning. The problem with that is – when she woke at 5am, it was harder for her to go back to sleep on her own. So at that point, we started breaking the no baby in bed rule and she’d spend the last few hours of sleep in bed with us.
Give an Inch…She Takes a Foot (12 months-18months)
I was pretty sure daycare was lying to me when they told me how long Kara’s naps were, but apparently, peer pressure goes a long way (even at that age). At night, she’d still do her once a night wakings…some nights I’d listen to see if she’d soothe herself – but I’d get her after about half an hour. No ones sleeping at that point. She’d go back to sleep and then wake again in the morning. Some mornings, she’ll wake again at 5 or 6am and she’d come to bed with us. It was beareable – I was only getting about 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, but after everything we had gone through, that was more than enough. However, slowly, she started to realize that if she woke up earlier than 5am, the chances of coming into bed with us were higher. So slowly, her 5am waking became 4am…then 3am…well you get the point. Some mornings I’d wake up thinking she slept through the night only to find her next to me (thanks to daddy).
Negotiating with a Terrorist
At 18 months, it was easier to talk to her. She started standing up in her crib at bedtime. So instead of picking her up – I’d lay next to her crib and tell her to lay down and go to sleep. She’d huff and puff, but throw her body down. After 10 or 15 times, she’d eventually stay down. She also woke up less during the night and at 20 months, she slept the entire night in her crib for an entire week.
Somehow between the time I first started writing this and today, my little girl is now 100% co-sleeping. Yes, as in she is in our bed. Crazy huh. We finally made it – and then we just let it all go away with our travels and inconsistency. She won’t even start in her room anymore, she’ll adamantly say, “Sleep daddy room.” And you know what – at this point – I don’t even care anymore.
No matter how much I hate it when she kicks me in the middle of the night, or smacks me in the face with her now toddler-sized dimensions, I love waking up next to her. Even if she’ll sleep the entire night without waking up – or waking me up – my body is tuned to still wake up multiple times a night. So I’m screwed either way.
Maybe we’ll convert her crib to an awesome floor bed and she’ll love it so much she’ll just want to sleep in there (not likely). But until then – I’ll just watch my baby sleep for just a little longer.
If you have any thoughts to share about your experiences or tips on how to get a toddler out of your bed, do share!