Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No Rest For The Wicked

On Friday night, in a desperate attempt to get more than 5 hours of sleep, I came up with a plan.

Maybe, just maybe, Max isn’t sleeping because he’s not eating enough. Now I know that breastfed babies supposedly eat what they want and no more but what if he wanted to eat more and wasn’t getting it? What if there wasn’t enough milk to completely knock him out for 6, maybe 7, oh let’s say 10 hours of straight sleep?

Before you tell me that I’m hoping for the impossible, let me assure you – it’s possible. How do I know? The woman who sits next to me in baby yoga told me a magical tale of her son sleeping the night before from 7 pm to 6 am.

Straight through.

When you, as a mother, hear things like that your first feeling is an overwhelming urge to tackle that woman to the ground and shake her silly while shouting things like DAMN YOU WOMAN I HAVEN’T SLEPT IN 12 WEEKS! After that urge passes, you realize that a much safer (and legal) way to approach this is to ask her…


HOW did you do that?

There are no secrets in training but let me tell you – there are secrets in parenting. There has to be. Otherwise, how are people getting their kids to sleep through the night? She tells me her son drinks 7 ounces of milk before bed.

The light bulb appears.

A HA! Yes, yes, THAT is it! He needs more milk!

I’m willing to try anything. If you told me I had to wear Newton’s, compression socks and a power meter attached to my breasts in order to get my child to sleep through the night let me be the first to admit – I’d do it. I spent all of Friday pumping. That’s what it felt like. Breastfeeding can feel like a full-time job if you feed and pump. I pumped after every feeding until I had accumulated 5 ounces of milk.

Friday seemed like a neverending day of not enough naps. I was convinced that lack of naps combined with more milk would be a powerful drug cocktail that Max would not resist. At 7:30 pm, Max faked us out by falling asleep in the pack ‘n play. Dammit! You never ever EVER move a sleeping baby (don’t try, unless you want a woken up baby) so we let him be. And we waited….

9 pm he woke up. I gave Chris the bottle and told him to start there. See if he drinks all of it. Since you have no idea how much a breastfed baby drinks (there is no predictable flow rate of a boob, yes I know this, my husband asked the doctor), I figured 5 ounces would be a good place to start. Meanwhile, I started pumping. Max tore through the 5 ounces then we gave him 2 more. When he tore through that, we gave him 2 more. Then, he laid there, eyes glazed over with a belly full of 9 ounces of milk and what had to be a massive shit brewing.

(and one that would hopefully stay put until at least 6 am)

By 9:30, he was in his crib. Sleeping.

That night I stood brushing my teeth and thinking to myself – this is it, the night I’m finally going to get sleep. It was like the feeling of Christmas morning, your wedding day, a feeling of happiness that would soon come to be.

At 9:45 pm, I was in bed.

It took me 30 minutes to fall asleep.

(how is that fair?)

At midnight, I heard something. At first I didn’t believe it. What is that? Why is the dog crying? Wait, is that the…baby!? How can he be up? He can’t possibly be hungry! I go into his room to realize the diaper is full. Dammit! We need bigger diapers. Changed the diaper and he fell right back to sleep.

At 2:14 am, he woke up again.

Seriously? This isn’t happening. What now? This time he was hungry. Is there a hole in him that only leaks milk? So I fed him, changed him and 20 minutes later, he was back to sleep. This had to be it! I’m free until the morning. Please!

Except I couldn’t fall asleep for another 30 minutes.

At 3:19 am, he woke up again. WHAT NOW! He wasn’t hungry. No, his diaper leaked. And now his pajamas were wet. New diaper, new pajamas, zipped into sleep sack. Done.


At 4:20 am, he was up. Again. ON FOR THE LOVE OF A SLEEPLESS GOD! I cursed. I thought to myself – why do I even try to go to sleep!? And, how can this kid not need sleep? He napped once during the way. He’s got to be exhausted? What did I do to make him this way?

(if you ask my mom, she’ll tell you that I ate too many Power Bars during pregnancy)

He was hungry, so I fed him again and put him back to sleep.

At 5:29 am, guess what happened. He woke up. AGAIN! I took myself off the clock. I ignored the cries and admitted defeat. I let him cry until Chris got him.

Chris brought him into the bedroom.

What does he want?

(I always ask this like the answer will ever be anything different than food)

I have no idea what happened between the hours of 5:39 and 8:39 am because that is when I finally slept.

Later in the morning, Chris and I meet in the upstairs hallway. I looked tired. He had bad bedhead. We both look at the line of 6 diapers on the landing when he says:

Rough night.


Our plan did not only backfire but it caused the opposite of what we were looking for. I am still not sure how that was possible. Some say growth spurt, others say too many Power Bars but the real answer, I know, is that the kid does not have a clock. He will eat and sleep when he wants, as he wants. No matter what I do in between.

The next few days, Max slept better. Why? FOR NO DISCERNIBLE REASON AT ALL. I’ve made a science experiment of my child’s sleep for so many nights (sleep sack vs swaddle, fan on vs fan off, footie pajamas vs open toed…YES I was willing to consider anything!) and after careful calculations and a Chi-squared test for statistical significance, my hypothesis has been refuted over and over again.

There is no pattern. No correlation. No relationships. He is an enigma who sometimes just does not need to sleep.

If you are a new or soon to be parent, heed my warning – don’t bother making charts or plotting data because it won’t tell you a damn thing. Like I learned from Facebook, sure, we can all pretend like we’ll sleep again. Maybe in 18 years. Until then, get out your best bottle of foundation, hide those lines and convince yourself that only the weak need sleep.

And puppies.

And really old people.

How soon until I'm really old?


Keith said...

I keep telling you, the answer is duct tape. Lots of duct tape. Wait, don't tell me you're worried about the child protection people finding out. Max isn't talking yet. You're safe. Yeah, just what you need, advice from a child free adult who lives in a whole different country.

Mike said...

Sorry I don't have any magical solutions and this may not be very comforting. We have two children, one has never slept well, the other has always slept well. We didn't try to do anything different with them. They have their own personalities. Our non-sleeper is now 19 and guess what? She still doesn't slepp well. Our good sleeper is 13 and still sleeps like a rock.

I remember about 9 months after our first was born thinking I must have some disease because I am exhausted (even though my wife did all the work). Then I realized I hadn't slept for more than 2 hours in a row for 9 months.

Sorry I can't be of more help. Maybe knowing it isn't abnormal will give you a little consolation.

LZ said...

I am so sorry about your sleep issues. I am one of the moms youn hate who's 14 week old sleeps through the night without feeding and has been for about a month-and breastfeeding. Mynlittlemone doesn't nap well during the day much either. I know you are willing to try everything but I think what has worked for us is a eating schedule with a cluster feed and a routine. I feed her every 3-3:15 min during the day and she eats 4-5 oz at a time but my last two feeds are close together. Feed at 5 and then again at 7 or 7:15.

We also do the 7:15 feed in her room with the lights out and play a song so it is the same routine every night. I think that has helped and signals to her that this is bed time.

The book Healthy Sleep Habits (something like that) has really helped.

I really hope it gets better for you soon!

Sara said...

Max is just preparing himself early for all those 24 hour races he is going to be doing! Ugh...this sounds awful but here's to hoping that the magic formula is still out there!

Suzanne said...

Here's an idea... and I'm sure you've been inundated with advice, and well, you haven't asked me for any (and since you don't know me) but I thought I would offer a suggestion (that you can toss or laugh at or whatever). Try switching to a night time formula or regular formula with rice or oatmeal cereal mixed in. Something heavier in his stomach that will take longer to digest. I know you breastfeed, but it can't hurt to supplement, right? I know that for some kids, the thicker heavier fluid can help them go longer between meals and helps them fall into a deep sleep.
Just my 2cents, do with as you please... my child was 8.5 months old when I got her and we had sleep issues until she was 14 months old. Took me that long to figure out what she needed to sleep good. Each child is different.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I remember those days all too well (because it was only 18 months ago). I would convince myself that I would jinx the whole night of sleep if I didn't follow the proper rituals, which included a silent prayer as I lay Riley into his crib. Nothing will make you find God faster than having a baby who refuses to sleep.
Hang in there.
P.S. Things got better for us when we started supplementing with a little formula. We gave him 2 ounces after every breastfeeding and it seemed to help.

Swimming for ME said...

one word... Ferber.

Celeste said...

I also had a very bad period from 10 -16 weeks (every night was like what you experienced last night). We ultimately hired a sleep consultant who turned my life around. After just three nights, I was only getting up once a night (the sleep consultant viewed this as a failure because she thought the baby should sleep through the night, but for various reasons I wanted to continue one night time feeding). The woman we hired was local (SF - Vivian Sonnenberg), but there may be someone similar in Chicago. I hope you don't mind the unsolicited advice (from someone who has never commented before on your blog), but I was a total wreck by sixteen weeks (and had to start back to work in three weeks) and I would hate for anyone else get to the point that I was at.

trish said...

I'm a new blog follower and love how you just put it all out there! This is the funniest and truest post...I have two girls and my younger one was and still is the worst sleeper (sorry!) I remember many nights of complete meltdowns (me!) as she was still waking every two hours at 6months. One night I called her a "stupid baby"..another said I was going to throw her out the window. Terrible I know, but sleep deprivation has that affect! Of course she is still with us with no brain trauma's so I didn't actually do any of that. She still wakes up most nights around 3-4 in the morning to use the bathroom and make sure I'm still 10 feet from her room. I do promise she has the cutest and funniest personality that almost makes up for this...she's just intense and always has been! Best of luck!

Running and living said...

I am with Swimming for me. Ferber! It sounds tough, and it is tough to do, but it works. Look into it! It worked like a charm for me.

E.L.F. said...

From what I've read, the Ferber Method is recommended for children between 4 and 6 months old. At that point it's developmentally appropriate to teach them to self-soothe. Max is not 3 months yet so I feel like I should still step in to see what he needs. And, more often than not he is either wet or hungry. Once those needs are met, he goes right back to sleep. The problem is he wakes up a lot :) I guess that's just the kind of kid he is.

Alicia Parr said...

Remy still wakes up several times through the night. At some point, my body figured out how to time the deep sleep at the times when I'm least likely to be interrupted so I don't feel deprived. When I get tired enough, I crash early, although that happens more when I'm training heavily.

FWIW, babies who regularly sleep through the night are the minority. My only unsolicited advice? Don't fight going to sleep early when your body demands it.

meredith said...

mae mae pulled an every 2 hours deal this week. that was killer. i got very frustrated. it seemed because she had a wet diaper...and all of a sudden that bothers her? but i started putting bigger diapers on her and she did manage to fall back into longer stretches. i also know that mae mae probably takes in about 7-8 ounces of milk. i can pump 3-4 from each breast at any given time. night time is hell tho...her 'witching' hour is about 3 hours long.

kT said...

Even though you're sleep deprived, you're still thinking straight. Some babies sleep through the night early (my 1st did at 3-4 months), and some don't (my 2nd didn't until we got all hardcore on his little a** around 8 months, and like others have pointed out, you can tell this is part of who they are, because their different sleep habits persist). You're totally right--you can try all different kinds of tricks, and people will swear by them, but none of us ever does the control experiment, so when tricks work, it's because they coincide with what the baby was going to do anyway.

But don't despair. You'll get your sleep back sooner than you think. But wow, I remember how this was like the ONLY THING THAT MATTERED. I feel your pain. And yet 7 years later (4 years for the 2nd), it's like barely even a clear memory. Hang in there, and keep being funny--I think that's the most helpful thing.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

Well written, but yes, exhausting!!
I nursed and pumped and yes, you are dispensing milk basically all day long. The milk machine. The "what does he want?" made me smile. Best to you all, may you get the rest you need, and if not, then sleep fast.