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Monday, September 17, 2007You'd think a topic like sleep would unite mothers everywhere. After all, who doesn't believe that getting some sleep is a good thing?
The reality is that sleep is like anything else related to babies. It's unpredictable. What works for one mother and child may not work for another.
In fact, my own family is the perfect example of this. Elnora began sleeping through the night (12 solid hours) at 7 weeks of age and did not wake up a single night until she was 7 months old. For the next several months, she woke up about once a night, but generally went back to sleep pretty easily if I rocked her with a bottle or sippy cup of my expressed milk. (For new readers, I exclusively pumped for the first 13 months of Elnora's life.)
Honestly? I never understood what the big deal about using bottles was. I made up two bottles each night and put them in an insulated bag with an ice pack before we headed up to bed. When Elnora woke up, I'd set the bottle upside down under the sink with hot water running over it and go change her diaper. By the time I had her diaper changed, the bottle was warm enough for her to drink. We'd settle into the rocking chair in her room, I'd sing her a song as she drank her milk and then I'd put her back in her crib and head back to bed.
We never had to deal with any night crying until she was seven months old and started waking up again. Then, she'd occasionally cry out in her sleep. She was a night fusser, but we learned over time that the more actively we tried to comfort her, the more frustrated she'd become. It was like she couldn't unwind with the extra stimuli. Our rule quickly began to give her five minutes to fuss before we'd go and check on her. Nine times out of ten, she'd fuss for a few minutes and then go back to sleep.
Overall, life was fairly easy in terms of sleep. With just Elnora around, I was able to take naps during the day when she took naps, so while I was tired, I was never "beat."
Emmitt couldn't be more different.
Nursed at the breast from the start, Emmitt began life nursing once an hour and didn't quit until he was nearly two months old. With a 22 month old in the house to care for (who was down to one nap a day), sleeping while Emmitt slept was not an option. Add in the fact that I work from home and nap time had to become work time by default.
I'd like to say it ended there, but even when he stopped nursing on the hour, he simply moved to nursing every two or two and a half hours. Even today, at just shy of a year, he still wakes up a minimum of twice a night and often three or four times a night. I honestly believe that hell is someone poking you to keep you awake for all eternity. He's been in our room from the start, in a bassinet next to my side of the bed. At three months he transitioned to a pack n play and at six months we moved the crib into our room and put him in that.
In the early days, he spent about half the time in our bed and about half the time in his. By five months, he was sitting up and rolling all over creation and I had to start putting him in his crib after each feeding.
While sleep deprivation is bad, the hallucinations and black outs are worse.
During those first six months, I'd wake up, gather him in my arms, change his diaper on our bed and then lay down to nurse him. That's where my memories ended. I would wake up and start frantically searching through the covers for him, having no memory of putting him back in his crib. On a weekly basis, I'd have complete hallucinations.
This is the point at which I would have done almost anything to get more than two hours of sleep in a row.
Unfortunately, I sit here typing this entry as Emmitt nears his first birthday and things aren't much better. Emmitt woke up six times last night. Four of those times I had to get up with him to nurse him. The other two times, he woke up, rolled around, played for a few minutes and went back to sleep.
Like Elnora, he occasionally cries for a bit as he goes to sleep as well. There have been nights where I've spent two and a half hours trying to get him to sleep because I didn't want to let him cry. There have been other nights where I let him cry for less than five minutes and he was out like a light. The same goes for nap time. As much as I don't like to let children cry, the reality is that when you have two kids in two years, you're going to have a point in time where they both need you at once. Sometimes that means one of them has to cry and sometimes, that someone is the baby.
Night weaning is heavily on my mind.
It's been nearly 18 months since I've slept more than five hours straight and even that has happened only a handful of times. I'm a grumpy person. I'm not near the wife or mother I'd like to be. I would say I dream of the night I can sleep six, seven or even eight hours, but I rarely sleep long enough to dream.
I honestly don't remember what it's like to feel awake. I have no recollection of having energy.
I've decided that as soon as Emmitt is weaned, I am going away for a weekend, whether anyone comes with me or not. I don't care where I go, as long as it has a comfy bed and a Jacuzzi tub.
No, you can't come with me. It'd be dull anyway. All I'm going to do is sleep.
Check out the rest of the entries in this month's Carnival of Breastfeeding:
Motherwear talks about finding what works for you
Mama Magic is "So Tired"
Hathor serves up a family sleep cartoon
Breastfeeding Mums was as tired as I am
Leche Baby is dreaming of night weaning
Veggie Way says "let em sleep!"
Breastfeeding 1-2-3 speaks against sleep training
Crunchy Domestic Goddess relies on co-sleeping
Life with Twins speaks in defense of sleep training
Mama Knows Breast hasn't slept in years