A friend confided in me: I sleep in bed with the baby and my husband sleeps with our toddler. I know–I know–it’s so weird. He’s a bad sleeper.
I responded: that sounds like so many parents I know. Not weird at all. Almost all of us are dealing with baby and children sleep. Meaning: crappy interrupted adult sleep.
We’ve embraced “bad” sleeping. So now it just feels like “sleeping.”
I wrote a lot about sleep with my first two kids. I read a lot about sleep. I think I thought I could out-think the sleeping problems of babies. I viewed them as problems. I viewed myself as a sleep deprived zombie. I was convinced there was a sleep answer.
Toddler Sleep Issues: reasons why they might wake up.
Sleep Sampler: 0-12 months: my overview from my kiddos
Ousting a co-sleeper: we’re not here with BabyLoves, but why did I kick SweetPea out of bed at 6 months? IT DID NOT WORK. I kept getting up to nurse and soothe her for another 6 months til we night weaned.
Nightweaning: when & how we did it with our second born.
Now on baby number three, I’ve embraced that babies sleep differently than children and adults. Well, at least I’ve given up that I can teach my baby to sleep differently than he is inclined to. Babies do not go week after week with uninterrupted REM cycles. They just don’t.
If your baby magically has never awakened between the hours of 7pm and 7am, ever, EVER, great! We’re all clapping.
But this post is for those of us whose children fall in the normal range of waking to feed, waking to diaper change, waking to need and want comfort from a parent, and who don’t want to sleep train.
I’m not in the sleep training camp. Many of my friends are (**waving** hi, gals!!**). I’m not going to judge your sleep parenting decisions. Because we don’t sleep train at all or even attempt to shape sleep habits before a year at night, I’m sharing how we cope with night sleep, specifically.
1) Earlier in the night wake ups for 6 month olds+
(before 6 months, I just nurse my babies right back down, even if it’s a zillion times, because they’re infants and probably need the nutrition and soothing)
If I know she’s eating enough during the day (working//bottle moms: amp up his bottle amounts if you’re bottle feeding or offer to nurse more if you’re nursing on demand), I soothe her back to sleep with rocking and back pats. Elizabeth Pantly’s No Cry Sleep Solution talks about how to be present with them while they’re upset (aka SCREAMING) but not nursing. I’m with her and comforting her through touch and sound (ear plugs?!), but not nursing her. The idea is that over time she will figure it’s not worth it to wake up until the middle of the night because she’s not getting nursed. This is only good if I really believe she is not hungry, but looking for comfort instead.
Check diaper, check teething (motrin or homeopathy, whatever you prefer–we do both), check humidifier in room, check volume of white noise machine, etc. AA or I just be there for her and try to stem the tide of frustration that wells up so quickly.
(we’re not here with BabyLoves yet, so this if off my experience with the first two–he may be different)
2) Later in the night;middle of the night.
After years of getting up & down, at this point, we are all about cosleeping because I just have to lay there in the bed with the baby and side nurse. I honestly don’t even wake up when he’s nursing at this age middle of the night. When he was smaller I would be much more aware, but as he’s always been big, it’s been really easy to dream nurse.
You’re thinking cosleeping sounds terrible. My spouse and I will never be alone again and the baby will take up our whole bed because I’m freaked out he’s going to crawl off it and die or we will crush him.
I thought so too with SuperBoy so I got a double mattress from Room & Board that has spring & mattress combined and put it in his room in the corner as a floor bed. When he woke up in the middle of the night, I’d head in there and pass out in the bed, between him and the floor. It was also SO low that even if he rolled off, he’d be fine. The double meant there was plenty of room. He was so big at the point that there was no way I could crush him and he wouldn’t wake up and scream.
With SweetPea we coslept the first six months and then began the next six months of up & down with her in her room at night. Why didn’t I just go back to co-sleeping??
My mom asked me the other day if I was going insane because I had to be around the baby almost all the time. Surprisingly, I’m not. I nurse on demand & cosleep & both of these things makes me life so much easier at this point. I also have a husband who often puts the older two to bed by himself if I’m in with the baby. I also have a mom and dad and sister who are around almost all the time so I have lots of extra help. I’m pretty spoiled.
3) That’s it? Cosleep and be a zombie for a year or Cry-It-Out?
This sounds like I’m giving super limited advice. Cosleep & then night wean at 12 months. I wish I had a broader spectrum of answers! This is what’s working best for our family. I have limited mobility in the evenings as I need to be at a hand and near the baby for nursing back down. Do I feel trapped and imprisoned and suffocated? Not really. I know this is a finite period of time and I actually love the snuggling part and that I can be on my iPhone while he dozes and I can get things done on my electronic to-do list. I gave up planning evenings out (clogged ducts, close to infection, screaming baby who wouldn’t take bottle: not worth it).
Maybe it’s all relative to our own situations. I’m an at home mom of three who has the time to just do lots of bedtime snuggles at night. My working girlfriends or friends without a partner to help put other kids to sleep (because the big ones sometimes get up, too!) may find this to be completely insane advice.
What I do know is that almost every person goes through babies waking up at night, a lot, and it’s really really hard. The commonality of the hardship does not lessen it. Whatever your method of coping, know I’m in solidarity with you in the middle of the night!!