Posted by: Modern Mom | July 23, 2014

Baby Blues Part 2: Sleep, or lack thereof

Find Part 1 of Baby Blues here.

It was at the hotel with my mom that sleeping first became a major issue. I had a handy travel bed for my son that would keep him contained in the space next to me while I slept. I loved that idea. He did not. It had been about a week and we had already tackled some severe nursing issues, but he was also crying all the time. Until he was purple sometimes. And the boy wouldn’t sleep on his own. The only time he would sleep was attached to me.

So the horrible bedtime routine started. I would gather every pillow known to man and create a huge wedge-like armchair thing in my bed. I would then crawl in bed with a sleeping baby and prop myself in an slightly upright position with pillows all around to keep me from dropping my arms (and the baby), say a prayer that we would both sleep, and then attempt to sleep.

The books and doctors all say to put the baby to sleep in the cradle on his back. To hell with the doctors. That kid never slept. If I put him in a crib or bassinet, he’d scream. It was a miracle when he’d fall asleep and there was no way on Earth that I was going to destroy that miracle by disturbing him. We tried everything anyone suggested. Put a blanket in the dryer so it’s warm, then lay him on top of it so he doesn’t feel that you’re gone. He knew. Swaddle him tight (we took lessons in swaddling) and lay him in the crib. He just screamed. Have you ever heard of “purple baby”? That was him.

It was colic, they told me. “What does that mean?” I desperately hoped for a cure. They didn’t have any answers for me. They couldn’t tell me what to do. At this point, I felt like a crazy person about to snap. I hadn’t slept in months and this baby Would. Not. Let. Me. Put. Him. Down. Then, in the evening, even when I held him he would scream. Just scream. And I would cry. Sob. Until we were both soaked.

I was so sleep deprived that I don’t know how I operated a vehicle. That boy woke up every two hours, all day, all night, for nine months straight. I have a hard time falling to sleep anyway, so by the time I fell asleep, I’d get maybe half an hour to an hour before he’d wake me up again to nurse.

Looking back, I know what I was doing wrong. Because I didn’t screw it up with the second one. And I wish the idiot doctors would have told me this. Put. Him. Down. Screaming or not, as hard as it was, I needed to just put him down*. He never slept through the night until I got tough with him. By the time I decided to do it, he was too old and it made it all that much harder. He needed to “self soothe” and know that he could be on his own and still safe. I needed to recruit my husband to help because if that boy saw me, all bets were off.

It was a mistake that I know many first time moms make. We hate to hear our babies cry. It’s instinct that takes us over. Guilt even. But for me, it was my mental and physical health that was suffering. And without a mommy in good physical and mental health, that baby didn’t have much chance of being healthy. Sometimes, as hard as it might be, we have to put our needs first.

The good news is, the bedtime battle didn’t last forever. The first night was the hardest. It got better from there. It took a while before he was sleeping more than two hours at a time, but being able to lay him in how own bed at night was a major accomplishment. I could sleep in my own bed…. alone. Well… with my husband, but without a baby on me. For the first time in 18 months, I was sleeping without a baby. Hallelujah.

 

*Now, I’m not saying to lay a newborn down and let them scream. No. Please note, this boy was nine months old (too old) when I started this. I should have started about the 4-6 week mark. I got wiser with the second and he was a beautiful sleeper. If you are experiencing sleep issues with an infant or toddler, please read the book that saved my life: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth.

 

 

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