26 October 2012

sleep problems

Shepherd hasn't been sleeping too well. Thus, I haven't been sleeping too well. He has never slept awesome, but I was okay with the things were going for the most part. Recently, I was reading a book a friend of mine gave me as a baby gift called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, specifically a part about colic and sleep. When we were going through that stage, I didn't think that Shepherd was that colicky, mostly because his bouts of crying usually didn't last huge periods of time. I think looking back, though, he was more colicky than I was willing to admit. The only reason that his bouts of crying didn't last forever was because we were constantly trying new things to calm him down whenever he was upset. Also, I didn't want to label him as a colicky baby because I felt like he was perfectly healthy (he didn't seem to have any problems with his stomach, which many people say causes colic), and I was afraid about what that said of me as a mother. I always felt a little responsible for his apparent unhappiness and my inability to resolve it permanently. But I suppose I have a bit of a different perspective now that we're past that stage. When Weissbluth was describing the difference between normal infant fussiness and extreme infant fussiness/colic, I felt like my baby fit comfortably in that category of "colicky" (especially when it comes to the sleep problems). Now that he's a bit happier, I feel a little less responsibility labeling him that way.

I see now, also, that many of Shepherd's sleep behaviors are a direct result of my response to his colicky behavior. As I said, we were constantly trying to calm him, and we were constantly trying to get him to sleep. His fussiness almost always indicated tiredness and overstimulation. One of the things that worked more reliably was nursing. Thus I became the mother that nurses more than anybody I know, and Shep became the baby who would only fall asleep if he nursed down. During the day he would only nap for short periods of time, but at night he seemed to sleep better. It was actually working fairly well to nurse him to sleep and have him in the bed with us. Except for a brief phase when he was waking up like every 45 minutes, it seemed to maximize the amount of sleep he got, and the amount everyone got. He grew out of that phase on his own and went back to how things were before that phase, waking up 3 or 4 times a night and not fully waking, even, to nurse, and then quickly falling back to sleep.

I have no idea why, but the last week or so he's been going through another phase: he refuses to nurse back to sleep easily when he wakes up during the night, and I keep having to switch sides to get him to nurse again. I wish I could understand it. Like the phase he went through before where he was having issues, I'm revisiting the idea of sleep training. To be honest, I've avoided reading much about it because I know I'll feel like I'm doing things wrong if I read too much. I think a lot of the recommendations, with sleep or anything else, depend so much on your individual baby. Even before Shep became colicky, he wasn't really great at sleeping. He's never been one to self-soothe, nor is he usually happy or comfortable by himself for long. I've really struggled to know what will work for him to teach him to sleep better on his own, because I don't think crying it out will teach him anything but resentment for his mother (me), who for some odd and inexplicable reason is suddenly no longer responding to his needs. Based on what I know of him, he would just become increasingly more angry and ragged and he would refuse to be comforted by anything but suckling at the breast. It seems to me that people who've had success with just leaving their baby to cry might have babies who eventually stop crying? Not sure. Other more compassionate methods of sleep training seem to take a lot of time and effort, and I honestly felt like I'd lose more sleep trying to go through that process than just maintaining the status quo. I don't exactly have the most free schedule, either, because while I have a lot of flexibility and free time at work, I still am at least in theory working from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day.

The fact that nursing is not working so well to put him to sleep lately has kind of thrown me for a loop, though, since it was the main method. I think he might be ready to start sleeping on his own--as he grows, he's becoming increasingly picky about the environment once he's asleep, and when and where he will fall asleep. I think he is getting a little old for the co-sleeper, so I finally broke down and ordered a crib. (I thought we'd be fine going without before.) I think we're going to try putting him in it once he's asleep and gradually do it more and more until he learns to sleep there on his own.

I'm a little worried it won't go well but this current phase doesn't seem to be letting up and I'm not sure what else to do. This morning, he was getting increasingly agitated and I kept trying to nurse him to sleep, which normally works somewhat well. He wasn't having any of it, so I figured if he was already crying I might try to start the sleep training now for a nap. I finally got him asleep through a combination of distraction, rocking/walking, nursing, and then I extracted myself from his side and left the room and closed the door.

He woke up sobbing not five minutes later.


janelle said...

parenting is hard! it'd be hard enough if we were well rested, but add sleepy on top and it's just tough.
my first child was a champion sleeper - he had a big independent streak, and truly enjoyed alone time, so we were able to put him down for sleep by himself without any trouble. he responded really well to sleep training and at 6 weeks was going 6 hours at a time between feedings.
my second, though, sounds like your baby - doesn't enjoy alone time, and prefers sleeping in my arms to sleeping alone. after #1, i found this hard to deal with, especially since i had to run around in the daytime after a VERY busy toddler!
but sleep training was worth it, and she's doing great - falling asleep on her own now, and sleeping for long chunks of time. i know it's a lot of work, but it will probably take less time than you think. worse case scenario, sleep training will take a month ... and then you can finally get some solid sleep! and a month sounds awful, but it's bound to be better than continuing to be tired. and maybe the sleep training is just the tool your little guy needs in order to learn to self-soothe and rest well.
i know that no method works for every single baby, but if you have a sleep training book and try its suggestions, even if they don't work you're no further behind than before you started.
good luck! and sweet dreams :).

Joanna Galbraith said...

Amanda!! I can't relate (yet), but this post describes so well the frustration you must be feeling. I hope you and Shepherd work something out soon!! Good luck!

Amanda said...

This is such a hard thing. Good luck! And know that eventually it will get better (no baby phase or challenge stays forever—you'll figure it out).

Luke and Andrea said...

Poor girl! Sleeping stuff seems to be the bain (spelling?) of everyone's existence! There might be some things you can do that won't involve any amounts of crying that eventually could help, like using white noise during naps and nighttime to try to help him sleep longer. I've been using an "Ocean Waves" hour-long soundtrack for Peter, while I'm laying next to him as he falls asleep, and it seems to help. It's helping Luke, at least! ha ha! Again, I can recommend the No-Cry Sleep Solution book as having some great ideas. She's honest, of course, that it will take longer (several weeks), but she promises it can be done with little to no crying. Maybe it could help. Also, prayer. It's amazing the things Heavenly Father can help you with. Remember he loves you. We love you too! Good luck!

Katy said...

ohmygoodness! Sleep issues are the worst! I remember blearily scouring the internet for tips to get my twins to take longer naps (they were only doing 30-45minutes at a time). They were pretty good at night though. However, there were a few times when we had to let them cry it out to get them to sleep at night. Everytime we did that they'd sleep better for a few months and then we'd have to do it again. We did a variation on the CIO method though. Straight CIO didn't work for them, they would just get more hysterical and wound up (and so would I!). Instead we did the graduated method and it worked great! The basic idea is you let them cry for a minute or so and then you go in and comfort them (but don't pick them up) and then leave again and wait three minutes before going in etc. You gradually increase the interval every time until they fall asleep. At their worst it took less than a week of that for them to be able to soothe themselves to sleep. But every baby is different. I found that method was a nice compromise between straight CIO which I felt wouldn't work and be miserably sleep deprived.

Eventually they got better at sleeping the older they got. I feel for you!

It's also possible he has an ear infection or is teething.

Good luck my dear! He is so darling and I hope he starts sleeping better!

JBrown said...

I feel your pain! This is tough. Forrest was definitely a very colicky baby, and I also did not like admitting it because I felt like it meant I was failing him or not responding to his needs in some way (plus, it was just sort of sad to have to admit that he wasn't a sweet, perfect little angel baby). He also needed to be fed to fall asleep (although I didn't last long nursing--it just added to my stress level when I wasn't producing enough, wasn't sure if something I was/wasn't eating was contributing to his colic, couldn't let Jeff help when I was exhausted, etc., so I switched to bottle feeding), and that's a tough pattern to break as they get older.

We did the same as Katy--let him cry it out while checking in at longer and longer intervals. Of course, I have no idea what goes on in babies' brains, but I don't think you probably need to worry much about him resenting you if you do decide to let him cry. You're not neglecting him, you're helping him learn how to soothe himself and learn to sleep on his own, which are very important life skills that he'll have to learn sooner or later!

I also thought that Forrest would just cry and cry and cry forever and never calm down and sleep--Shep might surprise you there. I'm probably going too in-depth and you won't want to read all these details, but just in case you do, when we did the 'cry it out' method with Forrest (at about 4 months old), he cried for I believe an hour or so the first night before going to sleep, then woke I think 2 or 3 times in the night and cried for another hour before going back to sleep (and we were checking in every few minutes to pat his belly, give him a kiss, etc. without comforting him all the way back to sleep or staying too long in the room). The second night, he cried for about half that time, and by the third night he was only crying for a few minutes before falling asleep. For about a month, he would still wake up once in the night (about 4-5 AM) and I would give him a bottle (I wasn't sure if he still needed it or not at that age, but I figured one nightly feeding was still reasonable for a 4-month old), but he gave that up and started sleeping completely through the night after probably a month or two.

Maybe that'll give you a little hope for Shep--Forrest was a HOOOOOORRIBLE sleeper before we started letting him cry it out, and I truly 100% believed it wouldn't work or help matters at all, but it made such a huge difference. I hope you don't feel bad about letting him cry if you decide to take that route--I really, really, really do not think that it makes you a bad or neglectful mother (although I know how hard it is to let them cry). I think some babies are just blessed with good sleeping habits on their own, and some need a little tough love to figure things out.

Rachel said...

Oh, I guess I was on Jeff's account when I left that comment. It was from me :-)

Holly Kelly said...

I hear ya. It's been really hard for us to decide what sleep training method we want to use, since Sam's not hard-hearted enough for CIO and I am not patient enough for no-cry. And, ok, I feel guilty about CIO, too. I keep thinking awful things like, "If Anna doesn't wake up in the morning, I'll regret my whole life not cuddling her to sleep tonight." How morbid is that?

But we've been doing a gradual kind of CIO that some people have already said--we set her down and walk out, come back to soothe her after a few minutes, walk out, soothe, etc., until she falls asleep. She's getting the idea, I think, and is doing better at falling asleep on her own. Or it might be the fact that I've been killing myself this past week watching for her tired signs so I can put her to bed drowsy but not overtired, so she's learning to fall asleep on her own that way. Who knows.

It also [seems] to help to put her in the same place for naps as for nighttime sleep, to have a routine for both naps and nighttime, and to put distance between us [so, I set her down in her crib in our bedroom and then go downstairs]. The thing I'm at a loss for is napping. When she wakes up after only a half hour [which is nearly every time], do I try to get her to sleep again or get her up and try again at her next nap time? No clue.

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Jean Little said...

Oh Amanda! I am sorry the sleep thing is so frustrating. It must be so hard to try to work for 8 hours a day! I am only working part time - mostly when Connor is sleeping. Sometimes I try to work while he is awake and it is truly a nightmare. Connor is a real attention hog.

Maybe I could watch your baby for a few hours sometime. Good luck with everything!

Home on the Grange said...

Amanda! We should talk sometime. Like every other parent in the world, I too struggle with the sleeping issue. While I'm sure this will provide you with zero help, I'll tell you that my theory is this: You're the parent so find something you feel good about and do it. I sometimes feel a lot of pressure from people who think that kids need to sleep on their own all night long in a crib in their own room. I however, don't feel good about this since my child doesn't seem to love the idea. I try new things all the time and am currently working on getting her to feel more comfortable in the crib. Sometimes I have a lot of success and sometimes I don't. I've decided not to stress over it and to just do what makes me and my baby feel comfortable about things. Everyone else can just stick it! Haha! We should chat this out further sometime.

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