Nappy-Naps

[I’ve mentioned progress on Weaning From the Cursed Box a few times, but meant to do a more proper post on the subject. This morning I started out with that in mind, but it turned right into a naps post. You’ll see why.]

The horrid realization that my darling toddler’ was wickedly addicted to watching movies came over a month ago. It was a rough time for me. Actually, things had been rough since January (actually things have been rough since last April, this is certainly a tops year for us what with the move, the new babe, etc, etc. But we had hit a bit of a stride in November/December…. which January broke). There were quite a few sleeping issues. Napping the Babe in particular had me totally confounded. I put the Toddler down in front of a movie many a time to get the house quiet enough to put a baby sleep fighter to sleep. I couldn’t figure any other way to do it.

Now that I think about it, was the message I was sending “I’m going to go spend quality time with your brother, here plug yourself into this glowing box”…? Oh god! The mamaguilt! Still and yet, at that time in his development, he would literally not go to sleep or stay asleep if there was ANY kind of noise. So I guess I still don’t know how else I could have done it. Only the parent of a true sleep fighter can understand how incredibly tenuous sleep can be. In the beginning, he would only sleep if I was wearing him. I did my best to keep trying with the laying him down to nap business. Some days I would spend a total of three hours trying to get him down for naps. Rarely would he stay asleep (on the bed) for more than 15 or 20 minutes. I was going insane.

But lo– angels on high sweetly sing, he has learned to nap.  The import of that simple sentence is huge. He still fights sleep, but at least he does eventually go, most times. Even if there is some Toddler noise going on. And once asleep, he naps for usually at least 30 minutes, often an hour and a half, and occasionally as much as two and a half hours! That’s on the bed. In fact, he stopped wanting to be worn for naps. Now if I let him nap in the carrier he just takes a 20 minute cat nap.

Like all parenting, I didn’t teach him to nap. His ability to nap budded and grew from within his own pudgy little self. But it did take a lot of work on my part, continually providing him with the opportunity to practice. Waiting for his Magic Moment.

For any mama’s struggling with the nap issue out there, here’s some things I think helped (though like I said, the change very obviously came from him, I was doing all this stuff before and it didn’t help until he was ready):

1. Perseverance. Topping the list. Just keep chanting, “This will get better, this will get better” It will. Maybe you won’t be so lucky as me, and have it better after just a few months of insanity, but they do grow. They do change. It will get better.

2. Routine. I struggled to find some kind of rhythm to his sleep cycles so that I could encourage him toward sleep at the right moments, and generally get his body used to falling to sleep at certain times of day. It’s not like we have any real kind of schedule, particularly because he doesn’t wake up at the same time every morning. But at least now I know he’ll need a nap sometime around 9:30 or 10:30, then again after lunch-ish, and a late afternoon nap that sometimes turns into an extra early bedtime, unfortunately.

3. On the Bed. With the Toddler, who was also an epic sleep fighter, I walked. I walked and nursed and sang. She wouldn’t even go with the rocking chair. I put on the miles, mostly within the confines of our house. This time, I just didn’t feel like it. I’m tired. I don’t want to walk a bunch of uninteresting house miles. No telling if this would have worked with the Toddler or not, but I just started laying down with him and trying to nurse him to sleep. I had to weather a lot of extra fussing/crying/screaming, sometimes he’ll nurse, cry, nurse, cry for fifteen minutes (seems like much longer of course) before he finally gives up the ghost and gives in to the exhaustion. It’s frustrating because when they scream they get their adrenaline going and then they’re all wired. But honestly, it doesn’t seem to take him longer than it used to take the Toddler. And I get to just lay there. Plus, then all I have to do is get up (as opposed to lay him down), not necessarily easy, but easier. (I know they say the thing about ‘a baby is confused if they wake up somewhere other than where they went to sleep,’ ie: if you put them to sleep in your arms and they wake up in the crib. And that makes perfect sense. But I sure didn’t ever notice this making a difference.)

4. The Classics. I gave in to all the traditional babysleep stuff. I swaddle him (not aggressively with the behind the back straight-jacket thing, just wrap him in a blanket so that his arms can’t flail out and wake him up), put pillows on both sides (down around his body, not up by his head) and turn the fan on for white noise. This last bit I only started doing after it warmed up. It seemed wrong to turn a fan on when our house was freezing. He had already started sleeping better when I started the fan bit, but it certainly helps with drowning out the Toddler noise.

Tune in next time for the part about where I figured out a couple of non-electronic ways to keep the Toddler quiet and distracted while I put the Babe to sleep, plus further updates and suggestions on breaking movie addictions!

Sleep: Rated R for Language

Fuck.

Fuck, fuck, fucking fuck.

**Anyone who thinks it’s abhorrent that a mother of two should cuss like a sailor has not been a mother of two. Or, if they have, then I just don’t know what. There are a few things in life that require cussing like nothing else: carpentry, car mechanics, sewing (for me anyway), computers, and topping my own personal list– having kids. Particularly having two kids. And don’t think I don’t see the irony in the fact that the word most called to mind is what brought the little buggers/angels into this world in the first place.**

Let me illuminate the situation. Although I was in bed for a total of seven and a half hours last night, the devil’s in the details. My longest sleep stretch was an hour and a half. Otherwise, the Babe pretty much woke me up once/hour, until 4:52 when he woke me for good. I spent another half hour trying to coerce him back into sleep, and then got up (in a typically mama-style restrained rage) at 5:25.

Fuck.

Now he’s asleep again, and I suppose I should go back to bed, but his first nap of the day is usually only 30 or 40 minutes, so I suspect it would be an excersize in complete fucking frustration. A person can only spend so long in bed not sleeping before they want to strangle someone.

Why? Why me? I thought sleep deprivation was for mamas who slept their babies in cribs? It did get this way toward the end of the Toddler’s bed sharing/night nursing days, but at four months it seems like I remember getting sleep in three hour increments… Nothing to write home about, but acceptable.

Maybe it’s just worse the second time around because I’m no longer blessed with the naive idea that it will get better as he gets older. I mean, okay, eventually it will get better. But first it will (probably) get worse. I know I’m doing it all wrong. I know I’m training him to need to nurse every little time he wakes up in the night. I saw that I had done that with the Toddler and vowed not to let that develop this time around. But here I did it again already, and I don’t know how I could have managed to do it right. The desire/need to sleep is like a goddamned rip tide.

I have tried a few nights sleeping him in his crib, because it seems he sleeps a bit better in there. I swaddle (what a sweet sounding word for a straght-jacket) him most times when I try to lay him down nowadays, and it does seem to help a ton. Anyway, his first sleep cycle is usually in the crib, from 8 to midnight. Ish. The nights when I tried at that point nursing him back to sleep and laying him back down had mixed success. He slept in longer increments, but since I had to wake so much more fully, and some of the times it took quite awhile to get him back into the crib, it balanced out to a similar baggy-eyed morning. At least this has the possibility of getting better though…? Unless that’s just more naivety.

Ooops, and now I hear the Toddler waking up I think. An hour and a half too early. Fuck.

I Heart Coffee

Dear god is that some divine elixir.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet my daughter’s Night Waking. Yes, those words deserve to be capitalized. I don’t mean she wakes and cries out, needs comforting, then goes back to sleep (though she does that plenty too). No, I mean she sometimes wakes up in the night, as in completely awake, good morning, what’s for breakfast. When she does this, at least, she is usually in a good mood. But she does not want to lay all alone in her bed. Oh no.

Her Night Waking goes in phases. She’ll sleep fine for months, then have a bout of it that just about kills us. Because, oh, did I mention? When she does wake up in the night, she’s awake for a minimum of two but more typically three hours.

When she was a baby, we thought reassuringly, well, she’ll grow out of it. Then more recently I thought, well, it’s cuz she doesn’t know how to put herself to sleep (after weaning, Hubby would always walk or rock her to sleep, a source of some amount of angst on my part, which has just since late December resolved, and is an entire other story).

At any rate. I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that she suffers from at least some form of insomnia. Not surprising really since I did as well, up until age 24 when devastating heartbreak miraculously and unexpectedly cured me. Hopefully she won’t be cured by heartbreak any time soon!

And what does this have to do with coffee? Do I need to explain?

The Babe, having the better justification of being 3 months old, is no champ sleeper either and has been plaguing me with the Human Pacifier Effect from about midnight on of late. Last night, round about 4 AM, I can tell you that no one in our house was sleeping.

And so, that I could re-wake this morning at 7 am, on a mere 5 hours of sleep (in two separate and frequently interrupted portions mind you) and still have reasonable hope for my day and the world, is due entirely to my top favorite drug of choice, caffeine. Or, more accurately coffee, since I feel that there’s something else in coffee, some other drug as well. No amount of strong black tea has ever given me the rosy, hopeful, rising energy of coffee.

I’ll take that fair trade, freshly roasted, freshly ground, brewed in a stovetop espresso maker to americano strength, with a heavy hand of organic half and half, please.

Good morning!

Sleeping Like a Baby

“I sleep like a baby. Every two hours I wake up and cry.”

-Hunter S. Thompson

Yes. I am mother to a 9 week old. He’s finally started to sleep decent at night, and even past 4 am. Of course, he sleeps in bed with us, curled right up against me in all his impossible babysweetness. He wakes every few hours, not crying though, just wiggling around and grunting like a little piglet for milk. But then he falls right back asleep, so I can’t complain too much about nights anymore.

No, it’s days that are getting me. Both my babies just wanted to be held, or worn in a carrier, all day long. I’m all for baby-wearing. But seriously, all day long, day in, day out??? C’mon kiddos. Give mama’s back a break, errr– I mean, don’t break it!

Oh yes, naps too. Naps even more so, in fact. The only way he’ll stay asleep for any length of time is if I’m wearing him. The days that I try to set him down to sleep are often infuriating to the point of depression. I nurse/walk/sing him to sleep, then ever so, eeeever so gently I lay him down, taking a good long time about it. Slowly stand up and back away. Tip toe out of the room…. “WAAAAAAAAAA!”

It takes another 20 minutes to get him back to sleep and, if I can manage it, lay him down again. Sometimes I’ve done this 3 or 4 times before it works, or I give up and wear him. Mostly I give up and wear him, because otherwise I’m going to lose my mind! But I know he’ll never get used to sleeping in a still, horizontal, alone way unless I keep trying. So I do, every few days.

Yesterday I had a brainstorm. I already often swaddle him when I’m trying for the solo naps. Which helps. But then, after I laid him down, pressing my hand on his little self to make him feel secure, I thought, “It’s too bad you can’t just weight ’em down…. Although, why can’t you?…. Hmmmmmmm….” I tiptoed into the kitchen and brought back a big 2 lb bag of beans. Then I laid the beans right on top of him.

Sound weird? Oh, I know. But is there really anything wrong with putting something that weighs about as much as, say, my arm, over my sleeping baby’s chest?

It wasn’t any kind of miracle. He didn’t suddenly stay down for any three hour nap. But he did stay sleeping for 45 minutes or so, which is pretty great. Hey, I’ll take what I can get!