1:17 a.m. I open my eyes and turn around to check the time. Silence. The house is quiet and dark. I especially try to listen to any kind of sound coming from my daughter’s room or, what used to be the parents’ bedroom. Nothing. I check her video feed. She is asleep. I fall back asleep.
3:37 a.m. I am up again. Did I hear something? Is she okay? I turn around and check the time again. Then, I check the video feed. No, it was all in my head. Not a whimper or sound from anywhere. Just gentle breathing from where my son is sleeping on a mattress beside ours, the mattress that is perpendicular to his where Aaron and I are sleeping. I fall back asleep.
4:30 a.m. What time is it? I am up. Baby E should be stirring any second now. I take a quick glance at the video feed. I don’t want its brightness to steal away my sleep. Maybe if I lay awake, I’ll have a quicker time getting to her to nurse her and put her back to bed before she wakes up the boys. Still nothing. I have trouble falling back asleep.
I am awake when my husband stirs at 4:53 a.m. checks the time, glances over at TJ, and then goes back to sleep. He has no idea that I am awake and observing him. I can’t sleep anymore. I wait for the clock to show me 5:30 a.m. so I can be up and about for the day. I wake up shortly after, with groggy eyes having only slept a total of 5 hours since I went to bed, and heavy breasts from not having nursed Baby E yet.
Meanwhile, I tiptoe downstairs, brew a hot cup of coffee and sit down to write. She finally stirs enough around 6:25 a.m. I go in to nurse. She only feeds for two minutes. I lay her back in the crib and return downstairs to my laptop but she is refusing to go back to sleep now. As I write this, I am watching her on her video feed frolicking around in her crib. She is wide awake.
Last night, Baby E went to bed around 8:30 p.m. Because it was Friday, we were late putting her to bed. We also did a switcharoo on her, meaning, after I nursed her, I handed her over to Aaron to put her to bed for the night so even though she was laid in her bed at 8:00 p.m., she needed to be calmed a few times before she eventually fell asleep at 8:30 p.m. She slept through the night and woke up at 6:25 a.m. In hindsight, I should have just left her alone and not gone in to nurse just to see if she would have put herself back to sleep again. Effectively, she had slept for about 10 hours.
I should be celebrating. This is the first night that Baby E has actually slept through the night without waking up even once for a feed. Yet, the heart (or a sleepy brain) gets selfish the more it gets. I know that theoretically, for babies, sleeping through the night is considered to be about 5 hours but that is just not enough for a parent even though I am learning to make do. I wish she had slept until 7:30 or even 8:00 a.m. because all the “wisdom” out there seem to say that babies her age need to sleep 12 hours at nighttime. Hmm..
I have never liked the word sleep “training“. Sounds non-human to me, like we are training a robot or a dog to do our bidding because it is convenient to us and not because they want to. Also, Baby E hasn’t really been consistent with her sleep routines. She’ll follow the same times for a week or two at a stretch if I am lucky, then switch it up, so suddenly, a baby who would wake up at 5:00 a.m., nurse, then go back to sleep for another 3 hours would start, instead, to wake up at 4:30 a.m., nurse, and then go back to sleep for only 2 hours.
She has been all over the place and that leaves me perpetually always sleepy. I could literally fall asleep anywhere and anytime. Because she is so inconsistent, every single night of mine after say 3:00 a.m. is irregular for I am up in anticipation of her wakings. I don’t even remember the last time I had undisturbed sleep through the night. Thankfully, I still get at least 5 hours a night and I am grateful.
First, as a newborn, she was up a lot and I had gotten used to the rhythm of her sleep cycle. I would pick her up the second she stirred, feed her, and lay her back in her bassinet.
Then, as an infant, she started waking up every 3-4 hours on good nights. More often, otherwise. I was attuned to her needs and would follow the same ritual of nursing her and laying her back.
Then, I don’t remember when, but it was probably around 5-7 months, that she started sleeping a little longer but would still wake up multiple times a night, enough for me to be restless in anticipation of her wakings.
Around 6 months, she started waking up twice a night. Her last feed before she woke up for the day was around 5:30 which was great because I could nurse her and start my day. Then she changed this time to 4:00, sometimes 4:30, or even 3:30 a.m. This has continued to this day. She is unpredictable. She will go for a stretch of once-a-night wakings for a few days, then suddenly start waking up twice or thrice a night.
A part of me does not mind this. She wakes up for a reason and it gives me an opportunity to check on her. Is she hot? or cold? Is her hand of foot stuck in the slats of the crib (never happened but you have to wonder)? I also don’t mind it because I get a chance to hold her close and feel her soft and gentle cushiony cheeks next to mine as I pick her up and bring her over to my bed to nurse her, something she seems only remotely interested in these days. This, lack of an active interest in nightly nursing is telling me that she is ready for sleeping through the night…maybe even the 12 hours that I am hoping for. On the other hand, the 12 hours may never happen. For the longest time, TJ would wake up at 6:00 a.m. as a baby but then we would bring him into our bed and sometimes, we would all fall back asleep for another couple hours. We don’t have this luxury any more with two kids because TJ is up and ready to go at 6:30 a.m.
A few things we have tried in hopes of having her sleep through the night:
- Aaron and I are rolling stones. We sleep wherever. Mostly, he sleeps in TJ’s room, and I sleep in our room with Baby in her crib. Or, when we had grandparents visiting, we would start the night sleeping in our room, then as soon as Baby E would start whimpering at any time before 5:00 a.m., we would sneak out and go downstairs with Aaron sleeping on the rug in the living room and me, sleeping on our couch.
- We have let her soothe herself by following a progressive soothe-it-out. I would NEVER let my child cry-it-out unattended throughout the night. I have left her unhappy for an extended stretch, the longest being 1.5 hours but she wasn’t crying the whole time. The actual sobbing was perhaps 20 minutes, the rest of it was her simply being awake trying and learning to get herself to sleep.
- We have tried for Aaron to try to soothe her at night time so she does not smell and expect breastmilk every time she wakes up. This has been very unsuccessful. She will only fall back asleep after a sip of milk.
The progressive soothe-it-out has helped us tremendously. E has learned to self-soothe most of the time. She stopped her 11:30 and 2:30 wakings because of that. Her wakings are now later and at least today, even that did not happen. Tonight may be a different story and she may be back to her nocturnal adventures but for today, I am pleased she got a good night’s rest even if I didn’t. If she does this consistently (going to bed around 8:00 p.m. and waking up around 6:30 a.m.), I am sure I’ll get more sleep too.