The Battle for Sleep

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Before becoming a parent - and even after becoming a parent - I would frequently give my opinion or judgement on the correct way to raise a child.  How they should eat, sleep, be socially adjusted, not coddled, etc.  I had it all figured out. 

Well, let me be the first to eat my words and tell myself to go fly a kite.  I knew - and mostly know - nothing about what it means to be a parent and get it "right".  Because really, what is getting it "right"???  I am here to say that sometimes, you just do what you have to do to make things work, and the biggest battle (in my opinion) isn't so much what issue you're dealing with when it comes to your child but rather the fear that you're not doing it "right" and the worry that you're messing up your child or that people will talk about your (in THEIR opinion) shoddy ways of parenting.

My big issue came at 6 months when Hadley quit sleeping through the  night.  If I look back, I think I can pinpoint where it started and then little things that happened where it was allowed to progress.  It seems as though things would level out and she would sleep better, and then we would travel or have someone stay with us, and it just threw it all off for another month.  I mostly complained about it during those early months....up until this last month where I finally decided I was done with it.  DONE.  I can't even express how exhausting it is to wake up 2-4 times a night, every single night.

So first we thought to try a later a bedtime.  Not like 10pm late, but 8:30-9.  Obviously this was futile because nothing changed.  Probably got worse, actually. 

Then we tried just putting her in our bed.  This worked a few times, but mostly just made everyone sleep badly and she eventually got to where it just woke her up more. 

Then I read "Moms On Call" which really emphasized a good, solid bedtime routine along with a dark room and white noise.  Check, check, check....still didn't help. 

At this point I'm starting to get desperate.  I knew the dreaded three words were close to being uttered..."cry it out".  I resisted.

I heard a couple people recommend the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" and since I had a few friends that had used this book, I decided to give it a shot.  I eventually read that night waking, at Hadley's age, is most often caused by a too-late bedtime.  The author recommended putting the child down between 5:30-6:30.  I was skeptical along with dismayed that Hadley would have to go to bed so early considering Brad doesn't get home til around 6.  BUT we were both more than ready to see some change in this area so we started it that night.

It wasn't a miracle cure, but I'll tell you what - that girl was tired by the time 6pm rolled around.  It was plain as day that she was exhausted, but I think we never even realized it because it was just so dang early.  The first few times we did it she slept much better.  We still were having at least one wake up a night, sometimes two. 

Finally I knew it was time to suck up my "mommy softies" and make her cry during those wake-ups.  They were simply a habit at this point, and since we had exhausted literally everything I knew possible and she was still waking up, there was nothing else left to do.  So we bought a video monitor (which I always thought were unnecessary if you lived in a small house, but now I really appreciate it considering what we were going through) and committed to making her cry. 

The first night was awful - I think she woke up 3 times.  It was nice having the monitor to make sure that she wasn't stuck somehow or had a leg caught in the crib slats, but it was so hard watching my baby girl sitting in her crib, looking around and wondering where I was.  We went through this for a few nights and though we had a couple times where we just couldn't handle the crying - like at 4am after a long night and we all just needed some sleep - it really made a big difference.  Her wake-ups became less frequent and most importantly (in my mind) she was able to fall back asleep on her own without any intervention on my part, usually after just a few minutes of fussing. 

The last few nights have been - dare I say - good.  This last night she slept from 6:15pm until 6am!  I'm in no place to say, SHE'S CURED!  But I think that the biggest hurdle was overcoming my fear of her crying - now that we've been through it, it's easier to handle, especially when I can look at her and see that everything is okay.  I think another big lesson for me in all of this is that I don't feel a pressure to make her cry every single time she wakes up.  There's times that I will go to her and rock her back to sleep, or even give her a tiny bottle if she's having a rough night.  In my opinion, this is "making it work" for us, and it all might look very different for another family. 

I don't share this as a "this worked for us, maybe it will work for you" because I'm just over that idea.  For us, I tried lots of things (I didn't even talk about our chiropractor visits!) and read lots of books/articles and decided what I was okay with doing.  I think when you're facing hard things as a parent you can look to what others did but at the end of the day, you can only do what works for you, and what you're okay to do. 

But really...all I know is that I'm happy to be getting some sleep, praise the Lord!

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