Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sleep Training / Heartbreak in 7B

Somehow I thought our baby would be different. At four days old, she was already sleeping 3-4 hours at a stretch. She's been sleeping through the night since she was three months old, and sleeping for 10-11 hour stretches for the past month or so.

But getting this five and half month-old baby to sleep is a whole different matter. Yes it's great she stays asleep, but it is to the point where every nap and bedtime are a struggle, taking 90-120 minutes sometimes. A baby that refuses to nap, even a baby that sleeps well at night, is a cranky, unhappy baby, which makes for a cranky, unhappy mom (that's me!).

So Ian and I sat down today for an hour or two and talked through the various methods of sleep-training. There are so many approaches, most of which seem cruel. Letting your baby cry for hours on end? How terrible, even if you are in the room where they can see you, not comforting them or holding them seems so strict. They're so little, how are they to understand?

We made a detailed plan, with contingencies for excessively long crying jags and napping. While we cannot call ourselves attachment-style parents completely, we nurse on demand, hold the baby as much as possible, and co-slept with her for her first three months (now she just gets the late morning). Her primary transportation is the baby carrier, usually strapped onto Ian's chest. Our version of sleep training is the most 'relaxed' it can get - picking her up and soothing her whenever she starts to actually cry (more than a fuss or short protest), staying in the room with her, and keeping a hand or two on her chest and/or head if she's at all distressed.

We have been doing... whatever works. Usually this means over an hour of fussing and crying, me hoping she'll nurse to sleep, but most likely ending in a long walk down Broadway in the stroller, or Ian rocking her in the stroller, back and forth over the lip in our kitchen doorway. As I said, it was time consuming and frustrating, and our bedtime routine didn't seem to make any difference - if she knew it was time to sleep, tears, tears, tears. Poor thing.

Everything we read said to try to have the baby to sleep approximately twelve hours before they naturally wake up. Her normal wake-up time is between 5:30-6:30 AM, so we decided on a goal of getting her to sleep around 6:00 PM, which means starting her bedtime routine (bath, baby massage, last nurse/bottle, story, and bedtime song) around 5:15-5:30 PM. It seems insanely early. It is insanely early. Don't let the baby fall asleep while you're doing these things! Put her down drowsy!

As I was nursing her this evening and she started to drift off, I started to cry. I nudged her back awake, whispering, "Not yet, Felicity, stay awake for me please." I cried because my little baby is now a surprisingly large baby, who is expressive and opinionated, and I don't get to rock her to sleep anymore. I love rocking her to sleep, nursing her into oblivion. Granted these methods haven't been working that well, but they are still such rewarding moments. Everyone said how quickly these first months would go, and how right they were. I did my best to stay present in each day and treasure all of the small moments, but they still go by so fast, and I want my newborn back. I want to hold her, and have her fall asleep on my chest with her sweet little pre-vocal sigh,

It took about an hour tonight. Ian stayed in the bedroom with her the whole time, and when she would start to cry, one of us would pick her up, calm her down, and hold her. Then she would lay back in crib. She would give us looks of deep betrayal, whimper a little (we would put a hand on her chest, or on her head, give her kisses), and then the crying would start again. Eventually she was exhausted, and fell asleep.

I think about how I get when I don't feel well. I am a cuddly person, probably annoyingly so. Ian probably wishes I would peel myself off of him sometimes, and occasionally has to express this wish on particularly warm nights. When I'm not feeling well, I just want to be held. Migraine? Hold me now, rub my head. Bad day? Hold me, rub my back, glass of white wine please. Allergies? Hold me, please kiss my forehead. And, as Ian likes to remind me, I'm not a perfect picture of health; something always seems to be wrong with me. I strained my upper arm casing a pillow last night. All of this to say, it feels wrong to not soothe her until she's in a blissful, deep sleep.

This has been the most difficult emotional milestone of motherhood yet. But we're just starting, aren't we? This is the first step of her independence and separation from me, and I suppose I need to get used to the idea that she can't always fall asleep cuddled in my arms, wonderful as that may be.

I find it heartbreaking.