Here’s Looking at You, Crib
There are two kinds of babies in this world: Those who sleep through the night and those who don’t.
At birth, all human babies are firmly in the “I don’t sleep through the night” camp. Gradually, as the months pass, they begin to join the new camp where they sleep. These babies sleep well and they sleep all night long.
In the life of a breastfed baby, sleeping through the night (STTN) is defined as 5 consecutive (glorious) hours of sleep. After the early months of nursing every 3 hours or so, and nursing sessions often taking upwards of an hour, all a mom dreams of is hitting the fabled STTN milestone. You hold on to hope and you wait. Every night you go to bed thinking that this could be the night.
Only your baby wakes you up three or four hours later screaming from hunger. Or wanting comfort. Or wanting their diaper changed. Or for some other reason that you cannot for the life of you figure out at 3am.
After nearly 10 months of pregnancy where you are often up once or twice a night to pee, you enter parenthood with a recent history of sleep interruption, your body is exhausted from growing a baby and you’re likely already sleep deprived. What gets you through the first few months is that you know you’ll eventually get your baby to that 5 hour STTN golden egg and then they’ll eventually actually sleep for the entire night.
If you’re Canadian like me, you have an entire year of maternity leave and you learn how to function as a sleep deprived human being.
As the months have gone by, I groaned with my fellow mommies about how little the Doodle sleeps and they’ve groaned back with me about how little sleep they’ve been getting, too. But with each new month there were fewer moms standing in my group, in my camp, in the land of the sleep deprived mothers. There was a whole new group of well-groomed, glowing, non-baggy-eyed moms bouncing their awesome babies in the room talking about how their babies were not only STTN but they were actually sleeping through the night…EIGHT OR TEN HOURS long.
They would all talk about how they finally managed to coax their babies to make it through an uninterrupted night of sleep. There was the formula camp, the cry-it-out camp, the I-hired-a-sleep-doula camp, and the it-just-kind-of-accidentally-happened camp.
I was struggling, but I tried to make peace with it, because I knew that my time would come, too. I knew that we’d eventually make it to the 5-hour STTN milestone. I’d done the reading and I knew that sleeping through the night was a milestone, only unlike every other milestone, there wasn’t a specific time to achieve it – 50% of babies STTN by six months and 85% by a year. It would happen and the Doodle would achieve sleep in her own time.
Now the Doodle is a 15.75 month old toddler, I’ve gone back to work full-time, my baby STILL doesn’t sleep through the night. I’m standing alone in this sleep-deprived camp, while all my friends are well-rested and refreshed each morning. Heck, many of them are now getting pregnant with their second child! I can’t even fathom having another kid.
The Doodle doesn’t sleep through the entire night. She doesn’t even sleep for a 5 hours stretch.
Things are better than they used to be. Way better. Instead of waking up every 40 minutes or so from the hours of 7-10pm, she now sleeps for 2-3 hours before waking up and needing help to get back to sleep. That’s usually around when I head to bed, so if everything works well, I’m ready for bed and can nurse her down again. Depending on when she first wakes up, she’ll be up again at 11pm and then she regularly wakes again around 2am and then around 5 or 6am and then is up for the day around 7am.
She’s not a baby that’s hard to get back to sleep, so it’s not incredibly disruptive, but just disruptive enough.
We’ve been through lots of trial and error and nothing has yet (yet, I’m still hopeful) solved our nightmarish lack of sleep dilemma.
Our plan had been to nightwean her this summer when she wasn’t teething, but she’s teething (last canine and we’re thinking movement is happening on her 2 year molars given how far back she jams her fingers into her mouth, but we blamed teething for sleep issues for a good 4 months when not a single tooth appeared) and with vacation approaching, it’s going to be another month before we can re-consider that. My biggest fear is that we’ll nightwean her and she will still wake up frequently. Only I’ll have given up the only simple way to get her back to sleep.
At this point we’ve been co-sleeping since the Doodle’s birth. Now that she’s around 23 pounds, and quite restless in her sleep, our bed isn’t big enough for Otto, myself, the dog and the toddler. It’s a queen. I’d love to get a king, but there’s not enough space in the footprint of our room, so that’s out of the question. It’s also not ideal as Otto would love to read in bed at night without a head lamp, we’d like to be able to talk in our room, and we were waking the Doodle up by coming to bed each night.
Despite the fact that we bought the Doodle a crib, she hasn’t slept a single night in it. She took maybe a handful of naps in it.
I find this particularly funny as I have quite a few pictures of her sleeping in her crib and all of them somehow made it into her baby book, but not a single photo of her sleeping in the family bed made the final cut.
There’s something about the crib bars that make her go crazy. She screams for hours on end if you put her into her crib. She knows the difference between a crib and bed transfer and wakes up mid-air on a crib transfer. She’s never been able to just be in her crib on her own. We think she hates the caged feeling of her crib and that there’s something that physically separates her from her mommies.
The Doodle has always slept in our bed with us, or on her crib mattress on our floor for naps or the first part of the night once she was mobile. That lasted a few months as she quickly learned how to safely exit the bed feet first. She also doesn’t get off the bed when she wakes up at night. She sits up, cries, and waits for us to come to her.
With the restless child in the cramped hot family bed, sleep has been less than optimal over the past month for everyone. Add to that the daycare cold that won’t end, rapid teething, and goodness knows what else, and we’re all a mess in our house.
I get these sleep intervention ideas when I’m at the height of exhaustion. I’m willing to try anything. That’s when I got the idea that we’d just take the plunge and convert the Doodle’s crib into her toddler bed.
With her own bed in the least, she could start off the night in her own room and we could re-claim our bed in the early hours of the evening. I also kind of got it into my head that perhaps we’d be one of the lucky ones and the Doodle would finally sleep through the night when she got her own space. And, the other bonus, was that if I had to go nurse the Doodle back to sleep in the night I wouldn’t be hot, cramped and confined with the kiddo as they’d only be the two of us.
We took the plunge and set up a toddler bed. It has not caused a sleep miracle.
It’s actually been entirely comedic.
Night 1 – The daycare cold that won’t end has caused snot of epic proportions. We think about delaying the transition from our bed to her own bed because of this, but the cold seems to have had no adverse impact on her sleep in the past two weeks.
Tonight, however, the cold leads to post-nasal drip and a post-nasal cough, and the baby wakes herself up with coughing fits. She’s up and down all night long and I can’t even get her down. Maybe it’s the bed, but we know we have to stick it out.
At one point she’s coughing so hard that she projectile vomits all over Otto. If you care to know, Otto still looks dashing when covered in milk, salmon and green bean chunks at 4am. It’s hard not to laugh (I do poop, Otto does puke, and the only times the Doodle has puked has happened to be on Otto…it’s like she knows).
Night 2 – Cold is still pretty bad. But we’re committed to our plan. It takes 5 days to make a new habit. The Doodle is restless and moving everywhere on her bed. A coughing fit causes her to throw up again, only it’s on me this time and it isn’t nearly as funny.
Nights 3, 4, 5 – The Doodle’s sleep is a hot mess. But she’s not puking and that’s a great thing. I can see that damn canine in her mouth just ready to pop through the gums. She’s biting kids everyday at daycare. It’s teething for sure. I’m up to help put her back to sleep in the early parts of the evening more than usual. And now not only am I still getting interrupted up-teen-million times at night, I now am sleeping in the Doodle’s bed (and learning to adjust to a whole new sleeping environment). I miss my bed, my sheets, my fan and my wife. I don’t miss the dog. But Otto and I swore that we’d give it at least five days.
Night 6 – I think it’s getting better. But I’m too exhausted to be an accurate judge of that. I get an email from a client that mentions numerous typos in work I sent to her. This only confirms my level of exhaustion. I forge ahead with our plan because tonight has to be better than the last five nights and I’m not starting this over again.
Night 7 – That’s tonight. I’m cursing this bed transition. But I’m also stupidly hopeful. One day, the Doodle will sleep through the night. And then I’ll join the camp of well-rested, groomed and articulate mommies. So far she’s been peacefully sleeping for 2.25 hours.