This entry is in two parts because, let’s face it, all kids have sleep issues. If yours don’t, I don’t want to hear about it. And you’re lying.
It seems that, as soon as I entered the third trimester with Nate, I have been in pursuit of a good night’s sleep. While pregnant, Nate liked to party it up in the middle of the night and, when he got too big to move, he enjoyed sticking his butt out as far as possible (presumably just for kicks), which really made sleeping a difficult endeavor. Then I was on bedrest for two weeks, which wasn’t really restful. It was the most boring and dreadful time of my life. I was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep. I was under doctor’s orders to be lying down and could only get up to bathe or go to the bathroom. Dreadful. Then I had 54 hours of active labor before we gave up and went and got Nate out by c-section. And then? We had a child. Once you get one of those, I’m convinced you never sleep again.
Sleep has always been elusive. Nate as breastfed so he was up often at night. If I combed through my Facebook updates, I bet I could tell you when he finally slept through an entire night without waking up. However, I do remember that, on that night, both Chad and I woke up no less than four times checking to make sure Nate was alive. And every time we got in an awesome sleeping-through-the-night groove, Nate would start to teethe or grow or something that would put us right back at the beginning.
To measure how difficult something is, I have learned that you need to do one thing: go to the bookstore. The more books on the topic, the more desperate people are to find answers and, likely, none of those books will truly answer your question. There’s a whole section dedicated to the sleep issues of babies, toddlers, and children.
At the beginning, we bought all the no-cry sleep solution books we could find. When I read Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, I realized where we went wrong: we should have read the books before giving birth….not after. Baby Whisperer suggests the following routine throughout your day: eat, play, sleep. Every time your babe wakes up, repeat that sequence. That way, your child does not require food (read: making me feel like a jersey cow) to go to sleep. So anyone can put your kid to sleep, not just the person lactating in the house. Of course, we had already established the play, eat, sleep routine and it’s hard to break once you’re on a roll. Oops.
By the time Nate was diagnosed, we were really up a creek. The play, eat, sleep routine had become ingrained and Nate could not go to sleep–or go back to sleep–without milk. Two problems: 1) I never got a good night’s sleep and 2) Nate had begun to bite me. Once the biting started, the kitchen was closed. I was done. Problem was that we couldn’t figure out how to get Nate to go to sleep without using me as a pacifier. On top of it all, we realized that the solutions presented in the on-the-shelf sleep advice books didn’t apply to our family. Where was the chapter on why being unable to call for Mom and Dad results in self-injury?
Thanks to a plan established by our first BCBA (full details here), we weaned Nate. To do this, all bedtime and nighttime responsibilities shifted to Chad. And, if he was in charge, Chad decided that he would do things his way. He established a new going-to-sleep routine: put Nate in the Ergo carrier while watching an episode of HBO’s Classical Baby, a really sweet series that features a diaper-wearing conductor who leads an orchestra through major classical works as cartoon characters dance through major works of art. (It’s awesome the first 500 times you see it. Every time afterwards, not so much.) So became our routine: dancing with Tater in the Ergo with Classical Baby in the background. Miraculously, it worked like a charm.
But, one day, Nate refused to get in the Ergo. While it’s intended for kids well over his weight and age, he was done. This time, he told us what he wanted. Nate tugged and tugged at Chad’s hand until we took him upstairs. He crawled into our bed and watched Classical Baby there until he fell asleep. Then we’d transfer him to his crib.
The “fall asleep in our bed” act has been the routine for the past few months. For the most part, he’s been sleeping through the night pretty well. Recently, however, it’s changed. Headbanging is back in a major way and it’s how he tells us he’s awake. It’s the worst feeling in the world to go from sound asleep to wide awake, running down the hallway because our Nater Tater’s cracking his head against his crib railing. (It’s padded but the sound still is horrible.) After a family discussion, and in consultation with Nate’s fabulous therapists, we made a major decision: it’s time to get Nate a big boy bed!
Stay tuned for Part Two: A Boy with No Boundaries!