In Search of Sleep

Long have I kept Elly’s sleeping habits secret. People always ask how she sleeps, but I have learned to smile sweetly and say “Great!” Why do I lie? I feel my mothering skills are in question. If Elly isn’t sleeping through the night, then I have failed to teach her how. It is all my fault.

4 months have passed since Elly starting waking up almost every hour. I am pleased to report that she is finally sleeping in longer blocks. Last night, she only woke up 4 times to nurse. Now 4 may sound like a large number to you, but when you’ve lived through nights where she woke up so many times that you ran out of fingers to count with, then 4 is amazing.

Elly was never a great sleeper even as a newborn. I remember not getting any sleep at all some nights; it was just constant nursing. Naps were no better. Elly would typically only nap for 30 minutes – 20 minutes of that time was in my arms. So, I started to look for answers.

For naps, I began laying down with her and allowing her unlimited nursing time. Finally, she started napping in consistent 1.5 hour blocks. It was heaven. Not only did Elly wake up well rested and happy as a clam, but I was getting caught up on sleep too. It was a win-win solution. Despite being assured that Elly would learn to sleep in longer blocks, unlimited nursing remains the only way I can get her to take a long nap.

At night, Elly slept next to me in a bassinet until she was 5 months old and she really didn’t fit. I had tried to move her out earlier, but she woke up too frequently for it to be a viable option. When she was only waking 3 times a night, I moved her. My little girl was growing up. I was so proud and a bit wistful.

A few weeks after the move to the crib, Elly started teething and waking frequently from the pain. I held her all night while sitting up in a chair. Four months later, I’m still sitting in that same chair. Now here’s where I’ll agree that 4 is a large number.

At first, I just tried to endure her frequent wakings certain that once the teething was over, then she would revert to her usual sleep habits. When weeks passed by with no improvement, I knew I had to do something. Despite vowing to let Elly cry it out while I was still pregnant with her, I refused to use such tactics. I can’t bear to listen to her cry. It doesn’t matter that I know she is fine. My reaction is primal. I would knock over a man as big as Ryan Howard to get to my girl when she is crying.

Instead I bought the No Cry Sleep Solution book by Elizabeth Pantley. I think I have tried every applicable solution the book lists. Elly still doesn’t sleep through the night, but many aspects of Elly’s daytime and bedtime routines have been improved.

Solutions implemented:
1. Daytime routine (Elly eats and sleeps about the same time everyday now)
2. Consistent naps (Elly takes 2 naps a day)
3. Increase daytime feeding (not really applicable since I have been blessed with a good eater, but I do encourage more snacking in between meals)
4. Complete darkness
5. White noise
6. Earlier bedtime (I aim for a 7-8 bedtime)

Such common sense solutions they are that I’m embarrassed it took me so long. I had been nursing Elly on demand. She seemed to know what she needed, so I let her lead the way in sleep. Perhaps a baby-led system works great for some babies, but it didn’t work with Elly. Perhaps more accurately, it didn’t work for me.

As stated above, Elly still doesn’t sleep through the night despite all my hard work and middle-of-the-night pleading. So, we’ve packed up the crib. I’ve put my foot down and refused to spend 1 more night sleeping sitting up in a chair. Enough is enough. I’ve tried it the “right” way. Now we’re doing it my way. Beginning a few days ago, Elly sleeps with us now. It’s the easiest solution. She wakes up, I sooth her and/or nurse her and we’re all back to sleep in mere minutes – sometimes seconds.

I guess my answer won’t change at all. Should anybody ask how Elly sleeps, I shall continue to say “great!”.

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