February 4, 2010

The No Sleep Monster

Dear Luke,
You turned 5 months old yesterday. You are a smiling, goofy baby that I grow to love a little more every day. However, there have been days in the past month when I wasn't sure we were going to make it this far. The days when the lack of sleep overwhelmed me and turned me into the worst version of myself. Days where I snapped at your father, hated your dog, and generally wanted to punch people in the face for just looking at me. I have never been a person that was prone to violence, even under the most extreme cirumstances, but I have had long, detailed-filled fantasies about literally kicking your father out of bed or punching him in the back while he slept next to me. I love your father very, very much. He is my best friend and has been an excellent partner in this whole parenthood gig. However, he has the ability to fall asleep in about 35 seconds after the time he closes his eyes. This is a skill I desperately covet, envy, and loathe in him. It regularly takes me 20-30 minutes to fall asleep on any given night. I had naively thought that the exhaustion that comes with motherhood would help shorten that time period, but so far, that has not been the case. Which means, not only does it take me 20 minutes to fall asleep when I go to bed at 10, but also adds an extra 20 minutes to every middle of the night session you and I have. And all the while...your father sleeps blissfully on. Even when he gets up to help, the minute he gets back into bed, he is asleep, and I am left to plot vengeful acts while I will my brain to shutdown long enough to get some sleep in before you wake up again.
Last week, my exhaustion and crankiness had reached new heights...heights that finally convinced me that things had to change. Before Christmas, you had started to sleep in 6 hour stretches and it seem to be getting more consistent. And then, we traveled off and on for about 2 weeks and that was the end of that. For the last 6 weeks or so, you would wake up every 1-2 hours each night after midnight, and would only be soothed back to sleep by feeding. I'll admit, I didn't try anything else for very long, since I knew that 5 minutes of nursing would get you back to sleep faster than anything else and I just wanted to go back to bed. I was just convinced this was a growth spurt and it would end any night. But as the weeks stretched on, I had to face the fact that you weren't waking up cause you were hungry...it was just becoming a habit. A bad habit that was ruining my life, my marriage, and my sanity.

Sleep training was not something I was interested in doing, but it was becoming abundantly clear you weren't going to figure this out on your own any time soon. You had gotten the hang of it for naptimes. I can regularly lay you down during the day, and you'll sleep for 45 minutes to an hour without much assistance on my part at all. You've finally overcome your twenty minute catnap stage, and I just kept hoping it would translate into sleeping during the night as well. Alas, it was just not happening...and in the meantime, I was slowly going insane. My mom keeps telling me that the sleep deprivation of new parents in the closest a sane person will come to experiencing a pyschotic break.

So last weekend, we began to let you "cry it out" when you woke up at 1AM, and 2 AM, and 3 AM, etc. The first night was the worst by far, and it has generally gotten better every night since. We are not fully there yet, as you still want to eat at 12:30, and then again at 3:30, before you get up for the day between 6:30-7. But I can see a glimmer of what life will be like when we can put you down at 7 and get a full nights sleep before we hear the funny little noises and gurgling that signal you are awake (or the more plaintive blats that signal we have waited too long to rescue you). And as much as I love your smiling face and fun, new baby tricks, I would greatly appreciate getting a full night's sleep before I get to see you again.
So, if you could get on top of that soon, I'd appreciate it.



  1. So adorable!! I love the letter. :) Not that you're asking, but I'll share anyway if you don't mind... we sleep-trained Elijah at 10 months b/c he had been waking to nurse every 1.5-2.5 hours for a couple months prior to that. For about 6 months after, I went into his room about once a week in the night (instead of the 4 times a night I had been doing!). So worth it.

    Hang in there. No one will tell you, but many babies just need to be given this opportunity to learn how long the night really is. My friends who also sleep-trained now have 2-year-olds sleeping peacefully from 7-7 (Elijah included - he's woken in the night twice in the past six months!)... and most of my friends that didn't, are still getting up 4-7 times a week with their toddlers.

    Being a parent is hard and sleep-training is incredibly hard, but so very, very worth it! You certainly have our full support here in Colorado! :)

  2. This is fabulous! I had the same violent thoughts about Phillip during the nights when he slept peacefully through marathon 3am nursing sessions, etc. Then he would make some passing comment the next day about being tired and I would nearly kill him again! He still does it when one of them wakes in the night every now and then...and I still want to harm him! ;oP