Little Man’s birthday is just two short weeks away and we have made it through the first year, sanity intact. We’ve had our ups and downs with sleep over the past year but I believe we’ve finally settled on a routine that works (for now). Today I want to take some time to share our sleep journey with you, as well as what has and hasn’t worked. Please keep in mind that I’m not an expert, I’m just sharing my experiences in the hopes that they might encourage other sleep-deprived mommas.
When we brought Alec home from the hospital he was very much still in the sleepy newborn stage. Add to that the fact that he was jaundiced, and you have a recipe for zzzzzz’s. He slept all day and night throughout the first few weeks, rousing only to eat and have his diaper changed. We kept a Rock ‘n Play by our bedside and Little Man happily nestled into it at night. My husband and I were elated, thinking we had hit the baby jackpot. Little did we know how quickly things would change.
A Bump in the Road
Alec’s sleep took its first turn for the worse when he was four weeks old. Middle of the night feeds started taking longer periods of time (I’m talking 45 minutes to an hour each), and he struggled to take in more than an ounce or two of formula. As a result of his decreased formula intake, Alec started waking every two hours to eat. The result? A very tired momma.
Alec started projectile vomiting within a day or so of turning one month old. At first he vomited only every other feeding or so, but soon started bringing up every meal. Naps and nighttime sleep became even more of a struggle. When Alec was no longer able to hold down even an ounce of formula, we knew that there was something very wrong. After several frantic calls to the pediatrician and a scary emergency room visit, Alec was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis (more on that another time). He had corrective surgery and his eating and sleeping both returned to normal.
After Alec’s surgery, he slept well for about two weeks before the next storm hit. My usually happy Little Man turned into a crying, screaming banshee almost overnight. He spent hours at a time howling, refusing to lay down for naps or for nighttime. We bounced, rocked, jostled… Anything to get him to sleep. When we finally got Alec to sleep, he tossed, turned and grunted.
Sleepness nights were joined again by vomiting, and again I made several frantic calls to the pediatrician. Alec was diagnosed with reflux at 7 weeks old. He was prescribed Ranitidine and Enfamil AR; neither helped. After two weeks of trying new formulas and reflux medications, we were referred to a GI specialist.
Alec’s GI doctor diagnosed him with a milk protein allergy immediately upon seeing him. She sent us home with prescription formula designed specially for babies with food allergies. Within just a few days of being off milk Alec started sleeping for six hour stretches. His grunting and groaning also stopped, and we were able to swaddle him again. It felt like Heaven.
***Alec continued to sleep in the Rock ‘n Play for the first several months as the incline helped with his reflux. Once made aware of the risks of positional asphyxia we moved him to a flat surface with an elevated mattress head.
The four month sleep regression started early for us, when Alec was about three and a half months old. It was around this time that I went back to work and Alec started daycare. He also outgrew his Swaddle UP, something he couldn’t sleep without. He went from sleeping a nine hour stretch to waking every 30 minutes. All. Night. Long.
The first sleep regression lasted a whopping two and a half months. During that time we tried everything to help Alec sleep. We bought a ZipadeeZip and an expensive cosleeper (both fails), adjusted bedtime in both directions, and made several tweeks to Alec’s bedtime routine. We had been putting him down “drowsy but awake” from day one, but he would now start crying the second he was laid down. Nothing worked, and I began falling into a sleep-deprived pit. I begged my husband to sidecar Little Man’s crib and allow us to cosleep, something I swore I would never do.
Once we made the switch to cosleeping, Alec’s sleep improved and we started seeing longer stretches again. He started out each night in his crib, which was connected to and flush with our bed. Sometime between 3 and 5am he would make his way into our bed.
*** Cosleeping is an incredibly personal, and often controversial, subject. Please note that we researched and followed safe cosleeping practices. For more information on safe cosleeping check out this article.
Our family coslept for a period of about four months. Alec’s sleep started becoming restless around 8 months, and by 10 months he was once again waking every 30 minutes through the night. Around this time he also started waking for the day between 4 and 5am, and wouldn’t go back down no matter what we tried.
When Alec learned to crawl (10 months) it became apparent that cosleeping was no longer working for us. Alec busily practiced this skill at all hours of the night, crawling out of his crib and all over me. Lowering his mattress only made him angry, and he quickly learned how to climb out and onto our bed. Lack of sleep resulted in an overtired and fussy baby during the day. The more overtired Alec became, the less he was able to sleep at night. We had fallen into a vicious cycle.
At the beginning of April, exhausted and at my wits end, I made the decision to move Alec into his own room. I waited until a night my husband wasn’t home, then disassembled and reassembled Alec’s crib while my mother-in-law watched him. I braced myself for a long night of tears ahead. Although I am not a proponent of sleep training, I felt certain that we had run out of options.
When 7:00 rolled around I began Little Man’s bedtime routine. He took a bath and got a fresh diaper and pajamas. We read a few books before I gave him a bottle and sang to him. I laid him down in his crib, drowsy but awake, and… he slept through the night. Not a peep until 5am, at which point I gave him his binky and he went right back to bed. The best part? There were no tears involved. Not a one.
Moving Alec into his own room marked a turning point in our sleep journey. Over the past month he has slept through the night almost every night. When he wakes it is usually due to teething pain or congestion, and he almost always falls back asleep without intervention. Cosleeping has ended altogether; Alec has not slept in our bed once since the move. Bedtime is now enjoyable for all. Alec leans toward his crib when he is ready for me to stop rocking him. He nestles in with his lovey as soon as I put him down.
To this day I am shocked at how easy it was to transition Alec into his room. I don’t think anything I did helped him. I simply think he was ready. Sleeping well is a developmental milestone. Some babies are ready earlier than others; some are late bloomers. They all learn to sleep eventually.
I’m under no grand illusion that we have permanently settled Alec’s sleeping woes. He has only just begun teething, and I am sure we will have setbacks down the road. And you know what? That’s ok. For now we are all getting the sleep we need, and I’m happy taking things day by day.
There are a few things that we found to be extremely helpful throughout our sleep journey. They include:
- White Noise – You can purchase the sound machine we use here. This is something we still use on a daily basis.
- Swaddling – We started out with muslin swaddles and receiving blankets, then switched to the Swaddle UP (see link above) when Little Man started regularly breaking free of the swaddle.
- Room Darkening Curtains
- Bedtime Routine – Babies are creatures of habit and thrive on consistency and routine. A bedtime routine helps little ones wind down and tells their bodies that it is time for sleep. Our bedtime routine consists of a bath (every other night), lotion, clean diaper and jammies, bottle, and story/song. While that may seem like a lot, it takes less than a half hour altogether.
Just as we found items that helped our Little Guy sleep, we also wasted money on products that just didn’t cut it. I’ll try almost anything when sleep-deprived, hence these next items.
- ZipadeeZip – Some mommas swear by the Zippy; I am not one of them. This product slightly enhanced sleep, but not enough to make it worth the $40 I paid after tax and shipping. If this product works for you, by all means use it!
- Halo Mini Arc Cosleeper – This was not a product failure but rather a human one. I purchased this cosleeper out of desperation when Alec was four months old and he quickly outgrew it. I will be using this from day one with the next baby, it just wasn’t worth it so late in the game.
- The Sleep Sense Program – I purchased Dana Obleman’s book after watching some of her YouTube videos. I don’t know why I thought this method of sleep training would work for us, it goes against all of my instincts as a mother. We found much more success using the gentle strategies found in Elizabeth Pantley’s The No Cry Sleep Solution.
So there you have it; our sleep journey so far. If you are a tired new mom hang in there. This too shall pass.
Wishing you a restful night.