Sleep or lack of it

I was surfing the mamablogosphere and read a letter from a distraught (and sleep-deprived) mama to an “expert”, and was a little bothered by the “expert” ignoring the mama’s request for concrete info, instead they chose to pontificate on philosophical sociological things, with generalized vague ‘advice’.

That wouldn’t do, I thought, and commented the following (which I’m sure the “expert” will probably delete.  Anyhoo, it’s good advice (she said humbly), and garnered over a more-than-three year period of time.  Hope it proves to be helpful to other parents who may be going through the same thing:


Oh I do feel for you, Susannah!  I’ve got twins, and while one of them was pretty good about getting to sleep and sleeping through the night (around 6-8 months old), the other one was, and continues to be quite a trial!
We do a modified form of Attachment Parenting (With my diastasis recti, I couldn’t carry two babies in slings at once!) And because my husband and I were so exhausted and sleep-deprived in general, we couldn’t co-sleep, because we couldn’t maintain the level of awareness in sleep necessary to assure the safety of the babies.

The sleeper found her thumb at an early age, hence the ease in self-sleeping.  But our non-sleeper refused to be introduced to her thumb.

We tried Dr. Sears’ Baby Book, which is great for Attachment Parenting, but didn’t really help much with our specifiic problem in regards to the non-sleeping child, and Elizabeth Pantley’s book (which I HIGHLY recommend – which did help to some degree, but the girl kept waking several times a night.

We even asked Brian, the cloth diaper delivery guy (and an Attachment Parenting dad) for advice, too!

Basically what we found was that since my girl was on formula (my breasts were diagnosed w/lack of proper tissue development, and we tried herbal, medication, and pumping and had the help of the best lactation consultant in 3 counties),

but she also had a mild milk allergy! So she would get very painful tummy pains which would wake her up (in addition to all the other reasons why she’d wake up – hungry, wet, poopy, lonely, gas).  She also refused to drink other kinds of formula – soy, goatmilk, etc…

So usually rubbing her tummy helped her fart out the gas.

But as she grew older (and we did cave and get her a pacifier, just out of sheer self-preservation!) she kept the habit of night waking.

We had our bedtime ritual (lasted over 40 minutes) of massage, aromatherapy, soft music, ladybug star projector (thanks for that one, Bubbe!), storytime and snuggles on a soft blanket on the floor, and the girls would fall asleep, and we’d shovel them into their cribs with their snoedel.  (a soft lovey type object.)

Then the nightmare began.  For mama and dada!

Waking after waking after waking!

By the time she was the age of your child (around 14 months), she was still doing it.  And EVERY time she woke, within a minute, she’d let loose with a loud series of farts.

She was also having a problem with constipation, which was also causing gas, too.  Once we got her on babyfood and  a lot of pureed prunes, we noticed that after a successful pooping day, she woke less that night.

My husband and I started taking turns around 2 years old, and she did much better, after she got through the initial adjustment that Mama was not exclusively at her beck and call.

We’d cuddle her and then get her back into the bed.  Then, when she learned how to get out of her crib, she refused to sleep in it.  She would only sleep on the blanket on the floor.

So we let her!

It was also easier to lie down near her and not worry about rolling on to her!

Eventually she was only waking 2 or 3 times a night, usually for wet or leaky diaper or gas or lonely.

By 3 and a half, the girls got their ‘big girl beds’ and FINALLY my non-sleeper would sleep in a bed!  But the waking continued.

Then we discovered the Sleep Fairy.  Basically if the child goes to sleep well and doesn’t call at night except for emergencies, they get a present from the sleep fairy under their pillow in the morning.

Yes, it’s a form of bribery, but it’s easy for parents who get enough sleep to criticize, right?

It had limited success.  Both the girls went to bed a little easier, and the bedtime ritual was shortened to about 15-20 minutes, but the nighttime waking continued.

By this time, the girls were adjusted to their beds, a recent move and short bedtime ritual, so we weaned them off the thumb (the thumb/sleeper went cold turkey voluntarily after we explained things to her) and the pacifier (the paci/non-sleeper, surprisingly also took the lack of soothing object pretty well, and within a week was paci-free!)

At this time, we tried reading books about ‘children’ going to bed and sleeping in their beds all night long.  I recommend “Back To Bed, Ed!” about a mouse with sleep issues and his sleep-deprived parents.

Still we were getting several wakings a night from the non-sleeper.

Then we found the 1-2-3 Magic! system by Dr. Thomas Phelan.

That was the key that turned in the lock!

I got the kid version for my hubby, who didn’t have enough time for reading, and the regular (4th edition) version for myself, and filled in hubby on important bits).

I so extremely highly recommend this book!  It’s meant for disciplining (in an Attachment Parenting compatible way) 2yrs old and up, but the section on bedtime and sleeping might help you.

Basically, you don’t pick up the child, you sit in a chair by the child’s bed, so you can still touch them, and you are near, but you don’t become a human teddy bear.

Then as they get used to this, you move the chair farther away.  Every so often you reassure them you’re there, if they need it, until they fall asleep.

When they start potty training, they will probably keep waking, but Dr. Phelan says before anything, steer them to the potty, don’t engage them in conversation, or give them books, and after they do their business, put them back to bed.

That’s where we are now (at just over 3.5 years old).  Our non-sleeper wakes at 3am and 6:45am like clockwork.  Usually after potty, she wants some cuddling and story, etc, but we use the chair method and she goes back to sleep.

My husband and I take turns and we’re getting more sleep now, so I think we’re out of the woods.

I hope this helped you.  Remember, every child is different, and with all these systems, you might have to adjust and tweak them to suit your circumstances.  But please listen to your gut mama instinct.  You are attuned to your child, the person giving advice is not.  And ultimately, you are responsible for your child’s well-being

AND that includes taking care of yourself, so that you can be in relatively good enough condition to take care of your kids.

So, one last thing: Our nighttime waking checklist:  hungry? thirsty? poopy diaper? too much pee-pee in the diaper?  tummy gas?  butt gas?  misplaced lovey/paci/thumb?  lonely/scared?
Helpful Tips:

Trade with hubby, catch up on sleep when you can, friends/family who might not want to babysit, might be willing to sit with the child for an hour or so while you catch a nap in the next room.

In addition to my mom coming to stay for a few months, and my mother-in-law coming from Japan to help out for a couple of weeks, we even had a homeschooled teen from another family at church come and stay with us for a month or so, during the week, so I could catch a mid-day nap, and have help with the twins, as I was pretty much on-call 24/7 with them.  We paid the girl $6 per hour she was ‘on duty’.  (she had 4 younger brothers and sisters, so she had some experience.)

Let the laundry pile up, use paperplates (yes my eco-cred just took a major hit), just make more time for yourself to nap.  You’ll get through this, don’t worry.  And don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to modify your parenting choices just to survive.

I’ve even had to walk out of the room sometimes and let the baby cry for a few minutes, just to pull myself together enough to keep going!

Feel free to email me if you need to vent 🙂  lara at twiceblessedlife dot com

Lara N.

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4 thoughts on “Sleep or lack of it

  1. Sounds like you have lots of experience with night time troubles. I'm right there with you. Different situations, different kids – but still – very little sleep for mama!

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