I have been held captive for 10 months, 21 days, 11 hours and 26 minutes. My captor’s name is Chase and he tortures me with sleep deprivation. There was a period of about 2 weeks where he let me sleep, uninterrupted, through the night and I thought “Could it be? Am I free?” and then on a warm evening in early September, I was startled awake by the soft cries from the monitor next to my bed. They gradually increased in octave and I just knew….it wasn’t over.
SLEEPING! What’s that? For the first 5 months of Chase’s life, I thought I would be the first person to die from sleep deprivation. You literally feel like you’re losing your mind. At one point I wondered if I was really in a padded room somewhere walking around with a baby doll and too crazy to notice. No sleep does things to you.
I constantly called and texted every new mom I know (I say “new” mom because I felt like anyone with older children might be out of touch and I needed some fresh advice…someone who just got through the battlefield and was eager to show me the ropes) and asked if what I was going through was normal and what worked for them.
There were so many different pieces of advice but no one really gives you verbatim direction on what EXACTLY they did (because, who has the time to explain all that or feels like sending a 3 page text, ESPECIALLY a mom) so I am going to tell you EXACTLY what we did (and are currently doing) because I needed someone to do that for me.
Keep in mind every baby is different, but here is what worked for us:
We kept Chase in a Rock N Play next to my side of the bed from the day we brought him home from the hospital. We were determined not to use the battery-operated swing or vibration, (hahaha!!! you will literally do anything to get a baby to sleep) but that didn’t last long! The self-swing option was a life saver. Also, Chase had reflux as an infant so being in the Rock N Play at an incline made everything much easier for all of us. This is the one we used:
Because he had reflux, Chase spit up a lot and it would make him cry because it burned, so the pediatrician prescribed Zantac for him. I was reluctant to put my infant on any kind of prescription medicine but let me tell you, if you were in pain every day, you’d take something too. I looked at it like this: My baby is in pain and I have the ability to make him feel better so why wouldn’t I give him something that I know will help?
I was breastfeeding Chase and swaddling him at night. He wouldn’t sleep unless he was swaddled and we continued to do so until he was about 5 months and began to struggle to get out of it, that’s also around the time he started to roll over. He also wouldn’t sleep in anything other than the Rock N Play but it got to the point where his legs were literally dangling off the edge!
Around 5 1/2 months is when everything changed for us. We were moving into a new house, so we hadn’t set up Chase’s crib yet. We had borrowed a bigger bassinet from a friend, but Chase wouldn’t sleep in it for more than 2 hours (just long enough for me to finally get some sleep and then be awoken by an angry elf). He was also used to being elevated and all nice and snug so laying flat and without some kind of cushioning wasn’t happening.
Then a friend of mine told me about the “Docatot”, which is awesome! (not cheap, but awesome!) It was the perfect transitional tool we needed to get Chase from Rock N Play to crib because it kept him nice and snug and prevented him from rolling over.
This Docatot (picture is not my child, but it sold me!) was so great, I wish I had heard about it sooner (and no, they’re not endorsing me). I put the Docatot in Chase’s Pack N Play and he slept great! (Well, great for Chase at the time). So, apparently the Docatot is meant to be used as a co-sleeping tool, but Chase would NOT sleep with us. We tried. I even kicked my husband out of our bed so Chase could take his spot and he was still up every 2 hours. No thanks.
The other key for us was putting Chase in his own bedroom to sleep!! I didn’t really feel comfortable with the idea (and neither did my husband) but Chase woke up at the drop of a spoon (that happened the other day). Our bed was squeaky, my husband clears his throat and I roll around in my sleep and EVERYTHING woke Chase up. You can imagine my attitude towards my husband any time he coughed! So at about 5 1/2 months, we bit the bullet and set Chase up in his own room and he slept much better.
I always sleep with a fan, so Chase is used to white noise, which I think helped. We also got him a white noise machine and use it (two of them, actually) to this day.
Once we moved into the new house, we set the crib up and put the Docatot in that until Chase started rolling around on his own. He didn’t seem phased when I removed it, I just kept a close eye on him for a little while until I felt comfortable with him sleeping on his stomach. This all happened around 6-6 1/2 months, I’d say.
Because Chase wasn’t the best sleeper, I did a ton of research and asked my tribe of women what worked for them and the thing that stuck out the most for me was starting a “bedtime routine” where we do the same thing every single night so Chase knows it’s time for bed. Our routine consists of “tubby time” where Chase gets a bath in a quiet environment with dim lights. It’s his time to wind down. I have tried keeping the lights bright and having my husband in there with us, but Chase seems to sleep much better when it’s just the 2 of us in there and it’s quiet. (My need for having things done a particular way is hereditary, apparently.)
Then when he gets out of the tub, I lay him on our bed (he bathes in our bathroom) and I get him dressed for bed. He doesn’t like things on his feet, he tries to pull them off (lately) so I either put him in a feet-less pajama suit or a 2 piece, long sleeves and pants and always put him in a sleep sac.
(Again, not my child)
I have a weird OCD thing about temperature and get obsessed with the temp in Chase’s room at night. I am constantly worried that he is either too hot or too cold, so I sneak in there 500 times to make sure it’s just right. I’m convinced the thermometer on his monitor is lying to me. I have found that putting him in cotton pajamas with the lighter sleep sack for warmer nights and the fleece sleep sac when it’s cold works best. I really like them because I feel like he has a blanket wrapped around him all night.
Speaking of blankets, that was another question of mine: When is it ok to give him a blanky?? He sleeps with his lovie (AKA “Moo Cow”) but seeing him all alone in his crib curled up in a ball made me sad so I wanted him to have a blanket. We got the OK from his pediatrician once Chase was rolling all around and at first, the idea scared me so I tried it during nap time so I could watch him with it. I wouldn’t want to sleep without a blanket of some kind! Even just to snuggle it.
During his “tubby time”, Chase’s bottle is being warmed up (I give him a bottle of breast milk that I have pumped because it fills his belly for the night) and his daddy kisses him “Goodnight”. I feed him in his rocking chair in his room with the sound machines on. He also has room-darkening curtains (I highly recommend) so it’s nice and dark in there. After his bottle, he nurse a little (comfort) and usually falls asleep that way and I put him to bed asleep. Sometimes I have to walk him around the room and pat his back (he puts his hand over my mouth if I try to sing to him…if you’ve ever heard me sing, you’d understand..no joke).
I know you’re supposed to put them down “drowsy but awake” to sleep so when they wake in the night they don’t expect to see you there because they understand where they are. BUT…after letting Chase cry it out for nap time (more on that below) he was able to sleep better through the night and was able to soothe himself back to sleep. I have always put him down asleep when it’s his bedtime, I love rocking him to sleep and holding him a little while.
This “bedtime routine” might a bit excessive but I’m telling you, if you have a baby that doesn’t sleep through the night or doesn’t nap well and you haven’t gotten a break, your eyes look like a raccoon’s and you know your baby isn’t getting the rest he desperately needs, you’ll hag upside down by your toes, if it helps. Trust me.
Nap time has been hell for us. I may have created a monster, but as I have stated before, I had post-partum anxiety and didn’t want to put my baby down very much. I held him a ton as an infant (as I think you should) and let him nap on me all the time. Granted, I didn’t have any other children to take care of so I allowed myself to take advantage of these precious moments and Chase slept on me while I watched t.v. (oh, I miss those days!!) or rocked him in his rocking chair, and sometimes he even slept on me while I wore him in his Baby K’Tan:
I would actually be a great tour guide after months of driving all around town to get Chase to nap. I can tell you the nicest, most secluded and exclusive areas and the not-so-nice areas to avoid. I can tell you which places have drive-through coffees and which ones to go to if you’re trying to be quiet. Ask for Janet at the mini Starbucks. She makes the best 1/2 decaf skinny vanilla lattes and whispers when she sees you.
As everything else, this came to an end and Chase stopped falling asleep in the car and would only scream his tiny little ass off until we stopped and I took him out.
I’ve never been a fan of the “cry it out” method, but Chase just wouldn’t nap in his crib. I’d get him to sleep and then gently and sloooowwwlllyyyy lay him in his crib and he’d wake right up and scream (or pretend to choke, no lie) until I picked him up. So I was held captive in his room and rocked him to nap every day. It was sweet at first and then he stopped napping that way too! He was getting uncomfortable and wanted to roll around so he’d accidentally wake himself up after about 20-30 minutes.
I finally decided something needed to change after we had family and friends visit us and I was stuck in Chase’s room for most of their time here. I had tried letting him cry it out a couple times in the past but I ended up in the bathroom crying, myself. It hurt me to hear him cry and wonder where I was and why I wasn’t coming to get him. So, at about 8 1/2 months, I decided to do it and not look back because I realized he desperately needed to learn how to nap and it was my responsibility to teach him.
I bought books, watched videos, talked to my pediatrician and friends and decided to try letting Chase cry for 5 minutes then go in and console him. I would be putting him down drowsy but awake so he would get himself to sleep and I KNEW he was going to lose it and I KNEW that I needed to be strong because I wasn’t doing this TO him, I was doing it FOR him.
The 5 minute thing didn’t work. Neither did the 10 minute or even the 20. When I would go back in the room to console him, Chase would scream even louder, cry even harder and it would allllll start over again. SO, there were a couple times where he cried for an hour!! I finally would go in and get him, convinced he’d hate me and never trust me again. Thankfully, he didn’t and I kept up with it until probably the 4th day, he rolled over and went to sleep!!!! What the what?? Yeah, it was crazy. I thought: “No way, this is too good to be true” but the little man took a nap!
Now, I’m not trying to sell you anything so I can be honest and tell you this doesn’t always happen!! Sometimes I put him down and he cries and sometimes I just pick him back up or wait just a few minutes and then try again later. Sometimes he naps for 2 hours and sometimes 30 minutes, but at least he’s napping without any crutch.
Also, when I did this, he started sleeping through the night because he understood where he was, that it was sleep time and he probably didn’t feel like screaming for 20 minutes, it would just be easier to roll over, grab his lovie and go back to sleep.
But again, this doesn’t always happen, like I said in the opening statement, there was a period of about 2 blissful weeks where he was sleeping 11 hours straight per night and then BAM, just as soon as you foolishly tell people your child is sleeping through the night does he wake up every night at 2 AM just to spite you.
What can I say, ladies (and gents?)…we can just try our best…I have accepted the fact that I will probably be exhausted for a long time to come and I will never look like I’m 23 again because that bitch was rested!