Thursday, April 4, 2013

Honest Ramblings on the Myths and Truths of "Sleep Training"

Warning:  This is a long rambling post in which I vent and get out some of my regrets/frustrations that have come with having a baby and not sleeping... there will be no pretty pictures to view- if there were you would see a mama that looks like a zombie, a vaccuum cleaner, and a red faced baby.

Baby advice #1:  "Enjoy the sleep while you can... then sleep when baby sleeps!"
Myth or Truth:  TRUTH
While I felt like I took it to heart, even though I wasn't getting that much sleep from months 8-9 of my pregnancy (hello full bladder!), I had NO idea what the lack of sleep that comes with having a baby would be like.
I am not a morning person so it took quite some adjusting to wake up and sometimes stay up with Irelyn.
Our little pookie slept pretty good the first two months of her life.
Then, from months 3-5 we were "blessed" with COLIC.
I would not wish a colicky baby on ANYONE.
The things a screaming inconsolable baby does to your sanity are not pleasant.
I am sorry to say at times I resented my little red faced screaming cutie-pie.  
Where was my calm peaceful slumbering newborn??
Why did God give me a screamer??
When would it end??
Ahhh, there were some nights where it wasn't too bad and I would think "Maybe it's finally over!".
Then, we took baby to her four month appointment where the doctor proceeded to tell us she was teething.  
Now, we had a colicky, teething baby.  
Looking back, I am SO glad Irelyn's colicky time was predictable.  The screaming would commence from 6-9pm.  
We used everything from white noise on the radio, the vaccuum (Irelyn's favorite), hair dryers, loud shushing, and bumpy stroller rides to get her to sleep.
I didn't go a lot of places with Irelyn because she hated the carseat and when the car would stop at stop-signs she would start crying.  The last thing I wanted to hear was baby crying during the day when I knew I would have to listen to it for hours at night.
So, out of self preservation I pretty much was holed up at home while I sent the hubby grocery lists via text message.  
Obviously, I got quite lonely.
Unfortunately we were not so involved in a church to where we had people to bring us meals or come visit.  I regret that we didn't make more of an effort in getting to know people in Topeka.  It would have helped out this mama's sleep deprived sanity immensely had we had that support.  
The hubs and I aren't exactly those extroverted personalities that "need-to-be-with-people-to-survive".  We are pretty happy hanging out with each other and occasionally doing social things.
Thankfully we have wonderful family.  My mom and my sister got lots of hysterical phone calls from me and were extremely helpful in calming me down and making me not feel like I'd completely lost my mind.
I digress. 

Baby advice #2: "Food will make your baby sleep longer!" 
Myth or Truth:  MYTH
Also at baby's four month appointment, in addition to the teething news, our pediatrician told us we could start her on solids- and maybe it would help her sleep longer.
I brought this topic up at a Le Leche League meeting and was told that it is better to wait until six months to start baby on solids as it could jeopardize baby's sensitive digestive tract.
This is where asking for advice from lots of different types of people can lead to new mama confusion.  One person tells you one thing, another tells you the complete opposite.
However, I was willing to try ANYTHING that might help Irelyn sleep through the night so we gave rice cereal a shot, at the risk of "damaging" her digestive tract...  she didn't want anything to do with the rice cereal.  Great.  
Luckily, the colicky symptoms went away around 5 months so mostly we were dealing with teething and several wake-ups during the night.
We decided to wait on solids and try again at six months and just deal with the sleep deprivation.  
Six months rolls around and we try again with better success!  Despite the tongue thrust we are able to get baby to eat.  I was so excited thinking this would for sure work and help her sleep through the night.
Even now, at nine months the amount of food Irelyn eats makes NO difference in her sleep patterns.

Baby advice #3: "Stretching their feedings will make them eat more and less often, thus "training" them to last longer through the night."
Myth or Truth:  MYTH (In our case)
I actually think this makes sense and would probably work for some babies.  However, trying to stretch Irelyn an extra hour (at nine months she "should" be able to go four hours between feedings) seems to make her really fussy.  Even when we distract her with toys or games, when this girl gets hungry she's hungry and is NOT interested in playing.  She likes to eat on a three hour schedule.  I do think if we just let her fuss the extra hour for a couple weeks she would eventually get it, but that's two weeks where I don't need to listen to fussing if I just stick to her desired three hour schedule.  Oh well.

Baby advice #4:  "Just let them cry-it-out"
Myth or Truth: UNDECIDED
I say "undecided" because I have talked to people who have actually had this work successfully, but it is a VERY hard sleep training method to put into practice.  
Listening to your baby screaming for you is heartbreaking :(.
Also, the ladies at Le Leche League said cry-it-out is BAD for baby and could lead to baby not feeling comforted and safe.  
Enter new-mom-anxiety again over which advice to follow.  Let her cry-it-out and risk "ruining" our bond or let her cry-it-out MAYBE get my sanity back...hmmm.    
My sister did it with her baby and it worked- for the most part, he still may get up once a night now but that's better than 4-6 times right?!
I braved this method after getting some encouragement from her and deciding if I didn't try it I would go completely insane and I'm a better mommy when I'm not feeling crazy sleep-deprived.
The first night she went to bed okay (she's been going down fairly easy since 6 months), the first time she woke up she cried for one hour, the second time for 45 minutes, and third time for 30 minutes, she slept until 6:30am.
The second night she cried for 30 minutes the first time, and 30 minutes the second time, and then slept until about 6am.
The third night she slept through the night until 6am!  Yeah!
I thought we finally had this sleep thing figured out!
Then, the next two nights she was back to waking up every 2-3 hours and crying for 30 minutes.
At this point I was starting to lose sanity again so I decided to just feed her like usual because I knew she'd fall asleep instantly if I nursed her.
So now we are back to square one.  

Baby advice #5:  "Do what works for you and your baby."
Myth or Truth:  TRUTH (Obviously)
Irelyn wakes up four times a night and I nurse her back to sleep, but at least I don't have to hear her cry-it-out (which was heartbreaking) and I don't lose as much sleep waiting anxiously for her to stop crying.  I still fantasize about trying this method again, and maybe I will get to that point eventually, but for now I will wake up every three hours to feed her.  I will count myself lucky that I have a healthy baby who apparently LOVES my company four times a night, and I will soak up every moment that she wants to be held because she is growing WAY to fast.

Baby advice #6:  "Read parenting books with a grain of salt and do not compare your baby to other babies."
Myth or Truth: TRUTH
I read several parenting/breastfeeding/birthing books before Irelyn was born.  A lot of them were written by doctors, which I guess makes the books seem more credible.  However, after dealing with a pediatrician whose advice I found more annoying and canned than helpful, I was frustrated how he made me feel like my concerns weren't that big of a deal or that my baby's sleep problems could be "solved" by simply following A,B, and C.  I think trusting your instincts and other moms' advice is better for your sanity, and of course finding a pediatrician who you really like and trust makes a world of difference.

Expecting your baby to sleep through the night is like expecting your labor and delivery to go according to your carefully laid out birth plan.  It's nice to think about but don't expect it to happen!
As for "sleep training", well, I think it's more like "parent training".  You decide what you can tolerate and your baby decides what they can tolerate... and then you just deal... and try to smile when someone tells you their baby has slept through the night since birth.
As for what is "normal", well, within the past week I've had one person think my daughter is a year old and another that she's six months old.  She's nine months.
So yeah, there is no NORMAL.


Anonymous said...

I emailed my response.

Take care


Rebecca Froese said...

Sounds like you have it figured out! ( not sarcastic) We dealt with colic too. I hear ya!!! Overstimulation was our biggest trigger.
I stopped reading parenting books for those reasons too. Being a mom has been by far the hardest thing I've had to do in my life...but the screaming toddler days will end right?...right?!!
You're not to far from us now! We live between Inman and moundridge!

DJ and Gretchen said...

The baby stage is WAY harder than I anticipated... I've worked with/taught toddlers so that doesn't seem as daunting... but I imagine once I'm trying to discipline my own child I will be in for another shocker :). Oh boy.
I didn't realize you guys were so close! We need to do a mod get-together again sometime, I would actually be able to be there!

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