• Katie

Sleepless in Chicago

Where to begin...ten months...It took me ten months to get to this place where I can finally wrap my head around the complete cluster f*ck of a situation that occurred in my home. Leading up to delivery I would hear "sleep now!" or "enjoy your sleep." I laughed it off as many do thinking hopefully my child will be a great sleeper. I like to sleep, my husband likes to sleep...the baby will sleep, right!? To be honest I had no idea what a bad sleeper would look like either way.


Tv and social media depict babies to be these squishy faced, adorable humans that hibernate like a bear during winter and are deep in constant slumber. This was not my reality. As I had mentioned in my previous blog post BABY PREP REGISTRY TIPS I quickly learned that I had messed up by not registering for a bassinet. Let me also point out that this child was angelic in the hospital, slept and woke on a good schedule which completely built up my confidence to think I will totally ROCK this first night at home! Welp...my first night home was spent in our bed with the baby on the boppy lounger awake all night. At one point I remember I was crying, she was crying, (staring at each other crying) total sob fest - Remi was trying to figure out this new home and I was trying to figure out this new human life.


After being up all night, delirious, and guidance from my MIL, we set up shop in the living room where we would spend the next three months sleeping. The decision was easy as I was not supposed to be climbing stairs after my c-section and the living room was next to the kitchen, making it easy and ideal to make/wash bottles. We borrowed a bassinet from a family member and crossed our fingers that she would get some sleep. I would try everything at this point to get some shuteye. The bassinet was a great aid but wasn't our golden ticket item. At one point the only way I could get Remi to sleep would be...(earmuffs) for all your judgmental readers...to lay her next to me on the couch to co-sleep. As a new mom who had a baby that hated the bassinet, boppy, swing, dockatot and crib....what was I supposed to do!?!


I wasn't completely honest with her doctor about the sleeping problems - HUGE mistake on my part! Why didn't I say something sooner?...after delivery you visit the doctor a lot. Each appointment you are given a multiple page evaluation to assess your child's behavior, developmental and psychosocial progress. Looking back if I had shared my concerns earlier, the doctor could have offered some guidance or suggestions, but I was a new mom and nervous I was doing something wrong all while trying to convince myself "this is normal" and the phase will pass. I knew that co-sleeping was not a good option or habit to get into, but I was desperate at the same time to calm the baby and get some sleep myself.


Months passed and I would hear stories about how everyone's kids slept. I would consistently text friends and family members who recently went through this transition to ask for advice. I tried all their tips and tricks. It was as if Remi was the anomaly for it all and I ended many late night texts with "let me know if you think of anything else." The hard days and nights were a struggle. I felt like I was failing because I couldn't figure it out. The hormones and lack of sleep don't lead to a fully functioning mind which I eventually needed when I went back to work. Side note: it is extraordinary what our bodies can do. Often I was on 3 hours of sleep and powered through the day feeling like a force of nature hyped up on coffee. My best friend knew when I had another sleepless night and would Uber Eats a latte and cake pop from Starbucks to give me a morning boost! Grateful for my tribe!


We introduced the crib at 4 months old. Before that it was co-sleeping and rotation of all portable sleeping devices. I had my own reasons for not trying to sleep train during this time. We had made some previous attempts and Remi would get so worked up and upset from crying she would literally make herself sick. The level of crying that would come from her was not worth it for me at that time. In order to sleep train not only does your baby have to be ready for it but YOU have to be ready for it. My husband immediately wants to comfort her when she is upset. I was terrified she would roll over and suffocate or she would get worked up she would make herself sick. Each night we went through the checklist to hope one of these factors would make all the difference


sleep sack - humidifier - sound machine - night light on - night light off - no sleep sack - footie pajamas - two piece pajamas - door open - door closed - hall light on - hall light off - rock to sleep - placed in crib - bottle before bed - pacifier before bed - sing to sleep - book before bed - bath in morning - bath before bed - room temperature adjustment


The next five months I nearly lost my damn mind. Lord help my husband if a kitchen cabinet door slammed. I was constantly on edge in fear she would wake from a noise we caused. After a calming bedtime routine she would be asleep in the crib only to awake 20 - 30 minutes later which would then progress into our nightly game of cat and mouse for the next 4 hours before I fell asleep and eventually she would tire. There were nights where I would be in and out of her room 8-12 times before she finally fell asleep. No lengthy naps occurred during the day to cause a confused sleep schedule at night - this by far was the trickiest puzzle I have ever been given to solve. Exhaustion would allow for 2-3 hours of sleep and then BAM she would wake again. At this point I would put her in our bed and pray she would fall asleep for the last few hours of the night. Yes...I caved!! Please remember that I work a full-time job and I have to be up and out of the house everyday. I was on SURVIVAL mode at this point! When you sleep with a child you never fully sleep, I always felt like I had one eye open and a foot in my throat.


My breaking point was Super Bowl Sunday. My husband was out of the house watching the game and I took this opportunity to try sleep training. I had finally sent a message and asked the doctor for help, she provided a few suggestions and some reading material. At this point I was confident I could tackle this mission alone and hold my ground to not cave for the tears. What is sleep training? It is the process parents try with different factors and regiments that help to adjust their children's sleep behaviors and promote self soothing. Previous attempts at the Ferber Method (enter the room while child cries at intervals) and a gentle approach to cry it out had not worked, but this night would be different.


Our week in a nutshell, sleep training process at 10 months:

Night ONE - 45 minutes of cry it out, entered room at 5/10/15 minutes for 20 seconds to calm

Night TWO - 30 minutes of cry it out, entered room at 5/10 minutes for 20 seconds to calm

Night THREE - 10 minutes of cry it out, entered room at 5 minutes for 20 seconds to calm

Night FOUR - 2 minutes of cry it out - no needed calm

Night FIVE - 0 minutes to cry it out - YAY!!!!!!!!!!!


A WHOLE NEW WORLD

I now see how a good sleeper can make life SOOO much more manageable! We now have our bedtime routine and after a bottle she goes in the crib and sleeps through the night until morning. How ironic that I used to pray for her to sleep and now I miss her when she does. My nights now consist of laundry, dishes, workouts or catching up on shows with a glass of wine. I no longer have this pit in my stomach or dread of nightfall. I look forward to our routine and our snuggle session before bed. Some tips that I found to work for us - keep the nursery completely dark and we stopped using the sleep sac. I set the timer on my phone to be sure I was entering at the right timing/interval during sleep training. I turned down the monitor volume and turned up the tv while she was crying as a distraction. Throughout the week I could see the progression and how she was learning to soothe herself to sleep. She now wakes and will roll over to get comfy. I can vacuum and she will sleep right through it.


Looking back, I wish I would have done this earlier - I just wasn't ready. Our previous attempts showed me that Remi wasn't either. My journey with bedtime and sleep training was anything but easy. Like everything throughout this first year as a mother, I have had to learn how to do what's best for us OUR way and in OUR time. What works for some doesn't always work for others, just know that eventually you will get there. We did, and I feel like I can breath again for the first time in a long time. Interrupted sleep consumed our lives for the past ten months and was by far my greatest struggle in motherhood to date. This world of the unknown can be lonely and frustrating especially in the early hours of the morning when you nod off watching Netflix shows on your phone while rocking the babe back to sleep. I cannot tell you how important it is to surround yourself with a great tribe of support that will help and be there to send you coffee when you can nearly hold your head up for one more minute.


Disclaimer: I am not a sleep specialist or medical professional; these are just my personal experiences and personal thoughts. Be sure to check with your pediatrician before starting sleep training.

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