September 22, 2009

Sleepless in Denver

I am downstairs, taking a break. Taking a break from my beautiful, incredible, sweet little boy. (He is with his Daddy)

My little boy whose lack of sleep is slowly driving me to the point of insanity.

I know he used to sleep. I just can hardly remember when.

I know that many many months ago he would regularly sleep six hours at a stretch, sometimes even nine.

But it's been a long time since that happened round these parts.

It's been a slow gradual decline....first it was a five hour stretch, then four, then three and a half.

Somewhere along the line I picked up "The No-Cry Sleep Solution", I remember that when I read it he was still fitting into the normal expected sleep pattern for his age. So I put it away and decided to just continue with what we had been doing. I comforted my tired self with the hope that this would soon pass and the knowledge that he was already growing up so fast and that I would miss these night times with him when he got older. And I was really ok with it.

But then a few weeks ago it got worse. Much much worse.

It's been many months since I have slept more than 4 hours straight through. It has now been several weeks since I have slept two hours or more in a row. I have a constant headache and I am losing my ability to suck it up and function well during the day.

His napping is erratic. I never know whether I will get a blissful two-hour stretch from him or the more common 30 minute power-naps he has become fond of these days. Regardless, I have lost my own ability to sleep on cue when he sleeps during the day - likely due to the coffee I am drinking each morning just to manage.

I can't help but feel that it is my fault somehow - that I am missing something, that I should be doing something differently. I am very consistent with his bedtime routine. I use several cues to let him know it is time to go to bed. And he falls asleep easily. He just doesn't stay that way very long.

I thought maybe it was his teeth, as he does seem really unhappy and uncomfortable every time he wakes. I have tried herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies, massage, and good old-fashioned "baby crack" (aka Tylenol or Advil). I might get one extra hour from this but it doesn't seem to make all that big of a difference.

I have nursed him to sleep. I have not nursed him to sleep. I have rocked, I have bounced, I have begged, I have prayed. I have co-slept. I have not co-slept. I have tried soothing him in his bed without picking him up. I have tried picking him up sooner. Nothing seems to make that big of a difference.

His routine now is that after falling asleep, he sleeps about 2 hours and wakes again. I rock him back to sleep and he sleeps another hour, maybe two if we are super lucky. After that it's pretty much a crap shoot. He wakes roughly every hour, sometimes more often. Often he wants to nurse, but he also just can't seem to get comfortable. Finally, Mr. Spicy takes him about 6am and plays with him, changes him, and feeds him breakfast. After that he might come back to bed with me and sleep another hour to an hour and a half.

I am having a hard time holding it together and remembering that he isn't doing this to me. I know he doesn't want to be waking so often. I know he'd probably love to get a nice full night's sleep. I look into his poor sleepy eyes as he whimpers to me in the middle of the night, and calls out for his "Mama" and I feel terrible that I don't know what to do to help the both of us. I am all out of answers and just too damned tired to find any more.

I know I can't survive like this much longer. I just can't. This is torture.

I know I need to enlist Mr. Spicy to take more night shifts on the weekends. It is painfully obvious to me that I can not do this alone night after night. It's just in the past I haven't been able to sleep when he's stepped in to relieve me. I lie awake wondering if they need me and berating myself for not being able to sleep.

But even with the promise of a "night off" soon....tonight is Tuesday night and the weekend feels so very very far away....

And even a much needed break can't solve the underlying issue: Why can't my baby sleep?

What am I doing wrong here? What am I missing?

and why do I feel so much shame for being the one whose baby doesn't sleep? like it is some mark of mothering ability, to have a child who sleeps soundly through the night?

I feel protective of him. I don't want anyone to think of him as the "bad sleeper", or "difficult". I don't want him to be the subject of others' stories: "Well...I know a baby who still wakes every hour and he's eight months old!"

Sure, when he wakes up for the fourth consecutive time that I try desperately to lay him down and I need to pee and my shoulders are burning - sure, I might have a grumbling thought or two about him - but I don't want that to be what others know of him.

There is just so much else about him that is so much more delightful.

I know I am being somewhat ridiculous. I am not the first to live through this, I will not be the last. I know I am not alone - at least I hope I am not.

So, Mamas out there....please help me out: tell me about your sleepless nights, your exhaustion, your frustration - and maybe even what worked for you.

Maybe I can make it through this season knowing that there are others who are staring and who have stared blearily at the clock praying that their babies will just please go back to sleep and sleep for more than an hour this time. Others who could not imagine getting through one more night, and somehow they did.

In the meantime....back to it for me....


Miss Tori said...

I'm not a mama, but could he be getting the caffeine through your breast milk? I don't know if caffeine passes through the breast milk, but it's something to think about.

I hope you are able to resolve this issue and get some much needed sleep.

Spicy Sister said...

Hey Tori,

great observation. Generally what I have found and heard from Dr.s and lactation consultants goes something like this:

"The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared that coffee is safe to drink by a breastfeeding mother and will have little affect on an infant, as long as a nursing mother does not go over three cups a day. Without exceeding three cups of coffee a day, or its equivalent in other beverages, the amount of caffeine passed on to the baby is minimal and in most cases is well tolerated with no adverse reaction.

The La Leche League is even more liberal in what it believes is a safe amount of coffee intake for a nursing mom. They state that a breastfeeding woman can drink up to five 5oz cups of coffee a day, or up to 750 mg other caffeinated beverages without a problem."

Read more:

But I still don't have caffeine every single day and the days I don't have it don't seem any different from the days I do (except I am seriously dragging). I also limit myself to 1-1.5 cups per day and only in the morning. I generally won't drink coffee past 10am.

But it is still something worth keeping a close eye on for sure. Thanks for the suggestion!


The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) said...

Oh, Oh...Spicy. I'm so so so sorry. I remember just how bad it got for me when SparkleEyes was waking up every hour or two. I remember desperately trying everything, being okay with not sleeping for awhile, and then it just getting worse and worse and worse. That really was the beginning of the worst part of my ppd. I want to call you to tell you that it will be okay, that he will sleep, and that you have to find a way to sleep. You just have to. I know your body chemistry is different from mine, but I also know that lack of sleep is one of the major instigators of ppd, and I so don't want you to suffer what I did. Get Mr. Spicy to take night shifts. C. still takes night shifts sometimes when SparkleEyes is sick or whatever so I can sleep. It's nothing to be ashamed of. And it's really good for Zane to get that time with his daddy (all sorts of studies show huge benefits for kids whose dads do some of the nitty gritty baby care that usually moms take on). Really, you need sleep and you deserve sleep. And you can't be a good mom if you're not okay. It is loving to Zane for you to take of yourself--if that means Mr. spicy taking a night, if it means asking a friend to spend the night as you did for me. Really. You are not a failure for needing sleep, for feeling angry and irritable when you don't get it. Those are signs of you being a healthy human being and your body signaling to you that it needs something. Yay for your system communicating so faithfully to you!

We did end up finding a way to get SparkleEyes to sleep that worked for us after weeks of her doing what it sounds like Zane is doing, and I'd be happy to share that with you if you'd like, but I know how annoying it can be to have people throw solutions at you when you've already tried so much. I know you love your baby with everything in you. And I know that you will be loving him really, really well by finding a way to take of yourself--your milk production will be better, your inner world will be better, your ability to stay calm and peaceful for Zane will be better, you will be better. And that is good for you and for him. I really want to call you. I don't know if you'd want to hear from me, but if you do, let me know. Sending love and wishes for sleep.

The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) said...

Another thought...I also had a hard time relaxing and going to sleep when C. would take SparkleEyes and also worried that SparkleEyes was feeling abandoned, that she needed me, that I was failing her. And my therapist said something that really helped me. I realized I was projecting my own feelings of abandonment--all of those moments I cried out and no one came to be with me--onto SparkleEyes' cries, and my therapist reminded me that SparkleEyes had something I didn't have. She had a really good mom. She had a really responsive mom. She had a different base--a core of security and trust I'd helped her build up by responding over and over again. And she was with her daddy who she trusted. She wasn't feeling what I would have felt in the same situation. I don't know if you're struggling with some of the same stuff--projecting your own past sense of aloneness and abandonment onto Zane and then seeing yourself as the sum total of all of those people who hadn't responded when you needed someone to respond. But if that is some of what goes on when you let someone else do some of the care for Zane like it was for me, then I just want to say, I can tell from reading your blog and from the little bit I've seen of you with Zane that you have done and are doing an amazing job as his mom. He knows (probably more than you do yourself) just how reliable and loving and safe you are. And he has a core of security and safety that you and Mr. Spicy have helped him develop. And his cries are not cries of abandonment. And you taking a break doesn't cause him any trauma. It doesn't harm him. In fact, it helps him immensely because it helps you care for yourself and be a healthier person and a better mama. It helps you be more meaningfully present for him. Maybe you already know all of this, but I certainly didn't, so I wanted to pass it on in case it helps.