This summer has been ROUGH in the sleep department. Partly the sunshine streaming in the window until well past 9pm, partly an attachment toddler who wants his mama thisclose to him all.the.time when he’s sleeping, has led to a spiral of sleep deprivation that was just not working anymore. Potamus needed a good 2.5-3 hours of me laying in his bed with him before he would fall asleep. We’d start bedtime routine around 7, and it’d be close to 10 every.damn.night before he’d fall asleep. We tried mixing it up, doing really active things before bedtime routine started (running, wrestling, playing hard). We tried quiet activities before bedtime routine (reading stories, turning off all electronics, warm showers). NOTHING worked. Not only did it take that long to fall asleep, he’d only stay asleep about 1-2 hours at most, and then want Mama. Which meant, in my exhaustion, he was coming into bed with me before I had really even gotten any sleep for the night.
Now, I’m not opposed to co-sleeping…when it’s working. But his restlessness would continue, even after he was snuggled in bed with me. He’d kick his legs and twiddle my neck, digging his fingernails into my chin…all night long. I would wake up crabby and exhausted and frustrated that it wasn’t going well.
So I made an appointment with our pediatrician. I thought maybe it was growing pains? Or after a quick google search I saw things like Restless Leg Syndrome, or iron deficiency, or all sorts of other ailments. But I love our pediatrician and figured he’d be able to help.
His diagnosis: poor sleep hygiene.
What I love about this guy, is that he has a way of saying things in the kindest, gentlest way, while also sharing about his life. He said that the only way to get Potamus to sleep differently was going to be making the behaviors go extinct, which means, not reinforcing them, which means…not laying next to him for 3 hours to get to sleep. But then he told me that it’s not something I HAVE to do, but told me how to do it, if I wanted to do it, in a way that I would feel good about. And then he divulged that his family co-sleeps, and his son is almost 10 and ‘really small and immature for his size, and he comes into our bed every night to snuggle. he just needs to sleep next to a human being for awhile to feel safe.’
Yeah, my pediatrician co-sleeps his older elementary school age son. So he’s not just telling me to leave a 3 week old in a crib to cry it out. I felt hopeful. He said it’d be hard, but it’d work.
And so that’s what were doing. We read stories, and snuggle, and I give unlimited hugs. I’m still in his bed until he falls asleep, but I’m no longer laying next to him. And until 2am (ideally around 5 would be best), if he wakes up crying, I go in there and snuggle him, and put him back in his bed, and wait until he falls asleep. The first two nights were brutal. It took him awhile to fall asleep, and then he was restless for a good hour in the middle of the night (aka midnight). He’d fall asleep, but as soon as I’d creep out he’d wake back up. He’d want 4 more hugs and then he’d go back to sleep.
My goal is not to eliminate co-sleeping for good, just alter it a bit so we’re all getting sleep. Because work starts back for me in 2 weeks, and he can’t be going to bed at 10pm and getting up at 6. He’ll be a crabby zombie.
We’re at 4 nights this week, and last night he fell asleep ‘on his own’ (with me there) relatively easily. And at midnight he woke up crying, but in the time it took me to pee, he had soothed himself back asleep. I went in there and checked on him…zonked out. He came into our bed around 3am. Already he’s getting more sleep in a row than before, AND when he does sleep next to me there is snuggling, but no twiddling, kicking, tossing and turning. He reaches out to touch me, then curls into himself and passes out. Exactly what I hoped for in our sleep relationship. I like having his little warm body next to mine, but I also like sleep.
I’m so thankful that I have a compassionate pediatrician who listens to my life and helps create a plan for making it fit into our lifestyle. I feel like I’m able to do a modified ‘cry it out’ (without any crying?) that suits my attachment parenting needs, without going to an extreme that doesn’t feel congruent with my values as a mom.
So here’s to a few more hours of blissful sleep…for all of us. :)