Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Sleep ("We night-weaned him. I swear." and other closing remarks)

I've been sharing our family's ever emerging gentle sleep saga, with our two under two,  starting here.

The gentle sleep ideas were working and the 8 wake ups a night that were happening 6 months ealier were greatly reduced.  Safran and I stopped partaking in the joys of dairy which basically ended the extended night waking episodes that were plaguing us. He even slept all night (if you consider 5am morning) for a total of about two weeks before and after his new sister changed our world. So how did the baby (who was now a big brother) end up back in our bed?

the boy who can(not) sleep anywhere!!
We did night-wean Safran in the sense that he no longer had breastmilk in the night. And for many children when that happens they stop waking in the night all together, but generally Saf did still wake once or twice.  When Saf had a great night we were nearly superstitious about re-creating his environment in the same way.  Same pj's, socks or no socks, how exactly did he fall asleep?  did you lay him on a pillow?  What time was his bath?  What did we have for dinner again? 

It was almost hilarious, our way of embracing optimism for the night to come.

At the end of my pregnancy he and Chris slept in a different room than me so that I could get solid sleep (I was tiiiired, as most pregnant women are) and we continued that arrangement after Jubilee was born, assuming her night wakings would disturb Saf's sleep if we all stayed together. When Saf woke, Chris would cradle him in his arms and bounce him back to sleep on the end of the bed. It usually took less than ten minutes to have them both sleeping again. Chris could handle this a couple times a night.

After Jubilee's birth Saf began waking a bit more frequently which is normal for toddlers experiencing massive upheaval. Then he started to cut his molars and was waking 4-5 times a night. Chris was tired and his back was starting to really hurt from bouncing our 30lb+ son back to sleep. And then Saf caught a cold and struggled to sleep through his cough.   Jubilee was sleeping a good eight hours straight at just the right time and Saf seemed to really need his mama.

So I slept next to him.  We were hesitant at it could mean the unraveling of the months of nightweaning, but he needed me and the alternative was harder.  He woke a few times in the night for a bit of milk and he would fall quickly back to sleep.   Chris woke up refreshed.  That did it.  We voted him back in.

Saf just wasn't ready to sleep through the night. It's a developmental milestone and he isn't there yet and we don't want him to cry it out.   These days he sleeps until 6:30 or 7 am with 2-4 wake ups. He still needs to cut ten more teeth so I have a feeling he isn't going to sleep really well until that happens. We thought 2 would be the magic age but now I'm guessing it's 3. (We can hope, can't we?)

All the night weaning work wasn't for nothing. Safran no longer needs to suck completely to sleep like he did when we began implementing gentle sleep ideas.  I almost always end the feed with "nai nai is all done" and I count to ten, unlatch him and he will usually roll over and get comfy. Occasionally he will crawl in between me and Chris, probably looking for more warmth as we head into winter.  I do have nights that are hard (which is probably why I began writing these posts on sleep) but generally it feels good enough.

And jubilee? Yep, our wonder sleeper has woken up. She's waking multiple times in the night for the past couple of weeks. I'm guessing it's the four month sleep regression: the world is too exciting for her to eat properly in the day (although I try, and she still feeds every 2 hours it seems) so she is making up for missed calories in the night. She's hungry. And on the second wake up, which is anywhere from 2-5 am, I bring her into bed with us.

Yep. Four in the bed.

the family bed is also my children's favorite play space.  (J doing her mandatory daily reading)

It's so much nicer there, so much warmer and cozier and I really love sleeping next to my baby girl. Occasionally they both need me at the same time so I will tell Saf to lay back down and go sleepy because Jubee needs mama.   Sometimes he will and sometimes he needs help so I will wake up Chris (Mr. Earplugs) to care for Saf.  It works for us.  I make sure I am between the children and prefer to have Jubilee between me and the bed rail although she occasionally ends up between me and Chris (at 5 months old this doesn't worry me too much).  I'm "rotisserie nursing", the thing I thought I couldn't handle. But I guess I can.  And when the children wake up for the day (between 6:30 and 7 at the moment) then they get up with dada and I roll over for a nice sleep-in. 

I received the loveliest message from Joan, a friend with three grown children whom she and her husband raised cross-culturally as Canadians living in South America.  It's extremely encouraging to hear from parents who have seen good fruit in their families after choosing the more tiring road of night-time parenting.  An excerpt from her note ...

"We parented [our boys] at the height of the "tough love" and "breaking the strong-willed child" [movement in North America] and we left that dogma to parent in a culture who adores and honors and "spoils" their children. Latinos believe that if you lavish love and anything else in your means upon your child, they will, in your old age, honor and care for you as their parent ... Without really realizing it, we started doing what our hearts instructed us to do- and cradling and accompanying the little ones in their night fears or restlessness was also part of that ... Do you know what one of them did when his hopes for marrying the girl that captivated his heart ended in a shattered heart? He called us every night (sometimes closer to dawn) when he couldn't sleep, and cried, because he knew he didn't have to cry it alone. From anywhere in the world, at any time of the day, love is given and received."

Her message inspired me to keep going, to keep caring for our children in the night in ways that feel right to us.  I want Safran as a young man to call me at dawn rather than cry alone if he is hurting.  I want Jubilee to know there are no time restraints on my concern for her, whether she's a toddler or teenager, even if I'm really tired the next day.  I want these night time needs to be met now, rather than repressed to then surface later for attention from unhealthy sources.  For now, there is just enough room in the bed for everyone, just enough sleep, just enough grace. Sometimes barely, but just enough.

How are your nights going?  Do you have any gentle ideas that help(ed) your children sleep better?  Any encouragement for tired mamas out there?  


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