Mar. 16, 2012

How to: Deal with a Baby Who Doesn't Sleep Through The Night



I've grudgingly accepted that Thomas doesn't sleep through the night (after MUCH prodding from my husband who has long accepted this). We've decided that sleep training won't work for us (at least right now) so we're co-sleeping and have found that this arrangement works best for us. Thomas sleeps tucked next to me or Greg, and wakes every two hours (or less or sometimes (very rarely) more). Sometimes we sing him back to sleep (Away in a Manger and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are his favourites), sometimes saying "shhhhh" and rubbing his belly works too, but most times I nurse him. He's back to sleep and I am too, within minutes of waking, and often with minimal tears. He starts the night in his crib, after being nursed to sleep in our den around 7 pm, and then the first or second time he wakes we normally head to bed with him. Before getting to this point, we've experienced (in order):
  • a baby who slept swaddled in a bassinet that was next to our bed and woke less and less until eventually he slept through the night (once) and normally woke once a night between 1 and 2 am;
  • a baby who slept in sleep sac in a crib in his nursery and woke a few times a night;
  • a baby who slept in a crib but woke regularly and who became increasingly difficult to put back down upon waking without lots of tears; and,
  • a baby who co-slept with mama beginning at 6:30 or 7:00 pm every night (Greg would normally lie with me and we'd watch DVDs together until nodding off somewhere between 9 and 10 pm).
It took a long time (about six months) for us to come to our present arrangement - a combination of crib and co-sleeping that finds a happy baby at night and in the morning, a (decently) well rested mom and dad, and some time at the end of the day just for Greg and me.

Throughout these arrangements, two things have helped dramatically:
  1. If you nurse sitting up - play the TV lottery. Before heading to bed, check the late night TV offerings of your favourite channels and note the best show on at every hour. When baby was little (this worked really well when Thomas was 3 or 4 months and used to nurse for up to 1 hour straight at night, once a night), I'd motivate myself to get out of bed by recalling the best show on at that time and then watching it while nursing. I'd purposely skip my favourite shows in the day in hopes that I'd catch them on reruns that night. It worked. If Thomas happened to wake in time for me to catch the latest episode of Project Runway, I'd feel excited to get out of bed.
  2. If you're co-sleeping and have mastered nursing while lying down - stop looking at the clock. The nights I ask Greg to tell me the time every time Thomas wakes are the worst (as in 'baby, why are you awake every hour?' or 'baby why have you woken three times and its only midnight?'). When I don't know what time it is, I can assume he's slept for hours and I rarely recall how many times he woke in the morning.
Of course, the greatest motivation for me to wake up at night is to calm or assist Thomas in whatever issue he's experiencing that's causing him to wake (room too bright, sleeper damp, soiled diaper, hunger etc.), but from one tired mom to another, I can say that sometimes an additional trick or form of motivation can be welcome.

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