Sleeping like a Baby

I slept on the couch last night. In the clothes I wore to ultimate practice (which didn't pan out, but that's a story I'm not going to get into). At 4:45 AM, I went upstairs and put my pajamas on and slept in my own bed for an hour and a half and then started my day.

Some time ago, I wrote about various techniques which, when properly employed (and properly timed), can allow parents to score BIG when it comes to getting their kids to sleep (you may recall something about hypnotizing a chicken).

In short, it's a load of crap. Younger Son has shown me that even hard science can fail the most diligent of parents.

He's nearly six months old, and while he can get himself to sleep 90% of the time without us - but not without a little crying, getting himself BACK to sleep is clearly more of a challenge for the diminutive lad. And the fact that we'll soon be moving to a new house, one in which he'll have his very own bedroom (and thus so will Mrs. Mikestand and myself) has meant that for the past month or so, we've been desperately trying to establish an overnight sleeping pattern which minimizes his need for parental involvement while sparing The Toddler the agony of listening to Younger Son iron things out. I'm amazed at how rational I sound about this during the daytime.

What's resulted, however, is not the sleeping pattern we wished for. Colds and other sicknesses aside, we've made little progress in the overnight hours, with each parent getting up at least once to rock, feed, sway, bounce, jitterbug... whatever it takes to get the little one back to sleep. Invariably, he wakes after about an hour, and the whole thing starts all over again. His mother's main challenge is to have him convinced that he doesn't need the breast, that indeed all he needs is to CLOSE HIS EYES and drift peacefully back into baby wonderland, a place I assume is filled with breast-shaped objects which may or may not rattle or blink when they're touched. I think I'm about to get off track here. Anyway, the other challenge is to not develop some sort of pacifier dependency if at all possible. Sure, these habits can be broken later on, once sleeping routines are established, but we'd rather not have to go through the process of filling the crib with pacifiers and finding them in the dark when he can't. We'd be perfectly happy if he could find his thumb in the middle of the night (like his brother) and take care of things himself.

Last week we had a few good nights, Younger Son only needing to get up once, to feed. Some quality sleep was had by both parents and the Toddler (it takes a lot to disturb that kid's slumber). Cautiously avoiding the conclusion that this was his new "pattern", we secretly hoped this would continue, at least most of the time.

It didn't.

What followed were four or five "difficult" nights. And by "difficult", I mean nights which precipitate the "I really didn't mean what I said at 3:30. I was just frustrated. We're cool, right?" conversation over coffee and oatmeal in the morning.

Further complicating things is his sometimes-desire to sleep with his arms out of the blanket in which he's wrapped. Often, he'll pull a Houdini on us (sometimes while we're still wrapping him up) and wrestle his arms out and drift off, but if he wakes up, freedom of arms is clearly an impediment to getting back to sleep. So we're conflicted. Do we try to let him cry it out with arms out, or listen to him frustratingly try to escape while he's working out the kinks on his own? Are we setting ourselves up for a more hands-on approach, one in which we have to get up and re-wrap him when he wakes up? Because that doesn't sound logical either.

For the past few months, we've been putting Younger Son down in the pack & play in the spare room (downstairs) and moving him upstairs when we go to bed. Recently, we've been letting him sleep in the pack & play until he wakes on his own, and using that opportunity to do the late night feed -- and hopefully the ONLY late night feed he "requires".  My lovely wife will go to bed, and I will sack out on the couch for a while (sometimes only half an hour, sometimes two hours).  We'd discussed letting him sleep in the pack & play through the night, just to let him cry it and learn to get himself back to sleep without causing a total ruckus for those in peaceful slumber upstairs, but hadn't come to a conclusion on that proposal.

Last night, Younger Son went to bed a little early (7:15 PM) and woke after an hour, cried in the pack & play for 20 minutes, and then I finally went in, wrapped him up, begrudgingly and feeling somewhat defeated, and rocked him back to sleep. When he was sufficiently calm and nearing full-snore, I put him back down and went back out into the living room. My wife went up to bed around 10, and I stretched out on the couch and drifted off around 10:30.

I woke up at 2:45 AM. Just woke up. Not to any crying, scritch-scratching, kicking, or anything else. Younger Son was still asleep. Confused, I flipped over and tried to get back to sleep. Now, when you're expecting to be awoken by the crying child at any moment, you don't sleep very well. So for the next two hours, I flipped and flopped until I heard the familiar cry signaling that it was time to take him upstairs for the overnight (very early morning?) feed.

His mother fed him and I went to bed until about 6:15 AM. After I got up to head downstairs, she asked if I could throw a blanket over Youngest Son. To my amazement, he was laying in the recovery position (if you don’t know first aid or CPR, it's sort of on your side / stomach with one leg bent) with nary a blanket on him. Apparently he rolled over that way as soon as his mother put him back in his crib (awake, no less). He was still asleep when I left for work at 7:30.

On one hand, almost everyone in the house got a good sleep last night. That's positive, right? I can take one for the team if it means that the other three of us get some rest. He'd also gone nearly 8 hours without feeding. Also a bonus. If we could get him to do that regularly, we could then concentrate on getting those 8 hours to span through our night, instead of ending at 4 AM.

Do I dare get my hopes up that he's becoming a better sleeper? The collective parental psyche in the house just may need this type of hope.

Posted bythemikestand at 10:37 AM  

3 stepped up to the mike:

Dustin said... 12:30 PM, June 22, 2006  

You're not really convincing your younger-soon-to-be-married readers about the glory of child rearing. I think Canada might revoke your membership to the "I Want 10 Children Club."

themikestand said... 12:43 PM, June 22, 2006  


Unfortunately, I'm not the ambassador for fatherhood. Not the official one, anyway. I think Bill Cosby had that job at one time or another.

I also do not want 10 children. And I love both of mine dearly -- just slightly more when the sun is shining.

Jessica said... 12:43 PM, June 22, 2006  

You sound like such a good dad....although I admit that you do not have me looking forward to "what's to come" if husband and I manage to get pregnant in the near future.

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