Two weeks ago, sleep fell apart. Not necessarily MY sleep, but Carter's sleep, which (who are we kidding?) these days means my sleep too.
I had heard that this happens. At the Pump Station breastfeeding support groups I frequented during my maternity leave, the lactation consultants would go on and on about the dreaded four months, when "sleep falls apart." Evidently there is a big growth spurt at this age, and the baby wakes frequently to eat, effectively obliterating any sleep schedule you may have previously had. So true.
A couple of Fridays ago, my husband and I had a date night to congratulate ourselves on successfully surviving the chaos of our first week as two working parents with a daycare baby. That night, my sister-in-law came over to babysit Carter - or rather, to babysit our living room, as he slept from shortly before we left at 8pm until 2am. That's right - a blissful six-hour stretch, followed by another four-hour stretch, enabling me to get a full 7 hours of sleep, only having to wake up once. In the morning, we patted ourselves on the back. Clearly our child was blossoming into a wonderful sleeper! The many long nights of crying baby were coming to an end! He would surely begin sleeping through the night any day now! We savored this notion for a whopping 12 hours - until that night, when sleep fell apart.
Suddenly, our reliable five-hour stretch from 8pm - 1am was gone. We were sitting in the living room that evening at 10:00 when we suddenly heard a cry from the bedroom.
And so it began.
After that night, Carter did not sleep for more than three and a half hours in a row for two weeks. Worse, he began waking almost every hour, until I was so exhausted I was scarcely functional in the daylight hours. We tried "topping him off" with a bottle after I nursed him before bed, but that didn't help. We tried having my husband pick him up and bounce him back to sleep whenever it was clear that he was not actually hungry - this just caused him to begin screaming until he was put into my arms, at which point he would instantly quiet. Evidently, in the wee small hours there is no substitute for mommy, which is simultaneously flattering and torturous.
As if this wasn't enough, he suddenly had become strangely needy - not only could we not leave him alone on his playmat for five minutes without the cries beginning, we could hardly turn our backs on him for two seconds even in the same room before the fussing began. The daycare ladies told me that he was the same way at baby school - someone had to stand there and entertain him all day to keep him from fussing. What was going on? What had happened to our mellow baby?
Two days ago, I arrived at daycare for my daily lunchtime visit and was informed by the ladies that Carter had slept very well that morning - for a whole hour straight. Pondering this joyful tidbit, I realized something - that morning, he had fallen back asleep after his typical 5:30am wakeup and slept until 7am. Suddenly, a lightbulb went off over my head - of course! How had I not realized this? When I was on maternity leave, I would get up with Carter at his 5:30am wake-up, change him, play a bit, and then bounce him back to sleep until 8am or so. Now, as a working mother, when I roll over and gaze at the bright-eyed little face staring eagerly up at me from his bassinet at that excruciating hour, I simply pick him up and pop him in bed with us for the next hour and fifteen minutes before my alarm screeches at me to start my day. He lies there, squeaking his baby sounds and kicking his little legs, and does not fall asleep. In fact, he stays awake from 5:30am until 8:30am, when we drive to daycare. He inevitably falls asleep in the car for the 20 minute drive and wakes upon arrival. Realizing this, it was suddenly clear to me what was going on - Carter was sleeping just enough on the way to daycare to take the edge off, but not enough to feel fully refreshed, which effectively rendered him overtired as he started his day, leading to crankiness and neediness all day long. Worse yet, it was MY fault! I had neglected to get him down for that precious morning nap for weeks! Shame on mommy!
The next morning, I arose at 5:30 determined to preserve his nap. Sure enough, I got him back to sleep until 6:30 or so. When I arrived at lunch that day, the ladies incredulously informed me that he had slept for TWO straight hours that morning - in his pack n play, no less! This was huge, as Carter had begun screaming each and every time they attempted to place him in the pack n play since the day he started daycare. Not only that, he put himself to sleep - they let him cry for 15 minutes, at which point he conked out.
Pigs were flying! The devil was skiiing in hell! It was incredible.
Last night, I decided to take a risk - if he could do it at daycare, he could do it at home. And that, my friends, is how my child slept through the night.
To Be Continued....