for crying out loud

You know what? I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in well over a year. At 19 months, Theo still does not sleep through the night.

I could probably count the number of times on one hand that I have gotten a stretch of sleep that is longer than 4 hours. (Theo does sleep longer stretches than that, often from about 8:30 to about 2:30. If I could bring myself to go to bed at 8:30, I could probably get a 6-hour stretch…) Mostly, I go to bed too late, wanting to have time unfettered to get on my laptop and tend to other things. As a result, I rarely get to bed before 1 or 2.

Theo is still sleeping in our room, in a portable crib. At least for the first part of the night. After he wakes up in the night, I take him to bed with me. I don’t typically sleep all that well after that. 6:15, when the alarm clock goes off, comes all too soon.

What this means is that I am not getting enough sleep, and not nearly enough deep sleep. As a result, I have felt like I have developed a cognitive impairment. I have trouble focusing. My memory is leaky. My head is foggy. This does not lend itself well to making progress towards a PhD.

Something’s got to change.

I really didn’t expect Theo to still be sleeping in our room at this age. I think Phoebe started sleeping in her own room around 6 months old. When we were getting ready for Theo’s arrival, we got Phoebe a toddler bed so that the crib would be available. The plan was to move Theo in there, into Phoebe’s room, once he started sleeping well at night. (No sense in waking Phoebe in the night, right?)

So…that hasn’t happened.

It amazes me how different Phoebe and Theo are with respect to their sleeping patterns. Phoebe started sleeping through the night really early. Too early, even. We had to wake her to feed her in the night her first few months. It was a relief when she was gaining weight steadily enough that the pediatrician gave us the go-ahead to let her keep sleeping.

And then there’s the whole sleep training business. With Phoebe, she used to fight us at bedtime. It got to the point, maybe around 7 months, where we would be spending over an hour rocking her and singing to her to put her to sleep, and she’d spend most of that time crying, not wanting to go to bed. It made it easy for us to decide to try some “cry it out” sleep training. She was already crying anyway, and we were exhausted.

With Theo, we could put him down in his crib, and one of us would just need to sit near him a few minutes and he’d be asleep. There didn’t seem to be much urgency to change things, and things were so calm and quiet, with nobody crying. Now that he’s older, it’s a bit more variable, and sometimes he needs someone to sit with him longer to fall asleep.

But he still wakes up.

We even gave sleep training a brief go. 3 exhausting nights, with one angry baby screaming for over an hour. And no real progress. I think we’ve missed the optimal window for that.

I think that maybe if he’s out of our room, he’ll sleep better. Maybe having Phoebe in there will help him fall asleep without one of us needing to sit with him. On the other hand, he may just disrupt Phoebe’s sleep.

We’ve come really close to moving him out of our room several times. But somehow I always find reasons to put off the transition. (I hate transitions! I’m tired enough as it is, thankyouverymuch.) There were some practical concerns, too, though. Like needing to move the crib away from the lamp. Now the furniture is finally rearranged. And once we figure out a secure way to cover the outlet that is within easy reach of the crib (he pulls out the little plug things), I think I will be out of excuses. Theo will be moving in with Phoebe.

I just wish I knew how all of this was going to work out.

Theo, still not sleeping in the crib.

17 thoughts on “for crying out loud

  1. D did not sleep through the night until 18 months. Our trick was eliminating naps during the day. M at 14 months is not sleeping through the night either. But I keep the faith that it will come for him eventually.

    1. I don’t think eliminating the nap is an option for us. Theo sleeps about 3 hours at daycare, and I don’t think our daycare provider would be willing to trade that in for a cranky baby…

  2. I feel for you. I know how miserable you must feel because I was in the same boat. I have 20 month old twins and a 3 1/2 year old. One of the twins, Ellie, still does not sleep through the night. She shares a room with Jack, her twin, so I was reluctant to do the cry-it-out method. However, she was waking 6 – 8 times a night and I was a wreck, especially if the other two woke up once or twice. I finally made the tough choice to challenge her once and for all. I used the Ferber method (crying for 5, 10, then 15 minutes at a time). It worked much better than I expected and while she is still not perfect (she wakes 1 or 2 times) I sleep MUCH better! Her twin didn’t wake too much during the sleep training fortunately (he’s a trooper sleeper). Give it a try … plan for it, get a babysitter during the day so you can sleep while you are doing it, and you must move him out of your room! Look at it as a week of hell for a lifetime of rest. Good luck.

    1. Hi, mumabroad. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve been considering going fullblown into the Ferber method, but we’d worried about how the crying would disrupt Phoebe’s sleep. It’s nice to know that it worked out for you, even with a twin sharing the room.

      Thanks so much for coming by!

  3. My daughter had a similiar problem with her first born. NOTHING worked! The pediatrician finally suggested a medication for grandson. It wasn’t a knockout drug (!) but sorry, I don’t know what it was. It worked wonders and once he developed a sleep pattern, he was taken off the medicine. Problem solved.

    1. Hi, Marylee–
      Huh. I didn’t know there were medication options. (Sometimes I think that what I need is a knockout drug–for me! If I could just sleep through the crying, we’d be all set…)

  4. there is a medication for this?! i wish i knew. mr. monk is 7, and i still need to sleep with him!!!!! this kid required me to carry him in my arm (slings didn’t work!” to feel content for the first 3 months, and he hasn’t left my side ever since. it is a very long story and if i tell it, i’d sound like the most horrible mom for all the resentment i feel… i just want to let you know you are not suffering alone.

    1. Hi, Subwow. Wow. 7 years. I hope we don’t go through this for 7 years. But if we do, I guess we’ll be in good company. Thanks for letting me know that you have suffered, too!

  5. Oh you poor girl. I don’t know how you’re doing it, I’m enough of a wreck some days without the sleep issue. Do you have any idea why he wakes up? Teeth? Lost pacifier? I wish I had some better advice, but I’m sure we’ll be in the same boat when we try and wean Em off her pacifier. Which will be soon. No really, soon.

    1. Thanks for the sympathy, Heather. As for why he wakes up…well, habit, mostly I expect. And I suppose “lost pacifier” could be it, to some extent. Except that *I* am the pacifier. He’s still nursing, and I think this may at the root of the issue of his waking. Not to mention contributing to my overall levels of exhaustion.

  6. Alejna, I’ve always been impressed by how much stuff you do (even if at the price of a messy home and not finishing grad school yet). Now, I am absolutely astonished that you’ve been doing all this on so little sleep.

    I wish you the best of luck and a good, long sleep as soon as possible.

    1. Aw, thanks, Sally! Though really I don’t do all that much most of the time beyond treading water. I do manage bursts of productivity that maintain the illusion that I’m getting stuff done, but then such bursts are followed by weeks or months of virtual inactivity as I recover. Most days I manage little more than feeding my children and staring at my toes.

      1. Frankly, feeding your children is an accomplishment to be proud of! You may not feel like you’re doing much, but you are.

        Also, many people don’t realize it, but staring at your toes is very important for replenishing your energy levels to be able to actively accomplish things again. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people who avoid toe-staring, but I don’t think they are any more efficient than the rest of us.

  7. Kate will be 4 and still does not sleep through the night. I’ve resolved that some kids just don’t. Sleep has always been difficult for both kids, Kate in particular. She also suffered from night terrors (where they have screaming, violent dreams that they cannot wake from) lasting 5-60 minutes EVERY night for almost 2 years. Thankfully, we only have once or twice a month now.

    I’ve heard that kids with really active imaginations/active brains have a hard time shutting everything down to sleep, and night terrors are a reflection of that brain activity.

    We’ve done allergy testing, food restrictions and diets, timing of food and drink throughout the day, light-canceling windows, moved them in separate rooms, night-lights of all kinds and none at all, sounders, music, soothing, singing, hot baths… you name it. The kids just have a hard time sleeping, period.

    What has made a huge difference for us is that we recently bought a king-sized bed. Now when she comes into bed with us (she comes in every night if she’s not already there from the get-go) there is a lot more room and I don’t wake up as many times. We got a Keetsa and it really is pretty amazing how much one person can move on the mattress and it be untraceable on the other parts of the mattress. It’s made a big difference.

    1. Hey, Holly! Wow, the night terrors sound awful–for Kate and for you. How exhausting! I’m glad we haven’t had to deal with that.

      Your description of kids with active imaginations haing trouble sleeping sounds like Phoebe, though. Even though she was good at sleeping as a baby, she’s gone through many stretches where she can’t fall asleep, or wakes up often in the night. And she has a very active imagination.

      You know, we do have a king-sized bed–we used to share our bed with our dog, and you’d be amazed at how much space a 40-pound dog can hog on double bed.

      With Theo, he does settle down on the bed well some nights, but it freaks me out when he roams around the bed and I can’t immediately find him. I wake up in a panic looking for him. Mostly he sleeps sort of on top of me, with me in an awkward half-sitting-up position.

  8. I totally get what you’re talking about here — the exhaustion/cognitive impairment, the waking up for no reason at all, the crying (wailing!) before sleep. Our 19 mo. old has had awesome stretches of 11-12 hour nights and not-so-awesome stretches (like now) of 10 hours a night max, with multiple wake-ups. The new mattress we bought seemed to make a difference for awhile. It’s all such a crazymaking guessing game.

  9. Different kids require different techniques at different ages and stages.

    One that I stumbled upon by accident that worked surprisingly well was letting my two sleep together in a double bed. They were two years apart, and we started this when the younger was a toddler approaching age two. It worked remarkably and unexpectedly well. Both kids slept better and were on the same sleep schedule.

    Sleep is really important to everyone in a family, and I think parents have to mitigate their own guilt and sometimes exercise some tough love to find an arrangement that works for THEM and the kids.

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