When you wish upon a sleep
Among challenges of changing work schedules, a busy spring with lots to do each week and each weekend, and my new penchant for patisserie thanks to the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, my blog has suffered the loss of . . . me. The latest parenting experience challenging my psyche has been present for quite some time: the difficulties of sleep. For me, for my baby.
Full disclosure: We cosleep. We didn’t start out cosleeping, but around 6 months of age when my son was a heavy night nurser and I was working and we were by ourselves a lot, it became the easiest option. I feel like I’m trying to do it all for my baby, and I have a pretty busy day with working, going to and from daycare, daily cooking, and household chores . . and whatever else came up. Co-sleeping meant that all that was possible while I could maintain a very close nursing relationship; I managed to get a bit of sleep by being able to simply nuzzle up to my son to feed him in the middle of the night. And having a cozy body to cuddle with is a wonderful thing. In many ways it has worked well for us. But in many other ways, it hasn’t.
Co-sleeping has posed us some big challenges, actually. Safety is a constant concern for us and we have set up a rather complicated bed scenario so that my son does not fall onto the floor. I practically sleep with one eye open and have not experienced a full night’s sleep since my son has born. I wish we could have our bed on the floor a la Dr. McKenna’s recommendations, but we do not have that setup at home. As far as L goes, my son hardly eats – I’m pretty sure he’s holding out to satiate his hunger with nursing. And being a heavy night nurser, my son drives me absolutely batty at times with his desire to nurse. And nurse. And nurse.
When it gets to that point I often hold the line and explain to him that it’s enough, but whenever I do that we get into a huge struggle – he feels helpless and cries maddeningly, for hours on end, to a point at which he throws up anything and everything he’s eaten. Then I’m left cleaning up the mess and feeling bad about myself because now I have no milk and my son is covered in puke and is starving. Because some readers here probably know me well perhaps this is too much information, but I finally feel ready to deal with the struggle. I want to wean him from night nursing once and for all.. Maybe it’s because I’m getting a little braver. Or maybe it’s because I’ve gone through too many a night like this.
We have had minor accomplishments here and there, a skipped feed in the middle of the night, or another night where gentle patting gets him to sleep, but I hadn’t found information on decreasing night nursing that felt truly helpful to me. Either it felt like I had to break my son of an addiction and that I’d have to Furberize him into isolation from his mom. Then after contacting the wonderful women of Dr. Milk, I came across Dr. Jay Gordon’s strategy to night weaning a child who is in the family bed. This information came as a godsend and is definitely worth checking out.
To describe it simply, it’s a 10-14 night strategy divided into three sections and separating out a 7 hour period in the night when you would prefer to get your sleep (e.g. 11pm-6am is what Dr. Gordon suggests). For the first three nights before 11pm you do whatever you’d do normally and not restrict nursing. But between 11pm and 6am you nurse the child until he is almost but not quite alseep and then pat him to sleep (or soothe him otherwise but not with the breast). That worked pretty easily for the first three days. It’s the next parts that are rough. For the next three days you keep the same routines before and after the 11pm-7am mark but instead of nursing the child you pat them to sleep and soothe them with touch and do not offer the breast. This is the step that is considered rough and worth warning the neighbors about – and truth be told from my perspective this strategy has given me a host of even more sleepless nights! Then the third step is not to do anything but be near them and perhaps whisper to them when they wake up, but try to get them to sleep by themselves.
For me the first three nights were simple but I’m perpetually stuck on the second three nights scenario. Though I will admit, we have made some signfiicant headway. Instead of offering L nursing I’ve been saying that he can be near me and hear my heartbeat. This offer initially resulted in night after night of his flailing around uncontrollably and me ending up exhausted in a slump. Many times I’ve given up my resolve or fed him earlier than I expected, but all in all he is now sleeping between 9pm and 1:30 a.m. (a small accomplishment but important to me) and for his night awakenings I can hold out till about 4am. Before he used to flail around and scream, now he calms a little easier and often asks to be close to my heart. We haven’t yet gotten to a point where he doesn’t need physical contact with me to sleep. I think he’s always needed at least one of my body parts near him to soothe him to sleep during his night awakenings. So onward and upwards. A rough method but certainly a gentler one than cold turkey weaning.