Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why Sleep Training Stinks

The time has come to really start tweaking Michael's (extremely poor) sleep habits, and I'm hating it. I had a discussion with his doctor last week when I took him in for a surprise mystery rash (that turned out to be nothing) about how much he needs to be eating and what his biological needs are at this point. His doctor assured me that 32 ounces in 24 hours is more than enough, and that he is old enough that he no longer has a biological need to eat every four hours at night; his cries for a bottle are the product of a behavioral pattern that he's established. Even hearing this, I had doubts. Every baby is different- what if he does still need a bottle midway through the night?

And then I did the math.

Michael usually drinks six ounces per bottle, and gets five bottles a day. That's 30 ounces. However, many nights, he's coaxing one or two more bottles out of us, which brings the grand total to up to 42 ounces. Whatever my doubts about what his needs are, I know that's too much, and I don't want to end up overfeeding him. I think I inadvertently overfed Abby in her infancy, and still feel terrible guilt over the whole thing.

So, I've formulated a plan. The doctor says he should be able to go eight hours, but I'm starting easy on him and only requiring six (for now). The trouble is, when Michael's made up his mind that only a bottle will do, nothing will soothe him, and I'm just not comfortable attempting a cry-it-out (CIO) based method of training, for a few reasons.

  • I tried it with Abby, and hated every minute of it. (And still feel guilty about it.)
  • I don't know how effective it would be if Michael can sense Tom and me in the room with him while he cries, and I'm not ready to move him upstairs until he's sleeping better, since the steps are steep and creaky, and the likelihood of disturbing Abby (or tumbling down in our exhaustion) on our trips up and down is pretty high.
  • I'm fine with a little bit of rocking and soothing to get Michael down to sleep, and he's pretty good about going along with it. So the time we'd be requiring Michael to cry in increments would fall smack in the middle of the night, when Tom and I will be exhausted and not particularly up to the task.

What this all means is that for the last three nights, I've been bringing Michael into bed with me for part of the night. The first time I tried it, it was out of pity for Tom, who had made four attempts to put Michael down, and was clearly tiring. I held Michael next to me, and essentially let him cry himself to sleep, but in the comfort and safety of my arms. It took him 45 minutes, and then we managed about three hours of so-so quality sleep together before bottle time.

The next night, I grabbed Michael up out of the crib before he could get too worked up, and he fell asleep with me right away. Again, it wasn't the best quality sleep for either of us (he moves around quite a bit, and I can't sleep as deeply or comfortably with him there), but we managed about four hours, and met our goal of at least six hours between bottles.

Last night was a disaster, however. Michael not only cried for forty minutes, he then spent the next three hours rolling around and not sleeping, which meant that I was also not sleeping. And to top it all off, once Tom finally got him down in his crib after the long-awaited bottle, I could not fall asleep. I gave up after about an hour, slipped downstairs and spent the remaining hours before dawn watching recently aired episodes of Grey's Anatomy on Hulu. Total sleep logged since Sunday night: less than one hour.

So far tonight, he's awoken three times, and thankfully Tom has gotten him back down for each one without much incident. But his last bottle was given to him just before 8:00 pm, which means that we still have about three-and-a-half more hours to go before giving in again. I pray that he will spend them in his crib. I could really use some real sleep tonight.

And I don't even want to think about the bad habits that I'm instilling in him (and will have to break later) if I end up continuing to tuck him in next to me every night. Much as I love to cuddle my babies, I need it to be an experience separate from my sleeping hours. I need my sleep too much, and as my belly grows, it will only get harder to come by.

And the best part? Michael is so fantastically good at filling a diaper at night that even overnights in a size up can't always contain him. He'd only been asleep a few hours when I pulled him into bed with me last night, and the urine smell on him was pretty apparent. Eau de urine: such a blessing on my poor, pregnant, super-smelling nose.