Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Wall

By Kelly

I am tired.

Really tired.

I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in … well, I don’t remember how long. Since July maybe?

I know this is to be expected. It’s part of the baby package. And, to be honest, I don’t have it as bad as many new moms. Teyla, like my other two children, slept relatively well when she was a newborn. By the time she was eight weeks, in March, she routinely slept through the night.

It was not something I took for granted.

But by the time summer rolled around, the dirty diaper started to hit the fan.

I nurse Teyla to sleep, which is what I’ve done with all my babies. I’ve made that conscious choice, even though I know many people advise against it, because it’s easy, it makes my babies fall into a milk-induced coma and sleep is better than coffee those first few months.

But here is where I pay for it.

Teyla is now nine months old. And instead of sleeping through the night, she gets up once. Or twice. Or maybe three times. Or sometimes – help me, Jesus – even four. And each time, she expects me to nurse her back to sleep. After all, it’s what we do. I’ve taught her this. She knows no other way.

It’s hard to refuse a baby who is standing in her crib, crying out for me. Her eyes are usually shut, her dark, damp hair curled wildly around her face. Her fleece pajamas beg to be cuddled, and she stops crying as soon as I pick her up, as soon as she gets a whiff of mom.

But gosh darn it, I’m ready for a full eight hours. And frankly, I think she is too. She isn’t napping well anymore, and she seems a little unsettled with the constant waking, as if she’d like to sleep longer but she just isn’t sure what to do.

With my older two were babies, I charted a course back to sleep using the guidance of one of my favorite parenting books, “The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.” Tracy Hogg, an English nurse and baby coach, has many wise pieces of advice. But to me, her resounding message is this: Everything you do conditions your baby. Babies react to what you, as a parent, have intentionally or unintentionally taught them to expect out of life.

Teyla is the perfect example of this. She has always nursed to sleep. Therefore, when she wakes in the middle of the night, she knows no other way to return to dreamland than to breastfeed.

To break this bad pattern, Tracy advises that I back out of the habit slowly. The first step is to nurse Teyla a little less each night when she cries. I should unlatch her as soon as she falls asleep and lay her back in her crib. Eventually, the hope is that I can get to a point where she doesn’t need to nurse at all, that she would settled just by me picking her up, or even just by me patting her on the back reassuringly.

But it takes time and patience to get to that point.

And when one is tired, one has little patience.

It’s a vicious cycle.

But last night, as I rocked in the chair and nursed Teyla back to sleep yet again, my weary brain hit the wall. "This can't continue," it said. "You know what to do. Make a plan, put on your big girl panties and do it. You need some sleep. She needs some sleep. No one can teach her this but you."

Truth from the wall. Ouch.

Anthropomorphizing at 4:30 AM? Bigger ouch.

Obviously, it's time. See you on the other side.

It does exist, right?

Kelly also blogs at Love Well. Most recently, she wrote about how much she loves Sunday afternoon naps, which makes perfect sense in light of this post.


  1. Oh, I can so feel your pain! My six month old, who does not nurse to sleep, feels he must nurse when he wakes in the night. Basically it's nurse for 5 minutes or scream for 30, and, quite frankly, the nursing is much easier on both of us.

    Good luck with your plan; hope you're both getting more sleep soon!

  2. I know this well and love having my babies close to me. I know cosleeping isn't for everyone, but it's what gets me the most sleep- which I so desperately need!


  3. I've been there! I had to wean myself as much as the baby, love the snuggle time, until it wears so badly. You'll get over the hump. . .

  4. Oh Kelly, I feel your pain! It is a double edged sword isn't it. Praying for you - that God will grant his mercy on you both and help things to get better so that you are both more rested. Big hugs! Michelle

  5. We co-slept with my older daughter until I could tell she needed more space at 10 months. (Still co-sleeping with the younger one.)

    We used Ferber's methods in 'Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems.' From the time she went into her own bed, I never nursed her immediately before sleep. Instead we had a bedtime routine of eat, bathe, book, and then tucked in - no nursing after the bedtime routine started.

    Love him or hate him, Ferber's research shows that how we go to sleep that first time in the night conditions us as to how we expect to go back to sleep the rest of the night. We momentarily awaken and if everything is as it was when we first went to sleep, we go right back to sleep without even realizing we had woken up. Children who fall asleep with a pacifier in their mouths are fine if they momentarily awaken and the pacifier is still there, but can't get back to sleep until the pacifier is reinserted if it had fallen out. (Not advocating pacifiers, it's just an example.)

    Hope this helps, it's made all the difference for us!!

  6. the thing I think about is how time goes so fast...there is a small song by renee and jeremy and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-Npu_ly3ZM it is true they are only little for a little while..but- I think all of this sleep issue makes us mothers jacked up for a long time. My youngest is 20 months and I am still a wreck. hugs.

  7. I understand this. Completely. How did I teach my older three to sleep through the night without nursing? I made my hubby get up with them. Worked like a charm.

  8. Are you me? Did I just write this post. That is my life in a nutshell, complete with a dependent-on-nursing-9 month old little girl. I cannot remember what it's like to have a good night's sleep. Oh well, at least I'm not alone!

  9. Wow, my favorite subject, how to get my baby to sleep. Of course, you nailed it when you said it’s good for baby and good for mommy (and daddy) when that baby gets good sleep. According to the book I read “sleep begets sleep” … the more good sleep the baby gets, the more good sleep the baby will get in the near future. My baby is 11 months. For anonymity purposes, we’ll call him Jordan.

    Up until 10 months I would feed or just cuddle him to sleep for naps or nighttime in my bed and carry him to the crib after he was asleep. In his 9th month we even went on vacation and my mother was able to cuddle him to sleep while we were gone for 6 days. Also, we made sure that there were enough toys in his crib and just enough light in the room that when he woke up in the night and start to cry, he’d have something to hold onto that he could play with. ( In that respect, I think we were just fortunate, because Jordan would wake up in the middle of the night but he’d go back to sleep after crying a little and then playing for a while).

    In his 10th month, he would no longer be cuddled to sleep; he started to fight it vigorously being more mobile, getting really worked up. We were forced to come up with a new plan.

    Long story short, we did the cry thing. Good old Mr. Ferber. I read many discussions on the topic and compared different methods and did a combination of things. We started a new routine, not reinventing the wheel by any means: it’s dinner, bath, books and then lay down in the crib – and that’s it. At first he would cry forever-forever after being placed in the crib, crying up to 45 min. It actually took us a couple of weeks for this to work, but now he will still cry loudly for up to 5 minutes, but usually less than a minute, then he plays with his toys, maybe throws out a few complaints, plays some more, gives up and falls asleep. Jordan knows now that when he’s in that crib it’s time for sleep.

    The process was mommy torture. Jordan can make the saddest face and the saddest frown, when he knows I’m just going to leave him in that crib. But, in the morning when he’s the happiest baby I’ve ever met because he got a good nights sleep, that’s when I know I’ve done the right thing. But, like I said, I know we were lucky in that Jordan would put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night after playing. If he cried we would just leave him in there and not rescue him. I will admit that if it goes on for too long and/or it’s getting close to the time when he normally gets up in the morning, we’ll bring him into our bed so we can get an extra hour of sleep.

  10. I didn't read all of the comments - but the one about having your hubby get up with her... I wonder if that really would work. I've heard that before and I honestly think babies can smell a mother's milk. Worth a try, at any rate.

  11. Better hurry. Because when "the other side" is your 40's, YOU start waking up and having trouble going back to sleep. . . . .

  12. Looks like you have a method you know works, so it's just a matter of getting to work on it. Don't you wish you could work on it at 4pm instead of 4am? As you know, you'll get through it and it'll be quicker than you think and you'll be on to the next amazing phase. God speed!

  13. Yes, what Dana said.

    When you're in it, it doesn't really feel like you're going to come out any time soon though.

    I LOVE the Baby Whisperer too. She's gotten me through many a problem area :)

    I figure we all need a Baby Whisperer to come over and help us through it. :)

  14. It really does exist, this other side, but I WELL remember how nearly impossible it was to even remember that being decenly rested existed, that there was some other state than being half-dead with exhaustion.
    But it passes, really.

  15. For me the worst part of parenting BY FAR, was always the first three or four months, when sleep deprivation made me absolutely insane. I don't handle consistant lack of sleep well at ALL.

    How well I remember those days of reading book after book, trying to decide what the right thing to do was, second guessing, doubting myself, crying a little wishing they would sleep.

    Wow, my baby hunger? Suddenly CURED. :)

  16. I can so sympathize . . . the joy of cuddling and nursing at night and then that night when you just can't do it any longer!

  17. See you on the other side, Sister! :)

  18. Hope it gets better! I remember the nursing days and the sleepless nights that came a long wih them. Now at 2.5 years old there are nights he still does not want to sleep thru the night. We never co-slept or nursed to sleep because well I hate to ween habits because of crying and no sleep involved for days on end. My husband and I often think back to those sleepless nights because yes he always got up with me to keep me awake and know we are not wanting to go back there again.

  19. For us, the answer was co-sleeping. But that brings its own issues. I hope that you can work things out soon. Lack of sleep is just torture.

  20. I enjoyed Tracy's book, and I used some of her ideas to get my last baby to sleep fairly well in her crib for a few months (pretty much at the point you are at now). But after that? It stopped working - I don't know why.

    You might want to try just lying down and going to sleep while she nurses (unless that bugs you, of course). She'll be big soon, don't worry.

  21. I went through the same thing with my daughter. Someone lent me the babywhisperer book and told me she swore by it. Well I took the chance and by 3 months my daughter was sleeping on her own in her crib with no night feedings. She was such a pleasure to deal with. You can get the book from amazon here-http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743488946?ie=UTF8&tag=thebabess-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0743488946
    its really worth a shot!!