I am 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.