Counting my blessings through bleary eyes

I mentioned last week that we’ve begun working with Judah on his sleep schedule. Now that he’s four months old, I think he’s ready for a routine. Because he’s still so young, I want to be gentle in its implementation. Unfortunately, gentle for the baby is still pretty brutal for his parents.

He’s responding incredibly well to his bedtime ritual. He gets his reflux medicine first, then in his dim room I change his diaper, give him a sponge bath with some nice smelling baby wash, put some nighttime baby lotion on him, dress him in pajamas and a sleep sack, nurse him, turn on his white noise machine, and put him down in his crib. Then I stay by his crib until he’s asleep. For the past few nights, it’s taken fewer than 5 minutes for him to drift off.

He sleeps well after that for about 2 to 3 hours in his crib. When he wakes up hungry at 10:30 or 11, I bring him into my room to sleep in his bassinet, and we go to bed. The problem we’re having is that he continues to wake up every 1-3 hours throughout the night. It’s not because he’s hungry. He does nurse, but it’s generally just for under 5 minutes, which makes me think it’s more a comfort thing than a hunger thing.

Now that I’m trying the methods in “The No Cry Sleep Solution,”* I’m tracking his nighttime waking schedule. I’ve found that he’s waking up completely during the normal “brief awakening” periods that we all experience throughout the night. The problem is that I’ve always nursed him to sleep, so he doesn’t know how to put himself back to sleep. So he wakes up fussing, I nurse him (typically for only 5 minutes), and he goes back to sleep. I’m not sure how to break this cycle, and I’m not willing to let him cry it out, so I don’t know what to do. I haven’t finished the book, but I’m hoping it’ll have some ideas.

The bigger problem is naps. Judah isn’t on a predictable nap schedule. He generally sleeps 15 to 30 minutes at a time here and there throughout the day, only if I’m holding him and only when he’s utterly exhausted. As soon as I try to put him down, he wakes up and starts to cry.

For the first four months, I didn’t mind holding him during his naps. The problem is, he understandably wants to be held and engaged when he’s awake. That means I’m holding him all day. This was fine in the first few months, but now I’d like to get him on a napping schedule so I can get to the laundry and the dishes and the other chores that pile up during the day.

He loves his sling, and I can run errands and shop while he’s in it. Household chores like laundry and dishes? Not so much. The jostling wakes him up, and he’s even more grouchy. Not to mention any bending with him in the sling is brutal on my back, which occasionally suffers post traumatic stress syndrome since the pregnancy. I’m also not very efficient with 13 pounds of baby right in front of me.

My first plan was to put him down every time he fell asleep in the hopes that he’d eventually get used to it. The problem with that is that he wakes up when I put him down, and then he doesn’t go back to sleep. So I end up with an extremely crabby, exhausted baby.

After a restless day yesterday, he fell asleep at 6:30 in the evening. Then he kept me up from 4 a.m. to 5:45 a.m. I nursed him at 4 a.m., and he fell asleep. When he woke up again 15 minutes later, I put my hand on his chest and soothed him from my bed, but I left him in the bassinet. It took 30 minutes, but he finally went to sleep. Usually when I try that, his crying escalates, he wakes up Tony (who I try not to disturb on weeknights, because he has to get up at 6 a.m. to earn the money that pays our bills), and Judah and I both end up upset. That method never works when he wakes up during daytime naps.

On top of all that, ongoing (minor but annoying) health issues for Judah and me have led my doctor to put me on an extremely restrictive diet. No sugar, no dairy, no gluten, no caffeine, and no artificial sweeteners for at least a month. So basically I’m starving and tired, and I can’t even drink a caffeinated beverage to perk me up.

Anyway, between my extremely restrictive diet and our recent sleep struggles, I woke up feeling pretty bleak. I’m frustrated. I’m exhausted. I’m starving all. the. time. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, as I have a tendency to do.

Then I read this article in the Chicago Tribune about how crib bumpers are more dangerous than we think. It broke my heart and reminded me how lucky I am to have a healthy baby. I decided to take a break from nap training so I can hold my baby today, listen to his quiet little snores, feel the gentle rise and fall of his chest, and remind myself cherish every moment, even the challenging ones, because some parents aren’t so lucky.

I also wanted to share it, because crib bumpers are one of those controversial items that aren’t recommended, but most people believe to be harmless. The truth is, they serve absolutely no purpose, and if there’s even a slight risk, they’re not worth it.

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17 thoughts on “Counting my blessings through bleary eyes

  1. Verna

    Healthy sleep habits, happy child was the only book that helped us! We were letting our son get too tired before we tried getting him to sleep. Babies at that age should only be awake for 2 hours at a time. We had the no cry sleep solution along with a million other books and nothing worked until we read that book. It was a life-saver!

    1. Karen

      Isn’t “Heathy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” another book that recommends the cry it out method? I don’t think either of us is ready for that.

      1. Verna

        They have different “levels” of comforting b/t no crying at all and CIO, we didn’t do cry it out. We used the suggestions for how frequently he needs naps and soothing techniques, pretty much everything I suggested the other day. We had the HARDEST time getting Garrett to nap or sleep, we were all dying. After a couple weeks, he was pretty much putting himself to sleep, and taking 3 good naps a day (at least an hour), this book really saved our lives!

        1. Verna

          It sounds like you have a really good bedtime routine. I would try keeping him in his bed after his first waking. He needs to get used to associating his bed with sleep. I think that would help a lot with naps as well. Try just changing him, feeding, and then putting him back in bed using whatever soothing you need to get him back to sleep.

          With naps try a shorter version of your bedtime routine, stories, feeding, rocking, bed. If he starts getting really angry pick him up again until he calms down, but then lay him back in bed. If he hasn’t taken a long enough nap, either try soothing and putting him back in bed, or wait half an hour and see if he’ll go back to sleep. The key to naps is not letting them get too tired.

          I know this might not work for your baby, this is just what we did and it made a HUGE difference.

  2. Jes

    Josiah likes to wake up as soon as we put him down too. Last night we kept him asleep by wrapping him in a very soft fleece blanket and laying him in our bed. he stayed asleep until about 2! I was shocked.

    as far as hunger goes… can you eat peanut butter? I wasn’t on as strict a diet with you but I was off wheat and dairy with Caylee for a bit and peanut butter on celery or rice cakes or apples or bananas was a life saver. They filled me up and are safe from dairy and gluten.. maybe that will help. or keep chunks of meet cooked and in the fridge ready to devour at any time.. :)

  3. Karen

    Peanuts aren’t allowed for some reason, but almonds are okay. Unfortunately, both peanut butter and almond butter are typically loaded with sugar. It’s a bummer, because peanut butter is one of my favorite snack foods. Maybe I could just eat a handful of almonds.

    The meat is a good tip, too. It’s seriously come to that!

  4. Kacie

    So i’m wondering about the surface you’re laying Judah on. If it’s a cold crib, maybe that would be more likely to wake him than if it was flannel or fleece sheets or a pre-warmed bed?

    Just throwing things out there. I CERTAINLY don’t have this “how to get an infant to sleep well” thing figured out.

  5. Karen

    Hmmm. I could experiment with heating his nap time spot with a heating pad for a bit before putting him down. If he falls asleep in my arms, I’m not going to be able to get up and put a heating pad on his crib to warm it up without waking him. But if I catch him when he’s getting drowsy, put him down for a minute to get his crib ready, and then come back and get him to sleep, that might work. The thought of all that preparation is exhausting, though. But if it works, it would be worth it!

  6. Shannon

    We went through almost the same exact thing with our little guy. He would want to nurse all night and would wake up whenever I would put him in his crib. Also, he would take these short little naps during the day that left him more grumpy. After taking to his Dr. I found out that I was nursing him way too often. He should of been nursing every 4 hours. Once I got him used to that he started sleeping longer at night. And when he wakes up at night and it’s not time to nurse then I just comfort him. But we are starting to let him try and fall back asleep on his own (I usually only last about 5 minutes before I get him). Hope your little one starts sleeping better soon!

    1. Karen

      I would love to start cutting him back to eating every 4 hours, but he’s already small for his age (20th percentile). I’d be afraid to limit his feedings as it might interfere with his already slowish growth! I’m glad things are going better for you guys!

  7. Erin

    Hello! I found your blog while googling my youngest sons name (Judah Michael) am I the only one who googles their kids names? I hope that isn’t weird. Anyway, my Judah was born August 4th and we’re just testing the waters of getting him to sleep in his crib. He’s a night time cluster feeder so we co-sleep. His brothers didn’t STTN until 13 months so we’re hoping to get him inhis own bed before then. Not sure it’s going to happen.

    1. Karen

      Lol! I can’t believe there’s another Judah Michael out there! And only four months older than mine! Too funny!

      Good luck to you! I hope things go well for both of us!

  8. Erin

    You mentioned Ask Moxie in your last post I think, so remember- the four month sleep regression doesn’t last forever and especially while you guys are dealing with health issues and you’re hungry all the time (a terrible state for a nursing mama!) remember to be as gentle on yourself as you can. Can you focus on the household stuff that can be done while you’re holding him (vacuuming is a good one) and then maybe squeeze in laundry and/or dishes after he’s down for his first stretch of sleep or when Tony first gets home and gives your arms a break? I still nap with my 10 month old on some days (she’s getting molars right now, so sleep is a little less stable than it was) and while she doesn’t have to be held constantly now that she can sit and crawl, she still is rather attached, so I’ve had to be pretty creative. My Beco carrier lets me put her on my back and I have definitely done a lot of laundry and dishes that way (and bathroom cleaning etc…). When he’s awake will he let you sit him in the kitchen in a bouncer or stroller so you can do the dishes while he watches? Good luck!

    Our grocery store has ‘grind your own’ almond & peanut butter so you can get almond butter with nothing but almonds- so good on rice cakes (can you have honey? that would make it even better!). Maybe your store does too? If not I bet you could do it yourself in a blender or food mill/grinder. Corn tortillas with beans, rice and salsa would be yummy and filling too!

    1. Karen

      That’s basically what we’re doing now — I get what I can do done when I can do it, and Tony either takes over Judah duty or chores when he gets home. Thankfully, his schedule isn’t very demanding, so he’s home more than the typically full-time worker.

      I hope your little one feels better soon!

  9. Dirkey

    So I have nothing to offer for the sleeping as I can’t even get my baby to take a nap in his crib, lol.
    However, a sling for extended periods of time OUCH! Our Beco has saved our lives, we use the sling for quick trips to the store but the Beco for anything over 15-20 min. If that isn’t in the budget there are TONS of Mei Tai instructions on the internet to make one of them (some of them are called Asian Baby Carriers). Both of them are super comfy and distribute the weight better. He is getting to the age where you can wear him on your back which really helps for chores. If my Bug won’t nap I throw him on my back and dance through my chores. He will usually fall asleep after a few minutes.

    1. Karen

      What I have is actually a Baby K’Tan, so it offers a little more support for both of us than a basic sling. We’re going to get an Ergo soon, but for now the K’Tan works fine. The biggest problem is that its awkward to use my hands with a baby in front of me. I don’t think I’d be comfortable wearing such a young baby on my back, so I don’t think a new carrier would solve the problem. :/ Maybe when he’s a little older!

  10. Jennifer

    It is possible that your movement is waking him up. Plus, his little movements are waking you up. Keep him in his crib, in his room and I bet you all sleep better.

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