Everyone has their secrets; if you're a parent, you probably have a secret that deals with the one thing that no one can ever seem to explain or get a firm grasp on for an extended period of time: SLEEP.
You've seen our type before, the sleep-deprived parents of the world...dark circles under eyes, vacant expression, the look of someone who would kill for another cup of coffee. I spent much of Jake's first year trying to figure out a way to mainline an IV of caffeine directly into my bloodstream. ahhh...memories.
The funny thing about the Sleep Secret is that it's almost shameful to talk about...if your kid isn't sleeping, you keep it a secret because you don't want people to think you're doing something wrong. Not to mention the fact that other people always seem to know what the problem is and feel the need to offer their opinion, even if you didn't ask for it ("Oh, you're holding him too much during the day, that's why he won't sleep at night!" "He's waking because he's hungry, put some cereal in his bottle, he'll sleep all night") Or, the super annoying ones who say things like, "Wow, that's terrible...all of my kids slept through the night from the day they were born on. Yep, all night. They never wake up." Which of course, we all know is a bunch of BS, but in our sleep deprived state, we don't have the energy to argue with them.
And if your kid IS sleeping, you keep it a secret because you don't want people to think you're bragging or (even worse) to jinx the good sleep.
I have been on both sides of the Sleep Secret. Jake was a terrible sleeper, literally from the day we brought him home from the hospital. He had his days and nights confused for WEEKS and it was torture. Not only was he wide awake at night, but just getting him to sleep took hours. He wouldn't nurse to sleep, or even just be rocked to sleep...oh no, you had to carry him around the house and do a bounce/sway/sing little routine that was exhausting, especially when it went on all night. There were some nights I honestly thought I would lose.my.freaking.mind. He was waking every 2 hours to nurse, so I'd nurse, change his diaper, begin the painstaking process of getting him to sleep and if, IF, I was lucky enough to get him to sleep and in his crib, he was inevitably awake again within 30 minutes to eat. It was a vicious cycle. Oh and one time, being the rookie parents we were, we got the bright idea to force him to adjust his day/night confusion...we kept him awake all day, assuming that he'd HAVE to sleep at night after not sleeping all day, right?? WRONG. Total and complete backfire. Instead, he was just awake allllllllll night that night. I want to cry at the memory.
He eventually worked out his day/night confusion, and got to a point where he wasn't waking every 2 hours to eat...so we had a bit of a break. BUT........
Then, it happened. The dreaded 4 month sleep regression. It's every parents' worst nightmare; you're going along, everyone is happy and well rested, then BAM! Parties at 1am! 2am! 3am! Hey, let's never sleep again!! Such a slap in the face. You can read my blog post about his regression here.
So here's my secret about Jake's sleep: we Ferberized him. Think what you might of this method (which, by the way-is NOT the cry it out method, they are 2 different things, so google it before judging), but it was what worked for us. He was miserable from waking up all night, every night, on the hour...we were miserable from his nighttime shenanigans. We wanted our happy baby and our own sanity back. After weeks and weeks of it not getting any better (and actually getting worse) we decided that it was time for Dr. Ferber to pay a visit. Jake was around 5.5 months old. It took 3 nights. I honestly don't remember the details at this point, but I remember it was not quite as bad as I had anticipated. And what we got in return was a happier, more well-rested baby. I think that's an overall win for everyone involved.
Moving onto Liam, I really hoped while I was pregnant that I would get a sleeper. I figured I was due for one....and he came through for me! When he was first born, he woke every 2-3 hours to eat for the first few weeks, but by some type of miracle, did NOT require the elaborate routine to go back to sleep that Jake did. I would nurse him, he would fall asleep after he was done eating, I'd put him in his crib...he'd stay until he was ready to eat again. I felt ecstatic. I felt human. But-I kept my mouth shut unless people asked about it. You know, the whole bragging and/or jinxing thing.
As time went on, he started to stretch those night feedings out more, until he was going 4-5 hours every night, then shorting after that waking once overnight to eat around 3 or 4 months. He also started to go down in his crib for the night awake. Bliss!! Around 5.5 months he pretty much stopped waking up for that middle of the night feed....after he consistently did this for a few days, he did wake up randomly for a few nights, but I sent Brian in (if I went in, I know he'd assume the all you can eat all night buffet was open for business) and he was always able to rock him back to sleep.
There was a rough time after Thanksgiving where he started waking up again; he'd had the stomach flu, then we traveled for Thanksgiving, then he had a cold...so once he was healthy again, we took the same measures, pretty much just sent Brian in to comfort him and rock him back to sleep. We were back on track pretty easily. Same thing more recently---it took awhile longer, but after his recent ear infection and spending a few nights in our bed, he was waking over night. Rinse, lather, repeat.
So here is where we are with Liam---he goes to bed around 7:30pm and sleeps through the night. Which is great, and please dont' think I don't realize how lucky I am...but for Liam, his definition of "end of the night" is somewhere around 5am. 5:30am if I'm really lucky, and 4:30am if I'm having an unlucky day. There's my secret---I have a baby who sleeps through the night consistently and who we can put in his crib awake to go to sleep for the night, but this same baby seems to think we work on a farm and need to be up before the sun rises. So what do you do?
At this point, we found there's nothing we really can do...we've tried nearly everything, it seems. we've put him to bed later. We've put him to bed earlier. We've gone in and soothed him, tried to rock him back to sleep, turned on his soother and left him in there (while crawling back under the covers and praying that he puts himself back to sleep)....nothing. I even tried feeding him as soon as he woke up one time, thinking that would lull him back to sleep. FAIL. He is just wide awake in there.
Yes, I know I should be appreciative of the fact that he sleeps through the night (and trust me, I am!) but of course, if he could just stretch his definition of the night by just a teensy bit of time, that would be great. For now, we're just going with it, taking turns getting up with him on the weekends (because really, do you need 2 parents to be awake before 5am on a Saturday?) and hoping that it passes.
So there...my secret is out. I have 2 kids: neither of them are perfect sleepers. But I think I'll keep them both anyway. Just keep the coffee coming. You know, for the next...oh, 18 years or so.