One of the things that you try your best to brace yourself for during pregnancy is the inevitable lack of nighttime sleep that will be commonplace during your baby’s first months. During your third trimester, your body works to prepare itself for the upcoming lack of sleep, when your bladder, which is laboring under the weight and increasing pressure of your growing baby, will force you out of bed every few hours. Then baby arrives, and the long stretches of sleep you enjoyed once upon a time ago are replaced by short stints, as you must wake every few hours to feed, diaper, and comfort a little baby who is still figuring out the difference between day and night.
If you are one of the lucky ones, you will eventually have a good sleeper on your hands. The baby will figure out within a few months on her own, or maybe with a little help, that nighttime is for sleeping. The stretches of sleep will get longer and longer until you have a baby who goes down long enough to let you enjoy a much deserved glass of wine and Downton Abbey episode, while still having time to get in 7-8 hours of beauty rest.
I was one of those smug parents, one of the lucky ones. My oldest son was sleeping a good eight hour stretch by two months old, and by three months he had graduated to the full 12 hours. And I didn’t even have to train him, let him cry it out, or read any sleep-related books in a moment of desperation. He just did it on his own.
At the time, I probably told people I had nothing to do with this good fortune. In retrospect, I am sure I believed I had the magic touch and parental genius, which result in such a champion sleeper. I might have even given advice to some friends who weren’t as lucky. (I am sorry guys!)
And then my second was born. Oh how a second child can serve to show you that you truly have no clue what you are doing!
My second child appeared to be heading in the same direction as my first. At three months old he slept 12 hours several weeks in a row, and my husband and I congratulated ourselves on a stroke of luck and parenting acumen that had resulted in long and luxurious nights of sleep.
Let’s fast forward nine months, and we are approaching my younger son’s first birthday tomorrow. We have passed through many phases with both children, including my oldest graduating from crib to big boy bed, and diapers to toilet. And my youngest has his ninth tooth coming in, which most certainly accounts for much of the restlessness we have experienced over the past year. For the past couple of months, I can count on one hand the number of nights I have slept more than 3-4 hours at one time. Some nights, I have a baby who wakes up screaming in pain from teething. Other nights, I have a three year old who wakes us up screaming because his stuffed dog is lost somewhere in his bed. Just last week I had one really really bad night where between battling a bout with the flu, teething only soothed by nursing, and countless potty trips, I was literally up every hour and fifteen minutes throughout the night. (Which, I calculated the next day, afforded me a whopping total of 2.5 hours of sleep that night.)
I am so tired. Sigh.
Well-meaning people have offered me advice. Have I tried a dream feed? Check. Past that stage. Have we let my son cry it out? Check. Sure it works sometimes, but when he is in agony from teething, crying it out is just pure torture. Have we tried administering the Tylenol for teething prior to bedtime? Yes we have. Have we taught my older son how to get to the potty on his own? Affirmative. He still wakes up my younger son on his way to the potty.
My oldest is still a great sleeper, and if he is truly tired could sleep through a train coming through our house. He’s just such a person now that when he wakes up, he does what he wants. And it’s not that my youngest is a bad sleeper per se, but he is a light sleeper (he sometimes wakes up just hearing us tip toe on the stairs on our way to bed). And, seriously, the teething with him is nothing like we ever experienced with our first. He has shown on many occasions that he is able to sleep through the night, so I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, like so many other phases we have already gone through. The problem with being a parent to multiple children, is that your sleep will only be as good as your worst sleeper on any given night. And since our children are different ages, they are going through different issues that require different solutions – in the same room. But I am an eternal optimist, and every night I close my eyes, I sincerely believe that I will get a full night’s sleep. So please don’t give me any advice, just wish me luck!
Are you one of the lucky ones? Or are you tired of the lucky ones giving you advice (and just plain tired!)?