a ben update

Ben is now sleeping for six to seven hours at a stretch at night!!! This is the most sleep I’ve had at one time since he was born.

Upon the advice of the baby books, I tried to give Ben a bedtime. At 7pm, we started bedtime rituals, with a bath. Then I fed him one last time. Then we would put him in his co-sleeper, and hope he went to sleep around 8:30. This usually ended up with us negotiating with him until almost 10pm some nights, where he would drift off and then wake up and cry (and he is still too small for us to let him cry). Then he would wake up between midnight and 1am for a feeding, after which he would think it was his eat-activity-sleep cycle and wake right up and expect to be played with. I would lie there, with him next to me in his co-sleeper, with the lights off, murmuring to comfort him, until I passed out from sheer exhaustion – only to be woken up a minute later when he didn’t drift off.

What I didn’t get was that NONE of the baby books addressed getting him to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. And I was doing everything by all the books – the No Cry Sleep Solution, the Modern Girl’s Guide to Motherhood, Baby 411, the Happiest Baby on the Block, all of them. The books said to make sure my baby was awake and really hungry before picking him up and feeding him, because babies Ben’s size could sleep for longer periods of time than my baby was. Well, his eyes would be open and he refused to be satisfied with a pacifier or finger. I don’t know who these babies are that wake up in the middle of the night wanting comfort but not food. Mine is ALWAYS hungry.

Also, we could not convince him that bedtime was bedtime. He would go down like clockwork for his nap – noon on the dot, as soon as I fed him and placed him in his crib in the nursery (which has black curtains, and is darker than his co-sleeper in the bedroom for daytime naps). He would drift off once I put him in his co-sleeper, and then wake up. So I finally figured out two things:

1) The 8:30 bedtime (with a 7pm start) was NOT WORKING. Ben didn’t fall asleep until almost 10pm most nights and
2) Ben sleeps just fine in his big crib in his nursery

So on Sunday night, I gave Ben his last feeding, and made it a “cluster” – two feedings inside of an hour, both breast and bottle, to make sure he was totally full. Then I put him in his crib while he was still sleepy, so he would drift off on his own without getting dependent on the boob to sleep. Then I walked away around 9:30PM, and woke up at 2:30am for no reason.

Of course I immediately went to make sure Ben was breathing, because he hadn’t woken up after three hours or so like he usually did, demanding food. But he was fine, sleeping away, breathing quietly and deeply to prove he was way under. I was then up for almost two hours more, waiting to hear him wake up and cry. But he didn’t until 4:30am – seven hours later.

Monday night, I passed out on the futon in the nursery after doing the same bedtime routine. And I woke up to hear Ben chuntering in the crib, right on his usual schedule of two to three hours. The difference was, he was chuntering but not waking up, and was going right back to sleep. And he ended up sleeping for six hours that night without opening his eyes and crying for food. Then, when he did wake up, he quickly fed and went BACK to sleep.

The theory we have is that Ben would finish an REM cycle and partially wake up in his co-sleeper. Then he would smell me, eighteen inches away, and the instinct to feed would wake him the rest of the way up. But when he sleeps in his crib, that doesn’t happen. Instead, he falls back asleep, and doesn’t wake up until he’s REALLY hungry. Which, hopefully, will continue to be six or seven hours after he goes to sleep.

I didn’t expect to move him over to his crib for a few more months, so I’m very surprised that he is willing and able to sleep ALL BY HIMSELF like a big boy in his own crib, in his own room. I’m so proud of my little guy. On the other hand, while I am happy to get longer unbroken stretches of sleep, I miss having him sleeping less than two feet away from me. I miss pulling him into bed to feed him and cuddling with him to get him back to sleep. But he’s coming up on three months now anyways, so I would have had to stop letting him sleep in our bed entirely soon anyways. (I’ve read in multiple sources that babies form their sleep habits between three and five months, so you have to move them out of your bed, and into their long-term sleeping location, during that time.) I just didn’t expect to find it so easy or beneficial to everyone’s sleep to have him move out into his own room.

Sigh. My little baby is already growing up. He’s in his own room already, instead of sleeping near me. He’s no longer even a newborn: he’s getting into the chunkier baby phase at almost fourteen pounds. He smiles and chortles all the time, especially when he sees me or Paul. He gives us these huge, gummy grins that just melt me, and coos and makes noises at us all the time. He also sits in his little baby support chair seat like a big boy, holding his own head up. Today, I was playing Rock Band, and he was trying to sing and dance along while sitting in said chair, and was smiling at the music and making little baby noises. He’s more aware every day of the world around him, and gets more interactive all the time. It’s so amazing and wonderful to watch – and yet I’m a bit sad because know he will never be that little baby again, adjusting to being in the world, totally brand new to existence. This must be what being a parent is about, taking such joy in seeing your child grow up, yet being a little sad and nostalgic that they will never go back to being what they were before.

And as a bonus, here is Ben sitting up in his seat like a big boy:

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