We had Paul’s mom visiting us for three weeks this month. Nancy came in to fill the childcare gap between the end of Paul’s leave, and the start of Ben’s daycare. Of course, we only have a two-bedroom apartment (and a big one by L.A. standards), so we gave Nancy the nursery, and put Ben in with us. We figured because he was sleep trained, he’d stick to the established schedule: waking up at 3am for a snack, but otherwise sleeping from 7pm to 6am.
As soon as Ben figured out we were there, he started waking up more often. He found out quickly that we were RIGHT THERE, ALL THE TIME, and would grab him quickly. So instead of settling back into sleep like he did in his own room, he woke all the way up every time his REM cycle ended, and demanded we pick him up. Which we did. Then we would put him back down once he was fed and soothed, and he would demand we pick him up again. And crying it out, which we had him doing in his own room, was a more difficult option because:
a) he knew we were there, so he thought we were being total jerks and
b) we had to listen to him yelling at us
To make matters worse, it was COLD in our room. We have French doors that lead out onto the patio, and no heat in the bedrooms. When there’s a cold snap in L.A., it gets down to 60 or so in our room because those doors leak heat badly. We put Ben in an hooded blanket sleeper (which was actually meant for an outdoor outfit), over his footie pajamas. But even though his body temperature was fine, his face and hands were still exposed, so he noticed the chill and woke up. We tried putting him into our small walk-in closet, but it’s even less insulated in there, and too small to keep a space heater going in. So half the time, he ended up sleeping curled up next to me, because I was worried he was cold.
We eventually started running the space heater more, leaving him in his own bed, and letting him cry it out again because we were just exhausted. He had been waking up more and more each night over those three weeks. I was getting less than six hours of broken sleep by the end, and I need eight hours, because breast-feeding is draining. Paul was only slightly less wrecked, because he was re-adjusting to working – and working late more often than not.
Still, we muddled through. I upgraded to a higher end concealer to cover the bags beneath my eyes (the under eye concealer from Make Up For Ever is AWESOME, and totally worth the $23) and started using liquid blush to look healthy for work. But I couldn’t cover how spaced out I was from lack of sleep. “Mommy brain” is really, after all, just sleep deprivation.
Finally, we were able to put Ben back in his own room. But he kept waking up three times a night even after he was moved back. It was only this week that we managed to get him back to “normal”: a 7:30 bedtime, a snack at 2am, and a 7am wake up time.
But we still have rough spots. Like last night. Paul went into Ben’s room to get a blanket for our bed at 11pm (I totally spaced on moving the sheets and blanket to the dryer after washing, and we needed to find clean ones to put on the bed). Ben woke up when Paul came in. I went in to nurse him, and he drained both sides and then dozed off while eating. I put him down, and went to pass out from exhaustion myself.
Ben woke right back up and started yelling. Paul tried feeding him a bottle to top him off (he stays full & sleeping longer if we give him formula PLUS breast before sleep) so I didn’t have to get back up. He drank less than an ounce. Having established he was not hungry, Paul put him back down – and let him yell. Usually, if Ben’s needs are met – he’s warm, not soaking wet, full and has been soothed a bit – he complains a bit and then goes to sleep. He knows the drill. But last night, he Just. Kept. Going.
Ten minutes later, I was awake again, and Ben had ramped back up into Full Nuclear Mode. Worse, he was sobbing in between screams. I can handle him shrieking in anger at me, I can’t handle the sad little sobs in between. So I got back up and went in and put him back on the boob. He settled down immediately, and started drinking like he was starving. “OK, this was the problem,” I whispered to Paul when he came in to check on us. “He was hungry, and just didn’t want formula.” Then Ben fell asleep and I put him back in his crib. And although he was chuntering a bit, I walked away.
But he didn’t STOP chuntering. He ramped up. Again. So Paul went in to change his diaper. He was damp, not wet, but it eliminated the last possible thing that could be wrong with him. He was dry. He wasn’t hungry. His room was warm. He himself was snug in multiple layers of sleeper. So we put him down and let him cry.
The crying became screaming soon enough, and he just kept going, and going, and going. He ramped up to shrieking. He was ANGRY. I lay in bed, next to Paul, with a pillow over my head, hearing Ben’s muffled cries through the pillow, running through options in my mind. Should we go get him? And if so, what would we do with him? Would we have to bring him into bed with us? Or stay up with him in his room? And wouldn’t that just be reinforcing his learning that every time he wants to hang out & party in the middle of the night, we would repeat the scenario, because he would expect it? In fact, wasn’t the situation already this bad because we had been in and out of the room three times already?
“Are we doing the right thing?” I asked Paul, repeatedly.
“Yes, we are,” Paul reassured me. And, according to the sleep books we decided to go with, we were. Ben was fine. He was just yelling because he wanted us to come get him and play with him. But still, even Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child said to go get your baby if he cried for more than an hour.
And then, fifty minutes in, Ben finally fell asleep.
Tonight, when we put Ben down, he opened his eyes as I put him down, let out one little cry as I walked away, and then fell asleep promptly. Hopefully, he will repeat that behavior, and not last night’s, when he wakes up for his snack in the middle of the night.