Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Closing the all night bar

About a week ago it occurred to me that LB has no skills for putting herself to sleep. She either nurses to sleep or is rocked to sleep (in a car, stroller or in a sling). Given my sleep deprived status I decided that it was the night time nursing-to-sleep that was going to go first. We have made some progress with the No Cry Sleep Solution book, but I was ready to speed things up a bit.

That night I took her to bed with me and nursed her for just a short time to get her relaxed a bit. When I thought she would fall asleep soon, I disengaged her. She started rooting and fussing right away and as it escalated, I rolled over so my back was to her thinking that hiding "the girls" would be a more gentle approach. I was so tired that I had more resolve than I had in the past to stick to my plan. Brad comforted her as she cried.

Suddenly it occurred to me what this really meant: She would no longer need me to nurse her to sleep. It won't be long before she would no longer need me to nurse her at all! Then I started crying. I tried to be strong, but I no longer had any desire to end this part our time together. Soon, I caved and let her nurse. She was instantly much happier, but I continued to cry and cry and cry.* Brad reminded me she would grow up whether I liked it or not and I could help or hinder her progress. How unfair that I could long for something for six years and then to get it, but have it end all too soon.** My midwife's words reverberated in my head, "Having a child is a series of letting go." That's all well and good in theory.

I decided to give myself a few days to get used to the idea. Eventually, I had the courage to try again with some modifications. We decided I would nurse her to sleep initially, but would not nurse during the night. Predictably, three hours after she fell asleep she was rooting around and getting more and more upset that I wasn't responding. On the verge of giving in, I left the room to sleep lie awake on the couch. Oh, the sounds she made - successfully communicating utter betrayal, anger, despair. It was just awful.

On the plus side, I think it was a good bonding experience for Brad and LB. He stayed with her and did his best to comfort her without being overly stimulating - just a hand on her and occasionally saying soft, comforting words. Later he told me that LB kept contact with him the entire time.

After what felt like hours, but was only 30 minutes, she fell asleep and I crept back into bed. For the next 30 minutes she hiccuped in her sleep recovering from her sobbing. She slept for the next four hours, physically exhausted from the emotional ordeal.

Warning: TMI coming up

The next night, last night, we made further modifications. When LB started to wake up after three hours, Brad was just coming to bed and I knew he would encourage me to stick to our guns. I willed her to hear my silent plea: "Oh please don't wake up! I don't want you to be sad again. Please don't wake up!" Of course, she did. I quickly scooped her up and nursed her for just a second and took her off thinking it would help and Brad wouldn't notice (his back was to us). *** It was so satisfying to both of us, but didn't help long term. I tried again and this time, quite by accident, as I took her off her hand found my other nip.ple. It was just enough to comfort her and keep her calm enough to fall asleep.

One and a half hours later, we repeated the process, going straight for the hand-holding instead of nursing - it worked quickly.

One and a half hours later, she wasn't going to fall for it again. She started making the you-don't-love-me-anymore wails so I let her nurse for about a minute (Oh, how we loved it!) before starting again with the "you can touch it, but you can't have it" trick. It worked.

I hope this new plan will work and work quickly because I don't think I can survive on any less sleep.

This has really been an eye opening experience for me. I always thought I would do the right thing - that LB's needs would sometimes trump mine - but I imagined things like missing the end of a movie because she wasn't behaving in the theater. I never imagined that I would be so sad simply because she is growing up. I have new appreciation for my mom being sad, for example, on the day I moved out. Unlike my mom, when that day comes (and others like it) I hope I hide my sadness, put a smile on my face and say, "Good for you! I am so proud of you!" And I will be, even if I am sad for myself.

Updated: Sky asks a good question and I am not surprised I wasn't very clear - I am, as I said, barely functioning. My ultimate goal is to 1) help LB learn to fall asleep on her own so she doesn't always need me for my sake and hers and 2) stop nursing at night so I can, hopefully, get more sleep.

*Overly dramatic perhaps, but I was sleep deprived and it was late - somewhere around 8:30!
** I know I am very lucky to get to nurse at all.
*** Not that Brad is alone in this decision, but I knew he would disapprove if I wimped out.


Sky said...

Kami, I'm a little confused. You seem to not want to reduce nursing time and LB seems to agree. So why reduce it? Is the ultimate goal to just not nurse at night? Maybe I don't follow. :)

Kami said...

Sky - I updated my post, but just in case you are getting updates on the comments I will answer here as well.

I think it would be advantages for both of us if LB could fall asleep on her own and I am really hoping I won't need to wake up 3-6 times per night if she can put herself back to sleep.

Thanks for asking!

Jill said...

She wants some sleep, and is hoping that cutting out night nursing will give her tools to fall back to sleep on her own...


Anyway, Kami - I know how terrible the sleep deprivation gets. I hope you can find a way to get more sleep. It's not selfish or wrong to need to take care of yourself too. It took us a LONG time to get where Ben could put himself back to sleep, and I still marvel at it when I see him wake up, look around and lay back down and go to sleep (we have a video monitor)... I never thought I'd see the day. You'll get there, and you will both be more well-rested for it.

you never know, she might want to nurse MORE during the day...

Sky said...

Ahhhh, okay. I did get the sleep deprivation part but I misunderstood and thought the sleep deprivation was mostly coming from the weaning attempt (been working so much lately, I'm sleep deprived too!). Then I thought, well crap, if it's making you sad and you're not sleeping, keep nursing until she's 32. ;)

From a commitment perspective, you're the tops. I think I'll suck as a mom 'cause I just don't imagine waking up at 3 AM to feed ANYONE! I mean, I don't plan to nurse anyway and by the 2nd week I can see having a come-to-jesus with the baby "honey, mommy needs her sleep so you'll just have to wait until 7 AM for your bottle, okay?"

Sure, it'll work, you'll see! ;) (HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!)

Fertilized said...

Good Luck Kami- these are the hard times

Geohde said...

I took a different approach with regards to sleeping habits and so forth, so I won't offer unwanted assvice. I do hope you get some rest soon, though, chronic fatigue is just awful



Lisa DG said...

You know, I get that you are tired and need some rest. Just reading your issues still brings such comfort for me. I can't wait until you're giving me words of wisdom on my DE baby who keeps me up at night. Thank you for laying it all out there.

And keep it coming. I am just sorry I have no words of wisdom for you.

Lori said...

Did you see that episode of Mad About You? It was a commercial-less 25 minutes of Jamie and Paul trying to do something similar.

It was excruciating to watch.

And to endure in real life.

Supporting you.

battynurse said...

Hope things start to work soon and that you get some more sleep.

Sara said...

Oh hon, it's hard isn't it? Weaning Eggbert off of the middle-of-the-night feed wasn't THAT bad, but weaning her off of the before-bed feed was almost the end of me. I'm still sad about it. The good news is that if anything, our relationship has gotten even better since weaning. Now that she's not so boob-obsessed, there is more time for other types of interactions. It's a loss, but there is a gain also.

Hang in there.

Caro said...

Baby T nurses to sleep too - I'm not quite sure how we will stop that.

niobe said...

Fingers crossed that you and LB are able to work out something so that you both get more sleep. I find that absolutely everything is so much more difficult when I'm sleep-deprived.

You probably already answered this and I just missed it, but does LB ever take a bottle (whether of formula or expressed breast milk)? If she does (especially if Brad feeds her), that might be a bridge between night nursing and falling asleep on her own. If you prefer not to give LB bottles or LB absolutely refuses them, just ignore this suggestion.

MrsSpock said...

I tried the CIO method all of twice. The first time J cried for 10 minutes and went to sleep. The second, for 40, and I gave in.

We were able to wean the night feed pretty easily, but are stumped about what to do about frequent night wakings. And we still rock him to sleep.