Look at this face. I mean… I’m so crazy about this little guy I could eat him up!! When he smiles I swoon. When he giggles, forget it… I’m mush. But when he cries – ugh. I hate it. And though he’s no longer a velociraptor full-time, he can still scream like a beast. Which brings us to our latest parenting challenge. Sleep. This adorable little creature still does not sleep very well. He has blessed us with a seven-hour stretch on two occasions (that is to date his longest stretch – mostly we are grateful for four to five hour stretches), but those “long” stretches start at around six o’clock at night. Therefore, even if we go to bed at nine-thirty (which we do often these days), the longest stretch of sleep we’re getting is four hours. In fact, the longest stretch of sleep I’ve gotten in about seven months is four hours. I’m tired.
I’m also tired of hearing about all these other babies who sleep eleven, twelve and thirteen hours straight – and have since eight weeks. The pediatric practice we go to sent out an email encouraging us to sleep train at two months. And I’m talking hard-core sleep training. Kiss that little face goodnight at seven o’clock, shut the door and don’t go back in until seven in the morning. (I’m looking into a new pediatric practice). Now – Theo has always been a skinny little peanut, so I’ve been hesitant to deprive him of any nighttime feedings, worried that he needs the extra sustenance. I got that email at two months and thought – NO WAY! That is cruel – he is helpless! He needs me! He needs food! So I decided to keep feeding him whenever he cried out in the middle of the night, hoping things would regulate at their own pace and that is what we’re still doing to this day.
Now he is five months old. He is still a skinny little peanut, but I’m no longer so worried about his weight gain (still a little worried… I’m a mother, I worry). For the most part, I’m thinking he’s just a skinny peanut and that’s who he is! Adam and I were apparently both on the smaller side. Plus, it seems to me, that when he nurses in the middle of the night, it’s mostly just for comfort. And recently, over the past couple weeks, instead of waking up twice in the middle of the night, he has woken up more like three or four times… which frankly, is NOT ok. Twice I can handle. Three or four times?? UH UH. So I’m starting to get to that point where I’m considering sleep training. I have already been letting him cry to get himself to sleep for naps for over a month now – and he never cries too long – and he’s much happier for getting the sleep.
But when I think about him crying out at three o’clock in the morning all alone in his crib in the dark and nobody going to him, I feel so sad. Will he feel abandoned? What if he’s teething and in pain? What if he really is hungry and needs me? What if he cries for two hours straight? I am tempted to try it – hell, maybe he’ll surprise me and cry for ten minutes before passing out again. But what if he doesn’t? Most advice on the topic says that whatever you do you should be consistent. Don’t let him cry for an hour then run and pick him up because next time he’ll cry for an hour, knowing that he’ll get picked up after that hour. Ugh. And Adam or I could go to him and pat his back instead of nursing him just to let him know we’re there, but that doesn’t really seem to work (we’ve tried it) and usually I feel like it kind of makes him even more frustrated! He’s like… “Why aren’t you picking me up?!! You’re right there and you’re not picking me up!! What is wrong with you people??” (I’m picturing him yelling at us as Stewie Griffin).
Of course I’m reading every sleep book that exists (not exactly helpful!!) and it only confuses me. Many sources say babies are definitely ready to sleep through the night by four months, while many others say waking up twice to nurse in the middle of the night is developmentally normal for babies up to nine months. And that even if it’s for comfort… it’s ok. Babies need comfort. Some say if he’s waking up at the same time each night, it’s habit – not hunger. Theo will wake up at the same time for three nights in a row and then totally mix it up the following night. Confusing. Several of my friends said they trained their babies once they knew they were capable of sleeping for a long stretch – like twelve hours. If the babies had done it before on their own, then it should be ok. Well Theo’s never done it before it on his own. So I’m not so sure.
So here’s what I’m thinking… I am trying to get in to see a new doctor who was recommended to me. He is more of the attachment parenting style and does not believe in sleep training before six months. By the time I see him, Theo will be six months old – so we can have a chat about it then and he can tell me if he thinks Theo is ready (despite his tiny size). I mean, when it comes down to it, it is such a short time in the grand scheme of things. And even though I am dying for a good night’s sleep, I do somewhat enjoy those quiet times in the middle of the night when it’s just the two of us. It’s sweet. And I’m sure a piece of me will miss that when he gets older and doesn’t need me in that same way anymore. I just don’t want to let it go on too long – as it supposedly gets harder as they get older and more strong-willed. Then he’ll be crying out “mama! mama!” and I’ll die inside even more.
Hmmmmm… another parenting conundrum (I have a feeling there will be many to come).