After a frustrating year on the tenure-track job hunt, my eyes are still on the prize, and I've learned that sheer will might be the most important quality required for this career track.
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Evolutionarily speaking, human babies are very interesting. Because we have such large brains, we're born a lot earlier than most mammals, in terms of development. For instance, when a horse is born, it begins to walk almost immediately. In contrast, human babies need almost a year to reach this milestone. As a result of our early delivery, human babies find adjusting to life outside of the womb very difficult, especially with regards to sleep. All newborns require frequent feedings until their stomachs mature, especially when breast-fed, and wake every 3-4 hours for a meal. On top of which, many newborns experience what's sometimes referred to as the "Fourth Trimester", during which their immature nervous system leads them to cry for several hours at specific times of day (usually in the evening), a behavior referred to as colic. Calming colicky babies involves a variety of soothing techniques - including swaddling, white noise, and swinging - which are usually required for the newborn to find sleep.
Monkey started out doing the sleep thing really well. He quickly transitioned from his bassinet in our room to the crib in his nursery. This was very useful for mom and dad since half of Monkey's sleep time, like most newborns, was spent in noisy, grunting, whiny REM sleep. Crib-sleeping went very well for the next two weeks, and we slowly transitioned Monkey out of his swaddle. I would wake up 3 times a night to feed him, and he'd go back to sleep almost immediately after being laid back down.
And then, something changed. Monkey's sleep intervals drastically shortened, and he'd wake 4-5 times a night. We transitioned Monkey into his bouncer, which has a vibration setting on it that Monkey loves - I imagine this is the infant version of the Brookstone Massage Chair. We'd set the vibration on it when we laid Monkey down, and he'd drift off into peaceful 3-4 hour naps at night.
And then, about a week later, it changed again. Monkey started waking up after 20 or 30 minutes, about the same time that the vibration program ended, and we'd wander into his nursery and re-start it. You can probably see where this is going, which makes you smarter than me and Hubby... By the end of last week, Monkey was back to sleeping only 30-minute to 1-hour intervals, making sleep impossible at night and turning my days into an endless cycle of very short naps, crying, feeding, and diapering. On Saturday night, we moved Monkey back to his bassinet and swaddle, both of which worked wonders - for one night only.
We're now trying to get Monkey to put himself to sleep in his bassinet, instead of letting him fall asleep in our arms while he's feeding. We still hold and comfort him when he cries, but we put him back down as soon as he's calm. This method required a double-team strategy from me and Hubby last night. We tagged each other in when we needed a break, each enduring endless rounds of feedings, putting Monkey down, and picking him back up to comfort. I took the midnight to 5am shift since Hubby had work today. The Monkey finally went down on his own a couple of hours ago, in his bassinet, next to me on the couch.
Needless to say, I'm exhausted this morning. I was getting this kind of sleep the first week, but I was also on an adrenaline high - nothing could dampen my mood. After 5 weeks of increasing (although fragmented) sleep, though, I'm not sure I can return back to this minimal sleep pattern. The graph below clearly demonstrates that the amount of sleep I get is inversely proportional to how much I cry during the day (you had to know I'd eventually convert this into data).
I'm going back to work on Friday. I simply cannot cry in the lab. I'm not expecting 8 hours of sleep, and I'm not picky how I get my sleep - a couple of 3-hour intervals or a single 4- or 5-hour interval would be just fine. But 5 hours of standing next to the bassinet waiting for Monkey to cry just won't work. The graph says it all.
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I can remember this exact same issue. I spend many nights walking around with Mini-G when she would only sleep if I was holding her. I know it sucks, but this WILL pass. Do what you can to get through this (I spent many nights sleeping on the sofa holding Mini-G so she wouldn't wake up). And if you have to cry at work, that is OK.
One thing (unsolicited advice, please ignore if you want!): Don't get sucked into feeding every 30 min at night. This can be a difficult habit to break and painful, according to my wife who did the BF. That being said, I will reiterate what I said earlier: do whatever you need to do in order to make it through this week. Next week will be a whole different ballgame.
Don't get sucked into feeding every 30 min at night.
Agreed completely, Gerty. Last night was the first night he's been up this much since that first week, and I refused to feed him more often than once every 2 hours. Every time I do anything for him at night, I think "do I want to be doing this when I'm back to work?" I even hated resorting to the bouncer a couple of weeks ago, but I felt like it was more important for him to get sleep at that point. He's gotten so much bigger now, though, and I know he's okay waiting a little while. It's just a matter of how strong Hubby and I can be when Monkey's got our backs against the wall!!
I love the chart! I hope Monkey calms down and you get some decent sleep intervals soon. We had to feed my foster daughter with an eye dropper for the first few months but we had a lot of help.
Your question, 'do I want to be doing this when i'm back to work' is brilliant. It's OK to cry at work but I agree, not crying is better.
Hi Dr. O:
Thanks for sharing your experience and boy can I say that I FEEL YOUR PAIN!!!!! I had my first kid during my last year in grad school and the second wee one was born about a year into my postdoc. With my first kid, I struggled. I was always asking myself "why won't this f@%$ing kid sleep?!?!?" She, like your little monkey, enjoyed "napping" in 30 - 60 minute intervals throughout the day and night and this went on for about 10 months. Needless to say, I was stressed, fragile, and pretty much zonked all of the time (I actually did cry during my practice thesis presentation - luckily it was just in front of my lab mates). I was always reading up on the latest sleep studies for infants, often trying the techniques recommended in "The Baby Whisperer" or "The Happiest Baby on the Block." No matter what I tried, she kept up her habits and only time helped to heal this tired mommy.
Just about when the sleep thing was taking a turn for the better, I found out I was preggers again. But, this time, I did not read any parenting books nor did I take any advice from the all too willing peanut gallery. I just did what I felt was the right thing to do for that particular moment in time. I did't have any preconceived expectations for any of it because I realized that, in retrospect, it brought more stress on me and my husband to try and make this kid adapt to what was supposed to be "normal." So, even though #2's sleeping habits were no better than the big sis, I was much more able to cope. Sure I felt tired but what worked for me was a change in my mindset and not necessarilty a change in the parenting routine.
I know that I am not offering any groundbreaking advice but I do sincerely hope that you find rest in some way! And, as it turns out, if you cry in lab, there is a really good chance that your mates will understand.
It's hard, and chronic sleep fragmentation and deprivation are both bad for the brain, but just hold on and it will get better someday. I remember when six weeks seemed like an interminable eternity away, and now my BooBoo will be a year in a week and a half!! Not that this helps you right now, but someday this will all be in the past, hah.
Here is what worked for us (from the book linked below)--shortening the awake interval during the day, starting with only being awake for ~45 min at a time, after which I would bounce her back to sleep in her little bouncer while I worked on the computer. The awake interval gradually increased to 1.5-2 h by 10-12 weeks, then 2-3 h by 6 months, then two 1.5 h naps a day at 9 am and 1 pm by ~8 months (I was amazed by the accuracy of the Weissbluth guy on this). (of course, she's a light sleeper so she only does one 30 min nap at daycare, so weeknight evenings suck, but weekends and non-daycare days she gets a great nap schedule in and can sleep through the night).
There are so many books with different philosophies, but I gotta say this one is the one that has actually worked the best for us:
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Oh also, more anecdata for ya: since she was 4 weeks old, her bedtime has been 7 pm--even though she didn't seem to "want" to go to sleep at that time, that was when we did the swaddling/singing/nursing to sleep thing and after the first few weeks of it feeling really pointless, it finally took. She has been going to bed at 7 pm like a dream ever since (even though we've had plenty of re-wakings, etc. along the way).
Hi, Dr. O! I don't know if I've dropped by to congratulate you on Monkey's arrival yet. If not- congrats!
My first baby was an extremely crappy sleeper, there's just no other way to say it. And I got through OK. You will, too. I wrote lots of lists to make up for the fact that my memory was destroyed by lack of sleep.
Did anyone warn you about the 6 week growth spurt? If I'm reading your chart right, sleep went to hell at about 6 weeks post-partum, which is right on schedule for the growth spurt. Both of my girls nursed pretty much non-stop for 2-3 days during their 6 week growth spurts. It sucked, to put it mildly. That we make 6 weeks the end of our paid maternity leave in this country is just a cruel joke.
Anyway, you've already discovered that baby sleep is not at all linear. I won't presume to offer advice, because I think every baby and every family is different, and we all have to find our own way. But- the next big growth spurt is at 3 months. And then there is another one at 6 months.
Also, you might find the developmental information in Bedtiming, by Isabel Granic and her husband whose name I can never remember, useful. It has helped me figure out when to try to improve sleep this time around. Between that, the fact that my second baby is a much better sleeper, and my generally more laid back attitude this time, sleep is less of an issue this time. Which isn't to say we're sleeping through the night- we aren't. But we're doing OK.
@Jeanne, Arlenna, Cloud - Thanks for the advice and book recommendations. Last night went a million times better than the night before, although it did take 2 hours to get him down after his 3:30 am feeding. But he got two 4 and a half hour "naps" in, so I got lots of sleep too!
Just wondering if you started swaddling the Monkey again? We swaddled one of my twins until she was 5 or 6 months old. It seemed to calm her down and being wrapped up signaled "time to sleep." Might be something easy to add to your routine. Plus, I know of several moms who swear by the miracle blanket (http://www.miracleblanket.com/index.htm).
And congratulations on the birth of Monkey (late to the party, I know). Hope your PIH symptoms have disappeard with his joyful arrival.
Cricket, we have been swaddling for the past week...he busts out of it sometimes (we use the velcro ones, and he still finds his way out). This helps some, we think, but I'm not sure how much longer we'll use them since he's slept pretty well even when he's broken out of them. Thanks for the congrats too. The PIH cleared up after a couple of weeks, before my delivery. My BP was a little high during the birth, but nothing to worry too much about. I'll have my 6-week appointment on Monday to make sure it's come back down!
I like your graph. :)
Someone once told me, "Whenever you figure out a child's sleep pattern they go and change it.", and in my experience that's been spot on. Growing, teething, illness, nightmares - all always seem to throw a wrench in the works. On the plus side that means that they grow out of the annoying phases eventually!