You may have noticed that I haven’t been around much. I’m going to level with you. Alice and I had a rocky start. She is as cute as can be but she was cranky! I was in survival mode for the first six weeks of her life. It was like I was a brand new mom all over again. All of my experience and knowledge from the past twelve years were of no use to me. This girl would not be soothed. She doesn’t like binkies (no matter how many different kinds I tried), she didn’t like the sling, and barely tolerated the swing (and only when conditions were perfect). The only thing I could do was feed her… and when I was drained (which happened very quickly).
We had a breakthrough when she hit six weeks. I was so sleep deprived that I did something that I never thought I would ever do.
I put my newborn to sleep at night in a different room.
We have co-slept with all of our children. In fact, the most popular post on this blog is the tutorial for my DIY Co-Sleeping Bed! We have done this because it not only allows me to attend to our baby’s needs more quickly and for bonding, but also because it allows me to get more sleep (which as any new mom will tell you, is absolutely necessary and also nearly impossible to come by). Once the little munchkin begins to sit up in bed and start to play in the middle of the night (usually between six and ten months depending on the kid) we begin the transition to another room and the sleep training process. This has worked for us for twelve years.
Well, after six weeks I was still not getting any more sleep than I was when I was in the hospital (when the staff was waking me up every couple of hours to check my vitals) and had gotten to the point that I was so sleep deprived that I could no longer fall asleep easily or take naps (a cruel trick of nature). As I was co-sleeping, taking unisom was completely out of the question and natural soothing and relaxing techniques were lost on me since I had a screaming baby. My house was out of control, any semblance of routine for our family was non-exsistant, and I was crying almost as much as Alice was. It was not pretty. I knew that if I let this continue the likelihood of having my baby blues escalate into postpartum depression was high. I prayed to know what to do.
Then it happened. I had the thought that I never thought I would have had. I thought that if I put her in another room that maybe I wouldn’t be disturbed as much even if I did have to get up to feed her. That, as much as it terrified me to put her in another room, I needed to sleep or I was going to break. I set the pack and play up in the room next to ours and nursed her to sleep in my bed as I read (which was our custom). After she was fully asleep I took her to the other room and lay her in her new bed. I stood up and stared at her beautiful face.
I must have checked on her five or six times before I finally lay down and closed my eyes for the night. I left our doors open so that I could hear her cry when she was hungry, but enough space was between us so that I wasn’t disturbed by her tiny grunts and wiggles.
Five hours later she woke me up to eat. I went to her room and lay with her on the queen size bed in there and fed her while I drifted in and out of sleep. After about a half an hour she detached herself and I put her back in her bed and went back to mine. Three hours after that she awoke again and this time I brought her back to my room (because I don’t want her alone in her room when her littlest big brother wakes up).
It was GLORIOUS! I felt refreshed and had energy for the first time since the beginning of the year! Then something glorious happened:
Alice was happy. All. Day. Long. She fussed a bit when she was hungry, fussed a bit when she was tired but she took nice long naps (which had been unheard of up to this point) and I was able to spend time with the other kids cuddling, reading, and learning with them. I was also able to clean up a little bit (also unheard of). This was a heavenly day! My sister called me a few days later to ask how I was holding up. “GREAT! Alice was nice to me for TWO days in a row!”
After three or four days of this, I got lazy and didn’t stay in her room for the first feeding and brought her immediately back to my room. That night was rough. The next day was even more so. Alice was back to Miss Cranky pants.
This was the confirmation I needed. This girl needs her sleep just as much as I do (if not more so). Enough sleep and a fully belly… truly her mother’s daughter :)
After two weeks I can say that Alice and I are settling in nicely. Now that she is getting the sleep she needs, Alice is just as sweet as can be. Smiling and cooing at each of us in turn. She can’t stay awake for more than an hour before she gets overwhelmed, and unlike most of her other siblings, even as a newborn she needs peace, quiet, and low lights in order to sleep well. It’s a delicate balance, and I often forget how long she has been awake, but if I can keep her schedule unbroken, she is a very happy little girl.
While she still doesn’t like her binkie (at all), we discovered that she does like the sling as long as she can face out. Apparently she wants to see the world. And as you can plainly see, I keep her belly nice and full… just the way she likes it.