Sleep… What is sleep?

February 14, 2022, Tiffany Newman

What a month it has been. My youngest, Caleb, has been having issues sleeping at night for the last four weeks or so. He has been waking up almost every hour, and it has been exhausting! Going back to work part-time, dealing with sleep deprivation, and handling our daycare being closed for weeks at a time due to COVID has been one of the most challenging times we have had as parents. It seems like it just will never end.

It first started when we came home from Christmas vacation visiting family. Caleb got so used to sleeping with me that he wouldn’t sleep in his crib. He would wake up every hour, fuss, and refuse to go back to sleep until he was nursing. As a week progressed, we thought that maybe this was his four-month sleep regression happening, so we decided to try and do a little sleep training. With Carson (our oldest), we had to start sleep training at six months old because we were both back at work and were tired of getting up in the middle of the night. At that point, it became more of a habit for him rather than a necessity to eat or anything else. We tried several different methods with Carson to sleep train, and when none of them worked, we went to the ‘gentle cry it out’ method. It was so difficult to hear our child cry, but it took three nights, and he started sleeping through the night. We were so thankful, and we ultimately started doing this every time he would get off a schedule or wake up in the middle of the night more than twice in a row.

We did a lot of research, and when we ultimately decided to try to do this method, my husband and I had to be on the same page, and my husband had to reassure me that it was for his own benefit and we were not leaving him in his crib to cry for long periods. If Carson woke in the middle of the night, we would first let him cry for five minutes, then my husband or I would go in, pat his back, reassure him that mommy and daddy were still there, and then leave the room again. If he started crying again, we would wait 10 minutes this time and do the same thing adding 5 minutes each time he would cry before going back into the room. It usually took about 20 minutes for him to realize that we would not pick him up and that he needed to go back to sleep. Those 20 minutes were the longest minutes ever, and I would cry almost every time. Ultimately, for our child and us, this worked well. He now falls asleep on his own and sleeps through the night (most of the time). I don’t like letting my child cry; however, after six months of constantly waking up in the middle of the night and not getting the necessary sleep needed to function at work, we felt that we had to do it.

I need my sleep to function as a mom and as an employee. It is the only way that I can truly be the best me. On the other hand, my husband can function well with very little sleep or broken up sleep over a long period of time. Ultimately, we ended up doing a lot of the night shifts when it came to our babies, especially after four months of none stop sleepless nights. With Carson, I went to a therapist because I did not go on anti-depressants/anxiety pills right after he was born. I didn’t want any medication in my system while breastfeeding. This was probably the worst decision for me because I was so stressed, tired, and ultimately had postpartum depression that it affected my relationship with my baby. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children more than anything in the world, but when postpartum hit me, and all I did was want to cry, it truly made things miserable. After a while, I decided to talk to my OBGYN about my symptoms, and she prescribed me some medication and asked if I wanted to try and talk to someone first. I decided to give it a try, and one of the things the therapist said to me was that lack of sleep or broken-up sleep is almost like being tortured. She told me to try and get at least six hours of sleep in a row a couple of nights a week if possible. I talked to my husband about this, and we decided to try it. I felt so much better. However, I still cried and was not exactly myself, which is when I decided I needed medication. Once on them, my mood was so different that I was able to be there for my baby more than ever before, and I could function as a human being again. When we decided to try for another child, I decided to wean myself off the medication until I had our second baby. Once he was born, I knew I needed to get back on them, and thank goodness I did because, without them, I would be a basket case with the little sleep that we have been getting lately.

So, back to Caleb. He has been struggling to sleep. We tried the ‘cry it out’ method a little with him; however, because he isn’t even five months old, I was reluctant to do this completely. When he would get too upset, we would pick him up and rock him back to sleep. He would still only sleep for an hour at a time. He also started getting snotty noses, especially when laying on his back in the crib, so then we needed to sleep with him propped up so that his nose could drain a bit more. After around four weeks of getting up every hour, we went to the pediatrician for help. She prescribed him some medication for acid reflux. Why? Because he was cranky when he ate, sleepless at night, and his nose had been running for a while now. We are giving it a try, and it is working a little right now. He is sleeping slightly longer, but unfortunately, our oldest brought home a cold, and now Caleb has a horrible stuffy nose. We have given up on having him sleep in his crib for right now due to his snotty nose issue, but I am hoping that we will be able to start sleep training with him once we are through. I am ready to start sleeping through the night again without having to do night shifts with my husband (one of us currently sleeps in the guest room half the night). I will update our status and what we figure out once we get him to sleep through the night or at least longer durations of time. Wish us luck! We could genuinely use it!