Nearly everyone, upon finding out you're pregnant, will start in on the horror stories of how little sleep you're about to have once your bundle arrives. Well... duh. That's wasn't any sort of new information to me. I've watched enough sit-coms in my day to realize I would soon be mistaken for the walking dead when Baby G made her debut. But honestly, as much as I knew what was coming down the pipe sleep-wise for us, I was in no way prepared to actually experience it.
In the hospital I had planned on having Baby G room with me so I could be beside her constantly. When the hubby was unable to sleep comfortably in the camp hide-a-way style bed they had in the maternity suite and, instead, had to go home each night, we had to change our in-room plans and have Baby G go back to the nursery each night (as I had a C-section and couldn't get up and down repeatedly to tend to Baby G alone). So, for the first couple of nights after Baby G was born I actually got decent sleep in the hospital (special thanks to my friend Percocet!).
I love you so much, you tiny white god-send!
We decided early on that Baby G would sleep in a bassinet next to my side of the bed for the first few months as her bedroom was clear on the other side of the house and we knew we would be up regularly for feedings/diaper changes. Plus, it made me feel better knowing I could roll over to my left side and check on my baby whenever I wanted to. I figured I would sleep like a lamb if she was right beside me and I knew she was safe. The night we took Baby G home with us we were such nervous parents (Ugh... screw you SIDS!) that neither of us really slept... at all. I was up all night, my hubby was probably only asleep for an hour or two. I'm not sure exactly how many times I popped my head up to check on Baby G between feedings, but I'm pretty sure I managed to complete roughly 1,000 sit-ups for the first time in my life that night.
Totally looked like this, too... exactly like this.
Thankfully, the hubs and I got our act together and realized we couldn't go on no sleep for more than about 3 days. We started chilling out and doing our best to sleep between the "every two hour" feedings as much as we could, but it was so hard to get sleep when Baby G was so restless and completely resistant to swaddling to keep those arms under control. I'd swaddle her, she'd break free and smack herself awake, I'd reswaddle her, she'd punch through the swaddle and smack herself back awake (rinse and repeat roughly eleventy-billion times).
Like this except picture the blood-stained shirt as a swaddle blanket and the horrible alien baby as an adorable baby fist.
Much of the first few months of Baby G's life is still a complete blur to me as I was out of my mind with exhaustion from never getting more than 2-3 hours at a time of quality sleep. Couple the brief periods of sleep with my ever-increasing inability to STAY asleep if anything louder than the fluttering wings of a butterfly flapping from a block away roused me from sleep, and I became a shell of a human being. Nothing, I repeat nothing prepares you for chronic lack of sleep until you actually find yourself in that situation. I was also unprepared for the thousands of times I would wake up to every tiny little sound/move she made and how this would later set the tone for this sleep pattern even after she was moved down the hall to her room.
About 6 weeks in I read a book that would absolutely save our lives: The Happiest Baby on the Block. Not only did this book help with Baby G's awake hours (which were pretty rough due to her acid reflux and colic), but it renewed my resolve to figure out a way to swaddle that baby so she couldn't escape so cleverly. Enter: The Miracle Blanket! OMGOMGOMGOMG... best invention EVER! The first night we used this glory of modern science, that little girl slept for 5 HOURS STRAIGHT! When I woke up and realized how long she had been asleep, I sort of freaked out thinking something was wrong. Isn't it amazing how something as great as 5 glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep in the first few months MUST mean something is wrong?? She was fine, of course and 5 hour stints of sleep became a much more regular occurrence in the house. The Miracle Blanket was also such an awesome sleep cue that we could literally wrap up a completely awake baby, lay her down, and she would be out like a light in under a minute. I cannot praise this invention enough!
Eventually, Baby G just got too darned big for the Miracle Blankets. She was also getting too darned big for her little bassinet. It was getting closer to the time where we needed to ween her off of the blanket and also move her into her room in her crib. We started with just one thing, the blanket. I didn't want to completely overwhelm her with too many changes at once, but the crib/own room move came pretty quickly after because Baby G had a habit of lifting her legs up in the air and slamming them down in her bassinet over and over and over again. I called it, "the mermaid" and while she was able to sleep through it, I was not.
Once we made the decision to move her, I felt a lot of sadness. I liked having my baby so close to me at night. I liked hearing her breathe softly and I liked her little sleep sighs. It was probably way harder on me to move her to her own room than it was on her. To make me feel better, I decided I would sleep in her room with her, on the floor, for the first few nights as she made the transition to her crib. It was rough for about a week or so, but she finally started sleeping for longer periods of time again. Sadly, to get her to sleep in her crib we had to hold her until she fell asleep and then, with cat-like ninja reflexes, deposit her into the crib. If we failed, she wailed. Baby G went from a baby who would fall right asleep with the Miracle Blanket to a baby who would take up to an hour to get to sleep each night. Then, when she woke up for her middle of the night feeding, it would start all over again. We started feeling the sleep deprivation again and realized it was time to do something different because we weren't doing ourselves or Baby G any favors with the status quo.
I had been opposed to any sort of Cry It Out methods from before Baby G was even born. It never made sense to me to let my baby wail on for hours and hours if there was something I could do to nurture her and help her. I honestly don't believe babies are manipulative and get "spoiled" by your attention, but I do believe some positive attention can help reassure them that you are there for them when you are trying to get them to do something new. I started doing some research and read up on the Ferber Method. I thought it was worth a try because while it employed a few of the Cry It Out (CIO) methods, it did not just leave the baby to cry for hours at a time with no intervention. It offered a positive way to reassure while teaching sleep independence.
I knew the first week of Ferberization would be rough, but I figured it would benefit all of us in the long-run. I couldn't have been more right! Not only did Baby G never really spend much of her CIO time actually crying (more like Babble It Out), but within a week we were able to put her down still awake and have her put herself to sleep in under 10 minutes. Bedtime went from a 1 hour + commitment to a 10-15 minute painless event. Baby G also started to learn how to put herself back to sleep if she woke up accidentally, which required no intervention on our end. This led to better sleep for all of us in the long run.
Currently, Baby G is one year old and goes to bed around 7:30 each evening. Her routine includes putting her night-night diaper on, getting lotioned up with the nighttime lotion, putting on her PJs, brushing her teeth, taking her medi (medicine), saying goodnight to all of her stuffed animals (one by one), getting one last bottle (in the dark with her Constellation Turtle on), getting her bedtime binky, then putting her down (still awake) in her crib with her Pony Lovey (a soft towel-like toy with a pony head and tail). She is usually put down on her back and before I can leave the room, she grabs Pony Lovey and rolls into a corner of the crib, face down. Sometimes she babbles for a bit before she succumbs to sleep, but most of the time she's just... out. She sleeps until around 5:00 or 6:00 am when she wakes up wanting a bottle (hungry, thirsty, just wants a little attention? Not sure of her motivations, but we oblige them), then she gets put back down for another hour or two of sleep. She usually wakes up around 8:00 or so for the day. Baby G gets good sleep, we get good sleep, it's a win-win situation!
Eventually Baby G will get her crib transformed into a big-girl toddler bed (where she will have the ability to get out of her bed bringing a whole new realm of adventures), then again into a big-girl actual bed, and eventually she will become a teenager and getting her to go to bed before 1:00 am and then dragging her out of bed the following morning will be a near impossibility, but for now... we ALL rest and it is superb!