My first blog post ever was about Sophie’s sleep issues. They’re so endemic that I haven’t mentioned them much since. But in case you don’t recall: Sophie didn’t sleep through the night until she was eleven months old. By “didn’t sleep through the night,” I don’t mean just one or two night wakings. I mean up every three or four hours. I mean up so often that I never got to enter deep REM sleep. Up so often that I began to forget words, like a senile senior. Up so often that I watched “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” with disturbing sympathy (it’s a movie classic from 1969, really worth watching, even if you’re not sleep-deprived).
After eleven months, I finally got deep sleep. Now, Sophie is usually up only once or twice a night. Once a month or so, she actually sleeps through the night. Still, her sleep is fragile.
Our Christmas travel threw off her precarious sleep. A few nights ago, she woke up at 1 am and didn’t get back to sleep till 4:30. She was screaming crying most of that time. I cycled through my bag of middle-of-the-night tricks: hugging her, rocking her, nursing her, showing her the dark trees in our backyard, helping her say “nighty-night” to everything in sight, singing lullabies. Then I would leave her alone again, to try to fall asleep. We had a half-hour of soothing, then a half-hour of sobbing screaming and sometimes even head-banging, repeated for most of the wee hours of the night. In the morning, I felt like a battle-survivor.
The next night, she was up every 3 hours.
If she were a newborn, I might endure this, but she’s nineteen months old. Last night was actually much better: she woke up only at midnight and 1 am (which is really just like one long waking), and then when she woke up at 6am, she actually went back to sleep and slept in till 8. That’s an incredibly good night for us. I felt so happy today, it was like the sun was shining more brightly. Parenthood was more fun. Sophie kept on making me laugh, today, delightfully. I think I had forgotten how easy it is to enjoy life when I get more than 5 hours of sleep.
I wish I knew what to do to help her sleep better. We read every sleep-book in our library. We have good routines, a comfortable crib (not too many toys, but not too stark), good blankets, a fairly consistent schedule. She goes to bed easily at 7:30pm – that’s not the problem. It’s staying asleep that’s the problem.
Even her brilliant Daycare Teacher struggled to get her to put herself to sleep, and even DT can’t get her to stay asleep with the other kids. DT has compromised by teaching Sophie that when she wakes up, she must quietly play by herself until naptime is over. DT has done this so well that watching Sophie after a nap is actually one of my favorite things. Today, when she woke up at home, she quietly tucked in her teddy-bear, elaborately kissing the bear good night and shushing me, before exhuberantly attempting head-stands in her crib. She was in no hurry to leave that crib. It’s as if she doesn’t remember the middle-of-the-night screaming.
After we tried everything else, we even tried a modified cry-it-out method, but we can’t bear to let her cry for more than about 45 minutes. So I still soothe her most of the time, most nights, and keep hoping that this will pass. If any of my blog-readers have any suggestions, I’m all ears, and bleary eyes.