Yes, we're back in sleep hell. Shouldn't we be past all this by now?

We nightweaned Liam several months ago. But he never really "took" to it - the kid likes his nursies. Unlike other kids who get nightweaned and immediately start sleeping through the night, Liam continued to wake up at least twice a night. And one of those wakeups - around 3 or 4 am - could often involve extended tantrums as Eric tried to get him to go back to sleep (I was sleeping down the hall, in the hopes that the absence of milk would make it all less tempting). And even if Eric succeeded in getting him back to sleep, he was "done" by 5 am and convinced it was time to get up for the day.

Around ConFusion, things got weird. We had people in from out of town, so we ended up all sleeping in the same room together. Liam got a huge case of separation anxiety and mom-clinginess upon my return from being gone three nights for ConFusion. We spent the weekend after ConFusion at my sister's house, and didn't want Liam to wake up the whole house with a middle of the night tantrum. All of that combined to mean that we added back in a nighttime nursing session around 4.

That worked great for a while, actually, because Liam would go back to sleep and sleep until 6 or (gasp) even 7. Then he started wanting to nurse at midnight or 1 am too. Because of the separation anxiety thing, he would totally freak out if I wasn't there, and not let Eric help him back to sleep.

We decided that this just wasn't working for us anymore, and we needed to try the nightweaning again. We put if off for a while, I think because we thought it was just going to be horrendous. And the first night wasn't pleasant, and none of us got much sleep. But after that, nighttimes quickly got better. It's been pretty easy to get him back to sleep after his first wakeup, although the 3 or 4 am one is much harder. Unlike last time, where Eric got to do all the work and I got to sleep in the separate room, this time has been much harder, since only mom will do, even if we're not nursing.

But as the nighttime was getting a little better, something else was getting worse - bedtime. We'd been doing beautifully on bedtime. We have a routine we've been using for a long time now. As we reached the end of the routine, Liam would indicate he was ready for sleep, I'd put him into his bed, pull the covers up, and we'd be done by 8 pm every night. Fabulous. Then bedtime started drifting later and later. We'd start his routine as usual, but he just wouldn't get sleepy. He wants to read book after book. Once we say we're done with books and try to get him to lie down, he rolls all around and just can't settle. It's like he's too wound up to sleep (something his insomniac mom can relate to). Last night he didn't fall asleep until almost 9:30.

Some people have suggested to us that maybe he just wants a later bedtime. And as inconvenient as that would be for us (I like having a little bit of time in the evening, and we often have things scheduled assuming that he'll fall asleep by 8 or near to it), if that were really the case then we'd work with it. But the thing is - the later he goes to bed, the worse he sleeps. He wakes up more frequently, is more restless, and gets up earlier in the morning. All signs of a kid who's not getting *enough* sleep.

Complicating all of this is that lately I've been really really sleepy between 7 and 8, the time that we're donig the bedtime routine. If I were willing to read him books for another 15 minutes, we might able to shave a half hour off the end of bedtime. But I get soooo sleepy I just can't do it. Every other word is a yawn. I'm feeling extremely burned out on bedtime.

According to the sleep books, the solution is an *earlier* bedtime. Which is hard for us with common meal at 6:15. We need to be more consistent about coming home as soon as we're done eating, instead of giving Liam time to play. Because 1) that excites him and 2) it would let us start his bedtime 15 minutes earlier. I think we also need to shorten his bath, because I think he finds it exciting rather than calming. It's after the bath, when we go upstairs, that he starts really bouncing off the walls. Up until now it had been working well to have book reading and nursing happen in a room different from where he was going to sleep, but now I think that the transition is causing problems. So we should consolidate all the bedtime activities into one room. Being read to, or having stories told after the lights go off, does seem to help him relax and let go and fall asleep, but as I said, I can only read so long. The sleep book suggests using a storytelling CD for kids who like that, so I think we should try that.

Hopefully shaking up our bedtime routine will help and we'll get back to something more sane soon.
So my recent posts about my stepmom and the whole weaning thing have been percolating in my mind, and I thought I'd note a couple of other bits.

Extended nursing isn't about nutrition. Sure, there are some calories, vitamins and minerals, immunological benefits. But those are just side effects. If Liam is hungry, he'll ask for a cracker or some cheese. If he's thirsty, he'll ask for some water or juice. If he wants comfort and connection and closeness, he'll ask to nurse. Put yourself inside a toddler's head for a moment, and you'll see that nursing is a comfort unilke any other comfort. It's rooted deep in biology - the drive to nurse is what's kept him alive. It's been a constant from the very beginning. It triggers hormonal releases that relax and calm. It's an entire sensory experience - smells, tastes, feeling of skin on skin - all things that drive us in our physical relationships as adults. People who have never nursed a child, or nursed one into toddlerhood, probably don't realize this, since the popular culture just thinks of breastfeeding as a different baby bottle, if they think of it at all.

When my stepmom tried to insist that I should unceremoniously cut him off, when he could and was asking for it, the idea of doing it struck me as such a violent act. Yet we have recently forced nightweaning on him, when he would certainly have preferred the status quo to remain. Why does the one bother me, but the other does not? The nursing at night was incurring great costs on all of us - sleep deprivation, and the degradation of parenting ability that accompanies it, declining immune system performance. To force the issue had its own costs, but on the balance, nightweaning was the clear winner. But nursing him the rest of the time costs me very little, if anything at all. As the last two weekends have shown, I'm not chained to him - he can and does go without nursing when I'm not around. When we're together, it's an enjoyable thing for both of us - it's one of the few times where he's even remotely still while being held, and I can smell his baby smell and stroke his baby skin. As long as we're both okay with it, what reasons would we have for stopping?
It would seem so. At least, so long as Mommy is no where to be seen or smelled. Liam hasn't nursed at night since Thursday, October 20th. He was with his grandparents for 4 nights since that time, and with just his Daddy the rest of them. Starting this past Saturday, he seems to be doing something awfully close to the much anticipated "sleeping through the night." He's still waking up, but (according to Eric) he's just giving a "Wah" then rolling over and going back to sleep on his own, not waking up enough to need to be attended to until 5 am or so. I'm sleeping great in the room down the hall and am perhaps caught up on my sleep for the first time in nearly two years. Eric is faring less well down the hall, thanks to the "wahs" and the feeling of needing to keep one ear open for Liam.

Next thing we need to do is either move me back into the bedroom, or move Liam out into his own room. I'm just not sure what the best approach is at this point. I'm thinking we wait at least a couple more days for him to settle into his new routine. And for me to get over this cold with it's hacking and coughing. But then we'll have to figure out what to do next.

He's off!

Oct. 29th, 2005 08:07 am
Liam, that is. Sent the little guy off with his grandparents yesterday morning. You know they must really love him, if they'd take him again after last weekend's 5 hour long "I want to nurse" temper tantrum in the wee hours of Sunday morning! He was a little standoffish with my stepmom on Thursday - she thinks he's "blaming" her for not being able to nurse at night anymore (we took advantage of a 2-night headstart to try nightweaning again, and it's not been over a week. You can read more about it in Eric's post, if you want). But he warmed up to her later in the day. I figured that if he were really traumatized by last week's experience (not that we actually think so, mind you) that it would show when we tried to load him into my parents truck on Friday morning. But he ran right over to it and tried to climb up into it himself, then gave me a happy wave goodbye when he was all loaded into his car seat, so I guess not.

It's been a relaxed baby-free weekend so far. Last night Eric went with [ profile] scottij to a booze tasting (Scotch, Cognac, you name it). I was the designated driver and dropped them off and picked them up. In between I went back to Scott and Sue's house and held baby Jessie while Sue gave Alex his dinner (tough job). Then I came home and did a bunch of ConFusion election related things and watched an episode of Iron Chef before running back out to pick Eric up. Then I went to bed. :-( I've got a cold, see, and I felt just awful. But I did take a long hot bath with jets in the jacuzzi tub before going to bed, so that was nice.

We have yet to figure out what we're doing during the day today, although cleaning the house is the number one contender right now. With Eric taking night duty with Liam, he's been too tired in the evenings to do his usual near-obsessive tidying, and while I've been trying to pick up the slack some, I'm not as motivated as Eric is. The tidying won't take long, but the floors desparately need to swept and mopped, as there are graham cracker crumbs everywhere, and yogurt spills in places suprisingly far from Liam's high chair.

Tonight we're going to dinner at Emily's in Northville to celebrate my birthday. After that we're going to stop by the Stilyagi Hallowe'en party, where we're voting for Guests of Honor for ConFusion 2007. I fear that will be shorter stop than would be nice, but if I feel tonight like I did last night, I'm going to want to go to bed early. We'll see. I'm looking forward to dinner. We were supposed to be going to Alinea in Chicago for my birthday dinner, but alas, we decided that Eric had been out of work too long to make the Chicago trip financially feasible.

Tomorrow we'll go out to the trailer to pick Liam up and spend the afternoon there. They've got a nice warm indoor pool and hottub that I'm looking forward too, and maybe even some mini golf if the weather is okay. We'll have dinner there and then load Liam into the car at bedtime.
So it seems we're taking a little step back. Last night Liam slept pretty well until 3:30 or so. He had a brief wake up around midnight but was comforted by shushing and patting. Around 3:30 he woke up clearly in distress, crying and wanting to nurse. So we did. At this point, one nursing session at night is certainly better than 2 or 3 or 4 like before, so if that's all he's ready for right now, then I'm going to respect that and go with the flow. We'll give him some time to settle into this new routine, then work on that last nursing session later.
So last night Liam woke up at 1 am. He's teething (when isn't he teething?) so we gave him some Tylenol. He was really hard to settle - pulling at my shirt wanting to nurse and crying. Eric was able to get him to fall back to sleep by getting up, turning the music on, and walking around with him, but it was tough and he sounded so sad.

Then he woke up at 2 am. This time we were able to get him back to sleep without getting out of bed, but he was restless.

Then he woke up at 3 am. The whole point of this nightweaning thing was supposed to be to help all of us get a better night's sleep. Clearly not working last night, so I gave in and nursed him back to sleep. He slept until 6, when he woke up and wanted to nurse quite a bit more, and eventually we got out of bed.

He was quite out of sorts first thing this morning. His mouth must hurt something awful - not only was he biting my thumb, but he was biting the fleshy part of his own hand hard enough to leave teeth marks! He'd yelp with pain, and then DO IT AGAIN! Silly baby, but clearly the need to bite was strong (and he doesn't care much for teethers).

So, more painkillers, and some breakfast, and now he seems a happy little camper, pushing his penguin around the house and playing peacefully by himself.

Don't know what to do about the nightnursing thing. He's requiring being nursed to sleep at night now, something he hasn't wanted in months. Is that becaue his night nursing needs aren't being met? I could deal with nursing him more at bedtime if that meant I didn't have to do it at night - that's an easy tradeoff. But I'm worried that by doing it we're reestablishing the nursing/sleep association, which is making him want to nurse when he wakes up in the middle of the night. Not to mention making it more difficult for his dad or a babysitter to get him to bed.

Back before we impulsively began all of this, I was saying that I didn't think he was ready to nightwean. Then he seemed to prove me wrong. Now, he might be showing me that he's really not ready. But after a couple of weeks of something resembling normal sleep after months and months of sleep deprivation, I really, really don't want to go backwards. Which is of course in major conflict with my general parenting philosophy of being sensitive and responsive to my baby's needs...

For the meantime, we'll just continue to play it by ear and do what seems right in the moment and at the time.
I stopped writing these updates after night 6, because I figured if he hadn't nursed in a week we must be done the actual nightweaning. Apparently Mr. Liam disagrees. He gave me a heck of a time last night, waking up at 12, 3, 4:30 and 5, when I finally gave in. Eric's away, so it was just me there to reach out and pat him, so maybe he wanted some extra security. Or me letting him nurse almost to sleep a couple of times yesterday was rebuilding the sleep association we're trying to break.

It wasn't too too bad, but at 5 I decided that I really needed to get a little more sleep if I was going to be functional today.
Definitely our best night yet. Only one mid-night wake up, and he was patted back to sleep relatively easily, no need to get out of bed. I don't think the first morning wakeup/nursing really counts as a wake-up, but today's came at 5:40, and we fell back asleep until 7. Go us!

Eric might disagree however, as Liam was hogging the bed quite a bit and Eric felt cramped over on his side. How such a little person can take up so much room on the bed is one of the great questions of cosleepers everywhere, but I think the sleeping sideways has something to do with it...
So the last two nights have been pretty good. Sadly, Liam is not one of those fabled babies who gets nightweaned and immediately starts sleeping through the night. We're still getting 2 or 3 or 4 wakeups, depending on the night and how you count. But it's generally a little faster to pat him back to sleep than it was to nurse him, especially when you count in the time it takes me to fall back to sleep - nursing would wake me up completely, and then I'd take a long time to fall back to sleep. I can pat Liam without having to fulling wake up. Plus Eric can play too! My body is already thanking me for no longer forcing it to lie in strange positions all night long to facilitate nursing, so that's a HUGE win.

I'd set 6 am as our time that we could resume nursing, but when Liam woke up Tuesday morning at 5:30, I gave in. He was particularly insistent, and I knew it would take me a half hour to resettle him anyway. Or I could just nurse him then and chances are we'd both fall back asleep until 7 or so. Which is exactly what happened. This morning, however, he was being insistent about nursing at 5:00. Keep this pattern going and soon we'll be back to the all night nurse-a-thon! So as much as I just wanted to go back to sleep, I forced myself to keep patting him and resettling him and soothing him, and he did eventually drift off until a more appropriate 5:45-ish time. And afterwards we both fell back to sleep until 7.
I knew last night would be a hard night. It's one thing for Liam to go without nursing when there's no boobies to be had, and another thing to go without when they're *right there.* Plus, he was teething like a fiend, and clearly in a lot of pain.

That said, it went better than it could have. The teething meant we had a pretty tough time getting him down to sleep in the first place. I brought him into bed with me at 10:30 and he stayed asleep. He woke up at 12 though, and almost immediately started screaming. Even before any refusal to nurse could have entered his consciousness, so I'm pretty sure that was mostly the teething pain. Unfortunately, Eric had fallen asleep on the couch, so I was on my own. I desparately needed to pee before doing anything else, so poor Liam got quite upset on his own in the bed while I ran down the hall to the bathroom. I gave Liam some more painkillers, and between Eric and I we got him back to sleep within a half hour or so.

At 3:00, another round of waking up screaming. More painkillers (we alternate Tylenol and Ibuprofen, so it's okay to overlap dosing schedules on really bad nights). This time he was more clearly demonstrating a desire to nurse, and frustrated that he couldn't, so Eric took point on walking him down. But he was very restless, and I think it was about 4 am before we were all back to sleep.

At 6:00, he started squirming. Luckily no screaming this time. 6 am is when I've decided night is over and morning has begun, so we went ahead and nursed, and the both of us fell back asleep until shortly after 7.

Hard to say how much of his upset was teething pain and how much was frustration about the nursing. Almost certainly it was a combination of both. I felt a little bad about not nursing, especially since I know he likes to nurse when he's teething, but if we're doing this, I felt it was really important to be consistent about it, and I didn't want to backslide after two nights of good forward progress. Hopefully he'll be feeling better tonight and it will go more smoothly. And really, I've heard much worse nightweaning experiences from other people.
So, last night seems to have been an unqualified success! Eric went to bed at 11, picking Liam up out of the pack-n-play and bringing him to bed with him. He didn't wake up while being moved. Eric fell asleep, and woke up at 3 am because Liam was squirming a little bit in his sleep. Given that he *always* wakes up at 12:30, this is a huge step! Eric patted him for a while and eventually he calmed back down. But he woke again and 5, and this time Eric had to get out of bed and get him some tylenol - he seems to be in some teething pain lately. I came home at 6, and Liam woke up around 6:45. And now he's been napping for nearly two hours - time to go check on him.

I slept fine. A couple/few less wake ups than the night before, I think.

Tonight I come back to bed with the boys, and that will be the big test. Hopefully two nights with no nursing will have broken the habit, and he won't be too upset if he wants to nurse and I won't let him.
Well, by all reports night one of my sleep vacation went swimmingly. I was able to fall asleep easily over in the common house around 9:30. I woke up a while later, feeling like I'd been deeply asleep for hours and hours, and it was - wait for it - 11 pm. Which is one of Liam's usual wake up times, so it's not a surprise that I woke up - he and I are pretty in sync. Woke up again at 12:30, which, Eric reports, was Liam's big wake up for the night, and the only one they had to get up out of bed for. He was apparently fairly upset, but Eric walked him around and put his music on, and he fell back to sleep pretty quickly.

I woke up once between 12:30 and 5, but didn't look at the clock. At 5 I woke up ravenously hungry, and had a really hard time getting back to sleep. But eventually I did manage it, and had a dream about trying to drive a hybrid motorcycle and not being able to figure out how to turn it on. At 6 I woke up again, quite uncomfortably engorged with milk, and came home.

Liam was fast asleep when I got here, so I cuddled up with Eric and he told me about their night. Aside from the 12:30 wakeup, Liam was mostly just restless, and could be soothed by Eric reaching out and patting him. He woke up enough to sit up a couple of times, and would look around for me, seeming a little confused. But he'd go back to sleep easily when Eric laid him back down. Sometime between 5 and 6 he woke up and started babbling and playing with Eric's beard, and Eric figured he was up for the day. But then Liam lied down and went back to sleep, and that's how I found him when I got here just after 6.

He finally woke up around 7, and was happy to take care of my little engorgement problem. My intuition that he wasn't getting much nutrition from his night nursing proved to be correct - while I grew fuller slowly through the night, even at my 5 am waking I wasn't full enough to be sore. Milk production kicked up between 5 and 6, which is when Liam usually starts nursing with more seriousness.

I was worried about Liam feeling abandoned by me, but so far today he's shown no sign of unusual clinginess or anything, so as long as today is a good day, I think we'll try it again tonight, in the hopes that this will get us on a solid start towards nightweaning, and hopefully, someday, sleeping through the night.
Earlier in the week, after a particularly bad night, I told Eric that I needed a sleep vacation. We've tried having me sleep in the other room, so Eric can handle Liam's wake ups, but I hear them and wake up anyway, so it doesn't really help that much. But as luck would have it, the common house guest room wasn't booked this weekend! So tonight I'll be sleeping over there. Hopefully sleeping, anyway - I'm not very good at sleeping in new beds. And if Liam wakes up and is truly inconsolable, then Eric will call me on my cell phone and I'll come home.

I've also booked the common house for tomorrow night. If we're lucky, and tonight goes well, then I'll stay away tomorrow night too and that should put us well on the path to nightweaning. Liam only nursed briefly twice last night, although he did wake up at least once more and need to be comforted back to sleep . And he spent most of the night curled up right next to his daddy, so I think we're in a good place to try this experiment tonight.

Cross your fingers, folks.


Jun. 14th, 2005 11:13 am
I know, I know, you're all sick and tired of hearing me complain about sleep. But gosh this whole insomnia/sleep trouble thing is annoying. Right now, I'm so sleepy. If I had a bed, I could curl up on it and be out. Yesterday, driving home from work, same thing. 10 pm last night, when I'm trying to go to bed? Wide awake. Not sleepy at all. Sooo annoying.

I've got a real quandary here. I don't think Liam is ready to nightwean, and forcing him to do it would be hard on all of us. But getting no sleep is killing me. I'd like to try taking trazadone again. It's approved for cautious use during breastfeeding, and I'd feel more comfortable using it if Liam was nightweaned, as then there'd be a 10 hour gap (give or take) between my taking it and him nursing.

Ugh. I was thinking I'd try to make it until Liam was 16 months old before I started forcing the nightweaning issue. But nighttimes are just getting so hard, especially with this heat and humidity, when the last thing I want is a sweaty baby with a mouth full of sharp little teeth attached to me for hours at a time.
The follow on to my earlier "sleeping babies" post.

So, I've been thinking about how long Liam and I are going to keep doing this nursing thing. I'm a definite supporter of child led weaning as an ideal. But I don't think I'm going to be able to live up to that ideal. And for the most part I'm okay with that. I love seeing and hearing about the nursing toddlers in our community, but I have to acknowledge that I just don't think I have the temperment to support it.

Eric and I are going away to Chicago for my birthday in October, and Liam will be staying with my parents for the weekend. The trip will be easier for all of us if he's night-weaned by then. Lately the night nursing has been getting harder and harder on me - I can't fall asleep while he's nursing, it takes me a long time to fall asleep after he's done nursing, and if it's a bad night, I get hardly any sleep before he's up again.

But nightweaning is going to be difficult. All of my attempts to otherwise help him back to sleep in the middle of the night have been largely ineffective. He's used to latching on before he even totally wakes up. If I'm not there to nurse or don't want to nurse him, he ends up waking up fully and needing more intensive effort to resettle. And even though I'm not sleeping when he's nursing, at least I'm lying down in bed instead of having to walk him around or something, where I'd wake up even more. There's a (hopefully) short period of time where things have to get worse in terms of sleepless nights before they get better, and I haven't been willing to go there yet. I was also hoping that we could wait until his verbal skills would allow him to potentially understand things like "no nursing until it's light outside," but he's not particularly precocious verbally, so that's probably still months away.

And then there's this - now that he's got top teeth, nursing is getting more uncomfortable. Sometimes he bites me - especially lately when he's been actively teething. Other times he whips his head around while still latched on, and scrapes my nipple with his teeth. But even more annoyingly (and not his fault), it's just that I can feel the pressure from his upper teeth all the time. And they're pointy little teeth, so that's often kinda painful. Not the sharp pain of a bite, but just a slight edge of pain that lasts for the entire nursing session and might actually be worse than the occasional bite. Liam does have a small mouth, and I think he doesn't/isn't able to open his mouth large enough to get a latch that's going to be comfortable.

If I'm dreading every nursing session because it hurts, that's not a good thing for a healthy, happy nursing relationship. But Liam loves to nurse, and up until recently I've quite enjoyed nursing him, so it's hard to contemplate stopping because of a little discomfort. Advice from moms on my list who've been there would be helpful.



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