By the time Theo was 10 weeks old, we could count on him sleeping through the night. All we had to do was feed him, rock him for a few minutes, and lay him in his bed. He was out like a light from 9pm-7am. We were feeling pretty confident about our awesome routine and how well he was adhering to it.
Around the time Theo hit 4 months, a couple of things happened. First, I learned through work about a baby who was born 5 days before Theo who was a rule-following back sleeper. He was placed on his belly at the babysitter and ended up becoming hypoxic and nearly died. He had seizures and suffered irreversible brain damage and will forever be a different baby, child, and adult. And that was the end of Theo sleeping on his belly.
His adjustment to back sleeping was fair to good. Better than expected, I guess. There were a few rough nights but it was less than a week and he was sleeping through the night again. Just when we thought things were back on track, he started teething. Life has never been the same.
He started waking up repeatedly throughout the night whimpering and whining. We would put his pacifier back in his mouth and he would easily fall back asleep. And the hubby would go back to sleep. But me? When I wake up in the night, I am on high alert. Since I had Theo, I can't easily go back to sleep after he's been awake. I think it's anxiety that as soon as I go to sleep I will have to get up again, which is even more exhausting than just staying awake.
But for the last two months, Theo is needing more and more attention to get back to sleep. Rocking. Singing. Bouncing. Pacifier replacements. All of this is fine at 8:30pm but not at 3am. But we do it instead of letting him cry because it's faster. Lately, it hasn't been working. This is where we are now...
Last week I decided to try a modified version of "crying it out," also known as Ferberizing, which involves going into his room at set intervals and saying the same thing to him so he is reassured, but never picking him up. The first night, it went so much smoother than I expected. He cried, which didn't amount to much more than moaning and groaning, for about 25 minutes and then he went to sleep. The next night, it was bloody murder and I picked him up. The next night it was bloody murder and I picked him up and ended up nursing him. So much for Ferber. Then he started throwing the bloody murder screaming fits during the day. We have been averaging 4 hours of sleep a night with Theo's ups and downs. Tonight, I stuck to my guns and let him cry again. I checked on him every 5-6 minutes for an HOUR. It was torture for both of us. His entire face was soaked with tears and every time I went in his room, the crying got more intense. I knew he wasn't hungry and he had been in a good mood all day so I was pretty certain he wasn't in pain.
But the thing is, you can't know that for sure. He looks so desperate. I want to help him be able to self-soothe. I need to get more sleep. But how do I know if he is in pain or if he is just so tired and he's not getting the cuddling that he's used to, so that makes him hysterical? It is impossible to know and I keep going back and forth about this.
Is it a growth spurt? Is it a behavior? Is he in pain? Should I pick him up? If I do, am I reinforcing the behavior, in turn making both of our lives more difficult, or am I giving my infant the attention he needs?
No one said it would be easy. Now I understand why.