The Sleep Chronicles: Jessica Lynn’s Story

Today I’ve got another edition of the sleep chronicles – this one from my friend Jessica (perfect name, right?).  Jessica is a military wife and mom who just got back from being stationed in Italy.  She’s one of my favorite daily reads, and her little girl Julia is only 2 1/2 months younger than Abbie!  Enjoy!

Before I tell you who I am and share our saga about sleep (or lack thereof), I need to tell you that I’ll be knocking on wood while I write this entire post. Julia, my 9-month-old daughter) now sleeps around 10 hours straight at night, but that is the absolute complete opposite of what it used to be like. And, because I don’t want to jinx things, if you have some wood near you right now, I’d appreciate a little *knock knock* to help us out!

Now that that’s out of the way, hi! I’m Jessica and I write over at Jessica Lynn Writes. My daughter was born one week late and way too close to midnight this past March. I’m wondering now if the fact that she was born late at night attributes to what a little night owl she sometimes is. Like most babies at the beginning, Julia had her days and nights confused for a couple weeks. Those were the dark days; the days seasoned parents forget to tell you about. But then, one day, she slept through the night. I remember that night very distinctly, because I woke up engorged for the first time and I freaked out, thinking something was wrong with her. Unfortunately, those long sleeps didn’t last long. In fact, except for once in a very blue moon, it would be another seven months before either of us slept all the way through the night.

Early on, we dealt with feeding issues. Julia wasn’t gaining enough weight, so per the lactation consultant and doctor’s recommendations, I started nursing her every three hours…even at night. When you get so engrained into a schedule like that, it’s hard to pull away and change, so for about four months, I fed her every three hours…even at night. It was exhausting for both of us. Around month four, I desperately needed more sleep and Julia adapted by going every four hours before wanting to eat at night. I greatly welcomed that extra hour and learned how to thrive with just four-hour increments of sleep. Actually, I would go to bed pretty early, just because I knew she’d be up a few times during the night, and going to bed at 8 pm was the only way I knew I’d get around three to four hours of sleep.

Just when we had a good thing going for us, we moved…across the world. Thanks to the military, we were living in Italy, but our time was up, so we moved back to America when she was four months old. Only the tale doesn’t stop there. Our final destination was Georgia, but we lived in Alabama for three months before we got there. When all was said and done, we spent 80 consecutive nights in hotel rooms. Eighty nights in a hotel room….yeah.

Those 11 weeks were extremely difficult, because living in a hotel room (a one bedroom with a tiny “living area”) didn’t leave us with many options when it came to sleep. I wanted to start going to bed a little later than 8 pm, but Julia was not keen on sleeping in her pack ‘n play. We would put her down for the night and she would just cry, and cry, and cry, but instead of letting her cry it out, we’d have to pick her up since we were sharing a paper thin wall with the room next door. I don’t know if she as going through a growth spurt or had a crazy case of separation anxiety, but the second we’d put her down, she’d scream. Repeat that scenario multiple times every night.

The middle-of-the-night wake-ups were absolutely horrible. I was exhausted, my husband was tired, and all Julia wanted to do was NOT sleep. One of us would have to bounce her or sway her, while humming or singing to her, and then she’d maybe go to sleep. I’d be lying if I said my husband and I made it out of that dark time without some tears or 3 a.m. fights. It was rough.

In order to get some sleep during the end of those three months of hotel-living, we started co-sleeping. It just sort of happened, but it was the only way we could somewhat function during the day. Co-sleeping meant Julia had free range to nurse all night, which also meant I had constant sore nipples (from poor latching) and I was always achy from sleeping weird. On the plus side, I got a tad bit more sleep on those nights.

Unfortunately, her naps during the day were just as bad as sleeping at night. I started planning trips outside of that room around nap time just so she could sleep in the car. We thought her restless sleeping had something to do with the pad in her Pack ‘n Play, so we ordered a mattress for it, but that didn’t make a lick of difference. This was also the season of the 45-minute nap—if we were extremely lucky. Most of the time she would either miss a nap or “nap” for 15-30 minutes. I had friends with babies the same age tell me about these hour+ naps their baby would take and I’d be green with envy. Sleep was just not on my child’s agenda.

don’t worry, she was absolutely strapped in before I took this picture. She wiggled and then went right back to sleep!

Of course, I took to twitter to rant and complain about our sleep—or lack thereof—issues. Jess was always there to support me and tell me that I wasn’t crazy for what we were going through. She kept mentioning The Ferber Method and how great it was for her daughter, so I decided to give it a shot when we moved into our house. I bought the book for my Kindle and read almost the entire thing on our drive from Alabama to Georgia.

My husband was on board with trying this out, so when we got to our completely empty house, we blew up our air mattress in the living room and set up the pack ‘n play in her room and settled in for a long night ahead of us. Jess has talked about The Ferber Method before, but the gist is that you put the child down still awake and then go in to reassure them everything’s okay. If she’s still awake and fussing, you check on her at different increments (3 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 7 minutes, etc.) My husband and I were both excited and scared to try this.

On that very first night, Julia went down after the first attempt and slept for six hours straight!

The rest, my new friends, is history. We still have bad nights where she’s up a few times a night (mostly when she’s cutting a tooth), and I still sometimes feed her once or twice at night, but she goes back to sleep quickly and easily. The longest she’s slept straight is 11 hours, but the average is around 10 hours. I would have laughed in your face if you told three months ago that she’d sleep through the night. I’m not sure if the Ferber Method is what actually worked for us, or if it was more of a combination of things (her being in her own room, different stage of her life, etc.)

Here’s our nightly routine:
5-5:30ish: She eats dinner (nursing and then puree or whatever we have for dinner)
5:30-7:30: play time.
7:30: bath time
7:45: nurse her again; give her about 3-4 ounces of milk
8 pm: sleeping like a baby…finally 🙂

Her naps are also a lot better now. We figured out that she needs to go to sleep—and this will sound crazy—two hours and fifteen minutes after she woke up from her last nap. All I know is that it works and she’ll sleep for at least an hour if that’s when she goes down. I vowed to never be “one of those parents” who lives by a schedule, but this works, so this is what we’ll do for now. We’re also flexible about it; if we’re out, I’ll wear her in an Ergo and she’ll usually take a nap right then and there.

Never in a million years did I ever imagine how challenging it would be to get a baby to, well, sleep like a baby. We still have rough nights and I know there will be more sleepless nights in the future, but I finally feel good about the way things are now.

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If you’re a mom who’s interested in sharing her child’s sleep story, please let me know!  I’m currently looking for more stories!  Email me at [email protected]!
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