The Sleep Chronicles: Laura’s Story

Today I’m excited to have another edition of the Sleep Chronicles for you!  Laura blogs over at Tiny Toes, Little Nose, and has a sweet little boy named Liam.  She’s a cloth-diapering (gotta love that) stay at home mama, and her blog is filled with stories of her little family.  She’s sharing her sleep story below!

Hi everyone, I’m Laura and I blog over at tiny toes, little nose.  I am a stay-at-home-mom, breastfeeding lactavist, and cloth diaper addict!  Being a mom is the best thing that has happened to me, and I am soaking up every minute with my sweet little boy, Liam.  He’s 17 months old now and keeps me busy all day long!  I love sharing our family’s adventures and experiences as we navigate our way through parenthood.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share a bit about our sleeping journey!  A huge thank you to Jess for starting this series and giving moms an opportunity to seek any advice or solace in another’s story.  Onto our story…. spoiler alert:  I have a terrible sleeper.  Just terrible.  But guess what isn’t terrible?  My attitude about it.

Before Liam was born, we had planned on having him sleep in our room.  Possibly in a pack ‘n play next to our bed, but I knew that he would spend a huge portion of the night in our bed as well since I would be breastfeeding.  When we brought Liam home from the hospital, his sleep habits were typical of a newborn baby.  He would wake about every 2 -3 hours, I would nurse him, and then we would both fall right back to sleep.  After the first month he started sleeping for 5+ hour stretches and we were thrilled!

We were never able to put him to bed wide awake, but other than that he seemed to have pretty great sleep habits.  By 2 months old, he was sleeping through the night (anywhere from 8-12 hours straight), so we started putting him in his crib in his own room!  We thought we were the luckiest parents in the world!!!  We had one of those mythical babies that was a perfect little sleeper.  It took my body about a week to adjust to him not nursing during the night, but eventually I stopped leaking all night long.  I have always had a bit of an oversupply, so I didn’t feel the need to pump at night.

I naively thought he would always be a wonderful sleeper; but my oh my was I absolutely shocked when Liam hit that 4 month sleep regression!  It hit us with full force!  Literally the night he turned 4 months (which happened to be Thanksgiving night) he started waking up every 2 hours.  It is extremely difficult to go from a full night’s sleep back to the constant waking.  We thought that surely this was a phase and it would pass…  Well it didn’t pass.  At 17 months old, Liam still wakes every 2 hours.  Every once in awhile he will have a 3-5 hour stretch of sleep, and it is heavenly, but those are a rare, rare occasion.
For the next two months, I really struggled with the lack of sleep.  It was apparent in how I looked and how I felt.  I thought I was surely the only mom with a baby that slept this horribly.  My husband and I briefly talked about “crying it out”, but we knew that it was not something we agreed with and that it certainly didn’t fit with our parenting style.  I also did not want to do anything that would harm our breastfeeding relationship; that was extremely important to me.  I read The No Cry Sleep Solution, but nothing seemed to help our situation.  On top of the constant wakings, it was becoming more and more difficult to get Liam down in his crib, because he would wake up the instant we put him in there.  My husband and I eventually decided that it wasn’t worth our efforts to get him in his crib since he was only sleeping in there for a couple hours anyway.  So at 6 months old and after a fair amount of research we went to co-sleeping full time.  Liam was starting to roll around on our bed quite a bit, so we also made the decision to drop our mattress to the floor so that if we weren’t there next to him we wouldn’t have to worry about him slipping off the edge of the bed.

This was hard for me.  I felt like dropping our mattress was such a permanent move towards co-sleeping and one that we would forever struggle with. While we both loved having those nighttime snuggles with Liam, it isn’t the norm in this country and I felt a little bit self conscious about this choice.  Us moms really need to stop worrying about what others think; trust your motherly instinct and go with it!  My biggest support ended up being the other moms at my local La Leche League.  Many of them co-slept with their babies and also nursed on demand like I was doing.  I heard several moms share their stories and their sleep struggles, and it was so comforting to know that I wasn’t alone.  Just knowing that there were other moms out there dealing with sleep deprivation and a baby that wanted to nurse all night long made a huge difference for me! It helped me understand that Liam was very much like many other babies out there and reassured me that I was making the right choices and those that I felt were best for him.

I immediately changed my attitude about our sleeping situation.  I realized that we did what was best for our family as a whole and most importantly, what was best for Liam.  Co-sleeping was how we maximized the sleep we were getting.  Even though I was still having interrupted sleep, I began to feel better & look better.  Having a positive attitude and deciding that this was our “normal” has been my saving grace.  
At 17 months old, our sleep schedule looks something like this: bath, pajamas, stories (if he’s patient enough), nurse to sleep in our bed.  It usually only takes me about 15 minutes to nurse him to sleep, and then I sneak out of our bedroom!  I consider this a huge victory.  We don’t spend much of our night trying to put him to sleep, so instead we get some much needed time to unwind from our day together before joining Liam in bed.  He wakes about every 2 hours, but is back to sleep in just a couple minutes by either nursing or just some snuggling on my chest.  He “sleeps” for about 12 hours a night and even likes to sleep in…thank goodness!  At least I have one small victory there!  Liam usually sleeps laying across me 70% of the night, which is a little rough on my back now that he weighs almost 24 pounds!  I try to stay awake long enough to lay him back down next to me, but usually I fall back to sleep almost instantly.  I know that Liam still loves being close to my heartbeat, so I will let him be my little baby for just awhile longer.  He can’t possibly still sleep on top of me when he is old enough to head off to kindergarten right?… šŸ™‚

I must say though, that I love co-sleeping!!!  I love that we are never up late at night trying to put a screaming child back to sleep.  I love that I never have to listen to his cries during a sleep training session.  I love that close bond that has been created with my son by being together.  I know him just as well as I know myself, maybe better.  I know that when I lay him down next to me, his 3rd breath will be a deep one and that will determine whether or not he will stay asleep.  I know the first word he says every morning and get to see the look on his face when he first wakes up.  I love being able to comfort him during a nightmare, or a new tooth, or a tummy ache.  I love that he can snuggle with his Dada and they get in some of that extra time that he misses during the work day.
Co-sleeping is not for every family, but it has been a huge blessing for ours.  For the moms out there that are really struggling with their little one’s sleep habits, I hope you can now understand that you are not alone. I encourage you to consider the alternatives and try new things to find what is best for you and your child.  Once I was able to change my attitude and expectations, it made all the difference.  So go hold your babies (or toddlers) a little closer and a little longer tonight.  I promise you that you won’t still be sharing your bed when your little one goes to college and that you won’t be nursing them between classes.  Enjoy these moments while you have them!

 

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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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8 Comments

  1. Courtney Wilson
    January 16, 2014 / 11:47 am

    I follow Laura from TTTN! Thank you for including her story in your blog. While I do not co-sleep I just appreciate that Laura would share her motherly sleep perspective, as unique as it may be to some. And, by the looks of it, Liam benefits as he appears super cuddly and has a great attachment to his mom. Sweet!

  2. Meghan Flinn
    January 16, 2014 / 11:56 am

    Oh I’m so glad I read this! While we don’t fully co-sleep, Noah always ends up in our bed. We also have a “terrible sleeper”. He did well from 3 months to 6 months but then started waking up multiple times a night. He’s now 14 months and still doesn’t sleep through the night. I rock him to sleep, put him in his crib, but he ends up with us between midnight and 3 am. He also loves to sleep hugging me and I have to admit I love it too. And I also love waking up with him. We have not lowered our bed so we have put pillows on either side, but this has definitely got me thinking!

  3. Jessica K
    January 16, 2014 / 12:06 pm

    wow Laura, this is a very beautiful and thoughtful post

  4. Sara McCarty
    January 16, 2014 / 2:04 pm

    I love this post! My toddler has never slept with us (despite my repeated attempts to get him to) because he gets so excited about being in our room with the dogs and cat and daddy and mommy that he just wakes up and squeals in sheer delight and is wide awake and wants to play! I’d love to be able to snuggle with him all night long. You’re a lucky mama. šŸ™‚

  5. Laura Keenan
    January 16, 2014 / 8:18 pm

    Thanks for having me Jess!

  6. KRISTIN F.
    January 17, 2014 / 8:53 am

    CO-sleeping is so controversial but I totally agree that you need to do what’s best for you, your baby and your family and should be able to do so without judgement! And thanks Jess for introducing me to Laura! šŸ™‚

  7. January 17, 2014 / 11:29 am

    Absolutely – loved having you hon!

  8. January 22, 2014 / 7:26 am

    We don’t cosleep but I agree with the other comments – it is so good to read other experiences and see what works. I do strongly believe that whatever works for your family is what’s important and maximizing the sleep in the house is so crucial! Bravo to you and your husband for figuring out what works!