Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Truth about Sleep, or I’m So %#@%* Tired!

This post is an honest account of sleep – or lack thereof – in my life for the last 6 months and how we have (or have not) been dealing with it.  I wrote the first part of this post January 28 and the second a few days later but I decided to post them together. You’ll probably understand why after reading. 

I’m tired.  I mean, really, really tired.  $@#^*-ing EXHAUSTED. Physically, mentally and emotionally.  I have not had a full night of uninterrupted sleep in over six months.  I didn’t sleep well during the last month or so of my pregnancy and dear little Baby O has yet to sleep through the night.

Oh, I knew there would be sleepless nights and I’d be tired when he arrived but I truly wasn’t prepared for this.  B wasn’t a perfect sleeper and I remember sobbing while I rocked him when he was up for 2 or 3 hours in the middle of the night, but that was only  occasionally, not every night.  The thing with O is that he doesn’t really fuss in the night, he just wakes up.  A lot.  Every single night, without fail.  Sometimes he is up twice in the night, sometimes he is up four, five, six times.  He is usually only up for 15 minutes, maybe half an hour and falls asleep pretty easily if nursed.  On the rare occasion he’s up for an hour or more.

I’m starting to lose my mind, quite literally.  I sometimes feel drunk because I’m so tired and I know I am not thinking clearly.  I actually went through the Tim Horton’s Drive-Thru recently and didn’t order!  I just sat in my car with the window up, completely oblivious to what was going on.  I was so embarrassed when I got to the window and realized what I had done! I am also the first to admit that I am no ray of sunshine to live with these days. 

I have been doing a lot of reading about sleep lately – the importance of it, how the lack of it and lack of ‘consolidated’ sleep affects the brain and every baby sleep book out there (The No Cry Sleep Solution, The Lull-a-Baby Sleep Plan, The Baby Whisperer, etc., etc., etc.).  I have tried a few of the techniques in these books to no avail.  Quite honestly, the exhaustion always gets the better of me and I give up and just do anything to get some sleep.  That might mean nursing every hour, bringing O to bed with me, rocking him for an hour, whatever it takes, really.

To all my readers, please don’t take offence, but I absolutely dread being asked, “Is he sleeping through the night yet?” and I have actually considered lying.  I know people mean well or are just making conversation, but as a parent it makes me feel as if I am doing something wrong and as if I’m being judged when I answer, “no”.  Unfortunately, it seems that society equates a “good” sleeper with a “good” baby and parent and a “bad” sleeper with a “bad” baby and parent.  I have read many articles on this and I have discussed it in my mommy groups and I am not alone in my feelings.  Well-meaning friends and family members are always very quick to offer sleep advice too.  Fill him up with formula or cereal before bed.  Tried both, didn’t work. Formula gave him hives and constipated him, cereal and other solids make no difference.  There are all kinds of studies out there that say that solid foods do not make a baby sleep through the night.  And yes, I’m sure that you/your sister/mother/cousin/friend let her baby “cry it out” for 3 nights and then he/she magically slept through the night from then on.  I know this works for some people, but this technique is not for me, for many reasons which I will not get in to.  End of story.   But I digress.

The week of January 23, just before O’s 6 month birthday, I hit rock bottom.  I was crying at night while rocking him, sobbing like a baby in the morning, desperate for some shut-eye and feeling like a failure.  What is wrong with O?  What is wrong with ME?  I know I shouldn’t compare, but of the five babies I know born in June/July 2011 (O, 2 cousins, 2 friends), he was the only baby that was not sleeping through the night.  I was so jealous of my cousins’ and friends’ good sleepers and the fact that they themselves were getting rest.  It was time to call in a professional.  

I knew there had to be help out there and my Google search led me to a few different Sleep Doulas and Sleep Consultants.  I read over the sites, compared techniques (I wanted something “gentle”) and emailed for more information, fees, and most importantly how soon could we get started.  I also posted on the walls of two of my “mom groups” on Facebook asking if anyone had experience with these doulas and consultants, and, YES, many did!  I received some emails from area moms that had been in my exact situation and who understood what I was going through.  It felt good to know that I wasn’t alone, that there is help out there and it does work! 

After consideration and comparison I decided to go with a sleep coach at The Baby Source that one of my mom friends had used and highly recommended.  Fortunately for me, Tracy, the sleep coach, was available immediately.  Some were booking weeks or a month or so out!  Obviously I am not alone and this type of service is in demand! 

I filled out a sleep questionnaire about O’s current sleep habits and sent it to Tracy before our 1.5 hour phone consultation.  We reviewed everything on the phone and came up with a sleep plan tailored for O.  In addition to the sleep information, she asked me about O’s temperament, behaviour and habits and classified him as an “alert” baby.  Apparently 40% of babies fall into this category and a huge percentage of them have a hard time sleeping. 

I felt great about our conversation and was excited, but nervous, to start the plan that very night.  Quite honestly, I had my doubts that it would work.  I thought my baby would be a tough nut to crack and there’s no way it would be easy. 

Written after Night 2 of “Sleep Training”:
Well, it wasn’t easy, but it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  There are many elements to the sleep plan that I won’t detail (it is proprietary information of The Baby Source, not to mention I paid for this, so it’s proprietary to me too!), but it is working! 

The first night he was up three times in the night, but had a sleep stretch of five hours and was able to put himself back to sleep without any assistance (a huge accomplishment).  Night 2, O was in bed for 12 hours, awake for 1 hour, 7 mins of those 12 (at different times in the night) and had a sleep stretch of 8 hours – his longest ever!  I’m very optimistic that in a week’s time I will be putting O to bed (awake!), kissing him good night and not seeing his smiling face till the morning! 

Written after Night 3 of “Sleep Training”:
OMG, IT’S A MIRACLE!  At the ripe old age of 6 months, 2 days, O SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT for the first time!  I want to shout it from my rooftop, dance a jig down the street and high-five every stranger I encounter!   He slept from 7:14 p.m. until 6:22 a.m. with ZERO wake ups!  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  I, too, slept more than I have in 6 months and feel like a new woman!

I know that there may be some hiccups in our plan and there will still be some sleepless nights, but I no longer feel like I’m trapped in a sleep tunnel with no zzzz’s in sight.  I have the tools I need to help O sleep and more importantly, O has the tools he needs to put himself to sleep without assistance. 

Maybe I could have done this sleep training on my own without the help of a sleep coach, but the truth is my exhaustion, frustration and impaired cognitive abilities just weren’t helping matters.  Some of the techniques that we have been using were similar to those in the sleep books I have read, but most of them were things I had not read about before. And they worked.  That is the most important thing.  I have no regrets about spending the money or having to ‘admit’ that I needed help with O’s sleep. 

I will sign off here and will update again about our progress and how we are all doing at a later date.  For now, I’m off to dance a jig down the street!  


  1. I am so happy for you that the sleep plan seems to be working! A well rested mom, is a happier mom! Although both my kids were good sleepers, I can still relate to being sleep deprived (of some sort) and the result can be quite scary, i.e. ability to drive (or order at Tim's, LOL). I hope O. keeps this up. Big hug!

  2. Anonymous12:04 PM

    So happy for you and Oliver, Jen! Keep up the good "work"... yes, parenting is work, but, as you know, also a lot of fun.
    Love, Aunt C

  3. Julie3:00 PM

    I am sooo sooo sooo happy for you!!!! I remember the exhaustion you are describing and the joy of P's progress too - :) I agree that I hadn't read anything like what was directed by the sleep doula. And it may seem like something that could have been accomplished without their help but after trying other techniques I too felt at a loss. I think the fact that the doula's plan is tailored for your baby's own needs is what makes it effective.

    I have noticed that with P now he can quickly revert back to his old poor-sleep habits with slight changes in routine (like Christmas, vacations). So in the next few nights I will need to sleep train again because he's been sick the last week and up all the time. I will probably read your blog again to be reminded how good it feels to sleep and that will give me the energy to carry out the training!! Thanks :)

    Also, your Little O is one of the cutest babies I've ever seen!!!!

  4. Tenley8:25 PM

    Bless you for writing this. Twelve long years ago with my baby who never slept more than a 90 minute stretch I thought I would die. Everyone asked how he was doing and I felt like a failure. We were overseas and no help in sight...but on Mother's Day, 2001 at age 19 months he finally slept through the night. You are doing an amazing job and ANY woman who makes it through the first year with her sense of humour in tact is a HEROINE.

  5. Good on ya J for seeking the help that you so desperately needed. I went to baby sleep school when Maddy was 12 weeks old as she was only sleeping in 20min blocks. It was the best thing I could have done for not only me but for her. I was then able to use what I had learned with Lochie & he has been a fantastic sleeper from the very beginning. I'm glad you are finally getting some sleep xoxox