Sleep Wars Episodes II and III: Attack of the Night Feeds and Revenge of the Newborn

In Parenting by Jenn1 Comment

Just like the Galactic Senate willingly consolidated [UNLIMITED!!!!] power in the withered hands of Senator Palpatine and thus paving the way for the rise of the Empire [allusion to current political affairs redacted], I have to admit that I semi-knowingly created the sleep monster I now have to live with.

Before Fire Monkey was born, I justifiably feared sleep deprivation way more than poopy diapers or projectile vomit. I tried to prepare for it the way I have always prepared for important things: reading books and doing research on Pinterest. To my chagrin, the general consensus seemed to be, “Newborns have literally no rhyme or reason for the first three months so…good luck.” Since I planned to exclusively breastfeed, I was also repeatedly told to feed on demand and to watch the baby, not the clock. For someone whose day-to-day work is broken into 100-minute segments with exactly six minutes to race to the bathroom and back WHILE NINE MONTHS PREGNANT, this is not the most welcome advice.

We crashed through the early weeks of parenthood, dutifully tracking – but not scheduling – Fire Monkey’s feedings and feces using the Feed Baby app. After about three weeks I had grown sufficiently confident in my ability to read his signals that I stopped using the app and was able to keep my child fed and acceptably clean. Sleepwise, he did what all newborns do which is sleep around the clock…in 2 hour intervals. (Sleep like a baby my FOOT.) How I survived that first month remains one of the great miracles and mysteries of our time.

Right around his first month birthday, his circadian rhythms began aligning with those of planet Earth and he started stringing together first five, then six, then eight, then ten hours of glorious, uninterrupted nighttime sleep. We reveled in our luck, accepted friends’ (jealous?) congratulations, and cautiously patted ourselves on the back. (Side note: I’ve observed that a child’s sleep patterns tend to be used a proxy for how well someone is parenting, which I now know is total nonsense.)

Because Fire Monkey learned to sleep through the night before he was three months old (that stupid sticker is still mocking my premature and ignorant triumph from the third page of his baby calendar), I somewhat foolishly assumed that he had fully inherited my prodigious sleeping abilities and that we would not need to do any kind of sleep training. I stopped looking at sample sleep schedules, since he didn’t seem to be anywhere near them anyway. He showed no interest in sleep until 9pm, I would nurse him for an hour on and off and then put him in his crib until 8 or even 8:30 the next morning. His morning naps were hit-or-miss, especially on days when he slept later, and his afternoon nap only vaguely consolidated in the 12pm-3pm window. But he was hitting his milestones on time and seemed generally happy besides an hour or two of pterodactyl noises in the evening before bed, so I figured that I was fine following his lead.

Things started coming apart around four months. He started waking up again at night, and I did the only thing I knew to do to calm him down: feeding and/or falling asleep with him on me. I figured this was a growth spurt and/or developmental milestone and/or the dreaded four-month sleep regression caused by him actually becoming aware of his environment, and that the interruption to our blissful nights of slumber was temporary.

Right. And Palpatine was just centralizing power for the good of the galaxy. SURE.

One night stretched into a week, a week stretched into two weeks, a month, two months of waking up two or three times a night. I went into survival mode and continued nursing him to sleep for several reasons. First and foremost, it was the most expedient and quietest way to calm him down and get him back to sleep. But additionally, at his four month appointment his pediatrician expressed concern about his weight percentile dropping to 12 from where it had been in the mid-50s when he was two months old. She urged me to offer to feed him more often during the day and I was afraid to stop the night feedings in case he needed those extra calories. (She has since accepted the fact that my tall skinny husband has spawned a tall skinny son, but more on that in a future post.)

By month six, I was able to dimly recognize growth spurts and milestones for what they were, and I came to the sinking realization that his night wakings were not all because of those developmental bumps. They had become a habit, and by always nursing him to sleep, I had created a sleep association that made it difficult for him to soothe himself back to sleep without me.

We stand on the threshold of a new beginning. In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society, which I assure you will last for ten thousand years.

To be continued…


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