sleep is for the weak

Posted on: 28 October 2012

Whenever I begin to think Ashelyn’s sleep patterns might be settling into something like consistency, she switches it up on me. Lately she shows signs of sleepiness at a reasonable hour of the evening, so we wind down for bed, except then she either doesn’t sleep or doesn’t stay asleep.

Confession: Ashelyn breastfeeds to sleep. Not during the day, at least not always, but at night this is what has worked for us. I feed her, she zonks out, I roll her over beside my pillow and she sleeps until some ungodly wee hour of the morning.

But these days she only dozes at the boob before inexplicably waking up wanting to play.

We did finally get around to lowering the crib mattress, thank goodness, so I can plonk her inside without risking much more than a head bump. Her antics are still worth watching, though, because she’ll pull up and do this crazy dance comprised of

  1. hip thrusts
  2. vigorous shaking of the head
  3. exaggerated chewing of imaginary gum
  4. murmuring or squeaking

My strategy is to let her wear herself out, which eventually happens … around midnight or 1AM. At first I hoped exhaustion would translate into longer sleeps, but guess what? IT DOESN’T. I’m still up a handful of times. On a good night, once or twice. On a bad night, I lose count …

Kidding. Four or five times on a bad night.

Actually, Ashelyn occasionally pulls this trick of waking at 4AM all fired up to play, and that is the worst. It takes hours to get her back to sleep. She’ll even shimmy over and kiss my face, and then I feel bad for wanting to throw her out the window.

I’ve read that even previously good sleepers may have disturbed nights at around six months, due to (1) teething, (2) separation anxiety, or (3) developmental progress, as in they’re so excited about their new skills that they want to practice them upon waking. Ashelyn’s been drooling since her third month, but to date remains toothless. And she’s not unusually clingy; besides, at night I’m RIGHT THERE. She does, however, start clambering around deliriously even before she’s fully awake.

I haven’t yet committed to anything heavy-handed, because despite sporadic bad nights we’re still making progress. For one thing, Ashelyn is now able to nap on her own, often for half an hour but sometimes for an hour and a half. She falls asleep in the carseat or stroller without as much resistance as before. Now and then we’ll have a really good night, where she’s down before midnight and sleeps until late morning with only one feeding in between.

With future children I’ll probably be much more deliberate about fostering “good sleep habits,” but even if I’d taken a more textbook approach with Ashelyn I’m not wholly convinced that things would be different now. Left to her own devices, she never would settle herself down, only work herself up.

It’s an inconvenience I’m willing to live with.


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