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Closing the all night bar

Posted May 12 2009 6:15pm
About a week ago it occurred to me that LB has no skills for putting herself to sleep. She either nurses to sleep or is rocked to sleep (in a car, stroller or in a sling). Given my sleep deprived status I decided that it was the night time nursing-to-sleep that was going to go first. We have made some progress with the No Cry Sleep Solution book, but I was ready to speed things up a bit.

That night I took her to bed with me and nursed her for just a short time to get her relaxed a bit. When I thought she would fall asleep soon, I disengaged her. She started rooting and fussing right away and as it escalated, I rolled over so my back was to her thinking that hiding "the girls" would be a more gentle approach. I was so tired that I had more resolve than I had in the past to stick to my plan. Brad comforted her as she cried.

Suddenly it occurred to me what this really meant: She would no longer need me to nurse her to sleep. It won't be long before she would no longer need me to nurse her at all! Then I started crying. I tried to be strong, but I no longer had any desire to end this part our time together. Soon, I caved and let her nurse. She was instantly much happier, but I continued to cry and cry and cry.* Brad reminded me she would grow up whether I liked it or not and I could help or hinder her progress. How unfair that I could long for something for six years and then to get it, but have it end all too soon.** My midwife's words reverberated in my head, "Having a child is a series of letting go." That's all well and good in theory.

I decided to give myself a few days to get used to the idea. Eventually, I had the courage to try again with some modifications. We decided I would nurse her to sleep initially, but would not nurse during the night. Predictably, three hours after she fell asleep she was rooting around and getting more and more upset that I wasn't responding. On the verge of giving in, I left the room to sleep lie awake on the couch. Oh, the sounds she made - successfully communicating utter betrayal, anger, despair. It was just awful.

On the plus side, I think it was a good bonding experience for Brad and LB. He stayed with her and did his best to comfort her without being overly stimulating - just a hand on her and occasionally saying soft, comforting words. Later he told me that LB kept contact with him the entire time.

After what felt like hours, but was only 30 minutes, she fell asleep and I crept back into bed. For the next 30 minutes she hiccuped in her sleep recovering from her sobbing. She slept for the next four hours, physically exhausted from the emotional ordeal.

Warning: TMI coming up

The next night, last night, we made further modifications. When LB started to wake up after three hours, Brad was just coming to bed and I knew he would encourage me to stick to our guns. I willed her to hear my silent plea: "Oh please don't wake up! I don't want you to be sad again. Please don't wake up!" Of course, she did. I quickly scooped her up and nursed her for just a second and took her off thinking it would help and Brad wouldn't notice (his back was to us). *** It was so satisfying to both of us, but didn't help long term. I tried again and this time, quite by accident, as I took her off her hand found my other nip.ple. It was just enough to comfort her and keep her calm enough to fall asleep.

One and a half hours later, we repeated the process, going straight for the hand-holding instead of nursing - it worked quickly.

One and a half hours later, she wasn't going to fall for it again. She started making the you-don't-love-me-anymore wails so I let her nurse for about a minute (Oh, how we loved it!) before starting again with the "you can touch it, but you can't have it" trick. It worked.

I hope this new plan will work and work quickly because I don't think I can survive on any less sleep.

This has really been an eye opening experience for me. I always thought I would do the right thing - that LB's needs would sometimes trump mine - but I imagined things like missing the end of a movie because she wasn't behaving in the theater. I never imagined that I would be so sad simply because she is growing up. I have new appreciation for my mom being sad, for example, on the day I moved out. Unlike my mom, when that day comes (and others like it) I hope I hide my sadness, put a smile on my face and say, "Good for you! I am so proud of you!" And I will be, even if I am sad for myself.

Updated: Sky asks a good question and I am not surprised I wasn't very clear - I am, as I said, barely functioning. My ultimate goal is to 1) help LB learn to fall asleep on her own so she doesn't always need me for my sake and hers and 2) stop nursing at night so I can, hopefully, get more sleep.

*Overly dramatic perhaps, but I was sleep deprived and it was late - somewhere around 8:30!
** I know I am very lucky to get to nurse at all.
*** Not that Brad is alone in this decision, but I knew he would disapprove if I wimped out.
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