Yay! My baby slept in her own crib for three and a half hours last night! That is the longest the she has stayed there in a very long time. AND… she wore her footed pajamas! Without yelling, or any excessive tugging, clawing and crying.
The Who and What
Kit hasn’t slept on her own in her bed all night since the minute she was born. Yes, even in the hospital, when it was time to settle down for the night, she would cry. We would check her diaper. We would swaddle her. Very tightly, just the way she liked it .We would lay her in that plastic bassinet thingy just like the nurses did. We would try giving her a pacifier, she would just spit it out. Then cry, and cry and cry and cry. Daddy would try and hold her, rock her, sing to her. More crying. Finally I would get ready to nurse her and as soon as Daddy would put her in my arms she would stop! Instant sleep. And I wouldn’t even have to nurse her every time.
She would sleep in her bassinet for about two to three hours in the late afternoon on most days in the beginning. But within just a few weeks that quickly dwindled down to thirty minutes, tops. Nights were worse. We’d nurse, she’d fall asleep, I’d put her in her bassinet. Max time: one to two hours. If I left the room, say to take a shower, she was awake as soon as I walked out. And crying. Until I came back and held her. The only time she would stop crying for Daddy was when he held her up directly in front of the small box fan we had in our bedroom with the fan on low. Some how the air blowing on her calmed her enough to allow me to rinse the shampoo out of my hair and towel off, sort of. But this didn’t work all the time and it wouldn’t work for me.
The When and How
At two weeks old she got a little cold and wouldn’t tolerate being away from me at all. I still persisted and tried laying her down when she was drowsy, or awake, or almost asleep, or in a deep sleep. The ultimate result was always the same. Her crying until she was securely near enough my bosom to be attached or at least to smell very well. After several weeks, out of sheer exhaustion, I would just let her lay way up by the head of the bed, swaddled as tight as I could get it, and I would lay lower so that my arm when bent like an L would rest by her side. She had to be touching me. More than once I would awake to find her face next to mine, her cheek against my forehead. She had wriggled more than eight inches, while tightly swaddled to have her face against mine.
Still, for sixteen months now, EVERY NIGHT, I place her gently into her crib, well after she has fallen asleep. Most nights, she stays there for about an hour. Many nights she’s only there for about thirty minutes. Often, she wakes enough as I’m laying her down only to start crying. We simply abort that attempt and I lay her in my bed where she usually drifts back off. Sometimes she needs to nurse to get comfortable again. Sometimes I can firmly rub her back and the back of her legs and that will sooth her back to sleep. Then a while later, we try again.
Every attempt I have ever made to put her in her bed and get her to fall asleep on her own has just made her and us miserable, irritable, and seems to heighten her anxiety about sleeping in her crib. We have tried music of many different varieties. Lights that change slowly and softly. Things that smell like lavender, or vanilla. I tried swaddling her in a t-shirt that I had slept in for a night or two. I would slip her whole bassinet mattress into my pillowcase that I had slept on for a couple of nights, or wrap her in a swaddling blanket that I had snuggled between my breasts while I slept. We played with the temperature, making it cooler so that she might be more comfortable if she were hot, raising it in case she was cold. I bought about seven or eight different kinds of pacifiers in hopes that she would finding just one that she could use to suck on instead of using me as her binky. Everything was rejected and the results were still tears, hers and mine now.
The only two attempts I made to let her cry only resulted in an extremely panicky baby and a guilt-ridden panicky mommy. (I tried several cry it out methods with her older brother, a horrible experience seared into my memory, which did more harm than good to both of us and didn’t work in the end. In the end he needed more security [twenty something stuffed animals], less confinement [we put him in a toddler bed at 18 months], lots and lots of wind down time [nearly an hour of reading to him],and a fish tank for light and white noise. More on this later!)
When she suddenly started to detest being swaddled around five months, I felt like I lost all hope of her falling asleep on her own and staying in her own bed all night. That was when her clothing complaints started. She absolutely wouldn’t tolerate long sleeves. She would cry and pull on them and pick at them until we would take them off. So I would have to wait until she was asleep and then try to wrap her up in a blanket so that her little arms wouldn’t get all goose-bumpy. This progressed to her not tolerating ANY blanket whatsoever on her AT ALL! if you put it on her after she was asleep, she would wake up shoving it off and crying! Then we had to go through getting to sleep all over again.
Her refusal for coverings soon extended to socks (she absolutely HATED shoes, immediate meltdown), then long pants, then shorts, and eventually all clothes period. She started walking at ten months, and with that came the discovery that she could remove her diaper and run free and naked. It was right around then that we switched to cloth diapers and she found the snaps on those too hard to open so the diaper wars at least ended. Through trial and error I just kept trying on clothes with her and for about four months she wore mostly just soft well washed cotton one piece t-shirts. If pants were required, she tolerated soft, well washed leggings best. She wore these even to sleep in though on very cold nights I would put her in a long sleeve onsie with NO elastic around the wrist, and leggings. I would and still do put her socks on after she is asleep. These two issues were what spurred me to start actively searching for answers.
Both Kit’s sleep issues, and Zak’s were among the many behaviors/symptoms of the many SPD evaluations I filled out online and in the books I’ve been subsequently reading. Their nurse practitioner was not as convinced as I was and seemed to feel that it was more likely a case of me just being well trained. She wasn’t entirely dismissive of my concerns, but her thoughts on their behaviors that I described to her went in a very different direction than mine. For Kit, she gave me an M-CHAT evaluation to fill out. I did and returned it to her along with several evaluations for SPD. Though I haven’t gotten exactly to the details of why, I believe their sensory issues are making peaceful sleep difficult for them. I haven’t found a solution yet, and since medical advice is slow in coming to us, I’m left to my own research and devices. We have ordered them both a weighted blanket, but we have a month or so before we receive them. I know that normally a therapist is involved in this sort of sensory guidance, but we may not have access to an OT for a very long time and we need help NOW. So I’m trying to do careful, detailed research to find possible helpful solutions. In the meantime, we have found that a bath shortly before bedtime does seem to make a difference in how quickly she falls asleep and how well she tolerates long sleeves or footed pjs. Maybe it even contributed to her prolonged stay in her own bed last night. Let’s hope so.
If you have a child with sensory issues, please, share your wisdom with us in the comments about what you have found to help your child rest at night. We welcome all supportive suggestions.