Sleep.

I have not slept a full 8 hours a night in 1, 596 days. NO LIES. My son was born just before 8 PM on Monday, December 11, 2006 and I did not sleep that night. I spent it up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit watching him breath and finally getting to hold him at 3 AM. The first week he was there, I went home at night and was up every three hours to pump breast milk for him. His second week in NICU, I stayed at the hospital in the old nurse's residence and was paged every 2-3 hours to go and nurse him.

He was so small and we were so new to all of this. In the NICU every beep, every blip on a monitor made us jump, our moments were measured in decels and oxygen sats, and we came to rely on the machines to reassure us that he was breathing and his heart was beating.

And then he was discharged. He was 4 pounds when we brought him home and could not go more than 2 hours without nursing. I slept in half-hour to 45 minute increments all day long, every day. We no longer had the machines to tell us he was breathing, and so we did not sleep. He slept between us in our bed. And with every stirring, every little moan, we were awake and checking on him.

And this did not stop as the months went on. He slept with us in our bed for his first four months, in his room for about 6 weeks after that and then we moved when he was six months old and he was back in our bed. And through it all never sleeping for more than 3-4 hours.

And of course I did all the "wrong" things (insert eye roll here). I nursed him to sleep, I allowed him to sleep in our bed, I napped with him during the day and I did not teach him to self-sooth. Natural Urban Dad and I became the experts at nighttime parenting, as in we were UP all night 'parenting' our child!!

Oh, trust me, I read ALL the books. Sears, Weissbluth, Pantley and please don't shoot me, even Ezzo. None of it rang true to me. and I refused to do anything remotely resembling "crying it out". What mattered to me was being with my child and soothing him when he needed it and he needed it, A LOT!

A few months before my daughter was born we bought C his Big Boy bed. We skipped the toddler size and went straight for the double bed. Maybe that was a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy, because once L was born and for most of her first year we effectively had a 'girls bed' and a 'boys bed' in our house.

And we were OK with that, sort of. I mean there was still little sleep for me, L was a voracious nurser, and kind of terrible co-sleeper (she is more of the kicking, punching, I gotta be on a boob to sleep kind). The boys on the other hand slept just fine!

(Total aside, but I am now watching that new sitcom "Rasing Hope" and they are talking all about sleep training the poor little baby! Wierd.)

Anywhoo, like I was saying...not sleeping a full night for over 1500 days. I get distracted very easily.

Then about three weeks ago, thanks to the suggestion of a friend, we found a simple reward system that seems to work for C. If he sleeps all night long, all by himself, and in his own bed, then he gets two 'chips' (and yes, by chips, I mean Poker Chips). When he reaches a certain number of chips he gets to 'cash' them in for different things. New books, trips to the zoo or museum, a special toy or even a bag of his favourite Spiderman fruity treats. And he is doing very well with this, with more nights of full sleep for him in the past three weeks than in the past 3 years!

Don't judge me people, I am getting desperate here and the poker chips are working! Although it is not getting any better with kid number two. Little Miss, I thought we had this one all figured out, she used to be able to fall alseep on her own, is now the kid who is up 3-8 times a night and ONLY wants Mama! And she is too young to really GET the whole reward/chip system just yet.

So imagine my excitement when I saw THIS in my Facebook feed this morning!!

Go the Fuck To Sleep is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing off to dreamland. Honest, profane, and affectionate, Adam Mansbach's verses and Ricardo Cortés' illustrations perfectly capture the familiar—and unspoken—tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night, and open up a conversation about parenting in the process. Beautiful, subversive, and pants-wettingly funny, Go the Fuck to Sleep is a perfect gift for parents new, old, or expectant. Here is a sample verse:

The cats nestle close to their kittens now. The lambs have laid down with the sheep. You're cozy and warm in your bed, my dear Please go the fuck to sleep.

I WANT THIS BOOK! And depending on the night, I may or may not be reading it to my kid(s)!!

Sleep tight everyone,

Natasha~

P.S. I also bought some Hyland's Homeopathic Calms Forte for Kids and am giving it a shot with L tonight. Both of us need to get some good night-time sleep and I am really hoping this will help. I will let you know how it goes....

Nighttime Parenting and Nursing: I really just want to sleep!

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I have not had 8 hours of sleep in a row for FOUR years.  I am not lying.  I probably wouldn't know what to do with myself with that much sleep! For us, and on some nights, nighttime parenting has been just as busy as daytime parenting-at least from a nursing perspective.

We are kind of a part-time co-sleeping family.  We co-slept with our son until he was about 4 months old, had a month of bliss when he was actually sleeping for 6 hour stretches in his own bed and then it all went to pot again and he has refused to sleep by himself ever since. (A reminder to you all--he is 3.5 years old)  I nursed him to sleep from the beginning and according to all the 'books'  that was my first mistake.  I also kept nursing him throughout the night well into his second year, much to the dismay of people who kept telling me he really didn't 'need' to nurse at night anymore.  My husband and I switched roles at times so that he could take over all night-time parenting, and we would try to night-wean our son. This would work for a few days or weeks, but then something would always bring us back to nursing and sleeping with him.  I read book after book on how to get my child to sleep (well, everything short of Ferber that is--I refused to do any form of Cry It Out strategies).  I probably gave up on all the different strategies too soon, but damn it I really just wanted to SLEEP!  And so to make everyone happy, I would nurse him and we would all go back to sleep.

He is still not a great sleeper.  He gets scared in his room all by himself and wants one of us to come and sleep with him.  And we do it, and I will tell you why.

He is THREE years old!  He is our child and he needs us-to comfort him, to feel safe and to snuggle.  I am not so naive to think that these feelings and needs are going to last forever (I can just picture the DO NOT ENTER sign on his teenage bedroom door in the future) and neither my husband nor I want to look back on these years and say, 'Man, I wish I had just been with him more when he needed me."

My daughter is now 22 months old and is a better sleeper. We did not technically co-sleep with her IN our bed, but rather beside it in her bassinet.  I did learn to let her self soothe a bit more than I did with my son and it shows.  She can be put down in her bed awake and will fall into a nice slumber all on her own.  But...she is still up at least once or twice a night.  She calls for me in the dark and I can't deny her that extra hug, that few seconds on the breast that lets her know that I am only a few steps away.  I know that nursing her at night has no real nutritional value for her, but I nurse my kids for a whole lot more than just nutrition. I nurse them to comfort them, to nurture them, to soothe them and to help them sleep.  And you know what, I'm OK with that.

I am not having any more kids.  These two little humans are my only babies and I will keep them close to me for as long as possible, nurse them as long as they need to and do it NIGHT and day if need be.  That is all folks.

Sleep well ;) Natasha~

P.S.  I did NOT sleep well last night and neither did DS-up grand total of 5 times--it is not always what I want, but life is what it is.  Time for COFFEE!!


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