Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sleepless in Gooderham

I feel as though I am beating this subject to a pulp lately, but I must ask your advice and talk my way through it.  When Poppy was born, we fell into a gentle rhythm or nursing and sleeping.  It felt natural and rather effortless in almost every way.  We co-slept.  She weaned herself around 11 months.  Her teeth came slowly as did her words and communication.  A speech specialist at the Early Years Center said that it was likely that she didn't feel the need for words as all of her needs were being met.  She would fight sleep with all her might, but once she was there she stayed there.

Our plans were to do the same with Silas.  We co-sleep and nurse.  He, however, is the opposite and falls into sleep rather effortlessly, but it is fragile and he wakes at the slightest movement or sound.  He only nurses once or twice during the day and wakes nearly every one or two hours through the night.  Despite singing, patting, shhhhing, swaying and rocking, the only thing that gets him back to sleep is five to ten minutes of nursing.  We have tried laying him in a crib beside our bed and, if he doesn't wake when we place him in it, he sleeps no longer than when he is in our bed.

On top of this we have moved Poppy into her own room so she has been waking at least once or twice.  Not upset, but saying "Where Mama?".  I just lay with her until she goes back to sleep.  She was in our bed until Silas was born at which time she transitioned to a toddler bed in our room.  She has been sleeping through the night consistently for a long time now.  Before we moved we were in a pretty decent routine of a 7 to 8pm bedtime for both of them with Poppy sleeping through the night and Silas waking his usual amounts.  In the past, I have found that if Poppy naps during the day she is up, despite our best efforts, until as late as 10:30 or 11:00pm, but everything I read tells me she needs a nap.

Our days are chaos.  Our bedtime routine consists of tears and frustration most of the time and usually ends with all of us flailing until we fall into a restless tangle of sleep.  I don't know if it is their age, age difference, or just our own lack of structure, but we just can't seem to get our footing.  Nothing at all is consistent.

Here, let me show you...

6:30am to 9:00am:  
Silas wakes at the early end while Poppy wakes at the later end.  This changes daily.
Diaper changes
Mama tidies the kitchen, washes her face and hair, brushes her teeth.

9:00 until 12:00pm:
Chaos including, but not limited to:  diaper changes, snacking, baking, counting, reading, pretend play, painting, colouring, drawing, refereeing, biting, hitting, timeouts, cleaning, teeth brushing, Sesame Street, lunch preparations, Silas getting cranky until I put him in the Ergo to fall asleep...or not, letting the dog in, letting the dog out, rescuing chipmunks from the cat's jaws of death, Poppy asking for no less than 30 snacks {yogurt, apple, bagel and cheese, vitamins, juice, milk, water, cheese, pickles, cereal, etc.}, outdoor time which usually includes Silas cranking, and Poppy giving him dirt and rocks to eat until the bugs drive us inside for lunch.

*The new addition of a blow up pool has made outdoor time a little more successful.  For Silas' birthday we plan on purchasing a large swing/slide/play structure and making a noise wall.

12:00 until 1:00pm:
Making lunch while Poppy demands more snacks and Silas whines.
Inhaling lunch and leaving the kitchen in a state to rush upstairs for quiet story / nap time which usually leaves one sleeping and one awake, both awake or, very rarely, both asleep.

1:00 until 4:00pm
Whoever is asleep, sleeps.
Whoever is awake does a repeat of the morning shit storm.
If they both sleep, I read, clean, nap, or make feeble attempts at organizing our lives.

4:00pm until 5:00pm:
Prepare supper between whining, biting, hitting, and timeouts until I put Sesame Street on.

5:00pm until 6:00pm
Eat and tidy kitchen while the kids undo nearly everything we do.

6:00 pm until 7:00pm
Family time which includes reading, tickling, pretend play, check the garden, grocery shopping, a drive into town, etc.

7:00pm until 8:00pm
Bath, snack, brush teeth

8:00pm until whenever:
Nurse or carry Silas to sleep
Wrestle Poppy to sleep

After that, Mike and I collapse into tired heaps and usually zone out to some online time rather than re-connecting until we turn out the lights, hold hands, mumble an apology for being short with one another and a heartfelt "I love you" and fall asleep.

Yeah.  It leaves a lot to be desired.

If you care to do so, please leave a link or share what your average day looks like.  Tell me, how do you get your kids to sleep through the night?  How do you find the strength and time for yourself?  How did you establish boundaries and structure?  What obstacles did you encounter?

I understand that I can't expect too much with their young ages, but I am looking for things I can do to make our days flow a bit better for my own sanity.  I have been examining my anger and have found its roots lie in powerlessness and lack of confidence in what I am doing.  If I can empower myself with effective and kind discipline and routine, I think could be a more effective teacher and more patient mama.

Also of note:

  • I don't want to nurse much past a year, but want to wean gently.  I have been pregnant, breast feeding, or both for the past 3 years and that is enough for me.
  • We have no problem with helping the kids get to sleep or with having them in our room and bed until they are ready to transition.
  • have made efforts to meet some local families to play with {I put a sign up in the post office and got one reply so far...Hey, we'll try anything}
  • There are benefits of not having too much routine.  Our kids are pretty easily adaptable to new places and changes and remain good tempered where others may not do so well.
  • That being said, I want a routine.  I just don't know how to implement one without being ruthless.
  • To be honest, I am not totally comfortable with having a mother's helper here nor am I comfortable leaving the kids with anyone other than a trusted adult.  Call me crazy, but texting teens don't really instill a great deal of confidence in me.
go gently + be wonderful



  1. oh, my dear!! No wonder you feel angry - what a day! I will post about this soon, as you have inspired me to look at my days as well. I will say this, though; it sounds like you could use some help. Perhaps a neighbourhood girl could do some "mother's helper" work with you? Or maybe hiring a more experienced babysitter to come in several times per week? I have only one child, and there were days when it felt like I had 6. She had GERD and also slept so poorly that I felt my sanity breaking. I finally advertised on Kijiji and hired a university student who came into my home 3 days per week for a couple of hours, at which time I would put ear plugs in and go to sleep :o) I'm sure some people thought "wow, she's on maternity leave and she needs to hire someone?" But I didn't care! I knew, for the sake of my family, that I needed a little bit of rest. It was an expense (not a very big one though), and we just cut back in other areas of our life in order to pay for it...oh, there's so much I could say to you, but I'll stop this longass comment right now

  2. Hi, I just wanted to tell you how I got our son to sleep through the night. For the first couple of months a had a co-sleeper bassinett, and then I moved him in between us. He was hungry all the time and took an hour to get back to sleep, a few times a night. When he was about 10 months I was getting really tired. At the time, my father was dying of cancer, and the lack of sleep was becoming overwhelming, on top of caring for my new babe, and helping my mom out with her daily errands.

    I did some research and asked around for some help with sleep, and help with moving him to his crib. I wasn't emotionally ready for that yet - but I knew I would never be truly ready for that! I created a schedule of naptimes and feeding times. I was told if you want a night schedule, you need to adhere to a day schedule. I think you should maybe rethink not having a schedule? My son is very laid back and flexible and we keep to a schedule as much as possible. In fact, I think he likes it, especially bed time. Sometimes he fusses a little when I bring him to his room (he is now 15 months) but once we are done story time and feeding and he hits the sheets, he seems so happy.

    I never let me child "cry it out" but at the same time I listen carefully to his cry. If it lasts more than a few minutes, I go to him. But I found for the most part, he was just letting out little cries of tiredness.

    The other thing I used is an ambient noise maker. Mama friends have warned me that he would become "addicted" to it - well he hasn't. He falls asleep anywhere! Whether we are visiting friends or family, or camping.

    Thats just a few, you have two babes, much bigger challenge!

    But I would really consider schedules :)

    Phew, that was long!

    Sincerely, Tina

  3. I have to agree with the advice above. Kids thrive on schedules and need the consistency in their lives (as least mine do!). Not saying that your schedule has to say rigid, but it helps if they know what to expect.
    I too have two children only two years apart so get where you're coming from. When my oldest was two and a half he quit napping - yep just quit. I tried for almost a year to encourage naps (which often involved wrestling with him) and then finally realized it wasn't worth it. Everything I read said that he needed a nap, but he told me otherwise. We cut out nap/battle time and guess what - he started going to be at 7pm without a fight!
    To save myself from going insane I did however create a "quite" time in our house. When baby was having an afternoon nap my oldest had to be "resting" in his room (1/2 hr - 45 min) - he didn't have to go to sleep but had to take some time to himself and do it quietly. This could include looking at books, playing quietly with his stuffies or cars or just resting on his bed. He was not expected to fall asleep (and rarely did), but always seemed to come out of his room refreshed and happier.
    I took advantage of this quite time and would read a magazine, rest myself (sometimes in the bed with him) or take a hot bath. I was always in ear shot of both my children but also go a much needed break. Maybe Poppy would benefit from this as it will hopefully give you your night back?
    You could also gradually cut out naps (every other day) and see how bedtime works.
    I wonder if your baby has his days/nights mixed up - if he's only nursing twice during the day, maybe he's up a lot in the night to make up for his missed daytime feeding - can you try to encourage him to nurse more often in the day and less at night?
    Rather than you getting up every time with him, as he knows mama has the milk, can your husband get up a few times in the night and try to encourage sleep without nursing? You may be surprised if you stay consistent, you may have a different baby within a week. If you are the one to get up with him, don't always nurse him back to sleep (even though this is easiest:). Try rocking, singing, etc - it won't take long for him to get the idea that he's not getting milk.

  4. Well, I am new to your blog, and I don't know how old your kiddos are, but I have to comment. I'm in a similar situation with my two. I have a two year old (Sal) and an 8 month old (T.). Some things that have helped us are:

    we try to do the same things in the same order. It's a routine. It's not a schedule. If they don't eat right a noon it's not gonna be the end of the world, but by having a similar structure from day to day helps them know what to expect. This includes T. eating! I eat at roughly the same times every day and if I were him I'd want to also. And I try to feed him 4-6 times a day so that he's good and full. He gets one meal of solids also, and he wakes up about twice a night to eat.

    Maybe Silas has a hard time going to sleep because he's hungry? Whether that is or isn't the case, he would probably wake up less at night if he got more to eat during the day. It sounds like he's backwards which might mean waking him up to eat at first during the day, but it will help him get his days and nights straightened out. Try figuring out how often he is up at night (i.e. every 3 hours) and feed him that often during the day.

    As far as getting them to sleep. I'm not a fan of letting the m cry it out, but I (again) don't think 10 minutes is gonna kill them. Sometimes I don't think it sounds like T is going to calm down, but I set the timer for 10 minutes and I am often surprised. I set the timer to keep myself honest, because 10 minutes feels like longer when your kid is screaming. I also think it helps them to become more independent if they can get themselves to sleep. The more independent they are, the less they will be nagging you all day. I still play with my kids plenty, but I think it's healthy for everyone to have some alone time or some quiet time in a day, so I try to encourage that. And it helps me get my own quiet time which helps me be a better mom.

    I hope this is helpful! It is hard to be a mom and it is so often a thankless job. Hang in there!

  5. I feel your pain. My 6 1/2 month old nurses all night and while he will take 3 hour naps during the day, he will only sleep for 2 hours during the night. Sometimes he like to wake up for a 3 hour stretch and play. I also have a 2 1/2 year old who sleeps in her own bed, but like Poppy often calls out to me. Here is what works for me. Rhys gets fussy about ever 2 hours, so I pop him in a sling or an ergo on my back right before we hit the 2 hour mark and he often falls asleep while I continue to work (btw- I run a daycare in my home). I also enforce our mid day quiet time for Stella (my daycare kids always take naps and go down easily, my own kids do not!). She needs the down time or else evenings are awful. Sometimes I pop her in front of a show and sometimes if Rhys is napping I can lay with her and tell her stories. My next suggestion is to try to get Silas down for an earlier bed time. Rhys goes down at 7:00ish and Stella goes down at 7:30. Stella has daddy time or quiet play while I nurse Rhys to sleep. My plan is not really my own. The book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby has really helped my understand the biology of sleep and lets me use that and my instincts to make a plan. My personal suggestions that I use to keep me calm is to use quiet music while I nurse Rhys, it is calming for me and that is helpful to everyone. I also use bedtime and rest time as a chance to catch up on my favorite classics, like Little Women. I read aloud to Stella and Rhys and they just zone out at the tone of my voice. That way I am getting some personal quiet time also. This makes my long nights and caffeine filled days feel a little more peaceful because I am able to sneak in 'me-time" while helping my munchkins! I hope this is helpful and that you find some rest. And if all else fails, my personal comfort is to look at my babes and tell them, "It is a good thing your cute"

  6. We have a 2.5 year old and a 13 month old. Both my girls didn't sleep well at night until they were eating solids in substantial quantities. THey were exclusively breastfed - never took to a bottle even of breastmilk.

    Once my littlest one was 10 months old, she started eating a TON of solids and started sleeping really well. We were co-sleeping up to that point, but now she seems to sleep a lot better on her own in her own room. She wakes more in our bed. We give her a HUGE dinner of solids and I nurse her for a few minutes and she passes out for the night. Up til she was on solids, she nursed all night long. So, I recommend encouraging solids.

    Our oldest also slept through the night until she started going through a lot of sibling issues. She goes to bed in her own room. One of us lays with her unti lshe falls asleep and then we let her sleep with us when she wakes up. So, now she is bsically co-sleeping! We also cut out her nap at about age 2 because otherwise she wouldnt be tired until 11pm no matter how active her day was. SOme kids need less sleep. Now she passes out at 6:30 or 7 - easily and is not even very grumpy. And that is pretty nice, I will be honest.

    As for the daily routine. I really just suggest trying to do a few things in the same order every day and in a similar way. Toss the timeframes out the window.

  7. The only thing I've figured out so far (and i seem to learn less as the parenting years go by = year 6 now...) - is that each kid is different - within a family and between families. Try not to compare for starters. I still can't get my kids to sleep in any reasonable time frame. They seem to have my number. But the most successful endeavours have come when I expected success (never seem to manage this at sleep time). Kids read confidence as much as fear. Whatever you decide is right for you, believe in it! I'll let you know if I ever get there.

  8. Hi Erin, I've been reading your blog for quite some time now but have never commented before. So first off, I want to tell you how much I have appreciated your honesty in your struggles with two. My two are 2 and-a-half and four months and reading your posts before the birth of my son really helped to prepare me for the realities of parenting two very very young children. I also get the feeling you and I are pretty similar. I struggle daily with my desire to have a beautiful extremely consistent rhythm and my conflicting desire to throw routine to the wind and do whatever I want. I love having children and the joy and discovery they bring into my life but hate the chaos and mess that comes with it. So, in light of these similarities [I think] we share, I wanted to pass along some thoughts that have helped me.

    1. I love the Waldorf idea of organizing days of the week into baking day or painting day, but I honestly think that is more geared towards 4 and 5 year olds. My rhythm with kids these ages consists of mealtimes (prep and clean up included), rest times, and cleaning times. I have a chore chart for myself that lists one load of laundry per day and one cleaning task per day to accomplish. We clean before nap (or rest time, in Poppy's case), before dinner, and before bed. No more than 15 minutes per clean up "session". That's it. If baking happens, cool. If not, at the very least, we are all fed, all rested, and the house is marginally clean.

    2. The power of baby wearing to induce sleep, separate squabbling siblings, or give too-independent-for-their-own-good toddlers a break is magic. My daughter did not sleep through the night until I night weaned her at 17 months. It sucked. There was nothing wrong, she was just easily stimulated and would not sleep. Wearing her on my back was like magic. I could cook and clean and she could get much needed rest. I now carry my four month old in the same way. I think that if Silas usually wakes so much earlier than Poppy, you could try putting him on your back after a diaper change and breakfast and tidy the house and get Poppy's breakfast waiting for her and maybe even drink a cup of coffee, all without having to corral a child. Also, if they start getting into a tussle at any point during the day, I would put one (or both) into a carrier.

    3. You are their mom. Nobody else really knows shit about your kids. View this parenthood thing as the ultimate path to zen. Don't think about the Waldorf way or your mom's way or your friends way. Look at your kids, close your eyes, breathe deep, and do what needs to be done. You don't think Poppy needs a nap, then she doesn't. You think Silas isn't ready to wean, then he's not. Your power lies in knowing these creatures without having to try. They were a part of you, no one else can claim that. Take the spiritual growth even farther. If you don't want to yell, don't yell. Don't want to fight at bedtime, get creative. The well is never dry unless you decide it is.

    Also, on the gentle discipline thing, you might enjoy "Unconditional Parenting", very enlightening book about doing away with punishment and really getting to know our kids. Best of luck, mama.

  9. The only thing that I would add is that EVERY child is truly individual. I have 2 boys, my oldest (T)was an easy-breezy baby, slept through the night, in his own crib by 6 weeks, reached or exceeded all milestones and was generally just good-natured, happy and pleasant to be around. By the age of 2, however, he became a "no napper" (even though everything I read suggested he needed a nap, he didn't) so we moved to a "restful activity period" instead of sleep... i.e. quiet play, books, listening to music and cuddling together, drawing pictures, etc.

    My youngest (J) was colicky, NEVER slept more than 3 hours at a stretch and cried constantly. I tried everything! Literally, EVERYTHING! In some milestones he was advanced and in others he was/is years behind. He didn't travel well, he didn't nap, he didn't speak until he was almost 4, he slept through the night at least 3 nights a week by the time he was 6 years old. He is also the sweetest cuddle-bunny with an absolutely contagious giggle. (and he is "normal", not autistic, or delayed etc)

    My sweet babies are now 21 and 13 respectively and they are wonderful! There have been challenges along the way, but time has surely flown, and those "mountains" I had to struggle over seem like "speed bumps" behind me.
    So my encouragement is to take as much peace as you can, establish the degree of routine that works best for you, fasten your seat-belt, and enjoy even the difficult moments as best you can. AND forgive yourself when you think you have failed, be patient with yourself. Know that "this too shall pass". Laugh when you can, cry when you must and find companions to "travel" with you.

    Good Luck!

    p.s. ANY parenting book that makes you feel inferior in any way should be donated to your local library at once! It was written for some other parent! (I learned that one the hard way!)

  10. I just stumbled across your blog. Here's 2 cents worth from a mother whose babies are grown, but your story sounds like mine.

    My #1 and #2 children sound like yours. I too had a family bed and nursed for quite a while. Our "routine" was mostly set by the 2 babies; but I did a couple of things that seemed to help my sanity and their nightime sleeping.

    2 yr old baby #1 was gradually moved further and further away from the family bed until she was in a room next door; bedtime had a fairly strict routine of water, reading and bed. It took 2-3 weeks of bringing her back to bed and listening to her cries and whines while we gently tucked her in and told her we loved her -- but finally it worked and she stayed in her bed.

    Baby #1 was moved to a crib in the same room as Mama and Dad; I found that she wanted to nurse slightly less if she was a little farther away from the smell of the breast. But for the first year, she liked to nurse often, and even more-so if she was teething. Things improved magically at age 1.

    Hang in there; go easy on yourself; rest when you can!

  11. I've read your blog for a while now, but have never commented before. Kiddo sleep habits are something that's near and dear to me, though, so I wanted to. :)

    My kids are almost-4, almost-3 and 4 months. I'm right there with you, re: parenting small children who are close in age. What has worked for us is to not make a big deal about things (easier said than done, right). What I mean is, if they don't want to nap, ok. We DO ask that they have quiet time (like a previous commenter said), and this has worked wonders for my sanity. You don't have to sleep, but momma needs some alone time/down time. They can play in their room/s and not have to sleep, and I get a break to take care of cleaning, etc. Which is another thing - I've let go of my desire to have a spotless house. With 3 kids, it aint gonna happen, and I've accepted that. I save clean up for after everyone is in bed at night, for the most part. If lunch dishes sit there till dinner, that's fine, because I'm not stressing to try to wash dishes while kids freak out around me.

    Last, we don't really have a bed time 'routine' per say. At the same time every night, my husband takes our son up to sleep, and cuddles him until he's wound down from the day. Sometimes he lays him right down, others they snuggle until he's asleep, depending on what he needs. Sometimes my daughter follows shortly after, and others she waits until I want to go up to bed (since I'm an early-to-bed early-to-rise kinda gal, it's pretty much at the time she should be sleeping anyway), and she just comes and sleeps with me.

    The baby falls asleep usually somewhere around 8ish, and then hangs out with daddy (often in a wrap carrier) until around midnight, when she comes in with momma, I nurse her, and we sleep until around 6ish.

    One thing that I've found which helps us is that I have a 'routine', but not a schedule. The same basic series of events happens every night, but not always at the same time. We also, ALWAYS do a little quiet reflection time before settling down for the night, wherein I ask the kiddos what their favorite part of the day was, what they were grateful for, what they learned that day, etc. They really like this time because they get to tell me all about how they saw the world that day, and I like it because it's a good emotional/spiritual exercise for them, as well as something which cues them to the fact that it's the end of the day and time to sleep. Obviously your littles are too small for this yet, but once they get there, I highly encourage it!

    Anyway, this has become really long, but I wanted to say that I see nothing inherently wrong with what you're doing. If not having a schedule works, do it! If not, don't! We don't ever schedule anything, and our days are always different... but that works for our family and our kiddos. If yours need routine, there's nothing at all wrong with embracing that and seeing where it goes.

  12. Thank you to you and everyone who left comments. It's just past midnight and I'm exhausted but still awake because this feels like the only time in the day when I can breathe - until the baby wakes up, of course. Then I nurse.

    The very last bit of your post also caught my attention. The stress of fighting with the kids to get sleep or a routine as well as everything else done in life is just hard on a relationship. It sucks to feel like I'm part of a tag-team wrestling team instead of in a loving relationship sometimes. It feels like our time together is spent passing responsibility for one child or both back and forth so the other one can get things done or go take a deep breath. But when we do connect, the rest of it is easier to manage. Then, I can draw some strength and inspiration from the realization that one part of this crazy, messy life is on track. Now, how to connect? I'm not sure all the time. We're trying to have unplugged evenings once or twice a week (no TV or email after kids are finally asleep). It helps.

    Good luck with the sleep/no sleep dilemmas. And thank you so much for your honesty!

  13. Hi there - I've been following your blog for a little while, but never commented before, so I hope you don't mind me stepping in now.

    I feel for you, I really do. A few years ago I was asking the same questions, and was just as tired and overwrought, though with only one child! I'm reluctant to give advice on this subject, as it is such a contentious one, and can so easily cause upsets, but as you asked, do you mind if I just say what I think?

    As awful as it might sound, you need a routine. And... you can't establish a routine without being ruthless. You are not super-humans. People that want to do gentle, attachment parenting techniques often think they can do it all, but sooner or later they reach their limit and burnout from lack of sleep, or lack of quality time to themselves.

    Your Silas sounds a lot like my Rubin. He is probably waking at those times out of habit, and he is probably also nursing for comfort, out of habit. Those kinds of habits are hard to break, but you will all benefit if you can shift his habits a little bit (when you feel the time is right).

    I'm not going to try to tell you how to do it, but start gently. For example, I established daytime routines for a couple of months before I was ready to work on the nighttime and sleeping routine. Initially I was completely against the idea of controlled crying but had to resort to a form of it in the end. The only book on the subject that I could stomach though was Dr. Christopher Green's "Toddler Taming". If you should ever come across it, give it a look. He has a kind and gentle approach.

  14. nak, so i can't type much, but the book "simpicity parenting" has changed my life.


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