Thursday, March 24, 2016

On sleep

We have truly been in just about every situation imaginable when it comes to sleep with our 3 little ones. This post is about our journey and what has worked for us with each child (to the best of my ever-fleeting memory) and hopefully a little help for you in your current struggles to get yourself and/or your littles to sleep peacefully.

going, going, gone! 

Our oldest, Malakai, was born during a heatwave in the summer of 2009. At the time we didn't have air conditioning except a small portable unit in the main living space. We had not planned to co-sleep because we honestly had no idea what that was or what it meant. Malakai had his own set of plans. We had an antique bassinet by my side of the bed for him to be in our room, but he slept best in my arms, and so that's what we did. He napped fairly well, it was mostly night time that was the struggle. Him being our only child and my staying home full time meant that we could be flexible with sleep for the most part. We thought it was bad, but my current experiences scoff at how easy those days were.

I thought Malakai would be swaddled until he left for college ;)

By 15 months old though, Kai was still not sleeping through the night. He didn't take a pacifier and was weaned but still needed soothed to sleep. This meant myself or mostly Ben walking him around until he fell into a deep enough sleep that he didn't notice when we'd set him down. Letting him cry to sleep was not an option for our situation. He would get hysterical (to the point of vomiting, rather quickly) and we just couldn't stand it.

We read Elizabeth Pantley's "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" and implemented the routines that worked best for us and he was soon sleeping through the night. It only took a couple weeks and it was so wonderful. I still recommend this book as it's suggestions and habits have come in handy with all of our children. Sure, there was sleep regression when we hit a tough bout of teething or a cold, but ultimately we could always retrain using the tactics we learned and going back to our routines.

In the fall of 2011, Desmond joined us. We received a co-sleeper that attached to our bed and were wondering where this magic had been the last couple years! Then we had our first experience with "colick", I was reduced to tears on several occassions and frequently felt like a failure. After a few weeks of it went by, it settled as it often does (cling to that if you find yourself in the throes of colick, it ALWAYS gets better!). From then Des was pretty content to sleep just about anywhere. He napped fairly frequently in a bouncy type seat with his special "lovey" in the middle of the living room while I made lunch and Malakai (then just over 2) played rather noisely as usual.

Malakai, Desmond + Aurelia...swings + bouncy seats to the rescue!

Desmond regressed into needing constant soothing to sleep and at about 15 months had learned to swing one leg over and hoist himself out of bed. We were NOT ready to transition to a toddler bed (and of course, neither was he) so we found our solution in the form of a few sleep sacks. First it worked but the bottom was so wide that he could still climb out, just with more effort. So, I sewed up the sides to make them narrower and ta-dah! no more crib-climing baby. When he learned to work the zipper (because he was baby houdini) we turned them backwards, but eventually he was in a toddler bed and ready to roll. In order to get him to sleep and not play we got into a bad habit of soothing him to sleep and laying him down every night, every nap. This continued even when we put the boys in the same room and turned the other into a "play room" to keep the toys from being a distraction. Someone always had to lay with him to get him to bed, which meant Malakai wanted that too.

Malakai stopped napping, so he would play in the other room while I lay down with Desmond for a nap, which often took a LONG time. At night Ben and I would both find ourselves laying in their little beds, waiting for them to fall asleep. We remembered our previous routines and began to implement them again. It took a while but things got better. One of the best tactics was agreeing to snuggle with each of them, but just for a few minutes. We had worked it all the way down to 1 minute and eventually stopped laying with them after stories and devotions altogether. They've had moments of bothering each other over the years, but for the most part they have always done really well sharing a room.

More recently, Malakai has had a run in with some anxiety and nightmares so I have started to lay down with each of them for "one minute" after lights out. I don't mind this at all, in fact, I look forward to it. I get a small amount of snuggle time with each of them. I pray over them, run my fingers through their hair and kiss their heads before tip-toeing out and whispering "see you when the sun comes up" which was something that we started to tell Malakai years ago and it just stuck. I will continue to do this for as long as they want me to.

Another way we have battled night time worries, bad dreams, and other sleep disturbances is implementing the use of essential oils. We have been using oils regularly for nearly 3 years and the more I use them, the more I am pleased with the outcome. I'd love to share details about this portion of our journey with you. Please feel free to email me to find out which oils we use and how to get some to try!

The boys were 5 and 3 when Aurelia was born. Raeli has been all over the map in terms of sleep. As a newborn she slept wonderfully, and it lasted until we had to stop swaddling her around 6 months because she would roll over in her sleep. We tried all methods of soothing her to sleep, including the multiple different ideas in our go-to resource, "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" but the only thing that worked was to ease her into bed time as much as we could, get her drowsy and lay her down, letting her cry a bit and put herself to sleep. Even still, this really only consistently worked for naps.

Once she got close to a year old she was struggling to get to sleep and stay asleep every single night. I went away for a weekend and we used the opportunity to start to wean her from nursing. I figured we would keep the bed time feeding and wean that one slowly as that's what worked best for her brothers. It did NOT work for her. She would nurse to sleep and then wake screaming as soon as I tried to put her down, no matter how long I held her or if I tried to get her to stay awake. Nothing that included nursing her before bed was working. Then she weaned herself completely. We put her to bed drowsy, but awake and she cried but not for long. Then she slept ALL NIGHT.

It was very foreign to us to let a baby cry to sleep as that would not have come close to working for our sons (or us) just years prior. It's what she wanted and it worked for her. I still have to retreat to the shower if she has a hard time getting to sleep. We also still go in to soothe her if she's having a rough go or cries for "too long"(for us that is over 15 minutes without calming down). At 18 months she still has bouts of waking and being difficult to get to sleep again. Just recently she struggled to sleep at night due to illness and teething, but we went back to our routines once we knew she was healthy and able and she cried a bit, but for less time and she went back to sleeping all night. The more nights go by, the less she protests. Now, she often just whimpers or makes no noise at all and lays there quietly before drifting off to sleep. I consider it a miracle each and every time.

When we've been out late or have had guests over, causing the kiddos to be a bit rowdy instead of sleepy, we usually turn to our favorite essential oils to encourage them to get to sleep calmly and quickly. We've had so much success with using them in this and many other ways that I can't help but sing their praises! They've also done wonders for Ben + I. With how often we were waking to soothe little ones, Ben + I had been used to waking frequently and struggled to sleep all night once they were all staying asleep. We turned to oils and they immediately worked to help us get to sleep quickly and stay asleep all night. All these benefits without the side effects of feeling too drowsy to get up in the morning or if the kids needed us in the night.

All that to say two things 1. never say never! 2. each kiddo is so totally different, let them "tell" you what works for them. As long as it also works for you and is safe, do it! I would never have thought that we would let a kiddo cry to sleep, it's just not something that was comfortable for Ben or I, but it's what works for our little girl and she sleeps well and wakes happy, so we do too!

edit: I wrote the bulk of this a week or so ago and of course Aurelia is in another sleep regression due to her 2 year molars taking FOR-EV-ER to come in all the way. We even went to her doctor to make sure she doesn't have an ear infection. Thankfully she is healthy, just having some referred pain from her teeth coming in. Since she is uncomfortable we do our best to soothe her to sleep in her own room if she wakes unahppy, but when she's just too miserable we pull into our bed to get some sleep. Seasons come and seasons go and if I've learned anything new over the last 6+ years of parenting it's to remain flexible and don't get too used to something because it's bound to change in the blink of an eye!

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