a sleep post.

If you’ve read this blog at all or know me in real life, you probably know that sleep during Sam’s first year was crazy. I am convinced, now that Henry is in our lives, that sleep is more a personality issue than a parenting issue. As a new, insecure, first-time mom though, I definitely had moments where I doubted everything, and where I wondered if I was doing everything wrong. Why would he only sleep touching me? Why would he only nurse to sleep? Why did he wake up so often? What was I doing wrong?

In my heart of hearts I knew I was doing what I needed to do to love him well by choosing to co-sleep and nurse on demand all night long. But I also felt judged and confused when people would insinuate (or flat-out state) that if I would just put him in his crib across the hall and let him scream at 4 months old, he’d sleep, or if I just weaned him he’d sleep longer.

Then my second kid came along.

I have not done anything different. I still nurse on demand, let him nurse to sleep if he wants to, and we co-sleep.

Yet this child sleeps easily. He sleeps long. He doesn’t LIKE to nurse to sleep usually. If he’s tired and not hungry, he will CRY if I try to nurse him. I can put him in his swing and he will go to sleep. Sometimes if he is over-tired he will fuss a little, but for approximately 45 seconds before passing out. And he never really gets worked up, he just fusses a little. He can enter a light stage of sleep, stir a little, and then re-settle himself.

Sam would work himself into a frenzy so quickly and would wake up every time he entered a light stage of sleep. It was just how he was. Even now, at almost 28 months, he still wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes. Last night he woke up and asked where his peanut butter sandwich was. (I think we may have a sleepwalker when he’s not in a crib anymore. We shall see).  As an infant he would never just stir a little and re-settle and go back to sleep. We’d try and he’d just get more and more upset.

Here is a fascinating post I read when Sam was a baby that I think explains my kids pretty well.  Sam was a tension-builder when he would cry. He still is. He will have a total freaking meltdown and will get more and more worked up. We are working on teaching himself some coping mechanisms to help himself regain control when he’s losing it, like taking deep breaths, etc. Now he will come up to me when he is upset and say tearfully,  “Mommy, I need to take deep breaths.” And I will coach him through a few.

But what the article says about tension-releasers is totally my Henry:

A kid who releases tension by crying will not always nurse or be rocked down to sleep. It may happen sometimes, but often times the kid will get progressively more active and jittery, almost manic, as the nursing or rocking session goes on. He or she may cry during the rocking/nursing, and not settle down in a few seconds. It’s almost as if the kid wants to cry. If you leave the child alone, the child will wail initially (for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes), but then settle down to a fuss or whimper, and will soon fall asleep. A child who releases tension from crying will often wake up happy and refreshed, and will play alone in the bed, co-sleeper, or crib for awhile before you come to get them.

It’s so true. I will try to rock/bounce him to sleep, or nurse him to sleep, and he will fuss and cry until I put him in his swing where he will fuss for maybe 1 minute longer and then pass out. He is content to be not in my arms or at my breast every second of every day.

Maybe I am just more laid-back this time around, too. Part of the issue with Sam was that I had no idea when or if things would get better (or worse). I had no frame of reference. With Henry I know that there will be good nights and there will be bad nights, but eventually we’ll all sleep. It’s not quite the all-consuming obsession like it was when Sam was a baby.

I do think a big part of it is just their personalities though. Even in the womb they were different. Sam was Kickpuncher:Reborn (that’s for all you Community fans) and Henry was much more mellow. Those traits have carried over to life as air-breathers, too.

Then there’s some other stuff, too. Henry is intact and Sam was circ’d. I believe he was often in residual pain from that completely unneccessary surgery and that affected his ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. I also think that because he is a sensitive, intuitive, sweet boy that he was psychologically damaged from his circumcision. He had night terrors as a older baby and young toddler, and now that he is verbal, he sometimes has bad dreams but is not able to tell me what the dreams were about, but is very shaken up. I believe these are also after-effects of his circumcision.

I’m sorry, Sam. I wish I had known….

Sam was also fully-vaccinated for the majority of his first year. I have also wondered if his sleep issues were related to a reaction to his vaccines. He slept 6-7 hours at a time as a 7 week old, and his sleep went dramatically downhill after he was vaccinated at his 2 month wbv.

But he probably started teething around 8 weeks or so, too, because he had two teeth on his 5 month birthday. So it could’ve been that, too.

Anyway, I say all that to say this: sleep is totally a personality thing. I am convinced.

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3 responses to “a sleep post.

  1. Great post! I know that we’re lucky in that, although Elliott doesn’t sleep for long stretches at night, he doesn’t wake up crying either- because we’re cosleeping, he’ll wake up just enough to eat & go back to sleep, so neither of us are very disturbed. If I had to actually get up and go to another room, after he was loud enough to wake us up… I’d be much more sleep deprived and zombie-like. Cosleeping is working very well for us right now.

    He’s not circ’ed or fully vaccinated either, so those could also contribute to our relatively-mellow baby, too (though, the ONLY time he’s EVER screamed for hours with no reason was after shots at his 2m wbv. Made me feel awful.).

  2. Tim and Alissa Birkel

    Henry is selectively vaccinated (Dr. Sears’ selective schedule, sort of — he is supposed to get shots at 2 mo, 3 mo, 4 mo etc but I never took him at 3 mo, so i think we’ll just stretch out the schedule a little and he’ll get what he was supposed to get at 3 mo [HIB and Prevnar] at his 4 mo wbv. He just got Rota and DTaP at 2 mo, and didn’t seem to have any problems with it other than being a little more sleepy.

  3. Right- we’re selectively vaxxing. I’m putting off polio and Hep B, and skipping Rota. I looked at Dr Sears delayed schedule, but didn’t think the extra visits were going to be realistic. I love our family doctor that leaves it all up to the parents!

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