Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sleep challenges

An email from a friend recently told me about her toddler daughter's sudden resistance to sleeping through the night. Boy, could I relate to that! While William and I were visiting Ma and Pa Larson in Natchez, William suddenly decided that it was time for a nap strike and oh yes, how about waking up a bunch of times in the night or wee hours to cry "Mama?"

I was ready to bang my head against the wall. And rarely do I want to inflict pain on myself. Mom kept reassuring me that the sleep strike was likely because William was out of sorts: he spent a lot of time travelling in the car, then he was sleeping in an unfamiliar bed in a new place with lots of other people around. But I was going nuts. He resisted going down for the night every single night. I put him in the Pack n Play, and instead of rolling onto his tummy and cuddling up with Natty and his blanky, and sighing contentedly, he tightened up and resisted lying down. He'd squirm and wiggle as soon as we got within three feet of the bed, in fact. Then he'd stand up and call out for me. And then he'd cry. Argh. It was more or less the same at naptime. I had to go back and forth into the room about ten times to convince him to just lie down already and go night night.

Normally, my son is an excellent sleeper, something I sort of pride myself on. Other kids may have walked early or speak lots of easily recognizable words, but by George, my son can sleep like a champ! Usually, I can plop him down into his bed, make sure he has all his stuff and leave the room. Once the door shuts, he knows it's time to sleep, so he does. Sometimes, yes, he talks to himself for a little while or plays with his stuffed animals and books or takes off his socks (okay, he always takes off his socks), but within ten minutes or so, all is quiet in William Land. Ah, bliss. Two hours of daytime bliss, sometimes a smidge more. At least ten hours of nighttime bliss, often a bit more.

So of course, that's the weak link in this chain: my dependence on William's ability to sleep so well. And when we were out of town, he decided to exploit that. Ack. The worst night was the night we spent in Memphis. Not only did he sleep in the same room with me and my mom, but he was in that unfamiliar bed AND he woke up with a wheezy, croupy cough. That was a horrible night. My mom is the only reason that I didn't fling myself out the window that night. She got up with the baby twice as many times as I did.

And okay, it was a one-story house, so flinging myself out the window (should we have pried it open more than the eight inches wide that we did) would have lacked something in drama. But still. It was a bad night.

The first night we were home last week, David and I had to resort to letting William cry it out. He didn't really need anything; he had just gotten used to seeing Mama in his bedroom. So we gritted our teeth and let him cry for about 20 minutes until he got the message and gave up. He hit the mattress in resignation, we sighed in relief at 3:30 a.m., and we all rolled over to get some much-needed sleep. No major problems since then, thank God.

And I'm more cheerful now. It's amazing what sleep can do for you!

Also, apropo of nothing, can I just tell you how cute William looked in the car today when he fell asleep on the way home from Gymboree? We'd been in the car about five minutes. He had been eating raisins from a little box, and I could see his eyelids getting droopy. I asked him if he wanted me to take the half-empty box and put it up. But he said, "Nooooo,"* and clutched it more tightly. Two minutes later, he was sacked out, still clutching the open box in his right hand. His little head dropped over to the left, and his mouth was open just a tiny bit. He looked like a little sleeping angel. A little angel with smudges of raisins on his chin.

*He just started saying "No" on Friday night, when his Grandaddy Aaron was feeding him dinner. Naturally he wants to get in lots of practice in his newfound skill.


natalie said...

yeah... sleep...

I just started reading "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" and I'm REALLY interested in seeing how the suggestions help us out. Of course, the Critter is just over 2 months, so it may be too early, but WE can at least get into some haibts (I hope). Any advice from you and the good doctor?

Jennifer Larson said...

Natalya, I just emailed you a sermon on helping your child to sleep better, based on the soon-to-be-patented Larson-Wyckoff Model. Okay, so I just pontificated on what worked for us, but you can pick and choose what works for you.

For those of you who are not Natalie, the highlights were establishing a good night-night routine at the same time each evening, being on the same page as your spouse on whatever you choose to do, and work on not setting yourself up for habits that will be hard to break later. And if it all fails, you can always dope your kid up on baby Tylenol (kidding, I'm kidding!).

Anonymous said...

Ahhh! The great 18 month sleep regression. Once your over that hump you are supposedly home free in the sleep department. LOL!


Shab said...

I am definitely breaking the Larson-Wyckoff rules of sleep. I'm not looking forward to weening Yago off nursing (or will we have to ween me??!!) The latest routine is that around 8 we start to play and get ready for bed. I will breastfeed and if we're on my bed then he'll just stop when he's full, roll over and go to sleep. [The rolling over proves that he *can* fall asleep on his own, right?] Then Santi usually does the transfer to the crib. Once there, he'll sleep until 5 or 6 in the morning (and will nurse and then sleep another 1-2 hours!) I know that he will be impossible to put down later. In fact, when I'm not around (about once a month) his dad has a hard time getting him to sleep at night. I guess I'm just living in denial. I always end up asking myself how many college students I know who have to be nursed to sleep...exactly. So I continue...

Don't you love the naps home from Gymboree? We only live about 7 minutes away and he still manages to fall asleep!