Friday, November 20, 2009


Exhaustion has set in. Utter, complete, mind-numbing, soul-crushing exhaustion. I wasn't this tired during law school finals. I wasn't this tired in 2007 when I was working until all hours in the Senate on the immigration bill. The only thing that even comes close was one hellish month in private practice, but even that doesn't really compare. Any time I've been sleep-deprived before-- due to work or studying-- there were two significant differences. First, there was always a fixed end date in sight, after which I knew I was going to be able to catch up on my sleep. Second, even during those difficult times, I would get bigger chunks of sleep than I'm getting now-- and could even break down and sleep a good, full night if I really needed to.

I'm going on seven weeks now during which I've strung together three to four hours of sleep at a time at the most. I think that ONCE, MAYBE there was a five-hour stretch, but that was early on and has not been repeated.

Nate does not like to sleep at night, and I don't know what to do about it. He used to do a pretty decent four-hour stretch before his first night feeding, and a couple more hours after that. Now, I'm lucky to get three hours in a row for that first stretch, and it's only downhill from there. Last night I went to bed at 9:30, only a few minutes after Nate. He was up at 12:30, nursed, down at 1:18, up at 3:37, nursed, down at 4:21, up at 4:34 (when I begged David to get him back to sleep, because I knew he wasn't hungry), down at 4:53, and up for the day at 5:30. It's currently 11:00 a.m., and he's finally been napping for an hour.

Of course, now that he's napping, I feel like I SHOULD be trying to sleep. But yesterday morning I spent his entire morning nap frustrated on the couch, trying to doze off. I think the pressure to "sleep when the baby sleeps" can be too much. Sometimes I'm better off just doing something else-- surfing the internet, reading a magazine, calling a friend-- because I feel like I've just wasted my little free time if I try to sleep and can't. I can sometimes fall asleep during a later nap, but if I'm home alone with him, I'm invariably up after only an hour.

He used to love to take crazy-long naps during the day-- three and four hours at a time. Then I began to worry that he had his days and nights mixed up, and so I've started waking him after two to two-and-a-half hours. We've also stopped leaving the lamp on in the nursery, after reading that even a dim bulb could make him wake up more at night. He does seem to fall back to sleep easier after his first feeding now, but he still wants to be awake anytime he finishes a feeding after 4:00 or 4:30 a.m.

I'm not a nice person when I'm sleep-deprived. I've probably snapped at David more times in the past four weeks than in the previous four years. I know there's no way to put a six-week-old on anything resembling a schedule, but I'm going insane. I need help from any veteran moms out there. (Ellen, I'm looking at you!!) Am I right to wake him up if his daytime naps get too long? Should we try to get him down at a certain time each night? (Right now it varies because he gets fussy in the evening and ends up taking a nap.) Any way to get him to sleep a little bit later in the mornings? (I'm a morning person, so 6:00 or 6:30 would seriously be a fine wake-up time in my view, provided I could actually get some decent sleep before then.)

Even if there's nothing I can actually DO right now, can anyone tell me when it might start to get a little bit better??


AMW said...

Hi - I have a 9 month old, so sleep is fresh on the brain and we struggled a lot the first few months so I'm happy to pass on what I've learned! First, my motto is to never wake a sleeping baby. If he's sleeping, he needs it and most of the time a baby that sleeps well during the day will sleep better at night (even though that seems contradictory.) Also - and I can't tell you how much I wish someone had told me this simple piece of advice - a baby doesn't need to be up for more than 2.5 hours at a time the first 6 months or so. My recommendation is to put him down after 2 hours and even if it's for a short time, he needs the break. My daughter was so fussy and I was nursing her constantly but soon learned she was just tired. Hope this is helpful. I'm sure you've already heard, but it really does get better!

Lisa said...

Read "On Becoming Babywise" and then adapt it to your personal taste. It's a little rigid, but it makes for a good guideline. Eat, awake, sleep...that's the pattern babies should follow during the day. Then, at night, right back to bed after eating. It takes a little while, but I really think they learn to sleep better at night quicker that way. My SIL did it with all her kids, and they started sleeping 6 straight hours through the night at 3 months. It took our daughter until 5 months to get there, but we had her down to one wake-up at 3 months.

Unfortunately, even when they DO get on a schedule, they tend to change it up at a moments notice and can always throw a wrench into the works unexpectedly. But just getting sleep most of the time will help. We started leaving Olivia with Grandma (at Grandma's request) overnight about twice a month, and you would not BELIEVE how well we slept on those nights and how much better we felt for the whole next week.

Salome Ellen said...

Well, this is no consolation now, but I really can't remember some of the things I did -- it all fades out in the memory. You ARE onto something with the surfing the internet or whatever. I think the rule should be "Do what relaxes you / DON'T WORK while the baby sleeps." I also agree with what was put to me as "Let sleeping babies lie!" They actually do sleep longer at night...

Rosemary said...

When I hit that wall, I saw two options (maybe you'll see more or others): embrace cosleeping, hoping to be one of those people who could nurse in semi-sleep and get back into deep sleep easily, or have my husband take the midnight feeding with a prepumped bottle. We ended up doing the bottle thing, and it made all the difference in the world. You really need five hours in a row to say basically sane or that's what my lactation consultant said. And five hours during which you cosleep nurse counts. I'm such a light sleeper I couldn't make cosleeping work.

Congratulations on your sweet babe. It is so hard at the beginning with the utter sleep deprivation, but it is true that this too shall pass. Will say a prayer for you - I read you in your SoCo days.

Robyn Smith said...

These are the baby boot camp days. It is so hard, but it will get better, and you will make it.

For baby sleep tips, I prefer "The No-cry Sleep Solution" by Pantley. She outlines what's normal sleep and gives age-appropriate tips for under 4 months and 4 months and older.

As far as waking baby, I would actually encourage you to keep naps short (no more than 2.5 hrs) during the day (unless you are sleeping) Tank up baby with feedings during the day. Try for a later bed time for baby with more feedings before bedtime (mine sometimes ate every hr or so with power naps from 8-11pm and then gave me 5 hrs)

I also highly recommend co-sleeping if that works for you. Co-sleeping doesn't have to mean both of you in the same bed. Having baby in the same room saves so much energy when you're so tired. Also, look into setting a time that you only feed at night. I.e. hubby brings baby to you, you feed him, then hubby does what's needed to get baby back to sleep. You could block the first part or the last part of the night depending on what works for your family.

Most importantly - God gave this baby to you because you are the perfect mother for him. Find what works for you.