Wednesday, February 29, 2012
For the past two years or so, Bubba's been sleeping in our bed. There have been a few nights here and there where he slept in his own bed (and it cost us quite a few Hot Wheels too), but for the most part, he's been with us. It's interesting, because I've never been one to be into co-sleeping. I personally think, and I know that not everyone agrees) that with all the research that's out there, the increased risk of SIDS isn't worth it to sleep with your baby. Not only did he only spend nights in his own crib, he also had no crib bumpers, no blankets or toys in the crib, I ran two different fans in the room, there was a motion sensing monitor under his mattress that detected if he went more than three seconds without movement, he always had a binky (he was bottle-fed breastmilk) and he slept in the same room as us. I wanted those odds to be as much in our favor as possible! (Hooray for OCD!)
Granted, that doesn't mean that when Bubba was a baby I didn't have nights where I just wanted to scoop him out of his crib and bring him to bed with me, because I did. It was just one of those situations where I weighed the pros and cons and decided I'd rather not take the chance. That means for the entire first year of his life, my child always slept in his crib, or on a blanket on the living room floor with me watching, or occasionally in our arms. This worked well for us and he was a decent sleeper for most of his first year. (Hooray for Baby Wise!)
Well, at about a year old the poor kid started to have night terrors. Anyone who has had a child who experiences these can tell you how awful they are. Your child will wake up from a dead sleep screaming in pure terror and it seems like almost nothing you can do will calm him down. It's horrible.
We talked to the pediatrician about it, and she said that what happens is that they kind of get "stuck" in between being awake all the way and being asleep all the way, and it's scary for them. Our instinct is to calm them and try to get them back to sleep as quickly as possible, but according to her, the best thing is to wake the baby up all the way so they see they are safe, then go ahead and put them back to sleep.
What we were finding though was that by the time we got to him in our crib he would be so worked up that it would take almost an hour to get him calm enough to sleep again. Being extremely tired ourselves, what we would do was to just bring him back to bed with us to help him get calm, and then we'd all end up falling asleep together. We also found that if he did have another bad dream while he was with us, it was easier to just roll over, snuggle with him, and get him back to sleep right away since he didn't have as long of a chance to get all worked up.
It started getting harder to get him to sleep in his crib because he would want to sleep with mom and dad in "the big bed," so what we would do was lay him there to fall asleep, then move him to the crib later. Well, since my husband would put him down most nights, he'd end up just falling asleep with him, and Bubba would stay in our bed all night more and more often.
This is how Bubba went from being a baby who slept almost exclusively in a crib to one who co-slept as a toddler.
Now he's three, and I'm pretty sure he's just having plain old nightmares at this point. Same deal as the night terrors though - if he's in bed with us, it's easier and faster to get him calmed down and back to sleep again. However, when he's on his own, by the time we hear him crying and get over to his room, he's worked himself up so bad that it can take an hour to get him back to bed again.
Some people have mentioned separation anxiety, but I really don't think that's what's happening here. For one, he has had no trouble in the past week that we've been putting him in his room falling asleep alone. The first couple of nights he cried a little, but after that he was fine. Nary a peep from the boy and he was right to sleep. He will sleep for an hour or two, and then wake up full on crying. His eyes are usually still closed when we get there and he will sometimes manage to squeeze out a word or two when asked why he is crying, but we can't really understand a lot through the sobs. Tonight, for instance, when I went in he was reaching for something almost frantically, with his eyes closed. I picked him up and gave him a hug and he squeezed me so hard! I asked why he was crying and he kept saying something about "that one" and the window. He also pointed to the window a few times. The blinds were closed though and there are no drapes on them to create shadows, so it had to be something in his dream.
I used to be a "bad sleeper" when I was a kid. Not only did I have awful nightmares, I had them often. I also was a sleep walker and a sleep talker. Even if I didn't have a bad dream, it wasn't uncommon for me to go knock on my mother's bedroom door to ask her a random question, or to wake up on the couch or something like that. It wasn't terribly surprising to me to find out these sorts of things can be genetic.
I don't know what to do at this point. He can't sleep with us forever, and certainly not with the new baby coming. I don't want him to spend most of his nights crying and upset either. We play gentle music for him, he has a night light in his room, we leave the bathroom light on with the door cracked for more light, we have a good bedtime routine, and above all, we try to be gentle and understanding because this isn't a behavior issue. My mom was kind of mean about it to me when I was a kid, and I remember how hurtful it was because it's not like I did it on purpose, you know?
Obviously he's dealing with something in his sleep because even when he sleeps with us I can hear him grinding his teeth in his sleep. It worries me, knowing my own anxiety issues, and I don't want to make things any worse for him than they have to be.
©2008 Sara Madrigal Fehling. All rights reserved.
Please do not take my photos without permission.
Contact me! firstname.lastname@example.org