Monday, June 15, 2015

let's talk about sleep, baby

So sorry for the inappropriate bad 90's song allusion, I couldn't help myself.

We are fast approaching a year since Joseph's birth, and there are a few things I have been wanting to add to the blog, not for any purpose other than for posterity's sake, but if perhaps you find yourself in a similar boat, it may prove helpful- or at least exist for commiserations' sake.

The first of the things is most and least exciting thing ever to blog about- sleep!

I wrote a post when Lucy was a baby about how tired I was, and how it was "all ok", and looking back I have had to chuckle a little at myself.


(if you caught the Office reference you win 5 Stanley Nickles)

I was pregnant when I wrote that post, and pregnancy fatigue is a type in its own class. I was definitely legit tired, but the thing that was absent from that post is the utter importance of sleep, and the heights of sleep loss that can literally turn a woman's world upside down. I didn't pay any attention to that because I had never actually experienced that level of sleep deprivation, and then Joseph was born.

I hope to blog later in the summer about some of the nitty gritty of the postpartum anxiety and depression that I experienced after Joe's birth-- and I will leave the details for later-- but looking back on the ordeal I can now say with perfect confidence that it was sleep loss and sleep loss alone that was to blame for the bulk of the mental difficulties I was experiencing.

Hormones are a major B after birth, and I know in the case of many women that is all it takes to send them into a tail spin of postpartum depression, but FOR ME, the trigger was the sleep.

I had 4 kids- I had done this 3 other times, I just kept telling myself that I had done this before and that I could cope. And maybe I could have coped if Joseph had been like my other new born babies and at least given me 2 hour stretches of sleep each night, but he wasn't and he didn't.

I existed for 3 months on barely more than 1 (maybe 2, if I got lucky) hours of sleep before he woke up screaming, and some nights it would only be 20 minute stretches. He had more digestive issues than my other babies, and would not even sleep in bed next to me, which was my coping mechanism with Bernadette and Lucy. I should have recognized that this was a different situation and called on Mike, who would have been more than happy to step in for help, but I just kept trying to manage on my own.

Finally the flu hit me in October, when Joseph was about 2.5 months old and I had to give in-- I pumped a bottle and gave him to Mike for a night and slept, but only because I had a high fever and the shakes and aches and I really had no choice. Once the flu left I went back to being the one up with Joe every night but it within a few weeks, the anxiety and depression that had been building up over those few months of next to no sleep started to spiral out of control.

I couldn't think straight, I couldn't control my thoughts, and it just kept getting worse and worse. Mike recognized that the sleep loss was taking its toll, and strongly urged me to either pump or get some formula so that I could get more sleep-- both of which we did a couple times a week for a while. Formula was hard on Joseph's already sensitive stomach and I was having trouble with my milk supply and having enough milk to pump during the day to give him at night.

Mike helping me out a few nights a week would give me a short respite and I would see an improvement immediately in how I was feeling. However, Mike had to work and couldn't take him every night, and as soon as my body went back to functioning on barely any sleep, I would go right back to the same depressed and anxious state I was previously in.

We had one terrible Sunday where I could barely breathe all the way through Mass, I had panic attack after panic attack and after Mass we made the decision that it was time to make major changes during the night so that consistent sleep could be gotten and we could get on top of things.

That night we started to sleep train Joseph (aka, cry it out) and within a few days he was sleeping for 4, 5 or even 6 hour stretches. I remember meeting my counselor for the first time a few days before we started sleep training Joseph and being a total basket-case and within the first week of sleep training things had changed to drastically that at my appointment only one week later I was an entirely different person. I am sure the medicine I had just gotten on was at least having a placebo effect, but it general takes several weeks to get into a persons' system and work, and I had only been on it for one week, so I was fairly confident that it was primarily the sleep.

This is NOT an endorsement of sleep training, this is not me saying that cry-it-out is the way to go-- CIO is what worked for us and it is what we needed to do to function and survive. This is me endorsing sleep for moms and encouraging moms to do whatever they need to do to get as much sleep as they can.

Obviously as mothers a certain degree of sleep deprivation is expected, and we learn to live with less sleep-- before becoming a mother I never could have survived on a two 3 hour stretches of sleep, but now I can. What I have learned through this experience is that I have a bare minimum amount of sleep that I need to function, and without which everything starts to fall apart.

If you're a mom going through something similar, the only thing I would actually recommend is not to take it lightly, but to really value your own physical health and your body's true need for sleep.

If cry-it-out is not for you, then maybe pumping and giving your husband a bottle is. If pumping is too hard or you don't have the milk supply during the day for it (as was the case for me), buy a can of formula and know that your baby will be fine and you will be a better person too. If your baby will sleep better next to you in bed and you will get some extra sleep that way- then DO IT!

This was one of those real life lessons for me, one that left enough of an impression that I felt the need to e-log it for future Ana. I feel sure that I would have had to get help for my postpartum issues either way, but I do not think that things would have gotten as out of control as they did if it weren't for the extreme sleep loss, and I hope they never will again.

But then if they do, there's always sleep training ;)


21 comments :

  1. Yes yes yes yes yes! I only have one experience to go by (an a new experience on the way that will be handled much differently, God willing) but with my daughter I went 8 months of being up with her every.two.hours.every.night... (sometimes she'd crank it up to an every 1 hour increment just to make me thankful for the every two hours). It was a nightmare and I was in a very dark place that I never want to go back to. I didn't even realize how bad off I was until I was out of it. I thought that this is just what motherhood was.
    Sleep training was my godsend. And it took me way too long to cave because I thought it would make me a "bad mom" but the truth is I'm such a BETTER mom now than I was in the state I was in before! I won't ramble on about it but yes yes yes yes yes! I'm so glad you shared your story!

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    1. Ugh, so sorry you had to do that with your first one-- not a good way to set the stage for motherhood, but so so glad you figured out what works for you!

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  2. I hear ya! I had horrible PPD/Anxiety after my 3rd child, and let me tell you, those drugs can work fast! I felt like a fog lifted only 3-5 DAYS after starting my antidepressant. Crazy, I know. My husband also called in the cavalry about the same time, so I had my dad or my sister helping me when he couldn't. This also lead to more sleep. Whatever the reason, I was grateful for sleep, drugs, help, and an attentive husband.

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    1. So glad you found relief, and so glad you had a support system! Mike and my family were invaluable during those difficult weeks.

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  3. I'm so so so glad you figured out a way to keep functioning because it's brutal enough but that little sleep??? So hard. You're a great mama.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this, Ana. I experienced this with my second, who is 15 months. He started sleeping better about 6 weeks ago. He was up all of the time and wasn't responding to CIO. I went to the doctor, thinking I had PPD. She felt like I was just burnt out, and she was right. I hadn't slept more than 2-3 hours at a time in over a year. I was a mess. I'm doing better now that he's only up once or twice a night, and I'm home from work for the summer. Sleep deprivation is very real and a big problem. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

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    1. I know! I feel like we take it so lightly because it's "just sleep", but it is torture when it just doesn't come. I am so glad your little one is sleeping better, I hope he continues to!!

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  5. Sleep is so important! I'm the same way, I barely survive when I'm up all night, but I'm also proud and insistent on dealing with it myself because Dave works and I don't want him to be up too. Recently Dave made the decision that it was time to night wean Gus who is 2 weeks shy of 1. I don't know why we didn't do this sooner. The once or twice he wakes up now, Dave goes in and lays him back down, and if he cries, we turn the monitor off. And everyone is happier now. Gus was grumpy and overtired too, he needed this just as much as the rest of us did.

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  6. My heart goes out to you. I was diagnosed with PPD/anxiety after my 3rd. I don't know how much of mine was sleep related, but my husband went to school full time & worked full time. Plus I had two other kids who were still in the very whiney, dramatic stage of early childhood. It was so hard. I felt literally insane at times & it took me a long time (too long) to ask for help. I did start on meds & they helped immensely. Glad you were brave enough to ask for help & to do what you needed to!

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  7. Ana - this is SO great. I love all the options you tried and I love the bottom-line message - you can't be the best mother to your baby if you're not taking care of yourself. Thankfully, I have never struggled with PPD, but I am NOT a good person when I am sleep deprived. I had one who wouldn't sleep at all, even in bed with me. My sister finally convinced me to put him on his stomach, despite all the dire SIDS warnings. I did, he slept and that's where we went. At the time, my husband was deployed (he left when the baby was 10 days old), and I had 3 other kids who also needed my time and attention. You do what you need to do. Glad you found a solution that worked for you, and that you made it through!!

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  8. Thank you for writing this Ana. I had a similiar experience after the birth of my third, and at times I've felt so alone in it. I need to read this, so thank you again.~Angie

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  9. I always love your posts, but this is the second one where I've felt like you've written the words I've been trying to for months--and so much better (the other one was about how different a baby boy feels)! I recently had to eat major crow about using the CIO method on my son (we used it for our two older daughters, so I wasn't opposed to it. I just thought he was too young to start, as they hadn't needed it until they were almost a year), but it was a crow worth eating since he went from needing to be rocked back to sleep every time he woke up (every 1.5 hours) to only waking up once a night. This is getting all sorts of rambly now, but whatevs. Thank you for writing this! :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Emily! I am so glad you are getting more sleep, isn't is crazy how much learn from each kid- they are all so different!

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  10. Love this. In the middle of sleep-training Gemma, who was on a sort-of routine that she ignored last night. Thanks for sharing this!! At least I have coffee and 5 Stanley nickels!

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  11. I have been soooo tired this pregnancy and I am desperately hoping I can start getting by on way less in, say, 11 weeks, or I don't know what I will do. Please Jesus let the baby sleep well with me!

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  12. Ohhhh my goodness! This post is excellent! Definitely going to share it!

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  13. Wow! Thanks for always being so real and honest in all of your posts! It is refreshing. I am so glad you are taking this bad experience and being brave enough to tell other people so hopefully they can avoid it.

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  14. Every newborn has caused me to spend much time pondering the effectiveness of sleep deprivation as torture. Especially when we had our youngest just 10 months after we brought our foster daughter home. So so hard. And yet, just like that, we're back to everyone sleeping most of the time and an almost 10 y/o who gets up and takes her dog out in the morning :)

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  15. I always always hit this wall about 3 weeks postpartum where the birth high has worn off and the sleep deprivation and baby's 2 week growth spurt all combine to make me just crazy tired. Like being so tired makes me feel literally crazy and irrational and weepy. So every time I hit that wall I just pump milk and at bedtime I hand it to my husband and say "the next feeding is yours!" and escape to sleep in another room for a whole 4 hours straight. And somehow I feel so much better! It's just 4 silly hours, but it truly does help restore some sanity for a few more weeks. So I totally get where you're coming from!

    Also, we sleep train every single time, can't imagine doing it any other way, and it's been a life saver. Never had to do CIO at night for it but usually have for naps and have zero issue with it!

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  16. Hi,

    Thanks for your honesty. I'm currently in the same situation with my 6 week old (gassy, fussy, crying, poor sleep).

    What formula did you use with the baby? I want to supplement with formula,but I'm terrified it will make her stomach issues worse.

    Also, did your baby outgrow his tummy issues?

    thanks,
    Melissa

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