Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Post-Traumatic Baby Disorder

Anyone who has read this blog, or knows our family, knows that Harry has not been the easiest child in the area of sleep. He was constantly nursing around the clock and would not stay asleep when transferred from arms or car seat. When he did sleep, it had to be in our arms or up against one of us - never in his crib or alone. There was no such thing as "bedtime" because it was just 2-3 hour blocks around the clock. I could never tell anyone how many times he nursed at night because he nursed all night long. When I went back to work, it was even worse. He would suck down all the bottled milk during the day and then nurse 12 hours straight when I got home. There was no "letting him cry" because he wouldn't cry. He would just be awake. If he did get upset, there was no calming him without nursing. For daytime naps, Daddy had to walk for 2 hours at a time, twice a day to keep him asleep. It was very intense.

At age 2, it is still a daily struggle to get him to sleep. We have discovered that it is most likely due to some sensory processing issues (i.e. sensory seeking behavior) and are actively seeking help for him. We hoped as he was able to communicate more it would get easier, but that has been delayed due to his lack of expressive language (most likely due to sensory issues as well). Once he is asleep, however, he is really out and stays asleep for 11-12 hours and will now stay asleep through a transfer from arms or car seat. That is a HUGE leap forward that only happened when he self-weaned at 16 months. The trouble then became getting him to sleep without nursing.

Needless to say, it has been a gigantic source of stress for me and hubby. Every night we wonder what we are facing. Is it going to be a battle? How late will he be up? We tried so many methods of getting him to sleep. Some would work for a while and then suddenly never work again. Some never worked. We don't let him nap because he will be up late and it throws him off for days. Late afternoons are dangerous times to take a drive because he will fall asleep, so we are like prisoners at that time of day. He needs 3 things in order to distract him enough to fall asleep.
  1. Physical confinement and/or deep pressure massage
  2. Visual stimulation
  3. Audio stimulation
Our current strategy is driving him in the car for 10-15 minutes. The car gives him all three things. He even asks to go in the car when he's ready to sleep. Until we get working with an occupational therapist, this is what we will do, unless it stops working.

So, in the midst of all this came Nathan. Oh, Nathan! May this not come back to bite me in the ass, but I never knew such sleep was possible from a child so young! Nathan goes to bed! In his crib! At almost the same time every night! And sleeps 6-8 hours! He then wakes for a feed and sleeps another 3-4 hours with me! And he has put himself to sleep! Without nursing! In fact, he will spit out the boob and just happily drift off! And then! Lets us put him down!


Nathan is truly healing my wounds. For the first time in two years, we have "bedtime" in the house. We can pretty much count on both boys being sound asleep by 8 PM. I'm still pretty jumpy with the baby monitor, but I'm slowly feeling more relaxed. I was never able to be calm when Harry was asleep because I knew it was a precarious state. It's taken 2 years for him to be solid and then we added a newborn, so I figured I'd be back to square one. But Nate sleeps better at 11 weeks than Harry did at 16 months. I just went back to work (albeit summer hours) and it has not had the same effect on Nathan's sleep like it did for Harry.

I swear this is going to come back to haunt me, but I feel like I've been in survival mode for so long and I'm finally getting some respite. Having even a couple of hours to yourself at the end of the day is such an amazing thing, not to mention long stretches of sleep at night. It's been a long time since I had anything resembling anything like this. I know there will be setbacks that will make me want to tear my hair out and run away from home, but I feel like we are headed in the right direction. If this all goes to hell in the next few months, I'll have to come back and read this and remember the glory days of bedtime.

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