Is that your final answer?

My blog seems to be taking on a game show theme, because as well as playing Sleep Survivor this week I also embarked on a new-moms version of Who wants to be a millionaire.

Firstly, a bit of background … I mentioned in my last post that Cam’s sleep patterns have been a bit erratic. To be more precise, about a week ago he started waking up hourly between midnight and 06:00. This led to a vicious cycle because he was tired when he woke up, therefore cranky all day, meaning I struggled to get him down for his day naps too.

As any mom will tell you, when something is wrong with your baby, figuring out what’s wrong is a case of elimination and educated guessing. In fact, all the baby books come with helpful checklists to assist you in this quest. Is your baby hungry, sick, tired, bored? Does he have a dirty nappy? Is the light too bright, the sun too hot, the breeze too cold? The problem with this process is that the sleep-deprived mommy brain does not always make the most logical of deductions.

And now, having set the stage, dim the lights and let’s play Who wants to be a first-time mom.

Question one: for your sanity

Why is Cameron waking so frequently at night?

a)      Hunger

b)      Sickness

c)      Teething

50/50

As Cameron has no fever and was certainly feeding well, I felt I could safely eliminate ‘B: Sickness.’ And so my first guess was ‘A: Hunger’ as many babies need more sustenance than just breast milk from about five months on. However, in my dedication to exclusively breast feeding for the first six months I decided I could handle waking more frequently at night for the next few weeks. I changed my mind about this strategy at 03:00 on Wednesday morning. I had just woken for the fourth time since going to bed at 22:00 and I knew with absolute clarity that I could not keep this up for another four weeks. What’s more, I was feeding Cameron whenever he woke at night which was leaving my milk supply severely depleted. And so the next morning I announced that I was going to start supplementing Cameron’s last feed of the day with formula, and also start solids within 48 hours. And so that afternoon I took myself off to the shops to buy a tin of formula, as well as some weaning spoons and sweet potatoes (which constitute step one of the meal plan my clinic advocates).

This decision did not come easily though and I spent the entire day in a state of utter emotional turmoil. When I tell you exactly what I was feeling you will probably think I’m a complete lunatic, but such are the bizarre workings of this mother’s mind. I felt let down by my body but also guilty for not starting solids. I was heartbroken that the end of the exclusive breastfeeding period had come to such an abrupt end. I was annoyed that my six-month plan wasn’t working out. I was desperate for Cameron to take the formula, but anxious about whether he would. I spent the day either in tears, or fighting back tears, and for the first time I was just too tired to handle Cameron. By happy coincidence we were staying with my mom-in-law (we’d been chased away by our neighbour’s renovations) so she and my sister-in-law stepped in take over.

It was such a relief to have a plan, but that night Cameron refused to take the formula. After employing various techniques over a period of two hours we gave up and resolved to try again the next day.

Phone a friend

Thursday started peacefully but at 11:30 all hell broke loose. Cam started crying inconsolably and nothing would help. I eventually phoned Colin’s mom in tears and she rushed over to drive us to the doctor. On the way Cameron fell asleep, and after his five-minute power nap was all smiles when we arrived. The receptionist which whom I had pleaded for an emergency appointment for my inconsolable child gave me a wry smile when we walked in. (Another requirement for being a mom: be prepared to look the fool.)

The doctor diagnosed a post-nasal drip, with sore ears being a nasty side effect. Armed with decongestant and nose drops, Thursday night went relatively well. We elected not to try the formula again until Cam was better to avoid adding new variables to the mix.

‘B: Sickness’ was now back in the mix.

Ask the audience

Friday night was one of the longest of my life. At midnight Cam woke to feed and simply would not go back to sleep. I spent two hours trying every trick in the book before going to wake my mom for relief. (Again by happy coincidence my parents spent Friday night with us.) She took over and had Cam down within 15 minutes. I then spent the next three hours sleeping fitfully on the couch as Cam was now sleeping in his camp cot in the lounge. I got another three hours of sleep after his 05:00 feed, and so Saturday commenced.

We had a wedding that afternoon so the morning passed in a haze of preparation. On the way to the venue I was sitting in back with Cameron who was protesting most vocally to being in the car. While trying to console him, I noticed a white mark on his lower gum, which even a novice mom such as I could immediately recognise as a tooth on the verge of making a break for freedom.

‘C: Teething.’ Final answer!

On reflection, a number of people had suggested during the week that teething might be the problem. But for whatever reason I was sure it wasn’t that and so put the now obvious teething symptoms down to something else. It is remarkable how the same facts can look completely different in light of new information!

I’m glad that we’ve finally figured out what’s wrong, but it’s a small consolidation as Cameron is struggling so much with this process. My poor little baby is in such pain and it is absolutely heart-wrenching to witness. He is struggling to feed, which means he’s too hungry to sleep, so is staying awake for hours, which means he is completely exhausted. Last night he cried non-stop for two hours and we had a repeat performance this evening. We’ve added teething gel, ice cubes, teething rings and iced water to our arsenal but are having limited success. Our house looks like a warzone, we are emotionally and physically worn out and l I just keep thinking, ‘Still nineteen teeth to go.’

Yet somehow, in the midst of all this, I can’t help feeling a frisson of excitement over the fact that my baby has his first tooth. Such is the lunacy of motherhood, that even in the pain of the process, as I rest my weary head on my pillow, I can’t help smiling a little smile of pride.

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Sleep survivor | Outwait, outsing, outsway

I’ve recently started teaching Cameron to link his sleep cycles during the day. I’m fortunate in that he usually sleeps for 45 minutes during his day naps, but I’ve noticed that he’s often still tired when he wakes up so I’m trying to help him learn to sleep for longer. The Sleep Sense book that I’ve been using has some very helpful tips, and incredibly, the first time I tried to get him to link cycles he did. Of course that was three weeks ago and he hasn’t done so since! But we keep persevering.

Probably unwisely, I started this process while we were on holiday earlier this month. Cameron wasn’t sleeping well anyway and the challenge became one of getting him to sleep at all, never mind about linking cycles! The situation soon deteriorated into a battle of wills and we found ourselves playing a not-terribly fun game of Sleep Survivor.

Outwait

Step one in the strategy is to give Cameron a chance to self-sooth. After all, he’s not going to learn new skills unless he’s given the chance to practice them. So come nap time, I wrap in a blanket, give him his bunny (we’re trying to teach him that it’s a sleep soother), put him in his cot and leave him to it. Occasionally, after a few minutes of muttering to himself, all goes quiet and I peek around the door to find a sleeping babe. More often though, it’s on to step two …

Outsing

Being cognisant of the fact that Cameron is starting to develop sleep associations, I try not to pick him up if he hasn’t fallen asleep by himself. So step two is to put my hand on him and sing softly to try and ease him into dreamland. It is vital at this point not to make eye-contact! However, the harsh truth is that if step one has failed, step two is rarely successful and we move onto step three.

Outsway

This is no holds barred involvement. Often by this stage Cam has moved into over-tired mode and I have to resort to rocking him until he is incredibly drowsy, if not fast asleep. As he now weighs over 7 kilograms and this process can take up to half an hour, this is a serious endurance test. But as in Survivor, this last endurance challenge has the grand prize at the end of it, so one just knuckles down and does whatever is necessary to go the distance. When we were on holiday, Col’s sister counted to 200, as many times as necessary. Col takes his mind off it by watching TV with the sound on mute, and I usually prop my Kindle up and increase the font size so I can read at a distance!

At the moment Cameron’s sleeping patterns are all over the place so this post is by no means a report on a successful campaign. Due to the high prevalence of allergies in my family I am trying to breastfeed exclusively until Cameron is 6 months old. However, his appetite is growing and the 6-7 hour stretch he used to go at night has shrunk right back to 3 or 4 hours. This regression back to newborn sleeping habits means I’m becoming increasingly bleary eyed as the days progress but as I’m not working I feel this is a sacrifice I can make. Happily, he is occasionally taking longer naps during the day, but there is no pattern to them yet. Sometimes it’s the first nap, sometimes the second, other days not at all. So it’s all a bit of a guessing game right now, but one I’m hoping will start to settle down when I start him on solids in four weeks’ time.

The hardest part of the process is that there are no hidden immunity idols for me and at the moment I feel like I am spending my life trying to get Cameron down for naps. But my cousin sent us this cute little baby grow from the UK, and I’m hoping that by the time Cam grows into it, it’s message just might be true!

Photo 28-01-2013 10 03 45