Friday, January 7, 2011


Sleep is a common topic among parents of young children. We wonder if our children are getting enough; if we are getting enough.

Sleep was so much easier with only one child. Jonas slept with us and nursed all night until he was 1.5 years. It worked out just fine. We bonded so strongly and I slept so sweetly in our bed. I napped once a day with Jonas in his 'bedroom' on his floor bed. Then at night we all slept upstairs in the loft in our bedroom. When we moved to Vancouver we started Jonas in his own room with his floor bed and the transition was seamless. Except that he still nursed a few times through the night, which meant that I went in after midnight and fell asleep with him. When Jonas was 2 we finally night weaned him - his dad took over bedtimes and he began sleeping right through the night within a week. Since then Grandma J bought him a special 'big boy' bed which he was so proud of and he has slept in ever since. He is an excellent sleeper and I wouldn't have changed a thing! I would never trade our sleeping and snuggling together for the first years of his life - nor would Jordan! Jonas eventually self weaned at just over 2.5 years and by this time I was pregnant and was not very comfortable nursing so it was somewhat mutual. Since our night weaning Jonas has slept well through the night. The usual routine for the past year has been bath, snack, perhaps a cartoon and then brush teeth, pajamas and then 2 books if he has been a good boy. Less or none if he misbehaves. Jordan or I then turns out the light and lay next to him. Usually he will chat for abit and we will visit for a few minutes in the dark and then we say its time to sleep and goodnight. We lay with him for a few minutes to half an hour sometimes and when he is asleep we sneak away. He loves to sleep in until 7:30ish. Recently, I am questioning, though, whether his 8:30/9:00 bedtime is too late. Perhaps more about that another time.

Now that we have our second child and yet another personality in our family, we have made a shift in our sleeping patterns. Karina is not so into the whole nursing and sucking for self comfort - she is somewhat, but nothing like Jonas who LOVED to fall asleep on the breast. She is busier with other things on her mind, such as being close to Jonas and watching his every move. For a few months I even had to wear one of those nursing shawls around me in order to get her to stay on the breast and nurse. Otherwise she was pulling off at every few sucks to check out the scene around her. If anything, those shawls draw more public attention to the nursing mother than just a low profile casual bf session. I definitely felt on display when I had to hang the shawl around my body and keep peeking through the hole to look and play with Karina while she fed.

Karina has also slept with us since she was born because it was natural and easy. The nursing, snuggling and loving was the continuation of the bond we created when she was conceived. The hours spent sleeping together and getting woken up to Karina's quick breaths and little purrs against my body are embedded in my mind forever. And we always reasoned that this short time shared with our babies would be part of the building blocks of their lives and relationship with us. Both Jordan and I have deeply valued this time with both Karina and Jonas. When I think about the timeline of my life, this particular time with small children is so very short and I want to do everything I can to be present and still and enjoy its simplicity and innocence. Soon enough the kids will begin to have their own independent lives and the slow separation from us will ensue and I hope to look back on their babyhood and the beginning of our family with fond memories.

Which brings me to the present. As a mother of 2 children with coursework and volunteer work, I need more energy and no longer have the time to nap like I did with just Jonas. Last month I finally realized how tired I had become - my attitude was going downhill fast, I got sick, I felt frustrated frequently and I was becoming quite foggy mentally. Also, I was missing Jordan big time. Although he was physically nearby much of the time, we were both too busy or too tired to be together. Going hard from dusk till dawn and then drop to sleep in total exhaustion is what life felt like in Nov and Dec.

We decided to make some big changes beginning in Jan. Together, we decided to begin using the crib as a bed for Karina and not a play area. Also we decided to night wean. Intuitively I knew it was the right time and it had to be done for the greater good of the family. On Sunday night I slept on the pull out couch in the family room. I gave Karina a nursing at 8:00 and then another at midnight and then again first thing in the morning at 6AM. Jordan went to her everytime she woke up and he rocked her back to sleep. Its now Friday and although she still wakes up through the night, she no longer nurses. Once at bedtime and then again at 6AM when she wakes up for the day. At that point Jordan gets to sleep in until 9 or 10AM and I am with the kids in the morning. For the next part of the plan, we will need to encourage Karina to be able to soothe herself back to sleep without depending on Dad to rock her. I think we will start that on Sunday night. I am hoping that she will learn quickly and that night wakings will stop.

I am feeling better as the days go on and I have the nights to myself. I have not had more than a 4 or 5 hour stretch of sleep myself as I am so accustomed to waking up at night, but even with these short (long to me!) stretches I am feeling much better. I highly doubt any parent of a young child ever sleeps through the night. Often I go into Jonas's room at 3AM to turn him 180 degrees and put his blanket back on. I know other friends who get up to take their 4 year old to the bathroom each night - its just part of being a parent and its normal not to get the sleep you had before becoming a parent! I know that eventually I will catch up and sleep as much as I need!

For now, its about being a well balanced person, my emphasis being: health, happiness and engagement. As a woman and mother I will strive to hold close all that gives me true health, true happiness and true engagement and now I will truly let go of all the rest. Now I welcome 2011!


Momma Bri said...

You are such a strong woman & a loving mother! I am so lucky to know you & to read your blogs...such an inspiration. Thank-you for this sleep good to hear your sleep story in such a positive way!!

Surprised Suburban Wife said...

I read this post when it was written and have intended to come back and comment for weeks now - finally! I love what you posted - so honest and open. I am totally sick of those sleep expert-y types whose kids "just slept through the night at 6 weeks" or whatever, like that is some kind of objective for all infants. It is very interesting to hear such a detailed description of how you have approached sleep in your house with each child.

Oh and I got one of those stupid nursing covers too - same reason! My second baby just can't focus sometimes, and although I am not at all ashamed of nursing in public, I still didn't appreciated having my whole nipple hanging out completely several times during a nursing session at Superstore:)