Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sleep Training

Have you ever thought about this? The notion that we actually train to put ourselves to sleep? That most infants and toddlers actually wake up multiple times during the night and simply put themselves back to sleep?

I haven't given this too much thought. Whatever your opinions are on how to sleep train children, I am a softy. I'm just not the kind of person who can let my child cry and cry and cry and cry. Jason Ferberized Casey once I started law school. Casey was around 9 months old. But that just doesn't seem appropriate with Marcie. . .

So here's my dilemma. Marcie goes to bed just fine. She has her sippy cup of milk, rocks a bit with Jason, and then he puts her to bed in her crib-- awake-- with her silky blanket (which she chews on). And she puts herself to sleep. No fuss. No trouble.

When Jason and I are home with Marcie, we put her down for a nap around 1pm. Sometimes she cries for a few minutes-- like 5-- and then she falls to sleep, usually for a couple hours (though sometimes only for 1 hour). I am not sure what happens on the days when we aren't home (which would be Monday through Friday). I suspect she is rocked to sleep or in a family-bed-style situation (this is what was done with Casey). I don't necessarily take issue with this-- as long as it doesn't mean that she expects to sleep with us.

Marcie has been waking up around 4am. For a long time, I thought she was hungry. But then one night I just held her and rocked her and then laid her back down in her crib and she went to sleep. Since then I haven't been feeding her. I figured this 4am waking was just a phase-- and noted that she is adopted and that she may just want to be held for comfort.

Then we went to Vegas. And after we were gone for two nights, Casey decided he needed to start sleeping with us. He also puts himself to sleep without a hitch. But then some time in the middle of the night, he crawls into our bed between us. He even brings his own pillow. This has been going on nightly for about a month now. We've brought him back to his own bed, offered him rewards for staying in his own bed, and sometimes we've just let him sleep with us. Nothing has seemed to help us get him back into his own bed permanently. So we'll have to get tougher and walk him back to bed as many times as he comes into our room-- at least this is what I'm anticipating.

Now comes the part where you all think I'm a terribly selfish person. I need my sleep. I don't get many hours of it-- maybe 6 a night total most nights. Much of this is my own doing. I chose to go to law school, and studying at night means I can see my kids on the weekends. Studying at night also means I don't get to bed before midnight many nights. So if I'm falling into bed around 11:30 or midnight, then awoken again around 2am when Casey comes in, than again around 4am (sometimes not until 5am) when Marcie wants to get held I'm not getting much sleep. And two hours at a time does not sustain me. Even 4 hours at a time wouldn't really sustain me. And that means a weaker immune system. And that means catching a cold (like the one I have now).

Plus, I just can't sleep with my kids on a regular basis. And I mean that literally. When they are in my bed, I'm not really getting any rest. They wiggle. They squirm. They kick-- and not the occasional kick in the shin, but consistent, repetitive little kicks in the gut. They turn sideways and use my stomach as a pillow so I can't move. They knead their little toes and fingers into my body. They are both just active sleepers-- at least while they are putting themselves back to sleep. Which they do several times in a night. Now perhaps if we had a bigger bed, this wouldn't be an issue. But we don't. And I don't want a king size bed. So this is where we are.

So that's my problem. How do I get my kids to sleep-- in their own beds-- so that I can sleep? And not be sick and exhausted all the time.

And here's the kicker. I can't tell anymore what's most important here. Is Marcie waking up because she's teething? Because she is ready to dive into the day? Or is it related to the adoption?

Now this is where things get tricky. I think often times adoption becomes a scapegoat for bad behavior-- an excuse of sorts. Feel free to disagree with me, but I've given this quite a bit of thought. All children experience separation anxiety. All teenagers challenge their parents. Rebellion and testing boundaries-- these are a normal part of developing into independent thinkers. But sometimes parents of children who are adopted use the adoption as an excuse: Well, he is just challenging me because he never felt secure-- there was that subconscious abandonment. . . And there may be some truth to that. Certainly I believe attachment and bonding are very important. I am in no way suggesting attachment disorders are made up-- they aren't. Children need to feel safe and comforted and loved and wanted. But all children need these things. And I cannot tell how much of what is going on is Marcie's need for these things because she is adopted and how much of it is typical toddler angst. And might I handle these two causes differently? Perhaps in theory.

But in real-life-- if I'm honest, probably not. In this particular case, the reasoning for the middle-of-the-night-wake-up-calls might not make a difference to how we handle it. But maybe it should? Would I accept this behavior from a child who wasn't adopted at 9 months old? (Apparently yes since I can't get my 4 year old out of our bed!)

So that's how I'm feeling. Run down. Exhausted.

Yes, I knew having another child would be hard.
Yes, I am willing to make whatever sacrifices I need to make to make sure Marcie is happy and healthy.
I'm just asking what those sacrifices really need to be.

And so if you have some positive sleep experiences-- with a child you've adopted or not-- I'd love to hear them. And in particular if you've used the "pick up put down" method, I'd love to hear about that.

And now, I'm off to take a nap while the kids are at Grandma's and school and I can steal away an hour or so to rest . . .


Rowena said...

Our son used to want to get in bed with us from the time he was 5 until he was 7 or 8. I finally got a sleeping bag and put it beside our bed and told him NOT to wake us up but just come on in whenever he wanted. I kept a pillow there too in case he forgot his. He came in less and less as he got older and I think he finally realized his bed was much more comfortable. You might give this a try and see if it works.
Good luck. I know it is not fun to be sleep deprived! Good luck.

dfg said...

Get a copy of, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Weissbluth. It talks all about these issues and offers both the "soft" approach and the "hard-core" approach, and supports the parent in choosing either one as long as you're consistent. I used it on both Emma and Nicky, and they both sleep through the night from 7 or 8pm until 7am. Lately, Nicky has been waking around 2 or 3. I let him cry for about 10 minutes max. If the crying gets harder, I check on him, but don't pick him up. In a matter of 2 nights, he got the message. It's hard to listen to them cry, but as long as it's not an, "I'm in pain or hurting," cry, it might just do them some good. Hang in there and nap when you can.

Julie said...

You're not at all mean, Karen. If you don't get a good night's sleep it's not like you can make it up with a nap in the afternoon. We've had the same issue here. I don't ever want Nathan to feel abandoned but he will also get stressed when we are stressed so sleep is vital. We all end up grouchy when I try to sleep with him.

Do you have one of those crib accessories that has the lights and music? We have one and Nathan loves it. We turn it on when he goes to sleep and he likes to watch it. Now that he has figured out how to push the button himself, we often hear it in the middle of the night from him waking up and putting himself back to sleep.

The other thing is that if you try to comfort Marcie without picking her up by just patting her back and talking softly, she might not think that she HAS to be picked up when she wakes. This worked with Nathan.

Hope you figure it out!