Sunday, May 17, 2009

And yet more about sleep

Yes, sleep indeed is something that parents obsess over. Sleep and routine, which are inextricably linked. As is food. Do not expect that this will be the last post on the subject.

After almost three weeks of sleeping through the night for periods of eight to eleven hours, Phoebe has behaved somewhat differently over the last two nights. 

On Friday night as we were going to bed around 11pm she awoke and decided she was hungry. We thought maybe she was cold as the temperature had dropped since we put her to bed at 8pm. So we fed her and tucked her up in her sleeping bag and there she remained until 6.45am.

Last night we put her to bed at 7.15pm, around 30-45 minutes earlier than usual because for once she'd actually had a decent afternoon nap for a couple of hours in her cot around 3pm, rather than me having to take her out in the pram around 4 or 5pm to get her to sleep. In fact she'd been napping fairly regularly throughout the day: about an hour every two or three. She surprised us by waking up at 8pm apparently hungry. We fed her and cuddled her for a while and then put her back down at 9pm. She then woke up again at 3.30am. 

I didn't know what had hit me. I am no longer in that automatic zombie mode of getting up, feeding the baby, changing the baby, swaddling the baby, placing the baby back in the cot, going to the toilet and eagerly crawling back into bed. Now I lie in bed listening, trying to wake up, trying to engage my brain, thinking "Why is she awake? What could she possibly want? Is she really hungry? Should I feed her? Should I try to get her back to sleep? Should I ignore her? If I let her get up now will she do the same tomorrow night? How will this influence tomorrow? What happened to her GODDAMN ROUTINE for crying out loud???" Then Toby gently taps me on the shoulder and whispers "Lins, Phoebe's awake," and it's all I can do to stop myself from yelling out "Yes, I know and just what do you want me to do about it?"

Anyway, I fed her and got her back into her cot in about ten minutes, only for her to wake again within three hours. After another feed, Toby changed her, swaddled her and attempted to get her back to sleep in her cot but she was having none of it and so she ended up in bed with us. Well, didn't she look as smug as a bug in a rug gazing lovingly first at Toby then at me like the cat that got the cream. And there we all slept for the next hour and a half.

There are a few possible factors at play here:
  • She could be cold. We placed her in a sleeping bag to counteract this but...
  • It's difficult to swaddle her when she's in a sleeping bag and she definitely sleeps better when well swaddled.
  • It could be a growth spurt, but then she seems to be constantly having growth spurts as any time I can't explain her behaviour, be it excessive sleepiness, excessive wakefulness, frequent feeding, frequent crying etc. I attribute it to growth spurts. The current one has been going for about a week on and off, with different symptoms throughout.
  • She could be in the early stages of teething and there are other signs pointing to this, such as her red cheeks (which could also be a sign of good health), her constant dribbing and sucking her fists (which she's been doing for about a month), her transition from sucking my finger to chewing on it (which may be a normal developmental and explorative progression) and her recent afternoon grizzlies (which may or may not be colic or overtiredness - see below).
  • She could be hungry, due to not feeding well at bedtime feed, due to colic or overtiredness.
  • She could be thirsty. The air has been particularly dry these past few days due to south-westerly winds. I awoke frequently on Friday night with an uncomfortably dry throat and nose, needing a drink. It makes sense that she might feel this way too.
  • Perhaps the first awakening led to the next and so on, due to not changing her nappy between times. We don't usually change her nappy at night and didn't want to stimulate her but perhaps she was then woken due to having a wet nappy.
  • As mentioned, her nap times were different throughout the day, but her cumulative sleep time didn't seem much different.
Honestly, being a parent, or at least the primary caregiver of a young baby, requires the precision and planning of a military strategist, the investigative skills of a detective and the innate ability to analyse cause and effect, not to mention patience and flexibility. You have to constantly reassess your plans based upon what your baby has done, or how your baby is behaving. If baby doesn't behave as you expected or hoped then you have to do a quick analysis of all the possible causes, alternative courses of action and potential outcomes, and what cascading effect these may all have. 

Consider this: you go for a swim whilst hubby looks after baby during baby's sleep cycle. Baby doesn't sleep. Baby falls asleep in sling (on hubby) whilst you and hubby finish off a coffee post-swim. Hubby then has to go back to work. Do you:

a) take sling from hubby and put it on you and hang around the park until baby awakes, bearing in mind that baby doesn't sleep for long in the sling?

b) take baby from sling, put in car and head back home as per original plan, thus risking waking baby during transition from sling to car seat or on arrival back home resulting in an even shorter nap than had baby been left in sling?

c) gently lay sling in pram and push around the park for as long as baby will sleep, hopefully 40 minutes?

If c) then do you then feed baby and go home, or go home and then feed baby? And so on and so forth. It's like planning your next move in chess.

Anyway, tonight we've ditched the sleeping bag, swaddled her tightly and tucked her in with some very secure blankets (it's all about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) people, and the prevention thereof; there are so many rules). We'll see if that makes a difference. Of course, it could have just been a one-off anyway.

Phoebe's also been experiencing the afternoon grizzlies. Since she's been sleeping through the night the hours from 4pm onwards are something of a juggling act. Trying to time her naps so that she doesn't get too much or too little sleep before bedtime, so that she isn't overtired and doesn't go to bed too early and so that she enjoys bathtime but so that we still get time to ourselves to have dinner and tidy up, is quite a challenge. 

But these grizzlies are more than just managing the witching hour. Twice now she has been inconsolable at really inconvenient times during the early afternoon, such as when out for coffee with friends, or today at a baby shower. I'm beginning to wonder if she has colic as I read yesterday that it starts around three months (right on time, she's such a textbook baby) and on the advice of a friend I gave her some Brauer's Colic Relief, a homeopathic remedy which seemed to calm her. However, I'm sure it's just a case of having too short a nap (usually because we're going out) and that leading to a whole host of other problems. It makes going out in the afternoons really difficult, which is a bummer as I have my citizenship ceremony during the afternoon in a couple of weeks. Hopefully this is just a phase and it will have passed by then, although if it is colic then the same source tells me that it'll last three months.

Firstly, she'll get tired very quickly throughout her next cycle. I don't necessarily feed her straight away because it's less than two hours since her last feed. So if she doesn't get back to sleep, which she generally won't if we're out and about and she's stimulated, then she becomes hungry and tired and she gets confused. I try to get her to sleep. She can't sleep and she screams and screams. Eventually she becomes due for her feed anyway, manages to communicate that she's hungry and I feed her. But she doesn't feed well because she's tired. She pulls on and off the breast, gets easily distracted and gives herself a windy pain. This leads to her being tired, in pain and still a bit hungry, only she can't really eat because she has a pain. So then she gets frustrated too and screams louder, making the pain worse and making it even harder for her to sleep. 

The only way out of this really is to walk her around for a while, change her position frequently to remove the wind, persist with feeding her, and remove all stimulation so that she can get to sleep. Today I spent an hour and a half trying to calm her and get her to sleep at a baby shower (I'd like to say it was a good party but I don't really know as I didn't feel I was really there) and eventually she fell asleep in the sling she was so exhausted. Even taking her into the bedroom didn't help as she was too hot and could still hear all the noise from the lounge. After trying to settle her for some time with her screaming, whilst my friend was trying to breastfeed her baby, she eventually told me she was hungry and I offered her the breast. After a couple of minutes of sucking she stopped. She laid her head back and looked right at me. She looked positively content. And then, the little minx smiled! I couldn't help but laugh at her - how could she go from being inconsolably upset one minute to being happy and smiley the next? I had to look away from her so as not to encourage such cheeky behaviour.

I'm done... I lost most of this post just after having finished it and before managing to publish it. I don't know why it didn't auto-save but my battery ran flat. I'm now tired and past my bedtime so if the post seems a bit disjointed and ends abruptly, it's because it's a rewrite and I've forgotten what I wanted to say.

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