And furthermore: Why Young Children Protest Bedtime

To add to my previous post: this link from Psychology Today. This is the question I’ve been asking since my first lousy sleeper:

But clearly something is missing in this explanation from the experts. Why do infants and young children choose to challenge their parents’ will on this particular issue?  They don’t protest against toys, or sunlight, or hugs (well, usually not). Why do they protest going to bed, when sleep is clearly good for them and they need it?

Thanks to my friend Sue for posting this on her Facebook page. Tonight, I will cuddle-up with my little hunter-gatherer baby and make sure the monsters don’t get at him.

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The sleep book review edition

Put down the book and pick-up the baby

I am so exhausted! Fatigue oozes from every pore of my body.

Nights were getting better but they took a turn for the worst. Then the babies got sick. Sick infant twins is an extreme sport. Over a period of 2 or 3 weeks, I went from high-functioning-tired to what’s-mah-name- tired.  I sit down to nurse the babies. I look at the feed-and-sleep log and try to remember who should get the breast and who should get the bottle. The squiggles on the page make no sense. I read the words carefully. I understand the words but I don’t understand how they fit together. Why was I looking at the notebook again?

The twins are screaming. I know I should sit down to nurse them but I can’t. My back hurts too much from sitting in odd positions for so long. Three months of bad posture, following three months of late multiple pregnancy, added to almost a year of no exercise have taken their toll. My muscles are stiff. Who was that person who ran a half-marathon three months before she got pregnant? She was running 10km 3 times a week? She was fit, she was driven. I’m just a soggy mess of back aches and sore legs.  I’m 20 pounds overweight but I just ate 6 pieces of peppermint bark and half a bag of truffles. It’s not even good but I couldn’t stop.

I cry a little because I don’t want to nurse again but eventually I sit down, calm down and do what I have to do. The last step in a long walk of things I have to do. I don’t do anything that I don’t have to do. Except maybe writing. When I write, I feel like I should do something else. Something that feels like a chore. So I write as I try to soothe Lucas to sleep. A little cheat. I am emotionally exhausted from the endless stream of competing demands. They say that the caregiver needs care too but this couldn’t possibly be when people will go hungry or the toilet will walk away? The caregiver can only take care of herself once everybody has been taken care of. And my job is never, ever, done. Sometimes I feel like God has “blessed” me with a large family and left me for dead.

“It’s me, it’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in need of prayer…”

Two weeks ago, I decided to see if I could encourage my body to produce more milk. Enough to feed both babies. I read Making More Milk (which I highly recommend whether or not you have milk supply issues, just to understand the milk-making process. A miracle, really, just like the rest of the baby-making business). I learned that a baby’s breast milk intake peaks at 6 weeks and remains the same until the baby starts solids at around 6 months of age. So when a supplementing mother like me finds herself increasing the supplement, it’s not because the baby needs more milk, it’s because the mother is producing less breast milk. All of a sudden, I was staring down the end of breastfeeding my twins and that wasn’t on.

I’m just so tired of bottles. Tired of washing bottles and prepping bottles and boiling water and cooling water and making sure there is enough formula. I hate it. It stinks. It makes my babies stink. The other evening, I was too tired to prep the night bottles so I went to bed without  bottles. The babies were hungry, they spent the night nursing on not enough milk. They were fussy and impatient. I was sore and exhausted. It never occurred to me to get the bottles already: 5 minutes of pain for 2-3 hours of sleep. Instead, I decided to nurse around the clock for a couple of days to see if my milk production would increase. It did, but not enough. Lucas and Eve had just started sleeping longer stretches at night: up to 8 hours for Lucas and 6 for Eve. It stopped. I managed to get their supplement down to 3-4 oz a day but it wasn’t enough. The babies went from being content and engaging to fussy and demanding.  3 or 4 days became 5 then 7. I couldn’t accept that my body was not able to feed my babies. And the more tired I became, the more frustrated the babies were on the breast. When I smashed my van’s rear-view mirror out of sheer inattentiveness, my husband sat me down and said: “The twins need more food and you need more sleep.” I increased their supplement to 6 oz a day each and we seem to be on the mend. But the babies have not resumed sleeping longer stretches at night.

I stop at the Tim Hortons’ Drive-Thru to buy snacks for the children. The girl at the other end of the mic is asking me a question on one side, my daughter is giving me ordering instructions on the other. The words come-in through my right and left ears and crash in my brain. It’s like they’re both speaking Finnish or something. I am tired and confused.

The battle has now moved from making more milk to straightening out Lucas’ sleep patterns. Why do I  need a fight to keep me going? Is it because it keeps me awake? Lucas is a cat-napper who is unable to self-soothe. He falls asleep being held or nursed or rocked and if transferred to a bed, will wake-up at the end of his 30-minute sleep cycle. In my state of sleepless stupor, I seem to have lost my main coping skill, that is my perspective. I am locked in a battle to the death with my son: he will fall asleep on his own, in his bed, and stay asleep. It’s not that I mind holding him now. But I have vivid memories of other children waking me up every 2 hours for 12, 18 months, to nurse or have their soother replaced. I am determined not to go there with twins. I cannot take one more day of sleep deprivation, let alone 1 year!

I re-read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and ordered its companion Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins. I read excerpts from The No-Cry Sleep Solution. I re-re-re-read  Happiest Baby on the Block. Expect a book review post coming soon.

My son is swaddled and soothed and put in bed drowsy but awake after short intervals of wakefulness. And yet, he will not fall asleep or stay asleep during the day. When I started having anxiety attacks at the sound of his cry, I knew that things had to change. Lucas is not a difficult baby. He just wants to be held. He is happy and engaging. He just wants to be held. Yes, he is far more demanding than Eve. But that’s because Eve is not a normal baby. Eve is more like an ornament: her day is structured around periods of eating followed by periods of smiling/cuteness and long periods of sleeping, repeated over a 24 h period. She’s a Little Flower, he’s a Teddy Bear.

At this point, I think I know what I need to do. I am a mother of 8. I need to put down the books and pick-up the baby. The rest will sort itself out.