Tag: sleep training

Resolving an eat/sleep association, and what it means for breastfeeding (or, our un-maternity leave policies)

After I posted about our struggles with Maggie’s sleep, someone suggested I join the Respectful Sleep Training/Learning Facebook group. I was hesitant to do this and put off posting after I was accepted into the group. I only received a response from one person, and after asking a few questions she definitively stated “She has an eat/sleep association.”

This wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I didn’t think this was her issue as she hadn’t really wanted to nurse at night the previous few nights. I also didn’t want to hear this because Lily had very clearly had this problem, and we weren’t able to push through it. If I hadn’t been going out to dinner a few days later and missing bedtime, we probably wouldn’t have considered trying to push her last feed until 30 minutes before bedtime like the poster suggested. But I was, and I asked Ryan to give her her bottle in the living room with the light on before bringing her up to her room for stories and then bed.

“How did it go?” I asked when I got home. “She drank 6oz,” he said. 6oz. There is no way I could ever produce 6oz. She then proceeded to sleep through the night. Of course I didn’t because I was sick after not sleeping for a week, but we’ll get there.

DMFeeling strong after a good night’s sleep.That was Friday. We’ve followed the same routine since then (so 3 more nights). She wakes once between 1am-3am for her pacifier, and then once around 5am to nurse. She’s had a 5+ oz bottle each night, which again is more than I can produce.

I’ve considered trying to nurse her downstairs but this is problematic because she gets so distracted. And I think getting more milk from a bottle is really helping her sleep through. This means I only get to nurse her once a day except on weekends, which makes me so sad. This also means I have to pump more often and we have to supplement with formula. What I think I’ll try is nursing her in her room with the light on, and then going back downstairs to finish up with a formula bottle while we hang out with Lily. After both girls are in bed, I can pump again. But my supply is already dwindling after just a few days. For someone who breastfed for 26 months the first go around and wants to soak in every snuggle with a baby I only see a few hours a day, this is heartbreaking.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t have anything against formula. I use it! But I use it because pumping isn’t working out. Pumping isn’t working out because at 13 weeks postpartum I went back to work. And I went back to work because the United States has maternity leave policies similar to those of developing nations. Everyone knows this, and everyone knows the benefits of paid maternity leave (and subsidized childcare to help ensure women re-enter the work force), so why isn’t anything being done? Oh, I know, 12 weeks paid leave by 2021 blah blah blah. It’s embarrassing that anyone is “proud” that policy makers are taking this step. So yes, I’m angry and frustrated that I have to give my baby formula, but not because I think formula is bad or unhealthy. I’m angry because I have no choice in this matter.

I recently read this article, which articulated my frustration about things like being forced to go back to work so soon and how we aren’t paid for pump breaks, and opened my eyes to some concerns I had never considered before, like the deliberate decision not to mention breastfeeding in NYC’s Latch-on campaign. I feel like there’s nothing we can do except complain, because the dial is only moving in 2-week increments and that’s in NY which op have the most progressive family leave policies in the country when they’re enacted. So here I am complaining and feeling frustrated, and I’ll continue complaining and feeling frustrated. But at least I’ll be getting some sleep.

Sleep trials

After posting about our sleep trials, I received an outpouring of feedback and support. Some suggested co-sleeping which worked for us with Lily some nights, but is impossible with Maggie because she is so nosy and curious. Others agreed those first few nights of crying are really difficult, but worth it, and more than a few suggested the Dock-a-Tot. First off: thank you for sharing your sleep struggles. There’s nothing like hearing you’re not the only one going through a difficult phase. And thank you for all of the ideas you shared. While we decided to do our own thing for the first three nights, there were two potential solutions I plan on discussing with Ryan, and those came from you guys! In the meanwhile, I wanted to give an update on what we decided to do, and how it’s going.

We chose to do some variation of cry-it-out (CYO). This worked really well with Lily when she was a baby, and only took 2 nights of going in at graduated intervals to give her her Wubanub and pat her back. I struggled with it at the time, but I’m so exhausted now that I didn’t have any qualms about doing this. Because this worked well with Lily and has for so many other families, I really thought I’d be sharing our success story today. Disclaimer: I’m not.

Night One

Our schedules were already thrown off on the first night because of how poorly we slept the night before. I got home after 5pm, and Maggie was on her second long nap of the day. My mom said Maggie was exhausted and she just couldn’t keep her awake. I woke her up at 5:45pm, we had dinner, and then played a little before starting the nighttime routine.

I tried putting Maggie down at 7:15pm (usually goes down between 7-7:15pm), but she stayed awake in her crib a good 15 minutes. I went up to try to nurse her since she hadn’t before I put her down earlier, but she just rested her head on my shoulder and looked up at me. She finally nursed a few minutes and we rocked, and she was in her crib asleep by 7:45pm.

I slept in the basement with Lily (an adventure of its own), while Ryan stayed in our room. He said she cried on and off from about 9:30pm (her typical nursing time)-12:30am when he gave her a formula bottle. Then she slept until 5am (skipping a usual early morning waking), and fell back asleep after he gave her her Wub (btw she uses a regular pacifier but we can’t get away from calling it a Wub for some reason). She stirred briefly at 7am, then fell back asleep and was still out when I left at 7:26am. I considered this night a success, and left the house feeling optimistic.

Night 2

Maggie nursed and went down nicely at 7:15pm. She woke at 11:45pm and Ryan gave her a formula bottle. We decided to try this after she slept so well the night before, and because she sometimes only takes milk for a minute or two before comfort nursing. I also don’t have enough of a breastmilk stash to risk her not finishing a bottle.

She woke at 12:25am. I went in and gave her her Wub, turned on her sleep sheep and Fisher Price Soothe and Glow Giraffe (she loves this thing), and patted her back until she calmed down. I was in the room tops 2 minutes. She slept until 3:30am (another typical feeding time), and I had to pick her up when I went in because she was standing and there were blankets under her. Big mistake. I was able to put her back down and walk out within 2 minutes, but I think this fed into our difficulties during Night 3. She was just waking up at 7:40am when I was getting out the door.

Night 3

The third night was a total nightmare. She didn’t nurse before going down, which meant she woke up again around 8, at which time Ryan gave her formula. She woke up around 9pm just whining, and I went in after about 30-40 minutes and gave her her Wub. She whined and woke up several times throughout the night. At 3:30am, I gave in and nursed her. I just couldn’t be awake any longer.

So where do we go from here? Some options:

  1. The Dock-a-Tot. Actually, an Etsy knock-off on recommendation from a fellow mommy (thank you!). Ryan isn’t a big fan of spending $80 on something that may not work, though.
  2. Actually dedicating time to the graduated interval approach. I’m not sure how I would function at work after a night of this though.
  3. Seek the support of the online Facebook community, also a recommendation from a fellow mommy. I was accepted to the group yesterday so will be familiarizing myself with it today.

I think one of the biggest challenges is that Ryan and I are so tired, we can’t stick to a plan at night. Graduated intervals worked well with Lily, but I literally would not be able to go to work the next day. It’s possible to try this weekend as my mother-in-law graciously offered to watch one of the girls on Saturday since Ryan is working. This makes the Dock really appealing because it doesn’t require us to do anything. But if it doesn’t work, or we decide it’s too expensive, where do we go from there? If you found an approach that you and your partner were able to agree on, please share here!