My beautiful, bouncing baby boy has been, shall we say, a challenging baby. No sweet and snuggly honeymoon period for us post-birth. Ben came into the world with a holler and hasn’t stopped since. Those first few days in the hospital Mike discovered that Ben would calm down if he elongated the “eeee” sound at the end of “Benny.” Between that discovery and trying to match Ben’s intensity (per Happiest Baby on the Block), Mike and I have been circling our son, buzzing like a couple of giant bumble bees in hopes of containing his wealth of personality.
After ten weeks if screaming jags that could last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours and ranged from minor to unsootheable, the boy miraculously began to settle down. His sleep became longer and more regular. I began to revel in the tremendous achievement of a baby who was becoming a good sleeper all on his own. This was the calm before the storm.
One of the keys to Ben’s sleep is the swaddle. With it he sleeps soundly and falls asleep quick-ish. Without it, he is the spawn of Satan. About two weeks ago Mr. Man began to break out of his swaddle. I would wake up to a wailing Ben with a single hand peeking out of the top of his swaddle. This development has coincided with needing to move him to his crib because he has outgrown his bassinet. The transition went less than smoothly.
Last Thursday it took six blood curdling hours to get our offspring to fall AND STAY asleep. We rocked. We swayed. We “eeee’d” until we were hoarse. We nursed. Mike finally held Ben in his arms for an hour, letting the little body fully relax and fall asleep before we could put him down without waking him. That was the last straw. Letting him cry it out would be less traumatic and painful to Ben and us than a repeat performance of that fiasco.
So we did. Friday night we let our boy cry. We went through the normal bedtime routine, shut the door and waited. Boy howdy, did he cry. Wails and sobs; gasps and hiccups. For two and a half hours Ben made his opinions about his circumstances known to all and sundry. I cried. And then I left the house. I couldn’t stay to listen. But eventually he cried himself to sleep. The next night he cried for an hour. And the next night: ten minutes.
Now to my obsession. It comes from not wanting to let the boy get overtired so he cannot fall asleep. The kid has no tells. While some babies yawn and get droopy eyed, signaling their tiredness, Ben goes from dandy to full melt down without so much as a single yawn. So I watch the clock. An hour after he wakes up I start putting him back down for naps. We’re experimenting with early bed times. I’m charting his sleep habits. When I’m not putting him to sleep, I’m reading about his sleep. I am a woman possessed!
I have found that I am willing to go to whatever lengths to help my son get enough sleep. When I look into the sunken tired eyes ringed with dark circles because he just won’t give over and fall asleep I renew my efforts. And when he wakes up with a coo and a smile rather than a shriek my efforts are justified. Some day we will nail the right pattern of nap and overnight sleep. Oh happy day! Just not this day.