The Sleep Project

So, it's been awhile.... As many of you know, I have a 9-week old infant in my life now, which makes blogging, showering, exercising, cooking, and pretty much everything else a little more challenging, and frankly less interesting! My darling daughter is what some would call a "fussy" baby, or what Dr. Sears refers to as a "high needs baby", but she is still the most dazzling part of our day. Our whole family is completely enamored by this little doll, and baffled, left wondering how the most adorable baby on the planet could possibly be this unhappy most of the time!

To summarize the past few weeks, we now have breastfeeding under control, thanks to my persistence, my husband's patience, my lactation consultant's support and Juna's voracious appetite. She is gaining weight, becoming a more efficient nurser, and now our challenge is getting her to pay attention to the task at hand. She would rather stare at our orange curtains than eat. And who could blame her? Orange curtains are sooooo fascinating! The world is revealing itself to Juna, and she is reveling in all its' splendor. Hands and feet, water, light and colors, sounds.... everything is new, exciting and all-consuming. Mostly, we just like to stare at each other and smile in wonder.

Juna's emotions are ever-changing and completely unpredictable (my husband thinks she gets this from me...). One moment she's smiling and happy, and the next she disintegrates into tears and protestations. She demands our utmost attention and lets us know when we are failing to fulfill her needs. We have logged countless hours on the teal exercise ball in the living room and I think I've worn a path in the backyard from circling the patio with Juna over my shoulder. This girl likes to move! She likes to be held, and no, that sling, wrap or carrier simply won't do right now. It's arms or nothing for this little lady. She's a woman who knows what she wants!

Well, at least she sleeps much of the day.... oh wait. Currently, this is our biggest challenge yet. Juna simply won't nap. It's been five weeks of trying everything to get this girl to sleep during the day. I've rocked, bounced, jiggled and danced, sung, shhhh'd, begged and pleaded..... sometimes she will fall asleep. Victory! But if you set her down, expect her beautiful blue eyes to pop open one to fifteen minutes later. After several days of this, I did what I always do, tackle the problem head on by doing my research. My pediatrician recommended putting her on an "eat, play, sleep" schedule. Sounds EASY right? OK, who are these magic babies who eat, play and sleep when you decide they should? My baby sometimes wants to eat, eat, play and then eat some more. And when she wakes from her "nap", all I need to do is pat and shush her right back to sleep? Seriously?! Does this actually work for anyone?

At our next appointment, when I mention that I am still having a difficult time getting her to nap, the pediatrician recommends an even stricter schedule and harsher methodology. I return home with a newfound resolve: this child WILL sleep, and it will be on my terms. Having read three different books (ah, the reading one can accomplish with a slow nurser...), I know that it is preferable to put the baby to bed when she is drowsy but not completely asleep. You also must swaddle, put her upright and 'shh/pat' her until she melts into your loving arms. You then kiss the top of her head and say "you're going to sleep now" and watch as she descends into a deep, peaceful sleep. If she wakes, she may cry for five minutes and return quickly to her previous state, dreaming of puppies and lollipops....

Naptime in our house goes like this: Mommy sees the first signs of drowsiness (yawning, glazed eyes) and jumps into immediate action. She calmly swaddles Little One, and begins the soothing to sleep process as dictated by the Book. Little One decides she doesn't like the swaddle and fusses and protests until Mommy has freed the little hand that Little One has recently discovered. Little One is now irritated that the fist has a difficult time getting to her little mouth, so the fussing increases. Mommy goes to the exercise ball to calm Little One down, but now Little One is in a real tizzy. Mommy checks the diaper, re-swaddles, then rocks, un-swaddles again, and Little One just gets more and more pissed off that Mommy is trying so hard to get her to sleep. Finally, in a last ditch effort, Mommy does what always works: Little One nurses until she falls asleep (a big no-no in the Book), and Mommy is pleased. After waiting a reasonable amount of time, Mommy attempts to transfer Little One to her vibrating chair (LO's favorite place to rest). Success! Proud Mommy walks away, monitor in hand, and heads towards the laundry room to wash the cloth diapers. Bliss! Until five minutes later, when a tell-tale squawk is heard from Little One's room.

We have learned not to celebrate too early in our house.

The breaking point comes one lovely day when Juna decides to stay awake for thirteen, yes, thirteen hours. After all my reading and research, I have learned that babies should have only one to two hours of wakefulness before they are guided easily back to sleep. One book cautions that babies who don't sleep when they are infants are at greater risk for learning disabilities and disrupted sleep later in life. I am now sleep deprived, hormonal and panicked that my daughter's development is being hindered by my inability to help her sleep during the day. Many breakdowns later, I insist on going back to the pediatrician to rule out anything physical (reflux, early teething, extreme gas) and am told that Juna is perfectly healthy, and I am reassured is developing normally. She is just a colicky baby. This (new) pediatrician recommends that I do whatever it takes to get Juna to sleep (more for my sanity than anything else). Car rides? Fine. Ball bouncing? Wonderful. Nursing? Even better. She scoffs when I mention the whole "putting her down drowsy but not asleep" notion, and tells me to follow my own instincts.

And so we do. We free-fall into a no-routine lifestyle. Which has meant two days with Juna on our person when sleeping at all times. We don't even try to set her down now. Bradford uses the ball as his preferred method, and I use side-lying nursing as mine. Yes, it means that I don't "accomplish" anything during the day. I'm not cooking any meals, writing many blogs or burning any fat, but I am lovingly attending to my daughter's needs, and that feels pretty huge right now. Today, Juna slept every two hours in some form or another. It wasn't easy, but she was a much happier baby during her awake time, and that makes it all worthwhile.

We are going to continue this no-method method until our little girl has her bearings in this great big world. It may be several days or several weeks. As a one-child household with two parents who are always or often home, we have the luxury to do this. Sometime soon, I have hope that we will be able to establish a routine that suits us all, but until that time, Juna rules the roost. I realize that before we know it, Juna will have no interest in being with Mommy and Daddy constantly, so we may as well enjoy this phase while it lasts. This will require patience, flexibility and attentiveness on my part, but these are qualities I have been working on developing anyway. Funny how that works.... I'm also dropping the "fussy baby" diagnosis. She's just Juna. Happy, mad, curious and complex, never boring and full of life.

sleeping beauty