The Haps On Sleeping And Nursing

Ugh. I’m so boring, I even bored myself just writing bits of posts in my head. Sigh.

It’s just the same old thing– this parenting gig is hard sometimes. Yes, I know there are tons of people who would give almost anything to find that out for themselves, but my appreciation for being a parent doesn’t diminish it’s difficulty. I wonder often about whether I’m doing the right thing with my children. I mean, in general, I know I’m not doing any grave harm. They’re fed, and growing, generally happy kids, but what I think I mean is that when things don’t go the way I might expect them to, I wonder whether I need to try other options for managing various issues.

For instance, I’ve been wondering how much longer I can keep tandem breastfeeding the boys. They are getting to a stage where they’re increasingly squirmy, and quite handsy with each other. They’re also at a stage where they like to stop nursing periodically, just to smile or yell or whatever. So our nursing sessions have become a circus of limbs (mine and theirs) flailing about as I try to stop them from scratching each other’s eyes or pushing each other’s foreheads or as I repeatedly relatch someone who has decided to spit the nipple out (again) to shriek or shout or smile. It’s sweet and wonderful– I love that they interact with each other more, and who doesn’t love when a baby smiles at you?– but it’s really hard to get them to settle in to nursing. (And then, of course, they fall asleep, but more about that later…)

Additionally, sleep issues continue to plague us.

(Let me stop here and say that I know that various different versions of the cry-and-check method have worked for many of you, and I appreciate that they have worked for you, but for now, I’m still not comfortable leaving the boys to cry at bedtime. There’s too many points throughout the day when their care has to be comprimised because they are twins, when they end up crying because I can’t hold both at the same time, etc., so I don’t want to leave them to cry at bedtime. To me, they are still way too young to understand that me “abandoning” them at night is somehow beneficial for them, or that they are somehow able to understand that I still care for and love them when I don’t respond to their cries at night (or that I will eventually respond but only after 5, 8, 15 minutes whatever) . That’s fairly sophisticated emotional logic, and I just don’t think my 4 month olds are capable of that– I don’t think *I’m* capable of that…)

Anyway… sleep issues continue to plague us, and I know that in part this is due to the fact that they’ve developed a nurse to sleep habit. They nap, but only while on the nursing pillow. They (well, really just Henry) wake up multiple times a night, unable to get back to sleep, and ultimately only go back to sleep after I nurse them. They still nurse often during the day, so it could be that they really are hungry, but I know they are more than capable of going 3-4 hours without eating. So, you know– If we’re sleeping 8 hrs a night, they shouldn’t be up more than twice, right? Yet last night found Henry awake no less than 4 times (I think I nursed them on 5 separate occasions last night, though once was when Jack was the one to wake), and I know he was up at least another couple of times when I didn’t nurse him and H got up and rocked him back to sleep.

I think I know what the solution is, but I’m having a hard time enacting it. They need to:
1. Sleep in cribs (in our room, or not– just not in our bed). They slept much better in their bassinet, where they weren’t disturbed by our movements, etc. but sadly, the bassinets got too small, and it seems the cribs are too big. We put Jack down in his crib dead asleep last night and he immediately woke up, flipped himself onto his stomach and scooted himself, bit by bit, to the far end of the crib, whereupon he cried because he bumped his head on the rails. I know bumpers are verboten, but what else can I do? I mean, ideally, he’d have the nest-like atmosphere of the bassinet, only bigger, but I don’t know how to make that happen without creating a suffocation risk.

2. Nap someplace besides on the nursing pillow. This one is hard for me because the only time I have to connect with the outside world (via the internet, of course…) is when they nap, and they won’t nap anywhere but on me. It’s hard to say, “oh, I’ll spend the next week or two (or three or whatever) in virtual isolation while I work to get them napping somewhere new…” But, I really think that’s what I’ll have to do. They need to nap better and longer, and I need to be able to do other things (like nap myself).

3. Break the nursing to sleep habit. This is probably the hardest, because nursing is an almost surefire way to get them to sleep. But, it’s not the greatest way to get them to STAY asleep. And, you know, they nurse all the time anyway– I can’t just stop nursing (nor do I want to!). I mean, I know we could switch to formula, and that would change the eating dynamic, such that the mechanism by which they ate would become strictly a way to get calories, not a means of comfort, and thus break the habit, but to be honest, for the most part, I really like nursing. I just wish our arrangement were slightly different such that they didn’t associate it with sleeping.

I think if I go back and try working through the No Cry Sleep Solution, I might get some answers there, but honestly, I don’t know whether it can address our specific issue (sleeping on the nursing pillow vs not sleeping at all). I’ve just felt like a giant failure lately because my boys are not even close to sleeping through the night. It seemed like they were on track at one point, and then they outgrew the bassinet. And when I talk to or read blogs by people with babies close in age to mine (singletons or multiples), most have babies who sleep through, or if they wake, it’s only once, maaaybe twice on a bad night. And for us, waking only twice is a really good night!

And I know (I really do) that you cannot compare your kids to others’. Babies are just different– they do things in their own time. But, it’s gotten to the point where I feel like my only option is to use some form of CIO (which just makes me want to cry– it goes against every fiber of my parenthood being) or to just suffer through the endless nights of waking every couple of hours to feed a kid who isn’t even hungry, all the while building poor habits for them.

Sigh. I just feel a little down today, like no matter which way I turn, the options are not good.

What about you? Ever feel like you don’t stack up? Ever wonder if you’re going about things the wrong way (with your kids or with life in general)?

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21 Responses to The Haps On Sleeping And Nursing

  1. melissa says:

    I felt like that with my DD so often while she was a baby, I can’t imagine how you feel with two. I think you’re doing an awesome job Kate and I agree that they are young to let them cry at night. Anyone can say that but when it’s 2 am and it’s your baby I know how you can’t just let it be, it’s heartbreaking.

    I always felt like I was doing something wrong when E didn’t do what her cousins would do (eating, sleeping, talking, whatever) and after a while I had to stop. I remember I’d feel guilty for doing the dishes instead of staring at her for hours. Ah the joys of being a mom 🙂 ((HUGS))

    I have no clear point here. Just wanted you to know I’m here

  2. Rachel says:

    We were also puzzled about what to do with a tiny baby in a huge crib given that pillows, bumpers, etc. are out. A close friend recommended putting a textbook (hey, we’re all academics) in the middle of the crib to block off some of the space. It’s hardly a choking hazard and I can’t imagine it’s any more dangerous for suffocation than the edge of the crib, and if it looks to hard you could always put a pillowcase/receiving blanket around it as long as it was securely attached.

    Sadly, no other advice at all. I mean, I nursed -my baby- back to sleep this morning at 7 am because I just couldn’t face the world until a bit later. I presume that you’ve tried a stack of pacifiers. I used to pop the breast out and pop in a pacifier at bedtime and it seemed to help with the transition for the fusspot, but I know some kids hate them.

  3. JJ says:

    Im sorry I have not much wisdom to share about the nursing/sleeping–but I DO know you are doing an awesome job being their Momma–I witnessed it in person!

    I am certainly feeling like Im not doing ONE thing very well right now. So frustrating.

  4. Samantha says:

    I don’t know if this will make you feel better or not, but I think when people say their four-month old is sleeping through the night, they are probably exaggerating or speaking of wishful thinking. Sometimes being a good parents seems to be equated with your baby sleeping long hours, so people feel the need to downplay those night wake-ups. You can nurse your babies to sleep (I certainly did with my son), and it might not be the reason for your problems at all. But it would be good if it wasn’t the only way they fall asleep, so I think some experimenting around during nap time is a good idea. I nursed my son to sleep quite a lot, and around 8 months we reached a crisis with waking, and that’s when I knew something had to change. I tried the no-cry sleep solution and it didn’t work for me at all, in fact made things worse, so I tried other things. Once we changed up the routine for a little, he was able to go back to occasionally nursing to sleep again and I didn’t worry about it. But all babies are different and you will find something that works for you and babies. But whatever you do, you’re not alone in having babies that wake up frequently in the night.

    I got some breathable mesh bumpers that helped soften the sides of the crib without being too padded.

  5. Sue says:

    I think parenting is all about feeling like you don’t stack up in some way every single day.

    Do your boys like kneading a blanket or a lovey as they fall asleep? That might help them self-soothe. It doesn’t sound like they’re going to take to pacifiers, but anything that helps them master self-soothing would give you a break.

    My baby wasn’t sleeping through the night at Jack and Henry’s age, in spite of what other parents say about their own babies. One or two times a night is more realistic, but your kids are also at the age where they could be going through a sleep regression. Sorry you’re going through a rough time. I know you’ll figure something out that will work better for all or you. I’m not going to offer any other assvice because I remember all too well how challenging that age was for me, and that there weren’t really any easy solutions.

  6. We slept with both Nae and Zilla in our bed and when we transitioned them into their own bed, it was a freaking nightmare! Everything you’re going through, we/I went through as well. I didn’t nurse Nae as long, but she would not go to sleep unless she was ON me. Granted having one is WAY different then two, but here is what I did and it helped! Both the kids had a special blanket “lovie” that they slept with. Neither of them could be without it, even still at 13 and 7, they sleep with their lovies. Anyway, when I would nurse them or hold them I would always make sure I had the blanket with me, that way my smell was on it. Then when it was time to transition them to their own bed, it was SO much better then going “cold turkey”. It took us awhile to learn this trick, but once we did, transitioning them from me to their bed was fairly easy. Since I nursed Zilla a lot longer then Nae, it was all so new to me, the nursing to sleep thing. It was a round the 6 month-ish mark that he started sleeping in his own bed on a regular basis. It took some time, but it did work. If you feel uncomfortable with a blanket in their crib, use the crib sheet.

    No matter how you feel, you’re doing an AMAZING job with your boys! They are happy and healthy! I know that doubt creeps in, I still doubt myself, but you MUST remember you know whats right for your babies! Keep up the good work, hon!

  7. Amy says:

    Huh. I’m in no position to comment. Just wanted to say that L drank a bottle to fall asleep and when she got too big I gave her a bottle filled with water to suck to sleep. She gave it up organically, just like the cosleeping. (Also re: cosleeping, we just sidecar-ed our crib. Hoping it will be a happy medium.) 100% different than nursing but sucking to sleep all the same. I have no idea how one might translate that into nursing. My boys are taking pacis so far. Sorry this isn’t helpful, I’m tired.

  8. Tara says:

    Alex just erased my lengthly response so here goes again…

    At 1y (and 1 week already!), Benjamin has slept through the night exactly one time. Alex is better but not much. We got the “lecture” yesterday by the Ped that we need to get a handle on it now while they are still malleable (her word) and not later when they’re more set in their ways/routines. I agree that 4m is too early. I wish we had been more proactive at 8-9m.

    Benjamin still wakes to eat and co-sleeps the entire night (minus the first hour in his crib). He’s starting not to need/want to eat but still needs the cuddles. He is a restless sleeper so he does the crib crawl, bumps his head and wakes up. He does okay in the pack-n-play (smaller w/ soft sides) for naps but refuses at night. Alex transitioned to the crib much easier (he’s a sound sleeper & hardly moves) but occasionally gets up and joins us at 4a-ish.

    They both still take a bottle to fall asleep at nap & bed times. I don’t understand the put them down when awake but drowsy because that just doesn’t work for us. Alex can self-soothe better in general so he will sometimes not need the bottle but for Benjamin it’s a must along with snuggles/rocking. They’re both growing fine so it’s definitely behavioral. They both have a stuffed friend (Bert & Ernie) and that helps some. We’re thinking about adding a small blanket-type lovey. Right now Benjamin is napping clutching a Dora sticker he got from the immunization clinic so maybe that’s the answer.

    We are going cold turkey over Veteran’s Day. No more middle of the night eating and no more co-sleeping. We’re going to try water in the bottle or sippy cup. They don’t do pacifiers. And patting for reassurance we’re still there. We won’t cry it out completely. I need to find my copy of No Cry Sleep Solution. The Ped promised results in less than a week! We just need to be stronger about sticking to it despite being tired.

    I wish I had advice but really only accompanying misery. You are not a failure because then so am I and I refuse to think that. Sleep issues are hard things to work through.

  9. annacyclopedia says:

    Duuuuuuuude. I have those rough days, too, but I sure hope you can take it easy on yourself. You are doing so well – even from so far away, I just know it.

    One of the things that helps me is the perspective of other mothers who have parented the way I do, but whose kids are older. Because they really do learn to fall asleep without nursing, and to sleep in their own beds, and to sleep through the night – all on their own, without “training.” And if you ask me, needing parenting to go to sleep (e.g) does not equal a bad habit. It’s just the way babies are and should be, for the most part.

    The problems are only problems if they are causing difficulty for you – like if you really need more sleep than you’re getting and you really need things to change. And there’s the rub – like, are things hard enough that you are willing to go through some suffering to make them change and hopefully get better? I rarely have taken much initiative to force a change because a) I’m too lazy and b) most of the time, things were only bothering me because, like I sense from this post, I felt like I was doing things wrong. I know I was frustrated about napping at one point – so we worked on it. He’s still not a great napper, but it’s more predictable than it used to be – by a lot. (Ha, as I typed that, I hear him waking up. Damn!)

    Anyway, maybe I’m off base, but I just hope that you keep following your heart and your instincts and ignore whatever advice gets thrown your way. It’s so seductive, the advice – all those promises of a perfect life! Not to say it doesn’t work, but for me, I tend to get sucked in because I think I’m doing something wrong, not because anything is all that problematic *really*.

    Hang in there – it gets easier and easier. (And, you know, harder in other ways. But the routine stuff got a lot easier for us after 6 months or so.)

    Huge hugs to you, and a virtual bottle of wine and a giant piece of C’s leftover birthday cake. (Thx for the birthday tidings, btw.)

  10. Photogrl says:

    There are plenty of times I feel like I don’t stack up.

    That doesn’t mean that we aren’t good mothers!

    I totally understand how the giving up tandem nursing feels, as you know from my last whiney post…sadly, I don’t have any good advice there. Just know that you are AMAZING for doing it to this point!

    As for sleep issues, we just moved the twins from bassinets in our room to their room, but they are both in ONE crib. The crib is too big, like you said, for just one of them. They don’t bother each other, and one fussing does not wake the other up, unless it’s a huge meltdown. We do still swaddle them, in one of those velcro blankets (and we have a bumper…I know they are a no-no now, but considering how much I’m up to reinsert paci’s and nurse them, I’m not worried. I’m more worried about a limb getting stuck or a head banged.)

    I’ll also validate your feelings on CIO at this age at night. I feel the same way, and I think it’s because at least once a day someone is stuck screaming while I feed, change, dress the other one. And like others have said, I swear people lie or forget about when their child slept through the night. Miss O was a horrible sleeper for about the first year, and then we struggled with bedtimes for the next 3…the good news? At six, she goes to bed every night without a fight at bedtime and sleeps through the night.

    Just remember they won’t be nursing to sleep or still getting up in the middle of the night when they are seniors in high school 😉 (my feeble attempt at humor in my sleep deprived state!) Seriously, though, you are doing great…this twin parenting stuff is hard.

  11. PJ says:

    I TOTALLY understand the part about not wanting them to cry at night on top of the crying during the day. I also feel bad when I can’t get to one because I’m taking care of the other. That’s such a hard part of being a twin mom.

    Also not a fan of the cry it out method. I imagine them feeling abandoned, and that’s just not good. Maybe later, but not this early.

    Our girls still sleep in their bouncers next to each of us. Am not kidding! We’re going to try to go back to the cribs this weekend. The bouncer thing is nice because one can be next to me, and one next to my husband. That way, we can quickly pop a binkie in a whimpering mouth or jump up and feed one before she wails while the rest of the room sleeps. But the downside is that I sometimes don’t feel that I can move or cough without waking them up, and forget the sex life! Plus, it’s probably better for Addison’s head issues if she gets a chance to sleep on her side.

    We’re still getting up once a night, pretty much guaranteed. Usually between 2 and 5AM. Once in a while they sleep all night. During the day they still eat every 3 hours, and get cranky if we try to stretch it out longer. Usually they eat between 3 and 5 ounces at a time.

    We have bumpers on our cribs.

    This being a mom, hardest thing ever and best thing ever. 🙂

  12. jenn says:

    Pumpkin also did not sleep through the night until 2 weeks after her first birthday. At 4 months we had just transitioned to her crib in her room after co-sleeping and nursing non-stop during the night. It was draining all of us. I also couldn’t do the CIO- tried once or twice, but it felt like torture for all of us! So I would just go in- nurse her & put her back in her crib. Only took about 5 minutes and at least in between she wasn’t waking up since she could smell me right there.
    Being in her own room also allowed for a better bedtime routine which we still use to this day. Starts downstairs with saying goodnight & then up to change, have a story or two while cuddling on the chair and then to bed. She used to take a bottle at night (nursed before she self-weaned) but she also weaned herself out of that. It took time, it was not without challenge- but there was a turning point and it got better.

    You are doing everything just as you should- you have gorgeous happy healthy boys that are showered in love. All the little details of whether they slept through the night at 4 months or a year, or the million other details we naturally fret over as mothers & parents, none of them will change how wonderful your family is.

    I wish I had some advice for the tandem nursing- but I do remember the 4-6 month time being very hit or miss with pumpkin nursing too. They are very into the world around them and it can get frustrating and hard- but they should settle into it again. They will get serious when they need to eat -hopefully!

  13. strongblonde says:

    oh kate. did i write this? we went through the same things. and i think that it is normal to doubt yourself, right??? right?? i hope so because i do it all of the time. i remember the kids getting grabby and such during nursing, but we stuck with it and they STILL nurse on that damn pillow at the same time at one year old. i think that your kids are bigger than mine were, so that may be a difference. i remember the frusteration, though, when i was trying to figure out how i could nurse the kids and not hurt them when they would almost fall off of the pillow. but they would also be calm sometimes and hold hands. super cute.

    i think it’s too early for CIO. but what do i know. my kids were not sleeping through the night until they were 11 months.

    hang in there. you’re doing a great job. seriously. it’s hard work raising two little people!!!

  14. Ellen K. says:

    I feel like I don’t measure up at least once an hour. I think twin mothers are especially susceptible to this because our attention is divided and for at least the first couple of years, the logistics of caring for two same-age children can be very overwhelming and divisive. I just might slay the next singleton mom who tells me I should be frequenting the local Hip Urban SAHM Coffeeshop; “my baby just LOVES IT!”

    Like Annacyclopedia said, it is good to talk to moms of much older children (but not necessarily your own mother!) to gain perspective. I was absolutely distraught for months on end about the girls’ short naps, and whereas new moms of babies would make me feel like crap for not doing something by the book, moms of preschoolers or grade schoolers were usually very kind and helped me understand that no child follows the book exactly, or only firstborn singleton children do, and then the moms get a rude awakening when their second kid is born, ha ha ha! As a twin mom you probably have more in common with more experienced moms, because you’re juggling from the get-go.

    I remember that at this stage, the girls really took to their loveys. (Theirs are from Angel Dear.) N. isn’t so much into it, but at 2 years, I can often soothe I. just by finding her lovey and putting it near her hand or across her stomach.

    I agree that it’s really helpful to talk to moms of older children, especially with two or more kids. For one thing, you find out how very, very new some “standards” are — age for weaning from the bottle is a good example. And these moms know that no single rule applies to every child and sometimes you just have to wing it.

    Also, it is really, really tough to make changes when you’re so incredibly tired. Give yourself credit, because you are working your ass off. And it is SO much harder than one would think.

  15. Esperanza says:

    Sorry you’re having such a hard with with the sleeping. I think it’s totally understandable that you don’t want to do CIO stuff, and every family has to figure out what works best for them. You know your boys and you know what is best for them, always. One thing that might help putting them down in a crib is having a hot water bottle in there before hand, to warm it up? I’ve heard that can help but have never tried it. Otherwise I got nothing… sorry. Are the boys on a schedule for eating during the day? Isa was waking every 1.5 to 2 hours at night to eat for a while, but it was because she was doing that throughout the day. When I put her on an every-three-hour eating schedule she woke up every 3-4 hours at night, which was an improvement. Maybe that would help? I hope things get better.

  16. Katherine says:

    Wow, you are doing such a great job! I think doubt is normal when things get rough and probably a healthy response to a situation where a solution isn’t obvious. And for me, babies were never obvious 🙂

    I just heard of a new theory about developmental stages for babies – each time the baby(ies) hit one of these incredible growth stages they can no longer regulate their sleeping and eating habits so they crave comfort. In hind-site, this happened with both kids. Yeah, the baby is sleeping! damn, and now he’s not! wait, we’re sleeping again! etc. Okay, so maybe this isn’t very helpful, but it means you are doing everything RIGHT, they just need a little time to readjust. And during this time, your support system needs to step up and take better care of you.

    Also, so of my experience getting my kids to sleep, although truly all kids are different so it’s hard to know what is gonna work:
    – 1st child started sleeping in his crib at a year, second child at 9 months
    – nursing to sleep naturally transitioned to nursing before sleep at some point (I have no idea when)
    – when we got down to 2 to 3 naps a day, the baby either slept in my arms or in the carseat or stroller. If the baby feel asleep in the car, I would bring the carseats in a take a nap next to the baby on the floor or just sleep with baby in the car. Bad for the environment, great for me!

    Babies are a lot of work and you have two little ones! I can’t imagine how you are doing it with what sounds like such grace. You are doing so fabulously, fabulously well!

  17. Ellen K. says:

    (Repetition in above post is not a sign of continued sleep deprivation.)

  18. TRACY MILLER says:

    You know how we handled the whole sleep thing, and I’m here if you want to talk about it. I remember that feeling of desperation and overwhelming, “when will it stop????” Hang in there. It WILL pass, regardless of how you decide to get there.

  19. shinejil says:

    Let me shift things a bit by saying raising a child is not about measuring up, because there is no real measure of good nurturing, love, and engagement beyond the basic low bar of not-neglect and not-abuse. I’ve been paying attention to mothers of various backgrounds, ages, and cultures around me, and frankly, they are all really different. I admire some of their qualities, but can’t emulate them with my guy.

    He doesn’t sleep through the night anymore. He did for a while, but just doesn’t now. He only wakes up twice at the moment, so I’m grateful. What I did, and yes, we nurse to sleep (though he can fall asleep in a backpack carrier, carseat, and even rarely in someone else’s arms): take the side off the crib (we have a futon, so it’s low) and extend the sleep space. He has room to do his thing, and we can all sleep together without feeling like sardines. This may not be an option for twins (but, hell, why not try once they are a bit older perhaps?) but thought I let you know that there are lots of options (as Pantley writes) and you can find one that works well enough so that you don’t lose your fucking mind due to sleep deprivation.

    I’m not a bad mom because my kid sleeps in his own bizarre way. I’m just trying to get him to sleep as much as he needs to, and stay sane in the process.

  20. jasonsamluv says:

    If it makes you feel better, my 10 month old doesn’t sleep through that night. At all. Sometimes he wakes up once, other times he wakes up 4-6 times a night to nurse. My daughter was sleeping 12 hours at 2.5 months.

    I think kids just reach their milestones (and sleeping through the night is a milestone) at their own pace. I know I will miss them being small, so I just deal with it the best I can. I love the snuggles, so its not too hard. 😉

    I don’t believe in babies CIO, at all. Sometimes it just takes time. In some ways I think CIO is people’s quick solution, but that’s just my opinion.

  21. mamacita says:

    I was just mentally drafting a post about my own sleep struggles. (you may note from the timestamp that I am still awake at 1:30 am.) I only have one four monthling, but our naps and nights don’t sound any easier than yours. Hang in there! You’re doing your best. We all do.

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