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Sleep Management

Sleep Management

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Lately I feel that I’m spending all my waking hours dealing with sleep management, trying to coordinate both nighttime sleep and naps for the three young people in my life. Oh I know that’s an exaggeration born of exhaustion and frustration. Nonetheless, I feel like I’m spending far too much time and energy on it. I know what I’m doing isn’t working; but I don’t know how to fix it. Still, I’ve decided to dive in and start tweaking here and there to see if I can’t get some of the frustrations under control. Or at least reduced to more manageable levels.

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The biggest problem is Sophie. Not that I really think of her as a problem. I suppose I should say she’s frequently the instigator or catalyst or something that sounds more neutral and less loaded.

The thing is there are frequently times that she can’t bear to be apart from me, usually when she’s sleepy. And she can’t be quiet when she’s with me. Every time I seem to have Ben settled, she wakes him up.  It wouldn’t be so bad except the poor guy seems to have such a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep. He’s got reflux. And frequently gas.

I think Ben’s getting to the age that he needs to have more structured naps. A morning nap, an afternoon nap, and perhaps an early evening snooze.

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The morning nap is never going to be anything but erratic. I’ve got to run errands, and given our other schedule constraints, that has to happen in the mornings. On those days when we are out, Ben will have to deal with what he can snatch in the car seat or the sling. It’s never more than about half an hour, which according to the sleep experts isn’t really enough. Supposedly a nap doesn’t ‘count’ if it’s less than an hour. But it’s what we can do. And maybe the experts don’t know what they’re talking about anyway.

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crashing on Auntie Tree’s lap is, sadly, not always an option when he needs to sleep

The afternoon nap would seem like a much easier proposition. I’ve already arranged our schedule so that I always plan to be home in the afternoons. I started doing that when Bella was my only child. Bella and Sophie both take afternoon naps. But somehow getting all three kids to sleep has become a complicated dance that takes, literally, hours.

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It all starts with lunch. If they don’t have a good lunch in them, the girls will not be able to nap. But it is so hard to get them to sit down and eat. Somehow no matter how early I start the lunch process I always hit the 1pm wall with Bella screaming, I’m hungray!!! as I’m trying to herd her into her pull up and toward bed.

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And then there is the fact that somehow we’ve gotten into the pattern that I read to Sophie, put her into her bed and sing her to sleep and then have to give Bella a separate story reading and tucking in. And Ben somehow nurses down for his nap in there sometime. Maybe. If the fates are smiling on me.

Some days it takes so long to get Ben and Bella squared away that I only have five or ten minutes of quiet time to myself before Sophie wakes up from her nap. Some days I’ve got a sleeping Ben in my arms and have to figure out how to put him down without waking him so that I can go rescue the screaming Sophie when she’s ready to get up from her nap.

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And then there’s bedtime. Ben would love to go to bed at 6:30-7ish. By that time he’s rubbing his eyes and getting very cranky. Unfortunately for him, that’s dinner time. If Mama has cooking help in the form of Auntie Tree, Mama might be able to nurse him for a bit. But even then there is generally too much chaos for him to be able to be put down for any length of time. Sometimes he gets a snooze on Daddy’s knee. But most nights he just suffers along until after Mama has scarfed down enough dinner to kill the worst of the hunger pangs.

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this is an old photo from back in october. ben never in the swing anymore. he’s too big. so we just retired the swing to the shed

We often eat dinner much later than I’d like. I suppose that’s my fault for not being more on the ball, for having tastes that won’t be satisfied with pasta and sauce from a jar. In any case usually Sophie is pulling off her clothes and demanding her pajamas before dinner is over. Most evenings buy the time we get her into bed—between 8 and 9—she’s overtired and cranky. If she hasn’t got her second wind.

Recently she developed a new demand. She’s been having a hard time going down and wants me to stay in her room singing to her until she falls asleep. Which would be fine with me but Ben is usually needing to be rocked to sleep at that exact same time. It’s a choice between which tired child to soothe.

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What’s really frustrating is that even after I get him put down, Ben wakes up two or three or four times and has to be resettled each time so that I spend most of the time between the girls going to bed and my own bedtime dealing with Ben. Not very conducive to either spending quality time with Dom or getting quiet time to read, write, watch a tv show and otherwise recharge my batteries.

But last week I had a simple idea that has started at least make a few things easier. What if I moved the glider rocker from the office into the girls’ room? Sure, it makes the already cluttered room quite crowded. However, I thought it would smooth bedtime considerably if, instead of saying prayers and reading stories in our room and then transferring the girls to their room, we instead do all of that in their room. Then I can nurse and rock Ben while singing Sophie to sleep.

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One afternoon last weekend we did just that. Dom moved my rocker into the girls’ room and at naptime I sat down and rocked Sophie and read her a story while Ben first played in the crib and then sat beside her on my lap. We read four books and I made sure the last book was Skip to My Loo and then sang and sang until Sophie was starting to nod. I kept singing as I laid her in her bed, making up my own words so that it became a tucking her in song. And then I sat and sang and nursed Ben until Sophie was snoring quietly. At that point Isabella finished in the bathroom and came in and I read her a couple of books while I finished nursing Ben. She opted to sleep in the office instead of in her room. But that was ok with me. I didn’t expect everything to change all at once.

And sure enough over the course of the next week as she got used to the new routine she was first convinced to sit quietly in her bed for several days and moved into the office. I gently suggested she stay in her bed but when she insisted she wanted to move I didn’t argue.

After a couple of days of that however it finally happened. I was nursing Ben and hoping he’d fall asleep so I told Bella she’d have to wait for her final story. Instead of sitting up reading she lay down. And I nodded off in the quiet while nursing Ben and when I woke up Bella was asleep. Since then I’ve convinced her to stay in her room after Sophie falls asleep. I play her Tumblewood Lullaby cd very quietly and she reads books and most days has fallen asleep.

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We’ve still had a few napless days, however in general she’s going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier and much less cranky. I think the nap thing for the girls at least is well on the way to being solved.

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The rocking chair solution has also worked pretty well at bed time. The first night we say prayers and read stories to the girls in their room. And then tucked a sleepy Sophie into her bed and I stayed and rocked Ben and sang until Sophie fell asleep. No more having to choose between my babies! It took a long time to get Ben down and I still haven’t solved the problem of how to get him to sleep for more than 45 minutes without needing to be resettled by me. Oh well, small little baby steps. We’re getting there.

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Some nights when Ben is more restless and has finished nursing, Dom takes him into the office and holds him until he falls asleep. And some nights he goes right out while I’m singing the girls to sleep. A couple of nights he has gone straight to sleep and slept until after I went to bed. (After which he woke every couple of hours; but at least I got my evening to myself.)

I still want to ease him into sleeping better. My dream is that he goes down at night and wakes maybe once. (He seems to have a knack of waking up right when I go to take my shower. Very annoying.) I’d also love it if he slept more solidly after I go to bed. I think there’s some further insight I need to discover to get Ben’s routine smoothed out. But at least with the girls doing better, especially at nap time, I’m much less frustrated overall than I was two weeks ago when I began drafting this blog post.

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