operation bumbysleep: the worst night, and the best

The worst night

Two nights ago, I nursed Bumby to sleep, like I always do. Well, I nursed him, then I rocked him, then I placed a sleeping baby into his crib. It was relatively painless.  He hadn’t nursed fully, so before I went to bed, I decided to pump.  I had a business trip the next day, so I would be away from home for over 16 hours, and I thought an extra bottle couldn’t hurt.  At midnight, he woke up.  I tried to nurse him, he did not want that.  I tried to rock him.  He did not want that.  I walked around holding him, patting his back.  He screamed, and screamed, and screamed.  I tried to rock him again.  He flung his head backward and bashed it on the arm of the rocking chair, and screamed.  I stood up and bounced him, and he kicked me hard enough in the bicep that I almost dropped him.  I persevered.  Time went by.

My wife came up as I was sobbing, he was screaming, and I was shouting “STOP HURTING ME!” at a baby who was kicking me in the arms and chest while simultaneously pulling my hair.  I handed off.

After 20 minutes or so of my wife doing all the same things that had not been working for me, we stopped.  We laid our wailing baby in the crib, and she patted his back.  He calmed down, we stepped away.  He cried again.  She patted again.  He calmed, we stepped away, we left the room.  This went on, and on, and on.  Sometimes, patting didn’t work, and we picked him up.  Once, I went in to pat and he stood up, wailed, and clung to my arm with the most pathetic face I have ever seen.  I picked him up, he calmed, and I set him down.  Repeat, repeat.  When he got particularly wail-ey, and wouldn’t be soothed by holding or patting, we set him down and decided to give him 30 seconds.  We stood outside his door talking about whether we were okay with how this was going.  We are both adamantly opposed to letting him cry it out. This wasn’t that, but it wasn’t always far off either, especially at that moment when we were standing outside his door as he cried. It was only a short while, a minute at most, but it was probably the first time in his life when we had not responded to his cry. Listening to us outside of his door, he quieted.  It was around 2 am.

At 2:15, we were lying in bed, and listening to Bumby make all kinds of little baby mouth sounds over the monitor.  He was not crying, just chirping to himself, chewing his fingers, occasionally amusing himself enough to giggle a bit.  And then….. he just wasn’t.  It took 2 1/2 hours, but he went back to sleep on his own, alone, in his room.  At 4, he woke, and I nursed him.  He fell asleep easily after nursing, and I put him back in his crib.  I got up an hour later and went on my business trip with a solid 2 1/2 hours of sleep under my belt. It was the worst night he has had since he was born.

The next day, I fretted.  I was away from my baby for his morning nursing for the first time ever.  He had fallen asleep alone in a dark room for the first time ever. Did he feel abandoned by me? Was he angry?  Was he doing okay?  I have read all the sleep research, and I agree with Dr. Sears on this point — If you do something to get your baby to sleep, and he’s not himself the next day, he’s telling you that what you tried wasn’t okay with him.  But I was away!  Was he okay with what we had tried?  I didn’t know.

I called home, and learned that he had been happy all day. He took a nice long nap in the morning, over 2 hours, to catch up on some of the sleep he missed overnight.  He ate well, he played, he laughed.  He was okay.  I was not, but that was for me to work on.  After all this, I am not sure I was ready for a baby who didn’t need me multiple times in the night, a baby who would only nurse once.  But the way things were going clearly weren’t good for him, so we had to try this.

The best night

That night, we committed ourselves to staying the course.  I would nurse and rock Bumby to sleep like usual, but if he woke in the night before 4 am, he had to go back to sleep on his own.  We would help him calm down, but going back to sleep was his job. We set the stage for him.  I gave him his reflux medicine, and he ate dinner.  I put him in his jammies and changed his diaper. I put a couple drops of a fennel/catnip natural gas drop that we just got onto his pacifier.  I turned on his nightlights and his heater so his room was dim and cozy.  I sat down to nurse him, and he was PISSED OFF.  Just like in the middle of the night the night before, he would not nurse, he would not be soothed by rocking.  I thought about it, and realized that I had just nursed him about 2 hours before, because the business trip had thrown off my nursing and pumping schedule.  So I got a small bottle, maybe 2oz of milk, and gave him that instead.  He sucked it down, snuggled into my belly, and drifted off to sleep, just like that. I picked him up and set him in his crib, no drama.  He stayed asleep.

He woke at 10:30 or so, and I gave him back his pacifier.   He rolled onto his side, and went back to sleep.  Thanks, mama.

He woke at 12:30 wanting to nurse, but no dice. My wife went up, and patted him.  He screamed louder — you are not mama, and you do not have milk for me!  She stepped out for a second.  He calmed almost immediately as she stood outside his door.  She came down, and we went back to sleep and so did he.

He woke at 4:45.  I snuggled in the big bed with him and nursed him.  He drank a full meal, rolled onto his back, and went to sleep.  I roused him to burp, then put him back in his crib.  He snuggled in, grabbed his blankie, sighed, and went back to sleep.  I went back to bed myself.

He woke at 7:45 with a diaper full of poop and a smile on his face. He slept over 10 hours, and woke up three times. This is the best night we have had in months.

We are committed now.  We will make him as comfortable as possible so that sleep will come easier for him.  We will help him get to sleep at the start of the night, with a full belly and a comfortable room and even some rocking to help him transition from his busy day to his nighttime.  If he wakes at 4am or later, he can have a snack.  But if he wakes before that, or if he doesn’t fall asleep nursing, going back to sleep is his job.  We will always respond if he cries, and he will never be left to cry himself to sleep, but in the middle of the night he goes in his crib awake, because he needs to go back to sleep on his own.

I am sure we will have more setbacks, more nights like the worst night before we have more nights like the best night. But for the first time I have some hope. I think his reflux medicine is working, and I think his gas drops are working, and I think he’s finally comfortable.  He liked the bottle at bedtime, so if it seems like there is not enough milk to nurse, he can have another one if he wants so that he goes to bed with a  belly full of milk and can make it to 4am.  I love putting him to bed gently and having him fall asleep in my arms.  I love nursing him once in the night, so I am in no rush to night-wean completely, but a partial night-wean and some self-soothing in the middle of the night seem to be good for him.  And also good for me.

adventures in GERD – part 2

Bumby has been on his Prevacid for about 6-7 weeks now. After 10 days on it, he was sleeping 7 hours in a row, waking up happy, and finally comfortable. But then, like always, it stopped working. Maybe it was the teething, maybe it was the wonder weeks, maybe it was the cold. I waited it out. It got a little better, and he slept 3 hours in a row. It got worse again, and he was up every hour or 2. Some nights, he won’t go down at all, and my wife or I has to sit up all night holding him against our chest. 

I call the doctor, and can’t get through. I call another doctor that was recommended – maybe we need a second opinion? I get transferred to urology by accident, then disconnected. The baby wakes from his nap, and I give up. 

Meanwhile, his bottle of Prevacid is getting close to being empty. I go to the pharmacy and they tell me I need a prior authorization or I have to pay out of pocket (again). I did this last month too, because there was some kind of glitch and I wanted to get him started on it right away. After millions of phone calls — insurance, provider, pharmacy, repeat — I go pick it up and pay out of pocket again. $125 a month, for something that barely seems to be helping him. 

“Don’t forget to keep it in the fridge!” the 12 year old pharm tech reminds me as she hands me the bag. 

I can actually feel the color drain from my face. “They didn’t tell me that last time. It wasn’t in the paper I got. He’s been on this for SIX WEEKS.” 

“Oh, it won’t hurt him,” she said. “It just loses stability, so it’s not as effective.”

Of course I go immediately home and google it, to discover that it’s not just “less effective.” It’s basically useless. I have been giving Bumby a syringe full of artificially strawberry flavored sugar water twice a day for the last six weeks. Some of the research suggests that even if you keep it refrigerated, the Prevacid starts to lose stability after 2-3 weeks if it’s compounded (i.e., made into a liquid for babies). So that’s awesome. 

He has been okay during the day, with all his sitting and standing and generally being upright. But lie him down, and the kid is absolutely miserable. I go to him in the night, and his face is all scrunched up and he is screaming so loud and so long that he’s hoarse. He doesn’t really even cry — he just screams.  The front of his shirt is soaked in throw up, drool and tears. I wipe the vomit off his pacifier, dry his face on my sleeve, and scoop him up. I rock and sing, sing and rock, and usually he is exhausted enough that he will go back to sleep through the pain.  For an hour, then he’s up again. 

Back to the doctor, again. Fight to convince them that he’s really suffering, and NO, I’m not just lazy/spoiling him because I won’t leave him crying in his crib, YES, he has reflux even though he’s fat, PLEASE someone help me so that I can help my poor little baby. 

the “wonder” weeks

I am not sure why they are called “weeks” when this last leap has lasted nearly a month, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  

After weeks of millions of night wakings, leaping, teething, congested, refluxing Bumby is finally over his cold, the top two teeth have poked through, and he’s 3 days from the end of that stupid blue thundercloud on the Wonder Weeks app. This last leap has thoroughly kicked all of our asses. Bumby had been grouchy, restless and clingy. But now! Our sensitive guy was up *only* 4 times last night, and went to sleep easily after two of the 4 wakings. We seem to be headed back to our normal crappy sleep, instead of the extremely crappy sleep we have been having. 

And our little Bumbyleo is just shy of nine big months, growing like crazy and wearing 18 month clothes, eating real people food, cruising around the house trying to find trouble to get into, responding to his name and the word “no,” and flailing his arms around adorably when someone says “bye bye” to him. 

I want the next three days to fly by. But then, after that, could time stand still?