Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sleep: 18-Month Edition

Well folks, it's happened: The 18-month sleep regression. Or should I say, The Eighteen-Month Sleep Regression.

At least, I assume that's what it is. G is 18 months, and his sleep is worse than a newborn's. For that matter, he's nursing more than a newborn, he's crankier than a newborn, he's crying more than a newborn! I'm very frustrated. I'm stressed out and tired and exhausted and sometimes resentful of him for taking up so much of my time either nursing or crying because he wants to nurse. No exaggeration, he basically nursed from 3:00 to 5:30 this afternoon. Arrrgh!

He's also getting the two bicuspids on the bottom. He has the top two, as well as all eight incisors. None of the other 10 teeth caused nearly this much upset. Since Sunday night, he will wake up crying and literally just scream and cry for an hour. He insists on being held, wants to walk all over the house (at un-G-dly hours, incidentally), and will then suddenly fall asleep against my chest as I sit on the couch. I can then wait a bit for him to fall into a deeper sleep and then lay him in his bed. He'll sleep on his own for a while, maybe two to three hours, and then wake again crying. I've been trying to stay on top of giving him pain medication, but it doesn't seem to help completely. I've never seen anything like it. I'm not comfortable using Orajel or other mouth-numbing products, and while I have two amber teething necklaces, I can't find either one! I don't know if the amber necklaces actually help or not, but I'm willing to try anything to help this kid.

I would ordinarily suspect an ear infection, but he has no other symptoms: he's not congested or coughing, no runny nose, he wasn't sick or congested within the past week or two, and he has no fever, vomiting, or any other obvious distress. Also, he's pretty much fine during the day and this only hits at night.

Crossing fingers, though, tonight seems a bit better so far. Here's hoping!

In any case, here are my plans for the next few months, sleep-wise.

First off, I want to night-wean. Night-weaning is when you no longer allow the baby/child to nurse during sleeping hours. The idea is that if they don't wake to nurse, they won't need to wake at all, and everyone will get more sleep. I also want to encourage him to be eating more during the day, and as long as he's getting a significant amount of his daily calories during the night, he just isn't going to be as hungry during the day. At some point, this nocturnal snacking has to end!

My nightweaning plan is to basically pick three or four nights where I assume I won't sleep (not that I've been getting much sleep anyway!), and just try to soothe him and talk him back to sleep as best I can but not allow him to nurse during defined hours, say 8:00pm to 6:00am or something. There's no reason an 18-month-old can't go 10 hours without eating at night. I don't know how difficult it will be to get him to go back to sleep. I don't know how much he'll cry/whine/insist/yell/scream. Probably a lot. I'm warming up to it, maybe when he gets over this bout of teething. My hope is that once he's night-weaned, he simply won't need to wake as often, or if he does wake, he'll be able to get back to sleep on his own.

Then, after he's night-weaned, the goal will be, of course, to eliminate night-wakings completely. The only way I know to do this is to force him to learn to put himself to sleep. I figure this will require graduated steps beginning with me helping him fall asleep by rocking, patting, or whatever works, and eventually doing that less and less until he's falling asleep without my help.

I do think I need to wait another few weeks, both to make sure those teeth have come in and aren't a factor in his wakings, and also to get through the brunt of this crazy time when his brain is making leaps and bounds and his language ability is exploding and his understanding of the world and his place in it are developing. Perhaps at 19 or 20 months, he'll stabilize enough that I won't need to take drastic measures. But, if I do need to push him a little, I'll feel comfortable knowing that he's at a good age to give it a try.

At least he likes sleeping in his own bed! That change went very smoothly.

Let's share teething stories in the comments here or on the Facebook page. What was your worst teething experience with your kid(s)? How did you handle it? What recommendations do you have for other parents to help soothe the teething pain and help your baby sleep during those few days and nights when a tooth is erupting?


P.S. Unrelated to the above, but you need to go read Magda Pecsenye's (AskMoxie) letter to her sons about preventing rape.

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