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Heather’s Story: Having a Baby That Never Slept

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colicky baby
I think this is an important story to share with you.

Many of the personal stories we post on the blog follow a few predictable patterns: A baby suddenly becomes fussy at 2 weeks of age (colic), a colicky baby still hasn’t outgrown ‘colic’ by 5 months of age, or a parent comes to the realization that their child’s fussiness is due to their temperament.

This story is a bit different: First, Heather’s son suddenly became fussy at 2 months of age after a minor illness, and the fussiness was extreme. If you find your baby becomes extremely fussy or irritable at any age other than 2-3 weeks (or 2-3 weeks adjusted age for preemies), you need to consult your doctor. Sudden, unexpected fussiness should always be taken seriously.

Second, her story is one that underlines the importance of sleep, both for kids and for their parents. It’s normal for babies to wake in the night. 2, 3, even 4 times. Sleeping in stretches of 45 minutes max, day and night, is simply not sustainable. The problems created by this lack of sleep can be extreme.

If you find yourself in either of these situations, please speak to a healthcare provider or a qualified infant sleep consultant.

Heather’s Story

When my son turned 2 months old, it’s like a switch flipped somewhere inside him. I can still remember the week it happened, the change was so traumatic.

Previous to this week, he was incredible: cuddly, snuggly, loved to be held.

He slept 6 hours at a time at night, rarely fussed, and had the sweetest temperament you could wish for in a baby.

Then he got sick and started teething the same week. He had a small fever and developed an earache. It took him about 1.5 weeks to get over his illness and from then on he was a different baby. He stopped napping and stopped sleeping at night. At most, he would sleep 20-30 minutes for his nap times and wake up every 30-45 minutes at night. It took me almost an hour every time he woke up to get him back to sleep.

It was during this time my husband and I realized that our son was a different type of crier. We learned that there are actually two types of criers: the first type releases steam when they cry and the second type gains steam. Logan gained steam.

This pattern of not sleeping would progress into quite a number of different discoveries about Logan and ‘interventions’ by a lot of people. Our doctor prescribed our son with anti-anxiety medication to help him sleep and it didn’t work (we stopped using it). Having learned that Logan gained steam by crying, we had to fight off a number of well-wishers who suggested we just let him cry, because it simply did not work for him.

We did discover that he was allergic to everything you could think of: all latex, fruits and vegetables, all dairy, eggs, some medicines, anything with caffeine, anything carbonated, and wheat, to name a few. This discovery meant, for our family, that in order to protect him from my lapses in memory of what he can tolerate and what he can’t meant the move to formula instead of breastmilk. He began to do better, as the hive reactions disappeared, but he still never slept.

There was a period of two weeks that occurred that shattered everything about me being a mom. And I write this so that other moms can know that you aren’t alone and that your little one has some friends in other places.

Logan’s sleeping began to spiral and I tried desperately to keep it from descending further. But I couldn’t. My husband was working some really long hours those two weeks and I, in essence, was a single parent during this time. His sleeping went like this: wake up at 5am, fuss and cry for 2-3 hours until he fell asleep for 15-20 minutes to nap. Wake again and repeat the same pattern. At night, he would sleep for slightly longer, maybe 30-45 minutes, wake for up to an hour and fall asleep again for 30-45 minutes and repeat until 5am the next morning. And repeat for 13 more days.

What isn’t known is the toll it took on me, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I went from slightly stressed out mom to walking dead. I was running on survival mode. I achieved, for 2 weeks straight, 1.5-2 hours of total sleep a night, with no naps or rest during the day.

So, when my son fell asleep at night, it took me 5-10 minutes longer to fall asleep and then I was back up again with him in 20 minutes when he started to cry. I didn’t shower for days on end, I wore the same clothes, and I was lucky if I got to eat something. If I did eat, it was only carbs because my body was craving the energy to stay awake. Any other food was useless to me.

I began to wake up and repeat to myself “Your son needs you. You’re the only one who can take care of him”, and somehow my body moved and took care of him. I asked myself “how am I doing this? I can’t even remember what day it is.” And the response was automatic: “I do it because it has to be done.

For me, I somehow gathered the strength to get up and take care of him because it HAD TO BE DONE.

There was no one else.

Towards the end, I started having trouble focusing on things and I would pass out with my son cradled in my arms. If he twitched, I would jump awake and go back to trying not to wake him up. I was taking him to the bathroom with me and I rarely left the couch. It took too much energy to do much else.

After 2 weeks of no sleep, I broke down. Logan was finally sleeping and I sat in a chair and cried and cried and poured out all my frustration and sorrow to my husband. He had no idea what was happening at home and how bad things had deteriorated. I cried for a couple of hours and was spent by the end of it.

My husband took over caring for Logan while I managed to get up, take a shower and pour myself into bed. I got 3 hours of sleep before I had to get up to take care of Logan again and I felt incredibly refreshed. My first thought was, “WOW! Its amazing what 3 hours of sleep can do for a body!”, and I carried on.

 

Looking for more sleep help? I recommend Dana’s Obleman’s Sleep Sense program. A number of our moms have used it with great success. Please send me an email if you have any questions about the program :)

 

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Comments (6)

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  1. Erin says:

    This is exactly what my son’s first year (and beyond) was like. He woke up at 30 min. intervals on the dot, and that was after at least an hour of work getting him to sleep (nursing, rocking, walking, wearing, singing, bouncing.) When he started sleeping for an hour at a time it was amazing. I held him for every nap for the first 18 months of his life, and spent more night time hours on the couch than in bed. He just couldn’t manage to stay asleep during the normal sleep patterns of light and heavy sleep. I felt like I spent all day and night getting him to sleep, because if he was overtired he had night terrors. Now at 2 years old he’s finally in his own bed, sleeping 9 hours at night, his night terrors are less frequent but he’s still a really restless sleeper.
    Like you, I survived on 2 hours of sleep every 24 hours and craved high calorie foods all day to try to keep my body going. I understood why they used sleep deprivation as a form of torture – after about 3 days of no sleep your mind starts playing tricks on you. I can really relate to you saying “it had to be done.” This was just the struggle that my son was going through and nothing was going to change that, but he still needed to be cared for. I can see now that the time and energy I gave to him was an investment in the type of person he is becoming. He still has a high needs personality, but it has transformed into different needs.
    The part that makes me sad is that I lost a lot that first year. I became unrecognizable to myself. I was in total survival mode, anything non-essential was pushed aside. Friends, exercise, my health, hobbies, any alone time and even hygiene all suffered and set me on a bad path of martyrdom. A new me is emerging, which is ok, but I’ll always have some sadness over what was lost that first year.

  2. Crystal says:

    I read Heathers story and cried! This was totally me. My son has acid reflux and he also has Torticollis. I never knew a baby could scream for 12 hours and not fall asleep!!! I also have a toddler so even when he would sleep for 20mins I couldnt because my daughter needed something. My daughter was a GREAT baby so I knew something was up with hime right away. I thought for a about a month he was just fussy no he was in pain:( My son is 5 months now and is doing much better with medicaion and therapy. I think its even harder for first time mothers because you have nothing to compare it too. Your sooo tired its hard to think straight!! To every mother who has had a fussy baby it does get better!!There is always a reason why they are screaming its sometimes sooo hard to see it because you are soooo tired!

    • heather says:

      Crystal,

      I am going through a similar situation with my 2 month old. We tried Zantac with minimal improvement and then GI switched us to Prilosec which was started 2 days ago. The crying/screaming is slowly decreasing but she needs to be held and in constant motion constantly. She wakes up hourly at night. I am so sleep deprived I am not sure how much longer I can take this. What is your child taking (meds/therapy).

  3. Lori says:

    My son is almost 10 months old and wakes up 2 to 4 times anight. He insists on being nursed for an hour each time in order to go back to sleep. I oftened wondered if I enable him and made him grow dependent on me but now i’m very sure it’s his temperment. I wish I could say that this fact makes it easier to deal with at night but it really doesn’t. I need sleep to function. I don’t get it because of my son and I don’t get a break during the day because I have a 3 year old daughter plus my son takes only 30 min naps during the day. My husband drives a truck so he is gone most the week and when he is home he has to sleep. I am on my own. And I hate every second of it.

  4. Gripe water says:

    you visit my website sure you will get good solution.

  5. heather says:

    Heather can I have your personal email address?

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