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.
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.
If you find yourself relating to Heather’s story, we are here to help! Please feel free to contact me anytime for a referral to one of our partner sleep consultants, or come over to our Facebook page for some support.