In reverse

originally posted on LabSpaces

Evolutionarily speaking, human babies are very interesting. Because we have such large brains, we’re born a lot earlier than most mammals, in terms of development. For instance, when a horse is born, it begins to walk almost immediately. In contrast, human babies need almost a year to reach this milestone. As a result of our early delivery, human babies find adjusting to life outside of the womb very difficult, especially with regards to sleep. All newborns require frequent feedings until their stomachs mature, especially when breast-fed, and wake every 3-4 hours for a meal. On top of which, many newborns experience what’s sometimes referred to as the “Fourth Trimester”, during which their immature nervous system leads them to cry for several hours at specific times of day (usually in the evening), a behavior referred to as colic. Calming colicky babies involves a variety of soothing techniques – including swaddling, white noise, and swinging – which are usually required for the newborn to find sleep.

Monkey started out doing the sleep thing really well. He quickly transitioned from his bassinet in our room to the crib in his nursery. This was very useful for mom and dad since half of Monkey’s sleep time, like most newborns, was spent in noisy, grunting, whiny REM sleep. Crib-sleeping went very well for the next two weeks, and we slowly transitioned Monkey out of his swaddle. I would wake up 3 times a night to feed him, and he’d go back to sleep almost immediately after being laid back down.

And then, something changed. Monkey’s sleep intervals drastically shortened, and he’d wake 4-5 times a night. We transitioned Monkey into his bouncer, which has a vibration setting on it that Monkey loves – I imagine this is the infant version of the Brookstone Massage Chair. We’d set the vibration on it when we laid Monkey down, and he’d drift off into peaceful 3-4 hour naps at night.

And then, about a week later, it changed again. Monkey started waking up after 20 or 30 minutes, about the same time that the vibration program ended, and we’d wander into his nursery and re-start it. You can probably see where this is going, which makes you smarter than me and Hubby… By the end of last week, Monkey was back to sleeping only 30-minute to 1-hour intervals, making sleep impossible at night and turning my days into an endless cycle of very short naps, crying, feeding, and diapering. On Saturday night, we moved Monkey back to his bassinet and swaddle, both of which worked wonders – for one night only.

We’re now trying to get Monkey to put himself to sleep in his bassinet, instead of letting him fall asleep in our arms while he’s feeding. We still hold and comfort him when he cries, but we put him back down as soon as he’s calm. This method required a double-team strategy from me and Hubby last night. We tagged each other in when we needed a break, each enduring endless rounds of feedings, putting Monkey down, and picking him back up to comfort. I took the midnight to 5am shift since Hubby had work today. The Monkey finally went down on his own a couple of hours ago, in his bassinet, next to me on the couch.

Needless to say, I’m exhausted this morning. I was getting this kind of sleep the first week, but I was also on an adrenaline high – nothing could dampen my mood. After 5 weeks of increasing (although fragmented) sleep, though, I’m not sure I can return back to this minimal sleep pattern. The graph below clearly demonstrates that the amount of sleep I get is inversely proportional to how much I cry during the day (you had to know I’d eventually convert this into data).

I’m going back to work on Friday. I simply cannot cry in the lab. I’m not expecting 8 hours of sleep, and I’m not picky how I get my sleep – a couple of 3-hour intervals or a single 4- or 5-hour interval would be just fine. But 5 hours of standing next to the bassinet waiting for Monkey to cry just won’t work. The graph says it all.


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