Fixing the Henry Problem

Months ago, my sister sent me a copy of The No-Cry Sleep Solution, because Henry and sleep aren’t the best of friends, and she thought it might help.  I was reading through it again the other night, and before the author starts offering solutions, she asks: Do you actually have a problem?  Or have other people and their expectations caused you to think you have a problem, when, really, you actually kind of like getting up to nurse your hungry baby?  I have found that, often, our middle-of-the-night “problems” are caused more by my husband’s desires and expectations, and that tension causes stress that wasn’t there before, that isn’t there if I just ignore him.  🙂

Except with Henry.  With Henry, we have a problem.

Henry is eleven months old.  He used to sleep so well, I had to wake him up in the middle of the night to nurse, but something happened.  I don’t know when, exactly.  Around five months old or so.  He wakes shortly after I’ve laid him down, but never gently.  He goes from sound asleep to screaming like someone just tore his arm off in a heartbeat.  It’s weird.  He also wakes very frequently.  I’m talking anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours after our last wake up.  Never longer, and that’s a lot of waking up.  I tried giving up foods that might bother him, specifically nightshades and dairy.  There was some spotty success, but not enough to continue that challenging culinary lifestyle.  I tried getting him drunk!  That only helped for a couple of weeks.  Apparently, his tolerance for alcohol increased more quickly than mine.

Henry gave me a clue the other day, though:  He tired before his usual after-lunch nap time, and so he was in his bed, sleeping, before 11:30. I brought Evie in after lunch for her nap and laid down with her.  She was asleep by one, but I was happily engaged in another project, so I just hung out in the room, on the bed, reading and planning.  Henry woke suddenly at 1:45, went right into his default screaming mode, flipped himself over, and – this is the interesting part – when he saw me sitting on the bed, he stopped crying, laid himself back down, and rested quietly for another 20 minutes before standing up and greeting me.

Is it possible that all of this mess is just because Henry thinks that I’m no longer there?  Or maybe it’s the thought of being left all alone?  Sometimes, when he’s screaming in the darkness, even when he’s already in my arms, I say, “Hush, Henry,” and he’ll hush.  But it has to be spoken, and if I don’t say his name, he doesn’t quiet.  Does he not know, somehow, that it’s me?  That I’m always near to him?  And why is he fine going to sleep in the car but not at home?

So, as per the book’s recommendations, I’ve been completely absorbed in Henry’s sleeping – and eating – patterns.  The first day, when he got sleepy at 10, I nursed him and helped him to lay down in his crib and go to sleep.  He slept for an hour and a half.  I put him down again at three, when he seemed tired again.  It took him much longer to fall asleep that time, but he slept for another hour, till dinner.  (Yes, I did spend the whole day putting people down for naps!  Thanks for noticing.)  At the end of the day, after getting everyone else tucked in, we carried ourselves back downstairs.  I nursed him, then put him in his crib.  He laughed at me, but when I sprawled out on my own bed with a book, he played quietly by himself for a little while, then laid himself down, wrapped himself in his blanket, and went to sleep.  That night, he woke up twice.  He didn’t scream either time.  I just nursed him, and then he was able to go back to his own bed.  (It should also be noted that he doesn’t care to sleep with me; he likes to sleep how he likes to sleep, not how I like him to sleep.  He apparently can’t live with or without me!)

The second day, we were on the go, and I wasn’t able to make sure he got good and timely naps, or make sure that he fell asleep in his crib.  I didn’t think he’d sleep well at all that night, but he did.  It was almost an exact repeat of the night before: two wake-ups, nursing, then back to his own bed.

We spent the third day on the go, too.  Our friend’s son was ordained to the diaconate, in advance of taking his priestly vows next year!  It was a beautiful Mass, and a beautiful day, but Henry suffered a major trauma right off the bat and didn’t recover well.  You see, his daddy is a Knight of Columbus, and he was there in full regalia to honor the new deacons.  And the Knights of Columbus wear a hat with a very large, very fluffy feather, a feather of such voluminousness that it moves in the slightest breeze, seeming to have a life of its own.  David didn’t know what was about to happen when he bent over to tickle Henry’s forehead with his feather.  Yes, he struck terror into the heart of his infant son, and Henry was very slow to recover.  It took me 45 minutes just to calm him down, and he’d start right back up again whenever I tried to hand him off to someone else for a few minutes.  It was a very long Mass.  And then, of course, all those men marched right back out again, all those feathers on all those hats just tormenting poor Henry.  It was a very bad day for him.

Not surprisingly, he did not sleep terribly well last night, but it was still better than usual.  And he’s unusually clingy today, so I think tonight will not go very well, either, but I’m looking forward to a long week at home, just loving and napping, with all offending hats stored out of sight in their closets.

So, basically, we’re working on making sure that he gets plenty of real food so he’s for-sure not hungry; that he naps more than once a day, if possible, and at home; and that falling asleep does not depend on nursing.  I’m also keeping closer to him and making sure to pick him up every time he asks.  And avoiding feathers is probably a good practice.  I’m ever hopeful.

3 Comment

  1. Beckie R. says:

    Feathers. Chickens. ::snicker::
    I remember spending a lot of time getting Angie to nap for more than 20 minutes at a time as an infant and that book helped me tremendously. Paying close attention was really key; and within a couple of days of the suggested intervention, she was napping soundly and solidly for 2 or more hours. There’s a lot of sense in that book, and I found the section about baby sleep patterns to be very helpful in understanding her waking patterns. For me, it was knowing that she was going to wake, and soothing her through the rough patch just before it was going to happen. That led to her internalizing the process and doing it on her own, which was just what I was aiming for!

    I’m glad you’ve found that book useful too 🙂

  2. Anne Neulieb says:

    Sounds like you’re on your way now! I had to do a similar sleep re-training with my oldest when he was about 10 months old or so. I found a book called The Baby Whisperer extremely helpful in case you want anymore to read. I’ve used the knowledge I gained from that book with each of my babies (combined with common sense of course). Here’s hoping for some solid naps for Henry soon!

  3. This has been an intriguing saga. A hard one, too, for a mama who has already been through as many years of babies as you have. I really hope that you have the answers this time for good.

    I have a child who, at 3, has just stopped the practice of waking up like someone stuck a knife in her. She didn’t start until she was about nine months old. She did it several times a night for months, and it always woke her twin brother, so we’d have screaming tots times two every few hours all night. I was pregnant and it was awful. We finally got her to stop, by sending Daddy in to her…his firm, no nonsense demands to stop crying and go back to sleep combined with his back rubs, were just more effective than mine. She still did it in the morning once she’d learned to sleep all night. For two years, she was our alarm clock. She’s always had one of the most guttural, awful sounding child cries I have ever heard, and we got the full show every morning around nine. She’d stop after about a minute, in response to our calls from across the hall of “Good morning, T! It’s okay! It’s daytime! Waking time! You can stop crying!” and other things to that affect. I have no idea why she began, or why she stopped. But…I sympathize with Henry’s waking pattern. No one, the baby included I imagine, enjoys waking up to that.

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