Fatherhood Adventures

“Is he sleeping through the night yet?”

It’s a question I have been asked a lot lately from people I know and others who apparently recognize me from that mug shot above.

In my first rambling in this space, I wrote about being sleep deprived. With a newborn, the fact is rest is not something parents get a lot of. Some are better than others, but nights full of uninterrupted sleep are rare in the early months. In that first column, I devoted 1,000 words to the task of maintaining normalcy in my life outside the house while being completely exhausted by the late-night feedings, diaper changes, pacifier retrievals, etc.

Therefore, back to the question at hand. This is not a yes or no deal. I usually answer with “sometimes”. Other times it’s been “depends” or “he was, now he’s not” or, on days of extreme exhaustion, just a simple “nope”.

Two weeks ago, after two straight nights of uninterrupted sleep, my wife and I figured we had turned the corner. There was only one issue. Although Beckett was sleeping through the night, we were waking up every hour looking at the video monitor and the clock wondering if everything was okay. My wife has even been known to go check on the little guy in the middle of the night while he’s asleep. She does the put the finger under the nose test and watches to make sure his chest is moving up and down.

Although we were not exactly addressing our sleep deprivation those two blissful nights, we were excited to see a milestone had been achieved in our little one’s life. However, after those two wonderfully quiet nights around the house, we were brought back to reality, despite not changing the routine. He was back to getting up at 1 a.m., 2:15 a.m. and 4 a.m. At first, he was hungry, then a wet diaper and then I am not sure why. I think he was just bored.

Our erratic sleeping habits have continued for the most part, but he primarily wakes up once a night to feed. However, he did sleep through last Saturday night, but there we were waking up every hour to check him out. I guess it’s a silly first-time parent thing.

It’s interesting talking to other parents about babies. We often curiously ask: when did yours’ start sleeping through the night? Invariably, the answers run the gamut, but one common answer we get is: “we were lucky, she (he) slept from the beginning”. I usually just stare in disbelief and a little bit of disdain, I must admit, while my wife dives a little further to hunt for some trade secrets.

After a couple questions, we are quickly able to learn the baby woke up to eat throughout the night for the first few months, but went back to sleep after being fed. There I am thinking to myself, doing my best not to literally bite my tongue, every baby sleeps through the night under that logic. If I followed that ideology, the answer to the question at the beginning of this column would be a gleeful, “yes, he’s an angel, an amazing baby, he has slept through the night since he was born.”

It seems parents forget those early days. It’s understandable. Since we are living them, it’s fresh to us. There’s nothing uniform when it comes to parenting. Every child is different. There’s no blanket policy that works for everyone. Years from now when we are asked our baby’s sleep habits, we will probably be just as annoying and misleading, saying, “he has always been a great sleeper.”

As we wait for a string of full-night sleeps, I must admit it’s fun to see what works with our boy. We have tried a few things, like keeping him up deliberately later at night, not letting him sleep as much during the day, following exactly what a well-known book calls for, introducing rice cereal to his last bottle of the night, giving him a bath right before putting him down and letting him fall asleep in our bed and then transplanting him to the crib.

For example, after a particularly sleepless evening, I was thinking all day about a new approach with our little one, suggesting a new game plan — a small bottle at his second-to-last feeding of the night followed by a bath and some playtime and then a “knock out bottle”. By playtime, I mean giggling and smiling while simultaneously staring at some toys, trying to jam his entire hand in his mouth, kicking his legs and hoping for the ceiling fan to start moving. After a little bit of that, he started to tire. My thought was an oversized bottle with some rice cereal mixed in with his formula would knock him out for the night. After all, I know a big meal at the end of a long day does the trick on his dad.

As luck would have it, five hours later, he was letting us know he was starving. It was a baby step in the right direction, but it’s safe to say my plan did not work Against our better judgment, we tried the same approach the next night and I am happy to report he slept from 9:30 p.m.-6:30 a.m. Of course, we were up again doing our hypochondriac thing throughout the night making sure he was okay, but we felt like the proud parents of a gold medal winner that next morning. The next night? He was up at 1:30 a.m. and 3:45 a.m. with a bout of gas. That’s just how it goes.

His mother and I are hoping maybe tonight, in honor of his four-month birthday, will be one of those nights he sleeps throughout. However, it really doesn’t matter because either way we will be up – and watching.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.