Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Life after Reflux: Sleep

Reflux. Oh, I've talked a lot about this on this blog but it consumed a lot of our life the first year and while he is doing much better, I thought I would show you how reflux has evolved. A lot of times I felt lost and if I can help one mom find her way, then I'll be happy! Reflux to me was more than just projectile vomiting, it was so much more to us. Since sleep was one of the most affected areas so I will start there. I know a few moms who are going through reflux hell right now and it's hard. You bring this baby home and the honeymoon period ends and you are never prepared for seeing your baby in pain. I also think that recognizing the signs are so important (and how we treated it) so my next post will talk more about those.

I know I've talked about it over and over here that Brady has never been the best sleeper and to say that is probably an understatement. I thought the newborn days were hard when my newborn who I was told should sleep most of the day was up for most of the day. Then, as he got older his sleeping patterns got worse and worse. I could remember going to work and not even remembering driving there or leaving my cell phone on the roof of my car in a rainstorm. I'm suprised I didn't manage to lose Brady. Then again, if I had done so, I might not have remembered that I did. At the same time, work had ramped up into our busiest time and I was so overwhelmed.

Looking back, I know my hernia surgery was a bit of a blessing in disguise. I got the rest I desperatly needed and Brady got a break from me which he needed. He started sleeping a bit better and then teething started. Reflux+teething=hell. The extra saliva from teething often increases reflux symptoms which paired with an already umcomfortable baby doesn't bode well for dreamland. Throw in some seperation anxiety issues and dreamland is a distant memory!

You know you are desperate when you come home from Target with ten different kinds of pacifiers, 5 lovies and several 'sleep' books.  After reading those books and trying everything in our power to get him to sleep, I read something that clicked. Babies with reflux often have sleep issues not only because of the pain they are in but because they are in pain they often do not learn to self-soothe.

Looking back, this was so true for us. I have talked about Brady and his lack of love for sleep over and over and people look at me like, oh yeah, baby's don't sleep but unless you are in that situation you don't quite get it. Most babies don't really sleep like a baby, reflux or not but having a baby who wakes up because he is in pain is a whole other story. Once I got past that idea that he was going to sleep through the night, things got much better for me. Don't get me wrong, I was still tired but I wasn't ready to run away anymore. Oh, yeah, the thought of running to a hotel for the night crossed my mind a few times or ten hundred. I dreamt about fluffy pillows and soft, cozy comforters. Ok, more like day dream...there was NO dreaming going on in my house.

When Brady turned ten months old, the pukies finally slowed down. He went from puking 10+ times a day to maybe ten times a week. By the time he was a year old, the pukies stopped. Sleep got a bit better for a while. He found ways to self-soothe (rubbing his hair <3)

At 15 months old, we still have rough nights and have been dealing with some super early morning wake-ups (meaning the kid wants to be up for the day anywhere between 4-530 am when he was previously waking up at 6:30...way too early for this mom!) for a few months now. Since the teething started up again, I believe we are having some minor reflux issues again. It's nothing we can't handle but it is definalty causing us to all lose some sleep.

My point in all of this is that for us there was no magic trick, special device or magic number that worked and I think I tried everything in every book! The only thing that worked for us was time. When Brady was ready, he slept. I know how hard that is to accept when you are so desperate for sleep that is not compromised of blocks here and there. Broken sleep is so much worse than no sleep. I've worked full 8 hours plus two hours of commuting on both and niether are fun but something about broken sleep just causes your body not to want to function right (hence the whole roof and cellphone incidents. Yes, there was more than one.)

I read a lot of books and sadly, only one I read even slighly touched reflux or kids with medical problems which is the reason for this post. Most sleep training and techniques do not work with these kiddos and I think that was where I felt lost. No one had good advice and even though they meant well, sometimes things I was told made me feel like I was failing as a mom. I was told babies his age didn't need to get up to eat and I just needed to feed him more during the day (if I have learned anything, food does NOT equal sleep, people!)

 I would wake up exhausted and would question myself. The books say he is going to become dependant on a night feed and he will be still waking up when he's five if we keep going. They said that me getting up with him was going to make him dependant and he'll never be able to STTN. I knew what the books said. They didn't know my kid. I was not about to let my refluxy baby cry so that it could make his reflux worse (yes, crying just makes it worse. It's a lovely cycle.) They didn't know that eating made his tummy feel better and to me if was not a coinicdence that he weaned himself and started STTN the same time the pukies stopped.

Babies are way smarter than we give them credit for. For reals.

I'm not saying that books are not helpful or they do not know what they are talking about because I did learn a lot and they are written by very smart, educated people who do know their stuff. Every baby is different and we found something that worked for us. I trusted my instinct and even though I doubted myself sometimes, in the end, we are alright.  A little tired but  we are alright.

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