I’m up with the baby.
She’s six months old, as of the turning of the calendar last night at midnight, just under 20lbs, and not half as hungry as she thinks she is right now. She was sleeping so well just a few months ago, almost 12 hours by 3 months! I made the mistake of thinking we were past the midnight feedings, which is only a mistake in that it makes the reality that much harder to adjust to. About the 5 month mark, she started waking up again to nurse. She’s hungry, I told myself. She needs me! So we reverted to the schedule we had in the first month, with me shuffling across the living room to find her in the middle of the night, wanting to cry along with her because I’m so tired I almost can’t stand up.
But I don’t cry, I just get the baby and do what’s easiest: nurse her in my bed until we’re both asleep, and try to hang on to the edge of the bed as her little body stretches out across the middle of our mattress. This is what she wants even more than a full belly. I know this. She doesn’t even nurse long. But it doesn’t take much to make this midnight eating and snuggling a thing she needs. Suddenly she’s up twice a night. We start her on solid foods a week early (5 days shy of 6 months) to see if she’s just not getting enough during the day (she’s getting plenty). But it doesn’t fix the problem. In fact, by the third night it’s 2am that she’s calling out for me. This time, I do cry. And I know we need a different plan.
So here I am, in that other plan. I put her crib in the guest room so she won’t keep her brother up, gave
her the pacifier, and walked away. Now I am listening to her sad little cries. Not screaming or starving or desperate, just wondering why she’s alone and not snuggled up against my body in the middle of the night.
Even though I know she’s fine, and in a night or four will be better for this since she’ll get the sleep she needs and know how to put herself back to sleep, it’s hard for me. I hate the sound in her cry like I’ve betrayed her, like she’s alone in the world. If only she knew. I have a monitor piping her cry into my room, even though I could hear her across our small house without the amplification. And although I could turn her down and try to sleep, I’m writing this so I don’t miss anything. So I don’t sleep through it if she really does need me before she gives up and goes back to sleep.
When it feels like I’ve left her alone, I’m actually hanging on her every move, listening to her little grunts, analyzing the space between her crying. Is she wearing herself out? Or gearing up for more? Or maybe she just needs me to hold her but not feed her! Could that be okay?
But I know I need to let her do this, and even need to let her believe she’s alone or it won’t work. She won’t grow the skills and strength she needs to do this on her own. And even though I hate to hear her cry, I know even she would want me to let her try to do this herself.
Maybe. Or maybe I should go pick her up? I miss snuggling that fat little dreamer to sleep.