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People don’t always tell you that some babies, toddlers, or children are not good sleepers.  Oh, you will get that passing comment about sleep-deprived newbie parents.  However, even the prenatal classes make no mention of possible sleep issues or prepare you for the reality of sleep deprivation.  Yet, there are tons of books, alleged sleep gurus, and general advice on sleep problems and sleep training.  But, when you are in the midst of it, you feel all alone and completely sleep deprived. Honestly, very few babies sleep through the night!  Parents should not expect that so they can be realistic on sleep expectations.  That being said, we know our child was an outlier on horrible sleep.  Hopefully, your child is better or that your future child will not be this difficult.

Here is our story of our son’s not so sweet dreams:

Our son was born with congenital scoliosis and kidney reflux which meant he had lots of specialists his first couple years.  He did latch but was not the best eater. We suspected something was not right but our first pediatrician just said it was colic and that some babies are difficult.  The longest he would sleep for was 1.5 hours.  We actually made logs of his spit-ups, projectile vomiting, gas, and crying fits (not normal baby cries).  His spine specialist showed us his x-rays at 6 months and said we need to to take a copy of the x-ray to his pediatrician and consider seeing a gastroenterologist as his stomach was filled with air despite not crying during the x-ray.  This lead to our pediatrician backing off all of her previous comments and getting us to a gastroenterologist rapidly.  Instead of the usual 3 month wait time, we were seen in 2 weeks.  We did switch pediatricians too.  This led to several diagnostic procedures and the diagnosis was severe GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) aka Reflux.  We tried various medications, sleep positioners, elevating bed, and played around with prescription formulas and breast milk and combining with rice cereal to thicken.  We got him to sleep at least one 3 to 4-hour chunk at night with smaller chunks but he never napped more than 45 minutes.  By age 1, he was only napping once a day but he was so alert during the day he truly did not need the naps. It was me who needed the naps!

By age 2 he was also diagnosed with abdominal migraines and delayed gastric emptying.  He was still only sleeping one 3 to 4-hour chunk at night with smaller chunks and no longer napping at all.  Again, he was completely fine and did not need the naps.  It was me who needed them.  And it was during this time that we may have missed how gifted he was.  By age 4 the abdominal migraines were gone and he was only on reflux medications.  He was finally sleeping for 4-hour chunks.  We did go through a phase of nightmares and night terrors (worse than nightmares) and sleepwalking.  And it was during this year he was diagnosed as profoundly gifted.  By age 6 we stopped prescription reflux medicine as there was no difference on it or off of it and there were risks of long-term use of such medication.  

At age 11 he still does not sleep completely through the night and requires significantly less sleep than his peers.  Like his physical size, his sleep is on the bottom of the chart and completely opposite of his cognitive and academic abilities.  His doctors and we realize he doesn’t know how to turn off his brain to relax and just sleep.  He is constantly thinking and planning.  He can pick up in the middle of the night or in the morning right where his conversation ended before going to sleep.  And, he is part of the small percentage of babies that never outgrows GERD and continue to have reflux their whole life.  The reflux is better but not gone.  He still takes forever to fall asleep.

Here is a list of things we tried (I am sure I am missing some):

  • Swaddling (he loved being swaddled but didn’t necessarily translate to sleeping)
  • Shushing
  • Rocking
  • Pacifier (due to reflux, he was never into one)
  • Singing lullabies & nursery rhymes
  • Sleeping in bouncer
  • Sleeping in car seat
  • Walking outside to put to sleep
  • Driving in car to put to sleep
  • Babywearing to put sleep (baby Bjorn was my best baby item)
  • Elevated bassinet & crib with binders (4 inch hard sided binders, and for a period of time multiple ones stacked on top of each other)
  • Wedge pillow
  • Baby sleep positioners
  • Elevated twin mattress with binders & books (we considered purchasing a wedge mattress but binders worked enough)
  • Double sets of sheets & mattress protectors so that if bad vomit or bathroom incident could quickly get back to bed (this was best baby tip we were ever given)
  • Cry-it-out aka Ferber Method (tried it and resulted in worse vomiting, and learned this method is not recommended for severe reflux babies)
  • Pick-up Put-down Method aka Hogg Method (tried it and didn’t work, he would get too worked up and vomit)
  • The chair method (the crying resulted in vomiting)
  • Co-sleeping aka the Sears Method (didn’t stop the waking up but everyone got more sleep)
  • Bedroom sharing aka McKenna Method (didn’t stop the waking up but everyone got more sleep)
  • No cry sleep method aka Pantley Method (reducing crying, reduced reflux compared to other crying methods)
  • Shush-pat method (less crying, but took over 30 minutes to fall asleep every time he woke up)
  • Sleep Fairy method (based on the book by Janie Peterson and Macy Peterson)
  • Medications
  • Probiotics
  • Sleep books for kids
  • Lavender baths
  • Calming Music
  • White noises (small fans)
  • Monster spray
  • Dreamcatchers
  • Detective Thinking
  • Deep breathing and counted breathing
  • Bedtime stories
  • Sleep reward charts
  • Strict bedtime routine
  • Quiet time before bedtime

Sleep-themed books for kids that we tried:

  • Sleep Fairy by Janie Peterson and Macy Peterson
  • Time for Bed by Mem Fox
  • Jake Stays Awake by Michael Wright
  • I Don’t Want to Go to Bed! by Julie Sykes
  • Go Sleep in Your Own Bed by Candace Fleming
  • Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton
  • Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
  • Mommy, I Want to Sleep In Your Bed! By Harriet Ziefert
  • I Sleep In My Own Bed by Glenn Wright
  • Good night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown’s
  • The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
  • The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  • Kiss Goodnight by Amy Hest
  • Big Enough for a Bed by Apple Jordan
  • A Book of Sleep by II Sung Na
  • Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss

I share our story, not to scare you but instead to assure you that you are not alone if you have a difficult sleeper.  Also, the books and sage advice may not work for your family.  Trust me, I read over a dozen sleep training books, watched several videos, and subscribed to several sleep training emails; you need to find what works for you and your child. You need to find a strategy that you can live with. There is no one-size strategy for sleep.  Some children are great sleepers.  Some are not great sleepers like ours.

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Sweet Dreams.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:

www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_sweet_dreams.htm
 bloghopSweetDreams_n

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