Avery has never been a champion sleeper. Her very first night in the hospital she would not be put down in the bassinet. She would wake up as soon as I lay her down on her back and start thrashing her arms and legs or gagging (which babies do the first couple days). So I spent that first night holding her and not sleeping. Who knew that would be a harbinger of things to come! I started sleeping with her in my bed mainly because she would wake up the minute I put her down. But if I snuggled her up close to me, she would usually sleep ok and I would get to lay down too. I have been waiting for her night waking to show signs of improvement, but it's actually gotten worse. She went from waking every 3-4 hours to waking every 1-2 hours and now we're in a phase where she wants to nurse constantly at night and if I try to move away from her she will start rooting around for the boob again. It's like she wants to stay latched all night! I have gotten used to sleeping with her, even while she is nursing, to some extent. I certainly don't feel like I've been up all night. I don't feel desperate for sleep. But I do admit it is wearing on me to have her nursing so much at night. I keep hoping it is a phase that will pass... but of course I know then she will start teething or sitting up and it will all unravel again.
I attended a La Leche League meeting yesterday morning. Avery was clearly enthralled with all the other babies and toddlers, and I enjoyed socializing with other moms. Aside from my one friend with a baby here, and the internet, that was the first time I'd spent time with other mommies. I definitely need to seek out more connections. I was looking forward to the meeting as a chance to ask what to do with a baby who wants to nurse ALL. NIGHT. LONG. LLL supports extended breastfeeding and sleeping with your baby, so I knew I would not get the conventional answer to get her out of our bed and do some form of sleep training (i.e., letting her "cry it out", which I refuse to do). It made me feel a lot better when I asked the question and was told it is totally, totally normal for exclusively breast fed babies to want to nurse a lot at this age, and that it does get better.
Adam gets a lot of advice (assvice?) from his coworkers, who all love to brag about how well their babies sleep, and tell him we need to get Avery out of our bed and that at some point we will have to let her cry it out or she will never learn to sleep on her own (oh really. never?).
I tend to look to evolution as explanation for human behavior, and it makes sense that babies are designed to wake frequently and to sleep near their mommies. If you look at other primates, or even other more traditional cultures, you can see it is quite normal and common. That is not to say it makes it EASY per se. Although how easy or hard it is must depend a lot on your perception of the situation. If I focus on the negatives, I start to feel very prickly about the whole thing, even to the point where I've considered stopping breastfeeding! But if I view sleeping with Avery and nursing all night as a normal need she has right now, and focus on how much I enjoy snuggling with her and waking up with her, then I feel better about it. I am even able to relax and SLEEP better/more instead of laying there seething all night.
In her book No Cry Sleep Solution, Elizabeth Pantley recommends repeatedly unlatching the baby right before she's asleep as a remedy for all night nursing. The baby will root around, but if you keep doing it, she says they will eventually just go to sleep. I tried it last night and got up to 8 times before I decided to give up and drift off to sleep with the baby still latched. Perhaps in a few more weeks the situation will seem more pressing and dire to me as the sleep deprivation accumulates and I will find the fortitude to keep unlatching 15 or 20 times until she falls asleep?
In other baby news - and just to underscore the point that change is the only constant - Avery actually fell asleep in her car seat yesterday. I could not believe it, but she probably slept for about 30 minutes in there. AND, she fell asleep on Adam, which is unprecedented since her early newborn days. I was joking that I must have brought the wrong baby home from the LLL meeting!
Also, the last few days Avery has been randomly bursting into hysterical laughter at... well, we're not sure what, but it's really funny to her all of a sudden! It's quite cute.