I’ve been working to win back Sprout’s trust since I returned from my work trip two weeks ago. Since then, he’s been somewhat skeptical that I wouldn’t leave him again. While Chris and I connected on FaceTime every night, seeing Mommy “in the box” just wasn’t the same as being in my arms.
When I first arrived home, Sprout’s reaction was subdued. It was close to his bedtime and Chris hadn’t been able to play with him much because he was sick, so Sprout was already in a bit of a mood. When I lifted him out of his car seat, he hardly cracked a smile. Certainly not the enthusiastic welcome I’d hoped for.
The next morning, once he realized I was back for good, his whole attitude changed. Then it became All Mommy, All the Time. When Chris was holding him, he’d reach his arms out to me. If I was present, I’d be the only one who could comfort him. If I was in the same room and not paying direct attention to him, he’d soon make sure I was. While I dislike Family Guy, I started to realize how true the bit where Stewie just says “Mommm, Mommmmmy” over and over again is. In general, his clingyness was getting really annoying. But because I appreciated Sprout’s need to feel attached to me and be reassured, I tried to be there mentally and physically for him as much as possible.
Of course, the worst was at night. At first, I tried to pick up where I left off on our sleep routine. When I left, he was able to fall asleep completely by himself with a little bit of babble-whining. After needing to go in and reassure him several times the first night, I realized I needed to back up a few steps on the sleep training. I think he associated me leaving him alone in his room with me Leaving Him. So I went back to sitting next to his crib with my eyes closed, present but not engaged. While we played the up-down game more than I would have liked (Sprout stands up, Mommy puts him down, Sprout stands up again, repeat up to 30 times), he eventually got used to the idea that I’d still be there when he went to sleep.
While we gradually worked our way back to a level of independence at bedtime, his reactions in the middle of the night have been far more unpredictable. While I was gone, he actually slept through the night a couple nights, much to Chris’s relief. The first few days after I returned, he either slept through the night or only woke once and went back to sleep after a reassuring hug. This calm lulled us into a sense of security and then his sleep schedule totally fell apart. He would fall asleep at bedtime, but then wake up in the middle of the night and not go back to sleep for hours at a time, no matter what we did. If I was holding him, he wouldn’t cry, just look at me with his big blue eyes. Nursing, rocking, holding – none of it worked. By training him not to rely on any of these methods, we seemed to immunize him against them being effective. And if we put him in his crib by himself – especially if I put him in his crib – he would start hard crying. As I really don’t believe in cry-it-out, it was horrifying. I either had to listen to my baby scream or not go back to bed – either way, I wasn’t getting back to sleep. I chose not to go back to bed, dragging Chris in for reinforcement. Because he takes much longer to fall back asleep than I do, I hate having to wake him in the middle of the night, but I didn’t have a choice.
We thought we had moved beyond this last week, but then Sprout got a cold and it reared its ugly head again. A few nights ago, I was so desperate that I tried to bring him into bed with us, but he was even less interested in sleeping there than he was in my arms. Instead, he thought it was playtime and promptly pulled Chris’s hair. I ended up sleeping on the couch for three hours with him in my arms.
As I respond to him during the day and night, Sprout’s feeling of security in my presence should continue to increase. In the meantime, I hope that we’re past most of the growing pains.