We are STILL Failing at Sleep Training and Eating is a Disaster

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In the age of social media (not to mention the many play dates we attend), it is impossible not to compare yourself to your seemingly perfect peers. A year-and-a-half after Sonya’s cochlear implant surgery, she is doing wonderfully. She speaks in complete sentences. She is a leader in her mainstream twos program. She is learning and speaking Russian.

Yet, I sometimes feel like I am failing her.

For one, I can’t seem to properly sleep train her. I have read the books. I have hired the professionals. I purchased the night lights and lullaby machines. Yet, Sonya still cries for me to lay next to her while she falls asleep – and as hard as I try – I have yet to succeed from weaning her from my presence.

At night, Sonya does not wear her cochlear implant (CIs) processors. She is deaf. This has been the challenge – and I have yet to encounter a sleep training guide, professional or friend who has a good solution for it.

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When Sonya cries for me, I find the sound unbearable. The sleep training books say she is using tears to manipulate us, but all I hear is her fear. It is dark, silent and she is alone. Who wouldn’t be afraid in that type of situation?

When the books tell me to offer comfort by the sound of my voice, I sigh in frustration. As soon as I give up, I lay back in her bed. Her breath shaking from crying eases and she smiles while closing her eyes. “I love you mama. I love you so much,” she says as she lays her arm around my neck.

Eating is another challenge. Sonya is a “stubborn” eater. She basically subsists on a diet of challah, ricotta and pasta, protein pretzels, berries, cheese and milk. Behavioral methods to improve the diversity of her food intake haven’t worked yet. We were chastised for allowing her to have an iPad at dinner, but the fact is – the iPad worked. It kept her distracted and she would eat a broader array of foods. Without it, she grows frustrated at the sight of foods she doesn’t think she will like and takes her CIs off.

While it is hard to convey these challenges to friends of hearing kids, I try to remember that every child has their challenges – whether deaf or hearing. Every parent probably feels the way I feel to a degree.

In happier news, here is a video of Sonya taken just a few days ago. She is speaking non-stop these days. We couldn’t be prouder of her progress:

Sleep Training FAIL

A few weekends ago we celebrated Sonya’s first birthday! In preparation for the big day, I assembled a photo album highlighting my favorite photos over the past year. As I reviewed Sonya’s amazing growth and development, I couldn’t help but notice the dark circles that appeared under Yan and my eyes.

Sonya has been alive an entire year and we have not slept through the night since.

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Early days, when I thought EVENTUALLY I would sleep. How silly I was…

We used to put Sonya down wearing her cochlear implants. She is very connected to the hearing world, and would get upset when suddenly her sound was disrupted. But that decision reversed itself when I recently came into her room only to find her SUCKING on the battery! She had figured out how to remove it from the processor. I am trying not to imagine a scenario in which she swallowed it.

I needed a solution. I decided that maybe she would be comforted by something to look at. I decided the perfect spot would be above her crib. I purchased adorable animal “wall trophies” from Hannah Andersson. We bought a unicorn, bunny, swan, zebra, elephant, sheep, reindeer and fox (when you are sleep deprived, you have trouble making decisions I have learned).

We hung them up as soon as we could. I loved the way they looked. But that night, Sonya freaked out. Perhaps it was the shadows of the animals at night hovering above her. Maybe she wondered where the rest of their bodies had gone…It was the worst night sleep in a long while.

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So (thanks to a wonderful suggestion by our speech therapist) I purchased the Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother. I am telling you – this product is amazing. As soon as I put her down in the crib, Sonya points at the aquarium, asking for me to turn it on for her. She smiles and laughs as soon as she sees the lights turn on and fish, crab, octopus and sea turtle begin to dance. She then turns to her side to watch the soft lights that look like ocean waves on her mattress. The combination of lights and movement seems to be enough stimulation to satisfy her. She doesn’t seem to miss not hearing.

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While great, it’s not a perfect solution. Sonya has learned how to adjust the settings which are on the top of the machine, and she uses it to wake us. In the middle of the night, when Sonya wakes up, she turns the machine on to full volume. I hear Chopin’s second Nocturne and then the sound of Sonya, singing “mama! mama!”

Now it is a beautiful sound to hear my child – who was born with profound hearing loss – to say my name, but less so when I hear it every three hours until I get her, every single night.

I know I am not the only parent in the world to suffer from sleep deprivation. I also realize we can do something about it – a.k.a. sleep training. Which we have tried – and failed at – numerous times in the past. And I know eventually we will stick to it, and it will be better.

Until then, look forward to reading any comments or suggestions you may have at midnight., 3 a.m. and probably around 6 a.m. tomorrow morning 🙂