Sleep, pain, time

I won’t be posting frequently over the next few weeks. We’re on vacation for the last two weeks of August, and in order to make that happen, I’m in crunch mode now.

Speaking of crunching…I visited the dentist on Monday, and sure enough, I am clenching my jaw overnight, creating various cracks. But that wasn’t the sole cause of my jaw/tooth pain, oh no. I had an x-ray and learned that I need a root canal in one of my teeth that has a pretty deep filling currently. I have never had one of these before, and it does not sound fun, but my dentist (and the scheduler at the endodontist I called) insist that it is an unfairly maligned procedure. It is not that root canals themselves are terrible, it is that people are often in such pain when they get the procedure that the aura of pain surrounds the whole experience. Actually getting a root canal tends to clear it up.

I couldn’t get scheduled in until next Friday, but fortunately I’m not in acute pain right now. It got pretty bad at the end of last week and over the weekend, then subsided. I’ve been keeping it manageable with ibuprofen and exercises to relax my jaw. Knowing it might flare up again at any point does make one aware of the time, as does the slight edge that creeps in toward the end of the ibuprofen dosing window. Fun stuff.

Also fun: I am not sleeping. On Sunday night, the baby was up at 10, 11, 12, 1, 3, 5:30 and then up for good at 7:15. I am working on sleep training because this is just completely unsustainable. I do still get my 7 hours of sleep total, but the disjointedness is non-ideal. I welcome anyone’s suggestions (and thoughts on root canal experiences!), though five kids in I know that kids are different and on some level you get what you get and you don’t get upset. He’s an incredibly happy baby the rest of the day. And happy at night too. He’s just…up.

Photo: Uh oh, did I do that?

34 thoughts on “Sleep, pain, time

  1. I had a (first) root canal recently and it really was no big deal. Maybe it was easier because that tooth already had a crown, so less drilling was required, but there was barely any real discomfort and no recovery necessary. It was also so much better than the toothache! Best use of >$1000 this year.
    My sympathies about the broken sleep.

  2. I’m a big fan of cry it out. You could even hire someone to do it for you. Alternatively, hire a sleep coach, who will likely advise a version of cio. Made a huge difference to our family’s wellbeing at that age.

  3. You have to just bite the bullet and let him cry it out! Put him to bed, close the door, and don’t come back until morning. Only go in to check on him if he’s been crying for 40 minutes nonstop. If he cries for 30 minutes, stops, then starts up again, that doesn’t count! I worked with a sleep coach and this works. I remember you saying he’s in like the 90% for weight? He definitely doesn’t need any nutrition in the middle of the night. Put on headphones, go to another floor of the house if you have to. Teaching him how to sleep through the night is a life skill, just like talking or walking.

  4. Ah root canal. My dentist said I needed one and started it, but apparently I have curly roots, so she had to pack it up and send me to the endodontist. The dentist version was long, but no pain (several painkilling shots though). But the endodontist had the COOLIST equipment and let me see all the things and only once did he give me a shot. Definitely do it with the endodontist!

  5. The Taking Cara Babies ABCs of sleep program is magic (and inexpensive). It’s a pretty standard cry-it-out form of sleep training for babies of the age yours is (she has gentler sleep routines for younger babies), but it’s very effective and she makes the principles clear and easy to understand for us poor sleep-deprived parents. It also incorporates gradual overnight weaning, how to deal with naps, dealing with travel and time changes, so it’s pretty comprehensive.

    Our kid is now two and has slept 12 hours a night with nary a waking (and very rarely an issue going down) since we sleep trained him at 6 months, even when travelling overseas. Our friends hate us, because we always just kinda shrug when they complain about being exhausted all the time. Partly it’s just our kid, but a big part was the program.

    Good luck–with sleep and your root canal!

    1. Yes I used Taking Cara Babies too. It really just gave me the confidence that there wasn’t anything else wrong and that the crying was ok. We now have had a good sleeper just turned 10 months since we did it at 6 months. And it made my life so much better to sleep. Good luck!

      1. Taking Cara babies is incredible. I know you’ve had five kids but it doesn’t sound like any of them are great sleepers. Trust me that this course is life chsnging
        I wish I could have implemented her tips with my first. Both my kids got up like this and it is unbearable but my second was very good after implementing Caras tips. The younger, the better for sleep training. I used precious little sleep with my first and do not recommend.

  6. Sleep consultant sleep consultant sleep consultant. I don’t have the stomach for true cry it out, which if done by the books is shutting the door and not opening it for 12 hours. There are other somewhat more gentle methods that involve various levels of crying for those of us who need something less drastic. I swear by the consultant I used – I just bought her online course and followed whatever the course told me to do. Both my kids (4 and 1) go down easy, stay asleep all night (12 hours for the 1 year old) and nap reliably. Some of that is probably luck but a lot of it was consistently doing what the program said, which allowed me to not have to research a whole bunch of methods and try several. I just decided to trust that hers would work and it did (does). There are several programs out there so finding someone that you trust and whose vibe you like is key (I don’t know you in real life but not sure you’d like the personality of the person I went with even if you like her methods). Then you just implement and should see results in a few days to two weeks. Just my two cents! So far i seem to be in the minority in not advocating cry it out but it’s obviously personal preference for what you can handle.

    1. AMEN to the sleep consultant. I used Tender Transitions (in MN but was all virtual). She gives you this big questionnaire to fill out and then you talk and she makes a plan for you… what to do in different situations. There IS crying but it’s more controlled than “close the door and leave.” She also helps with naps, night wake ups etc. You keep a log too (which I’m sure resonates) and that helps you track progress. Highly, HIGHLY recommend. I liked having a plan of what to do instead of trying to just “stay strong” at 3 a.m. Here’s a link to their site:

  7. My root canal was such a relief because it immediately stopped the pain, and the procedure itself wasn’t bad at all. It’s a short amount of time in a chair and you’ll feel 1000 times better when it’s done.

    1. I agree – I was in so much pain prior to the root canal, and it was such a relief for the throbbing headache and tooth pain to stop. The worst part was honestly the cost since I was a graduate student without dental insurance at the time.

  8. I had my first root canal during COVID shut downs. I downloaded an audiobook on my phone, brought headphones, and it was great! Lying down, listening to a book after months of non-stop kid interaction made it like a vacation. I hope yours goes well!

  9. I had my first root canal at age 9 after a bike accident. I had to have the adjacent tooth pulled. None of it was particularly painful, especially compared to the accident that caused the fall. MY mom was so worried, which sort of freaked me out, but the procedure itself was…underwhelming, even at 9.

    We have used gradual extinction for sleep training with all 4 kids with great success. Even kids who are early risers now slept from 7-7 at 6 months after sleep training. I also found it helpful to be sure they were getting all their caloric needs during daylight hours so they didn’t want to eat all night. This is harder with a kiddo who is exclusively nursing (vs. formula or breast milk from a bottle) since you don’t know how much they are getting, but given the robust appearance of your little tike, I’d say he is meeting his caloric needs!

  10. On the clenching note, if you don’t have one already, get a bite guard! I got the $20-30 one from the grocery store, boiled to fit my mouth and it is 1000x times better. I was hesitant, it’s not sexy, but it’s so worth it. Plus I’m convinced it “trained” me not to clench, so after the first few weeks I don’t wear it unless my allergies/sinuses are bad, which correlates to night clenching for me.

  11. I’ll second all the other comments for CIO! I don’t remember the details on how/when etc, but I remember thinking it was so much easier than the getting up all night, for both me and baby! They woke up rested and happier! And of course I was! A night or two of discomfort was well worth the months of sleep I saved! My sister recently did the “taking cara babies” recommended above and her 6 month old now sleeps 12 hrs a night. Good luck!

  12. I’ve had a few root canals now, and I agree – they aren’t that bad. I actually prefer them to a typical cavity filling because there’s less of loud drilling. They can be a longer procedure though. Good luck!

  13. Before going full on cry-it-out, it might help to look at when you are nursing the baby. With my kids, we had to have a big separation between nursing and bedtime as well as nursing and awake time. So for example, try nursing before a bath or jammies instead of closer to bed. I found that even though we weren’t nursing to sleep, the baby was still strongly associating nursing with sleep. Same thing for waking up. It’s less fun to wake up if dad gets you and there’s no nursing! I think the Precious Little Sleep website mentions this. Not to speak ill of breastfeeding (did it 12+ months with both kids) but at least for my kids it doesn’t seem to be something that supports long sleep stretches.

  14. I’m a big fan of the Ferber method. It is still CIO, but not nearly as intense and is much better suited wimps like myself. Very google-able. We had two garbage sleepers which is part of the reason there will not be more than 2 of them, so I really feel your pain. While it definitely didn’t get us to any sort of sleeping bliss until well after their first birthday, it did get it to a much more sustainable place (1 or 2 overnight wakings). We were at the “up every 40 minutes” level prior to that. I have mostly worked through the irrational rage I would get when someone would talk about their 6 month old sleeping 12 straight hours, but it was a dark place there for awhile. ha

  15. Currently sleep training my 4 month old. Sleep training – cry it out – is the only thing that has worked for my babies (this is my third). I would highly recommend working with a sleep coach because they will assess the overall sleep situation, timing of naps, etc and they offer such great support during the process. I’m working with Jennifer Heger of Golden Slumbers Sleep. My recommendation is to gear up for it and mentally prepare and then know it will be a hard few days but the results are better sleep for everyone. I was also really encouraged by Emily Oster’s latest book in which she says that the only outcome from sleep training is that the baby and everyone in the family gets better sleep.

  16. Sorry you’re going through this, Laura. I’ve worn night mouth guards for almost 20 years. My clenching got so bad that I needed physical therapy at one point, which was a HUGE relief — highly recommended.
    I had my first root canal when I was pregnant, and they couldn’t give me the usual painkillers. It was horrible. Baby kicked like crazy throughout. But the second root canal I had years later, with full anesthesia, was a breeze! I hope yours is, too.

  17. I’m a chronic jaw clencher too. A short round of muscle relaxers & NSAIDs helped break the cycle for me!

    Is the baby teething?

    I am not a huge CIO advocate as my kid would puke when left to cry even for 5 minutes (what luck), but I have definitely found that sending my husband at night in gets across the message of “no milk for you” much better than I can. A few nights of that typically helps spread out the wake ups more. I also firmly believe that some kids are great sleepers and others aren’t. We can help them become better, but short sleepers still always tend to be that way.

    Fingers crossed that sleep is much better for you tonight!

  18. I had my first root canal last summer and it wasn’t as bad as I feared. I did need Sensodyne for several months and favored the other side of my mouth, but now it feels normal. Definitely not a fun experience, but with a good dentist it is very doable.

    Good luck with getting a lot accomplished so you can enjoy vacation!

    I have no baby advice. All three of mine were awful sleepers (and are all within 21 months of each other) so my main goal was just survival. Fingers crossed for some better sleep for you soon!

  19. I used to work for a baby sleep school in Australia (parents would go and stay for 4 nights and the nurses would help sort out what was going on). They would tell/ask you:
    1. Look at his solids intake. Is he eating well during the day with lots of foods with good fats and proteins? Try and avoid just fruits and veggies as they don’t provide much satiety.
    2. How is he falling asleep?
    3. How are you re-settling him when he wakes?
    4. 1 night and 1 early morning feed still totally appropriate at this age. Many babies will still need it

    Remember that if you’ve been feeding him a lot during the night, he will likely feel hungry at those times (same as how we get hungry at the time we usually have afternoon tea etc)- if he’s used to eating a lot overnight then stopping all night feeds suddenly will leave you with a hungry, cranky, sleepless baby for awhile until he adjusts.

    You can use this live chat service to get free advice from qualified child health nurses who specialise in baby sleep

  20. I’m just offering my sympathy. I’ve been there with my first 2 kids. Overnight help is the only thing that really made a difference for me and helped me sleep. I know it seems crazy to pay for it when they get older than the newborn stage, but it’s just as important to be somewhat well-rested now as it was then. I finally got my good sleeper on #3 and am grateful for it every day 13mo in. Good luck!

  21. I completely agree with you that when it comes to kids you get what you get. Kids are their own people. Having said that, I do think you can help them along in some areas. Obviously your baby does not need 5 feedings a night. What worked for us with my worst sleeper was sending my husband in if it had been less than 6 hours since the baby ate.

    Good luck to you! The whole sleep thing is one reason we only have 4 kids.

  22. He’s over 6 months now as far as I recall so my advice would be to push the solids. I know in the US they say “just for fun till age 1” but that advice is not the same all across the world. The official advice in Ireland when I had my babies a couple of years ago was that by 7 months they should be on 3 solid meals and 3 7oz bottles per day (I was formula feeding by that stage). Solids should include red meat 3 times a week.

    Both my kids slept through the night once they were established on solids. 6month plus babies are just plain hungry for solids and need waaay more night time feeds if they are not getting enough solids.

    I used Anabel karmel meal plan for both babies. What I really liked about it was the meals were delicious and you can cook them for the whole family and just puree or mash them for baby. I used to make big portions, we would all eat that day, and I would freeze the rest for baby so on other days we could eat different food.

  23. I have no sleep suggestions for you, just commenting to say I’m really glad we are past all of that in my household. 🙂 If my 10 and 12 year olds wake up at night, I don’t know- they no longer wake me up to tell me about it. 🙂 Hope your tooth feels better. I am super squeamish about dental work in general, too.

  24. Oh my word I am RIGHT THERE WITH YOU in terms of sleep! My 4.5 month old was sleeping beautifully from 6 weeks to 3.5 months – lovely 8 hour stretches from about 9:30pm until 5:30am and not much complaining when we put him down. 3.5 months hit and he had a growth spurt or a regression or whatever you want to call it, and sleep became a nightmare! Last night he was up 5 times in between 8pm and 10:30pm, and then up at 12, 3, 4, 5, 6am! Although I’m EBF I absolutely refuse to nurse him back to sleep at every single waking because I know his tummy is capable of going longer than an hour at a time…but it’s hard to resist when it’s the one thing guaranteed to put him to sleep! We can’t take the frequent wakings so we are planning on starting graduated extinction sleep training tonight (my husband is going to do the majority of the check-ins) but keeping a dream feed at around 10:30pm since he isn’t at that 6 month mark yet! Best of luck to you!

  25. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Dr. Ferber. It’s the same advice as Taking Cara Babies on Instagram. Reading the book makes you feel more confident (which you will need). I also felt empowered to trouble shoot more so than just googling the method.

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