Ask any autism mom about how much sleep she gets, and you’ll get mixed answers and feelings. I’m going to talk about sleep first because we all need sleep to function and be in good health. Until you don’t have good sleep for years, you don’t realize how important it really is. You envy the people who have sleep sound machines, use lavender oil and sleeping masks for fun, and have natural waking alarm clocks. It’s getting better for us though. In the past year, Gavin’s sleep has slowly improved. I would say it’s better than ever. He still takes a nap, usually for two or three hours in the late afternoon. He prefers to roll around and babble until 2 PM and then the nap begins. In the evening he falls asleep between 9:30 and 10 PM. I have my alarm on my phone set to 2 AM to change his diaper and have a little water ready in case he wakes up during the diaper change. If he does, he drinks the water, I take the bottle, and he rolls over and falls asleep most always. Then he will wake up between 5:00 AM and 6:00 usually – 7:30 if we are lucky. (But he seems to need that afternoon nap to stay calm, so that might be the factor of early waking here.) I change his diaper at night because usually, even if he doesn’t drink a lot of water at night, he will still pee a lot, and I am preventing him from getting wet and possibly too awake at the wrong time – then he might stay awake. Gavin will still at times wake up on his own at 3 or 4, and not be able to fall asleep again for an hour or almost two. I will wait on the couch in the living room with the monitor and listen to him babble until he falls asleep. Then he might end up sleeping until 8 AM. So all in all, this is not so bad, but I definitely don’t get full nights of sleep these days. When he wakes up between 5 and 7:30 I take him downstairs and his grandmother watches him until my oldest son is awake. On very few mornings during the month it will be perfect and they wake around the same time, and going downstairs and the waiting game isn’t needed. I have to say those are my favorite mornings because they seem normal. I am still the autism mom searching for normal things, I haven’t accepted anything as my “new normal” because I really am trying so hard to figure this all out. But the sleeping situation is definitely better than ever. In Gavin’s second year, he would have a hard time falling asleep and often cry for a long time, and I’d have to give him a little water and leave, and do it again, and again. With him I couldn’t stay with him until he fell asleep because being there made him more excited. He would want to crawl and step on me and not sleep at all. Eventually falling asleep at night got better and he wasn’t upset about it. Then he would still wake up many times at night, and be awake for an hour at least each time. On top of it he would cry very loudly which was stressful since everyone in the house could hear it. At least now when he does his random one time wake up a few times a month, he doesn’t cry. He just rolls around, moves his legs everywhere, and chews on his blanket making babbly chewy sounds. This is a big improvement. How can it be improved upon more?
- No more naps? We tried taking away naps and it seemed to work for about two weeks. He would sleep until 7:30 or 8 repeatedly which is ideal for everyone’s sleep and functioning in this house. But after that two weeks, he got more and more irritable. It could have been because of no naps, or maybe it was something else going on with diet during that time. We would need to try it again and see if history repeats itself. So we’ll do it again soon.
- Diet? His diet is also better than ever, but maybe there is something he can eat or take at night to help him sleep even more soundly. But there’s still that peepee issue I take care of every night. Maybe that is why he wakes up between 5 and 6. If he is roused from sleep around 2, his little internal sleeping clock resets in some way and wake up time comes soon after. I am not sure. No matter how soundly and peacefully we can get his sleep, the peepee thing could be messing something up.
- Move the nap? Maybe if his nap happened shortly after breakfast it would help reset his internal clock. He is very particular about sleeping at 2 though. When we put him in his crib at 1, he will move around and babble chew til 2. But maybe if has a snack, and we put him in his crib even at 12 before lunch, and then eat lunch after he wakes up, it will reset something.
- Figure out the peepee thing? If I didn’t have to go into his room and move him around maybe it would help. There are nights I turn off my alarm because I am so exhausted, then I end up accidentally falling asleep. Then Gavin wakes up himself anyway around 3 or 3:30. Not because he is very wet actually, but maybe because he knows there is a habit of waking up? At least when that happens I am still able to change him, give him water and he falls asleep again.
I understand that a lot of kids on the spectrum are very picky eaters. Gavin is picky but I still consider us very lucky because what he drinks only water (and a lot of it), what he eats is nutritious and I always feel like he is satisfied. But what he eats is still a very small range of things, as far as chewing goes. There was a time when Gavin was one and a half old that he ate more of a variety of food. He would eat bites of cheese, grapes and avocado. Even smashed banana on toast cut into bite sized pieces. Then, I don’t know if it was my fault for becoming lax on providing new foods often, or what, but he eventually fell off the wagon and just wanted to eat a certain number of things. He didn’t want to put grapes in his mouth anymore, or cheese. He spit everything out except for strawberries. His diet is very limited now but he is more accepting of new flavors if they are in a puree. This is what Gavin eats right now:
- Breakfast is functional: oatmeal with high fiber, cashew or coconut yogurt, strawberries, supplements mixed in to the yogurt.
- Lunch is sweet: a puree of fruits (always avocado or banana, with kiwi, mandarin, pear, leftover oatmeal or yogurt from breakfast) with raw honey, sometimes sunflower butter, avocado oil, supplements, and lately I add about five tablespoons of bone broth that has set. It makes the puree creamy and silky.
- Dinner is savory: a puree of veggies, often sweet potato, carrot, squash, more tablespoons of bone broth, with some white bean puree added in or spinach/kale. He eats this along with a cup of applesauce with some supplements, and usually loves to eat fries or tater tots. And there’s a small portion of strawberries there too.
About a year ago he was eating scrambled eggs at breakfast, but then we found out through a food allergy test that he might have issues digesting eggs and dairy, so he has been off of eggs and most dairy for six months. (If we were to give him egg again at this point we can almost be sure he would spit it out, but he might eat it with some trickery within a few days of trying). He used to eat cottage cheese too at dinner. He has been officially off dairy completely since January 2018. The only gluten he has is in the morning oatmeal which is a high fiber oatmeal. He used to eat Goldfish but we stopped that as well to eliminate junk from his diet.
So overall he eats pretty clean but it’s not a big variety as far as things he will actually chew up in his mouth. We can at least day he is dairy free and if we wanted, we could replace the oatmeal and become gluten free.