so happy to find this tribe. i've rarely slept more than 4 hrs straight in nearly 6 years. (i was an insomniac preggo after i couldn't stomach sleep anymore).
as i type this, both kids (dd1-5-1/2, dd2-22mos)(cosleep in a vast twin+qween on the floor) are up and whinily awake as of 5:45 because i refused to help them back to sleep the umpteenth time because i was up reading about all the other crappy sleepers!! we usually wake/rise at 7, ie i keep patting/nursing them back down until then. they seem to know when i've left and wake up and follow me, so i'll stay in bed and they'll stay asleep longer/wake less in the early morning if i'm there, even though i usually can't get back to sleep between their wakings as of 5:45 or so.
today dd1 was scratching so much (eczema) between 2:45 and 4 that i ended up wide awake and snuck dowstairs to the computer. of course dd2 (sleeping soundly and very still when i left) woke up 15 min later. i got her back to sleep with 10 min nursing, came back downstairs, and i had an hour to myself before one woke again and woke the other and they both came downstairs. dh was up, so i ignored them, i.e. refused to take them back to bed. of course i'll pay for that later when dd2 wants to nap at 10 instead of 12!
dd1 was a reasonable night sleeper (woke 3-4 times) until her second round of injections at 4 mos (ah, 20/20 hindsight). then all hell broke loose and she had to stay attached all night and be held by mostly only me all day. i'm a stomach sleeper and can't sleep well nursing because my brain keeps saying "turn over so i can go to sleep." if i even managed to detatch her verrrry carefully, she'd wake up by 20 min later. bought the sears fussy baby book where i read about food allergies affecting sleep (she had other signs too: gassy, contipated at times, mucousy green poops, target sign on her anus...) and eliminated everything except about 13 foods. immediately she was much better: back to 3-4 wakings, even would let others hold her or be put down a few minutes. but i couldn't live on just lamb turkey rice millet zuccini yams pears forever and the turkey would make me sleepy on top of the sleep deprivation. and after a while (3? weeks) she started to react to those foods too, from constant exposure. sometimes she'd sleep for 3 hrs if she was put in the sling on dh after i nursed her back to sleep. but dh would have to sit up on the couch or she'd wake, and he wouldn't do this more than 1-2x/wk. teething was hell, but ibuprofen would help if i could figure out it was teething (instead if food issues) by her sleeping nursing quality (tense/clampy, instead of light/fluttery). introducing food was hell.
we tried NAET and diagnosed intestinal candida (her and me) at 22mos, and went on 6 wk awful diet plus herbs and improved that, and sleep got a little better, but she still woke at least 4 times until i night weaned (to TTC), and at worst 17 times in 10 hours. when i night weaned it took hand holding with each waking and 2 mos before she started sleeping well (0-2 wakings), and another mos for me to sleep well. then a trip to india messed sleep up again (12 hr jet lag means playtime from 1-5am for a week or so, coming home the same again), then i got pregnant and my own insomnia started again.......
to all those fearing a second child, i know it's a gamble, but i've heard it's an easier adjustment the second time (it was for me). your brain just deals with it better. also you've given up the expectation that you even could sleep a long time. you feel less frustrated, thus more relaxed, thus you sleep better, fall back asleep faster. also, i had this idea the first time around that when she stopped waking me up so much i'd feel terrific. it didn't happen. i was actually getting adequate sleep after a while on the days she'd only wake 1-2x, and was managing, but was thinking of myself as sleep deprived and feeling a teeny bit virtuous/sorry for myself, and waiting for the time i'd get a full night's sleep. then it happened (a few times post jet lag and pre-pregnancy i got 6 straight hrs), and it wasn't much different. in the early days of dd1s bad phase if i got 4 straight hours i'd wake up so refreshed and energetic that i was sort of high on it and i was expecting that feeling again.
i got lucky with dd2 and she's a much mellower kid, never vacc'd, only has slight eczema allergy-wise, and wakes 2-4x, and sometimes can be patted back to sleep (thank goodness, because she's not a good latcher and i get sore). and i adjusted to the 2-4x pretty easily. i haven't felt like taking a sledgehammer to the walls like i did in the early days with dd1, can function pretty well as long as i get at least 6 hrs total in chunks of 2-4 hrs most nights, and go to bed with the kids half the time so i can get 8 or so out of the 11 we're in bed. ......but every now and then i fantasize of the day when i can sleep uninterrupted again.