Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nothing's by the book

Dan has been sleeping through the night lately (and now that I've admitted this, he will probably stop). Last Wednesday, we finally just let him cry. Until now, I just didn't have the stomach for it and I knew he just wasn't ready for it. We knew he had been fed, changed, bathed and cuddled, and was sufficiently tired that night. It took 15 minutes and he was asleep - for the next 10 hours. The next night, he cried for 20 minutes; the next few nights, less than five minutes; tonight, no protests. Not only that, he has settled on an 8 p.m. bedtime and 7 a.m. wake time and takes 1 to 2 hour naps at around 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

A friend told me today that Dan's new schedule is one that most babies settle in to eventually according to one of her baby sleep books. I guess Dan read the book. Good thing, because I don't read the books anymore.

The few times I've tried to be a "book mom" it has backfired on me. Reading about what my son should be doing by what age, how much he should be sleeping and what times and how I should be reacting just sets me up for resentment. Some moms can safely read the books. I can't. It creates a very unhappy home as I try to force my child to do what the expert says he should be doing. Then I resent the poor kid for not living up to the expectations of someone he doesn't know and, more importantly, doesn't even know him like Jim and I do. Luckily, this scenario has played out only a handful of times.

For the past nine months, we've had a very laid back approach to bedtime. We won't force him to go to bed if we know he's not tired. We won't refuse to feed him if he wakes at night, even if he just needs to nurse for comfort. Comfort is a legitimate need at any age. Period. We won't force him to be alone in his room when he'd rather be with us. After all, the adults and even the cat and dog don't sleep alone, so why should he? I suspect that this approach has kept him happy and able to trust us and his own body, and kept us sane. Now, after months of honoring his wishes - for companionship, comfort, food - we have a son who can put himself to sleep on his own, who will go to bed when he's tired, will sit quietly with us at night if he'd rather not be alone and actually has refused attempts to feed him in the middle of the night.

Someone once told me that an expectation is just a premeditated resentment. I've found that the only time I resent my son is when I'm expecting him to be a "book baby."

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