Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to get your baby to sleep

I have no answers. Neither does anyone else, actually, especially the people who write books about this stuff.

Every so-called solution calls for a level of effort and, let's face it, manipulation that I just can't reconcile with my nurturing side (yes, I do have one) or deal with in my comatose state . One book actually suggests that I decrease the length of nursing by four minutes a night and delay the time of night feedings by a half hour each night. Um, yeah, I can't even remember to brush my teeth and put on deodorant every day, but I'll be sure to put that information in an Excel spreadsheet. That should solve ALL my problems. As for crying it out, I'm just not that mom. Not only that, the books are inconsistent or at least it seems that way to my addled brain. According to one book, my daughter should be sleeping 13 hours total at her age, going to bed around 7 p.m. and waking up around 7 a.m. That leaves one hour for two daytime naps that the "books" say should each last between one and two hours. Huh? (Yeah, it took me a while to write that last paragraph because I can't even think straight anymore!!!)

So I've decided to write my own book. It's called "Babies Don't Sleep ... No Matter What You've Heard." It should be a short one. Here's what I've learned so far:

Chapter 1: Babies like to eat, especially at night. Yours may actually need the extra calories no matter what the doctor or your girlfriends say. Only you know.
Chapter 2: Babies don't really like schedules as much as you do. As soon as they seem to settle on one, they like to change up.
Chapter 3: Babies have a lot to learn in their first year. And there are only so many waking hours in a day. You do the math.
Chapter 4: Babies will eventually sleep through the night if you respect their wishes for companionship, comfort and food and don't make them go to bed when they're clearly not sleepy. In other words, give them what they need and they will outgrow that need quicker.

Both times I've been through this, it has come to this: My kid won't sleep through the night, I'm angry, exhausted and desperate, I consult books and girlfriends and quickly become frustrated that there is no magic elixir (this one is unfazed by Benadryl), no silver bullet that will be put my child to sleep for eight hours or more. I wind up resenting my poor kids for not conforming to the expectations of someone they don't know and, more importantly, doesn't even know them like Jim and I do. Makes a hell of a lot of sense, right?

These past two weeks, Fiona has at least been sleeping longer ... from 8:30 to 2:30 or 3:30. (I used to get her up before I went to bed around 11, just like the books tell me to, but then she'd still get up in the wee hours. It clearly wasn't accomplishing the goal of helping stretch her through the night. She just happily took it as an extra feeding.) Nowadays, she gets up at 5:30 and then 6:30 and I just have no desire WHATSOEVER to start my day at 6:30. It just ain't going to happen. EVER. Danny sleeps until 9 these days (he's a growing boy) and I've been putting Fiona back to bed after a short 6:30 a.m. nursing and letting her sleep until 9:00 -- and by that I mean, shutting the door and putting earplugs in my ears. Don't worry, I'm not leaving her to cry. She just falls back asleep and actually wakes up pretty happy. Then there's no morning nap, only a short catnap around noon and a two hour mid afternoon nap. Clearly, I'm doing everything wrong here.

Of course, last week I got so frustrated with her morning nap schedule that I decided to bow out of Danny's morning playgroup for a few weeks just to get her back on track. Now that she seems to have settled on a later wake-up and a shorter, later morning nap, I feel like I made that decision too hastily.

After having two babies whose sleep patterns look nothing like what's described in books, I've come to understand that my children don't have sleep issues, they have conformity issues. And I'm awfully proud of them for that, actually, even if it means I don't get much sleep right now.


nana judith said...

Bravo, Amen, right on, you tell 'em, absolutely, yes, indeed...and mother does, generally speaking, know best. I'd read that book; oh, yeah, that's right...I just did.

Getting Baby to Sleep said...

I've never been one to let my baby cry it out and our days are far from predictable. We're on the road 6-8 months out of the year with our baby in tow. However, she is a great sleeper. While I don't agree with everything the books say, I know for sure that getting baby to sleep well is very possible.