It took my husband and I over an hour to get Gabe to sleep tonight and I’m feeling feisty. I never thought I would be a mom who would obsess over her baby’s sleep habits (or lack thereof), but I totally am (and I’m pretty anyone who says they haven’t ever obsessed or cried or had a mental breakdown over their baby’s sleep is lying). Honestly, I’m too exhausted to thoroughly read sleep books, and I’m too exhausted to not read them at all. Do I fret, obsess, and freak out about this because I want my son to sleep longer/deeper/more easily/more consistently? Of course. But you know another reason for my mental unhinging? BECAUSE NONE OF THE “ADVICE” WORKS FOR MY CHILD. Which makes me feel like a crappy parent (when I’m actually just a confused and frustrated parent). Which leads to me crying. On top of my baby’s crying. Awesome.
I feel the need to vent about these so-called “sleep techniques” — I hope it’s as therapeutic for you as I’m sure it will be for me…(by the end of this, you will either think that I am completely inept, that my baby is totally bonkers, or that all sleep books should be burned and all mothers should get free ice cream. I hope it’s the burning and ice cream one).
(1) Pick the right bedtime. Umm, okay??? And how the heck am I supposed to know what that is? First of all, let’s be honest: in a perfect world, he would go to sleep at 6 and get up for the day at 8 (so Mommy and Daddy could enjoy some “time off” in the evenings and “sleep in” til at least the sun is up). But it’s far from a perfect world, and 10.5-11 hours a night is his max. So — when do I put him to sleep? Same time every night? Or based on when he gets up from his last nap? Also, how the hell am I supposed to know WHAT IS his last nap? Sometimes he seems to need a nap at 5:30 — yay or nay? (Both doing and not doing the evening nap are equally unhelpful!). “Just set his bedtime for when he’s ‘naturally sleepy.'” THE KID HAS NO PATTERN! Unless you call anywhere from 5:30 to 8:30 a “bedtime.”
(2) Look for sleep cues. I’m sorry, but how many of you are looking into your kid’s face 24/7 watching for sleep cues? What if I have to pee or eat or sneeze or pick something up or turn around or…? “Look for blank stares” — don’t babies do this all the freaking time? Mine does: he is either smiling/laughing, crying, or staring at anything in sight (Ooh, a blender…ooh, a nail clipper…ooh, a cell phone…). 3 speeds — that’s it. So, no “sleepy face.” Unless of course you mean the eye rubbing and yawning that comes only nano seconds before the mass hysterics? Oh right — because I’m supposed to be able to change him, nurse him, swaddle him, and get him good and sleepy in the 3.472 seconds between the telltale eye-rubbing and crying from “over-tiredness” (which is always said like a euphemism for “shitty mother who is too dumb to catch early cues,” am I right?).
(3) Make sure he’s getting most of his calories during the day so he doesn’t want to chow down at 3AM. Oh how I salivate over the thought! Who wouldn’t love a baby who loves to eat and sleep at the “right times?” But you know what? It’s a lot easier said than done! My kid is HELL BENT on NOT nursing worth crap if the sun is shining! Thanks to this thread on the topic, I am at least regaining some of my self-esteem, realizing my child doesn’t hate nursing, and I am not the only mother who has a day-time food refuser, and apparently there’s some evidence (or delusional mommy pep talking) that this behavior is indicative of “advanced development.” Anyways, I offer nursing CONSTANTLY. And if it’s between the hours of 6AM and 6ish PM, he will either refuse me completely, or suckle for 30 seconds-2 minutes, until he starts fussing and arching his back like a maniac and fighting to get away from me so that he does not miss ONE MORE SECOND of play time. So we nurse like 20X a day. In the dark closet with the white noise machine on. And right after naps when he’s halfway drowsy. These things sort of help, sometimes. BUT — he still nurses best at 2:30AM. I mean, he goes to town, obviously ravenous (and with nothing else more interesting to distract him). Yes, at 2:30AM, he’ll nurse for a full 6-8 minutes (step back!). And I look at my crazy-efficient eater and think, You can’t take SIX MINUTES here and there during the day to do this?! He’s a week over 5 months old, and this has been going on since the day he turned 4 months (to commemorate the lovely days of 2 and 3 month-old sleep, he slept for a 7hr stretch a few days before the “4 month wakeful” started right on time). I’m thinking the phenomenon will continue a few more months as well 😦 Maybe solids will help? (C’mon, 6 months!).
(4) “Dream feeds” right before you go to bed will get you more sleep before your baby wakes up hungry. Well, it sounds good. And sometimes it does work that way. But half the time, it seems to me that the dream feeding (where I bring my sleeping baby to my breast and rouse him just enough to get him to nurse) only wakes him up enough to cause him to REALLY wake up an hour or 90 minutes later. Certainly does not get me to 3AM like the books say it “should!”
(5) Use Harvey Karp’s “Wake to Sleep” method. So the thought behind this (newish?) one, is that you nurse/rock your baby to sleep like you want to/need to, and then you put him down asleep, but you jostle him in his bed to wake him up on purpose (sounds insane, I know) just enough to help him learn to fall asleep peacefully in his own bed with no tears. (The idea is that since he was just fast asleep, he’ll open his eyes for just a second and then go right back to sleep). Sounds great, right? Oh, but wait — doesn’t work if you CANNOT WAKE YOUR BABY! I’ve tried kissing him loudly, messing with his ears, tickling his neck, even blowing right in his face — and it almost never works. He’ll scrunch up his face and turn it the other way, but he won’t wake up. But will he wake up crying a mere 45 minutes later, wanting who-knows-what? You betcha!
(6) Have a routine/do naps and bedtime in the same place. Sure…if you never leave your home. Sometimes, the kid’s just gotta nap in the car on the way to somewhere. Does he nap as well in his car seat as he does in his Rock n’ Play? No, of course not. Does this totally jack with the very little semblance of a schedule that he has? Of course! What am I supposed to do, just sit around all day with my baby who now cries FOR stimulation and is happier on the go than he is at home? (Until of course over-tiredness hits, aka Bad Mom Syndrome).
(7). Co-sleep. Well technically we do co-sleep, as the definition is sleeping within arms’ reach of your little one (he sleeps in a Rock n’ Play sleeper next to my side of the bed). But he doesn’t sleep IN our bed (bed-sharing, which is what most people mean when they refer to co-sleeping). Gabe used to sleep in our bed, but it didn’t work for us, for a variety of reasons detailed in an earlier post. Apparently it works great for some parents/babies to get baby to GO to sleep — just snuggle up next to your sweetie in your bed and nurse/cuddle to sleep <cue cheesy music>. I’ve tried this with Gabe. DOES NOT WORK. He just lies next to me and cries. The ONLY way he will nurse at bedtime is while I bounce on our big exercise ball. If I try to lie down with him to snuggle AFTER nursing, he cries, or wakes up after 5-30 minutes and cries then. At this point, he still won’t nurse lying down (though he loves side-lying nursing during the day, go figure), but instead will just fuss until I get up and bounce/nurse again on that stupid ball!
(8) Swaddle/wean from swaddling; give pacifier/wean pacifier. dfjk$lejwtu&59034NF3#542yt@uihdj&ku5r*9whl. Head spinning. Nuff said?
You know what does “work?” About once a week when I am secure enough and well-rested enough to remember it? Telling myself and genuinely believing the following: There is no strategy that works for all babies. Gabe’s sleep patterns (or lack thereof) are not a reflection of my competency as a mother. My baby has needs, including my compassion, my milk, and my presence. I too have needs, and sometimes I may have to be a “mean mommy” for a very short while so I can be a patient, present, tender mommy tomorrow. This too shall pass. He will eventually sleep through the night. Someday he will go away to college and I will weep for the days he needed me to comfort him at 3am. And last but not least — I’m pretty sure all the parents who say their babies are sleeping through the night are dirty rotten liars. 😉
(You’d think he’s a great sleeper, wouldn’t you?)