Side Note: Ironically, the moment I started to write about this, Gregory *almost* woke up from his nap prematurely. Whew!
Those of you who are parents know that there are several “hot topic” issues out there. Natural vs. Hospital Birth. VACCINES (oh, goodness, if you haven’t encountered this one…be careful, that’s all I have to say…). Breastfeeding vs. Formula.
Sleep Training is one of those. I never took it very seriously before having Gregory. I mean, I read a few books and articles here and there. But I just figured I had enough on my plate for the time being. I decided to deal with it when the situation called for it.
Oh. My. Word. It’s a hot topic button for a reason! With the rare exception of a few, babies do NOT know how to get or stay asleep! Sure, those first few days of being a newborn might fool you– they don’t stay awake more than 10 minutes at a time, and you think to yourself, “Awesome! I got one of those rare Sleeping Babies!”. Then, by the time they’re a week old, you’re crying your eyes out, wondering if he’ll ever sleep again! It’s hard to maintain perspective about an issue when you’re going on 2 hours of sleep!
Not to mention the added pressure of what happens if you don’t establish a feeding schedule. For example, all of the books advise feeding the baby as often as possible those first few days– otherwise, you won’t produce enough milk when it finally comes in. If you can’t keep an infant awake long enough to have a full meal, he will only be getting foremilk (as opposed to the hindmilk) and won’t gain weight properly!
It’s also a hot topic because it’s so polarized. There’s not a lot of compromise or flexibility for most. THEY know the right way. That other guy, writing that other book? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about! Moms who follow THAT method will wind up with psychopathic children who shoot people, all because they were allowed to cry it out!
Anyone who says there is ONE right way is only trying to sell more copies of their book. How could there be just one right way? Babies are human beings, and, as such, have their own distinct strengths and weaknesses! Not to mention the fact that every family is different. There is no “one size fits all” sleep method!
A few weeks ago, I got so desperate about this particular issue, I ordered a few books. Dr. Sears book on Attachment Parenting, the No Cry Sleep Method. I already owned a copy of Babywise (one of the few I read beforehand) and Happiest Baby on the Block (which we discussed in our birth classes). I looked up articles, reviews, discussion boards, learning the pros and cons of each.
I think I’ve come to a few conclusions. Some babies love schedules and really benefit from the security they provide. I don’t think Gregory is one of them. At least, not yet. Whenever we have a rough day, it’s usually because I’ve been trying to force him into a schedule in order to get stuff done.
But I can’t exactly “wing it”, responding only to his cues. If he had his way, he’d be awake FOREVER. One book said that an infant has a hard time staying awake for more than two hours. Gregory can stay awake for five, EASY. Will he be happy for all five hours? Absolutely not– he’s miserable! He’s so tired, his eyes are even closed as he whimpers or whines. But the moment he will start to drift off, he’ll purposely wake himself up, usually by grunting or struggling. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “I can’t BELIEVE I almost let myself fall prey to The Sleep!” Plus, he is really aware of whatever we’re up to, and can’t STAND being left out of the action. Jesse literally whispers/chants in his ear, “Nothing’s going on. We’re just doing boring stuff. You’re not missing anything” in order to get G to fall asleep. For a while, I thought we might be letting him get “over tired”, preventing him from falling asleep. That is true, much of the time. But definitely not all the time!
Many of the books say to make sure the baby falls to sleep on his own, without parental aid. This, they say, teaches the baby not to become dependent. No rocking chairs, swings, vibrating bouncy seats, pacifiers, you name it. Courtney and I were discussing this, and we realized that a mom who buys into this theory wholesale could be making life pretty hellish for a few months. If one is so afraid to take advantage of these tried and proven methods of helping a baby learn to soothe himself, he/she might be missing out on the very tool that could help them keep their sanity!
And there is no guarantee that the baby WILL get hooked on a method. I WISH Gregory would get hooked to something! If it were as easy as buying lots and lots of C Batteries, I’D DO IT! But it’s not. One nap, he’ll only fall asleep by being rocked in his swing. The next, that very thing makes him mad as hell. Sleeping on his back in the pack n play works fairly often, but it’s hit and miss. Pacifier? Sometimes, it’s like a magic button that makes his eyes close. Sometimes, the sucking action is what is keeping him awake, and he’ll spit it out angrily!
I have identified a few things that work, thus far. Babywise Method, while being accused of “child abuse” due to infant dehydration (truly, I meant it when I said hot topic issue! One guy even created a website devoted to “taking down” the guy who wrote it, calling him a child abuser of the worst kind!), is on to something when it comes to the Nurse-Awake-Sleep pattern of things. Gregory nurses better when he’s fully awake, which in turn helps him get rid of a lot of gas/burps while he’s awake. He’s happy and well-fed for his Awake phase.
The times associated with each phase are just what I can’t seem to get Gregory to agree to. They say 1.5 hour nap? Gregory says 45 minutes. They say 1/2 hour of awake time? Gregory says 2. Eating every 3 hours? During a growth spurt (like now), Gregory wants to eat every 1.5 hours!! I didn’t say “snack”– I said EAT. Many would criticize this, saying “on demand” feeding doesn’t give the infant adequate nutrition since they only get the foremilk at every feeding. But another method went so far as to say that the baby should sleep with a topless mom every night so that they can have access whenever they want, without even having to wake the mom! Good grief–who’s right?
I guess, in the end, the goal is for both mom and baby to get a good night’s sleep. On that front, I can’t complain. Gregory sleeps GREAT at night, and, as a result, he is a much easier baby to deal with during the day. He goes to bed around 10pm, wakes up at 1am for a nighttime feeding (which is about when I’m going to bed, so it works out quite nicely!), then will sleep for 5-6 hours!! After his early morning feeding, usually around 6-7am, he will sleep for another 4 hours. By the time he’s awake in the morning, he’s happy as a clam!! If I play my cards right, I can actually count on getting between 6-8 hours of sleep every night.
And if not? Well, I invested in great coffee.