Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The baby sleep issue...

I was just reading a forum thread about babies not sleeping and the various books people buy to try and get their babies to sleep (first of all, babies don't read books, so it makes sense that a lot of babies aren't exactly "on the same page" as their parents when it comes to these various sleep methods)...

I've had four babies who variously slept in ways that were convenient or inconvenient to me...

The first thing I need to say is that all my children were (and still are, for two of them) breastfed. I used feeding to sleep in the early months for all of them - two of them later ditched the whole feeding to sleep thing of their own accord for the most part, only feeding to sleep occassionally.

I don't get the sleep angst, and before anyone suggests that's just because I've been "lucky" with my boys sleeping, I'll tell you that Luey didn't sleep much in his first 2.5 years. In fact, for those first 2 years, the longest he slept in one 24 hour cycle was 9 hours. That wasn't 9 hours straight as the boy didn't sleep more than 45 minutes at a time. On average, he slept about 6 hours in every 24. For the first 5 weeks of his life, he screamed for 8 hours a day, in arms at all times. For the following month (after we started him on high dose Zantac) he cried, on average, 4 hours a day, in arms, of course...

Even once the Zantac was working it's charms, he just didn't sleep. The worst of it was between the age of 18 months and 2 years, when we got into the terrible habit of being awake through the night and because I wanted D to get some sleep - because he commuted 2.5 hours each way to work, so left the house at 6am and didn't get home until 7pm, I would get up with Luey and we'd hang out in the living (with the lights on) from about 1am to 5am every morning. Erik would wake up at about 5am, and I'd get an hour's sleep before D had to leave for work. Then I had to stay conscious until he got home (Luey would have two 45min sleeps during the day), which was about the time Erik went to bed, but Luey wouldn't go to bed until 11pm, I'd get to sleep by 11.30pm-12am and would be woken again by Luey at 1am.

So, basically for six months I got about 2-2.5 hours sleep every 24 hours.

Yes, I ended up in hospital. In the end I night weaned Luey and he slept in bed with Dave and I slept in the lower bunk in Erik's room for three weeks. After that Luey, D and I all coslept, and I refused to get up and play with Luey - he still woke and mucked around in bed, but D and I just ignored him and eventually slept through his night time antics, until he realised that nighttime play wasn't that exciting, and he started to sleep more at night - and in the day as well, because sleep begets sleep!

This didn't make me turn to any books though, either with Luey or later with Bryn and Ari.

When you have a baby, there has to be some level of acceptance for the fact that babies don't sleep like adults, they have different needs, but seriously those needs don't last long UNLESS you try to mess with biology!

It seems to me to INVARIABLY be the children of parents who tried to enforce sleep times through controlled crying or crying it out who have the preschoolers and older children with sleep issues. Luey had definite sleep issues as a baby. The Baby Whisperer would no doubt have scolded me severely for letting his sleep get so incredibly bad and would have forewarned me that he would NEVER learn to sleep properly without her expert advice. The thing is, we muddled through and without any sort of controlled crying or crying it out, in fact, WITH breastfeeding, cuddling, lots of eye contact and the ever presence of his parents, the boy started sleeping through at about 2.5 years and now LOVES his sleep.

My others, including Ari, who still feeds through the night, all sleep quite well - by my standards, but I guess not by the standards of parents would seem unnervingly OBSESSED with the longing for their child to sleep 8+ hours a night and then some through the day.

And even in Attachment Parenting circles, there seems to be an inordinant amount of Controlled Crying/Routine Creating book buying going on. Most AP parents discard these books, but still, why even buy them? From a Law of Attraction stand point, LOL, obsessing about your child's lack of sleep day and night seems to be the golden pathway to having a baby who doesn't sleep "enough" (whatever that means to the individual)...

Parents would be better to sign a contract with themselves acknowledging that the first year of their child's life will probably mean reduced sleep for parents, the need to be very flexible with their expectations of time to themselves, and a commitment to remember that these baby days only last a very short time in the scheme of things and before you know it, you have a preschooler who sleeps pretty soundly for many hours a night, either in their own bed, or in yours...

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