Sleeping like a baby. Look how sweet. What no one told me, no one wrote about in all the pregnancy books (or maybe I just glossed over it in my excitement to read about baby clothes and strollers), is babies don’t sleep “like babies.” And sometimes, there’s nothing sweet about it.
What I now know is that sleep is a battle so many moms and dads brave every few hours, every single day.
I never realized how many sleep-deprived zombies are currently roaming office corridors and grocery lines, getting by because, really, what choice is there?
It seems that babies require much more than just a cozy place to sleep. Sometimes they kindly request that you do any of the following:
hold them, rock them, feed them, bounce with them on giant exercise balls, drive them in circles, strap them to your body in carriers, sing to them, give them baths, rock, rock, rock-a-bye baby. Sometimes they require all of these things, every. single. time. they wake. Sometimes every couple of hours. Sometimes, every few minutes.
Babies wake for any number of reasons. The most frustrating of which is their own bodies. They have monster arms. I don’t mean big or scary. I mean they literally have, attached to their sweet bodies, “Left-enstein” and “Right-acula.” These creatures come alive in the night (or day) and swing wildly at the baby’s face. They beat, and smack and wake the baby as soon as you step away from the crib. Watch one on a video monitor with a bucket of popcorn. You’ll be frightened.
Once they are asleep, they often can’t stay that way, waking during transitions from deep to light sleep. Since they only know how to fall to dreams with the help of mom and dad, they wake fully and cry for help.
After weeks of increasingly horrible sleep, I grew frustrated with Sophie (even though logic says she can’t help it), frustrated with myself (for getting frustrated with a helpless baby) and frustrated with Dominique (who learned how to sleep through the whole darn thing). I was tired of being frustrated. I needed to do something.
On a mission
I guess when the village raised the kids, moms got more sleep. Now, instead of the village, we have books and blogs. In sheer desperation I took to the Internet searching for salvation and in my search, what did I find? Philosophies and practices as deeply divided as red and blue states.
The common solutions to most sleep problems are as follows:
- Suck it up and realize you’ll never sleep again, this is the job you signed up for
- Stick the baby in the crib, put your fingers in your ears until morning and let the little ones cry as they may
- Stick the baby in the crib, sit anxiously by a stop watch waiting for the designated “check” time to allay your fears, and let the little ones cry as they may as you “shush” them and pat their bottoms to your hearts content
- Lie and tell everyone your princess sleeps through the night, be sure to cake on the makeup to hide those dark circles
Blogs and Web forums are filled with testimonials and derision for the “others.”
The “No-cry” people think the “Cry” people are selfish, heartless monsters who hate their children and often consider eating them for breakfast.
The “Cry” people think the “No-cry” people are granola-eating hippies who would rather brag about their parental sleep sacrifice than admit that they need sleep.
Not really settling on just one philosophy, I bought a couple of books that sounded middle-of-the-road; Elizabeth Pantley’s The No Cry Sleep Solution and Richard Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems – and joined a sleep board on BabyCenter, thus beginning my Master’s program in nocturnal studies.
Pantley advocates making changes in tiny increments during long stretches of time, slowly guiding the baby into a new routine. The gradual nature lends itself to fewer tears.
Ferber suggests immediate changes and allowing the parents to console the child during what may inevitably bring on a spat of tears for an hour or more each time you lay the child down to sleep in the first few days. The checks remind the child that they haven’t been abandoned no matter how mad they are, but mostly they allow the mom and dad to ensure the child is OK. The tears subside with each passing bedtime.
I was leaning toward the no-cry solution offered by Pantley. The thought of leaving Sophie alone in her crib crying made me sick to my stomach. Other parents who swore by her book lauded the plan that could take several weeks to months to see improvements. Months. Hmm.
I grew ever more curious about the Ferber method, for which parents boasted of success in just days.
Fewer tears – months? More tears – days? Oh how I wanted to be the nice mom and patiently practice the new routine for however long it took. But the look on Dominique’s face when I told him the no-cry solution could take months settled it for me.
Let the criticism fall where it may, on Wednesday night we began Ferberizing Sophie.
My goal – that she learns to fall asleep without having to be nursed, to learn how to return to sleep after inevitable wakings and sleep for at least one six-hour stretch.
I think I have to set the bar very low, however. Heck, I’ll just leave it on the ground. I have no idea how the little one will react to such a change in routine. But we have to start somewhere.
Wish us luck as we spend the next week in Operation Bedtime Bootcamp.