Politics, Religion and Sleep

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.

Snug as a bug

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:

  1. Suck it up and realize you’ll never sleep again, this is the job you signed up for
  2. Stick the baby in the crib, put your fingers in your ears until morning and let the little ones cry as they may
  3. 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
  4. 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.

The plan

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.

About Tara McLaughlin

I'm a stay-at-home mom to two girls in my boyfriend's hometown of Bern, Switzerland. Life as a new mom in a foreign country has been, in so many ways, rewarding and challenging. I will document that journey here, on Another 52 Weeks.
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12 Responses to Politics, Religion and Sleep

  1. Laura Afifi says:

    I read the Ferber book as well, and it did work. We took Rania’s pacifier away around 7 months. She cried for an hour the first night, about 10 minutes the second and just a couple of minutes on the third. Hard the first night. She slept in her crib until she was about a year old and then last winter she got sick and we let her sleep with us…big mistake! She never wanted to go back to her bed. After months, we finally forced her to sleep in her crib, again using the Ferber method. And it worked again! Until a few months ago, when she learned to crawl out of said crib. Maybe I should go back to the book to look for advice? Good luck!

  2. Fantastic post, Tara. And kind of a scary preview for me, as well… I think you are spot-on with the politics analogy. I’m finding the same to be true for nearly ANY decision (and these are personal decisions, mind you) that have to do with motherhood and parenting overall. Bottom line: Everyone is doing the best they can for their kids and their sanity. Good luck “Ferberizing” your little one, and let us know how it goes.

    My friend Dawn, who blogs about her year-old boy, has chronicled her battles with sleep training. First post is here: http://spontaneousclapping.blogspot.com/2011/09/running-on-empty.html

    • Yes, it’s funny how people judge the most intimate decisions about your family and the choices for how to raise your little people. It’s hard, especially in the beginning, when you are already questioning yourself. I’m excited for your new adventure. Seems lots of us are in the same boat at the same time! 🙂 And thanks for posting your friend’s blog. I’ll be sure to check it out.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Good luck! I am also doing sleep training with my August baby. It is such a controversial subject that I choose not to write about it much on my own blog or on babycenter, but I’m going with my gut this time around (baby 2) about what my whole family needs. I did CIO when my first daughter was 9 months, and I figure that if we are going to end up going that direction anyway, I’d rather do it at this stage than later.– “Seattle_Jen” from babycenter 🙂

  4. Adelita says:

    Awesome post! Found your blog through babycenter’s sleep board…which was a god send for us when we ST’d our daughter at 6 months. She is now 9 months and sleeps 12 hours straight at night with 2 glorious naps during the day. Stay consistent and good luck with your training!!

  5. Melanie says:

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have a good sleeper. Oh sure we have our fussy nights here and there but I really don’t have anything to “complain” (for lack of a better term) about. But I can relate to Laura – when Max got sick (last week he had a 103 temp) we cuddled and snuggled him practically 48 hours straight. He barely had to let out a little grunt and we were there, reassuringly – hugging and shushing and comforting, bottle at the ready. Fast forward to several days later when he’s just fine and he’s still expecting the same treatment. Why is it so easy to fall into bad habits? At any rate, it’s been a rough week when you’re not used to your 7 month old waking up several times during the night demanding to know…”HEY! WHY AM I NOT BEING HELD?!” So yeah – I’m getting a taste of what you are talking about.
    Office-roaming-sleep-deprived Zombie mom

    • Aww, poor Max. Glad he’s feeling better. and Poor zombie mom. 😦 But yeah, I guess one thing I’m learning from this is that it’s one step forward and two back. Even though they know how to sleep, there are times they just don’t want to. I guess we roll with the punches. These little creatures do what they want. 😉

  6. sysoong says:

    Hey, Tara! Wow, we’ve both come a long way since our Medill Global program! Belated congrats on your young one! Keep up the blogging when you can, I enjoyed reading your posts so far. I don’t have a kid (yet) but maybe I can learn a thing or two from you…

    • Hey Stephanie! So good to see you on here. Such fond memories of Paris and yes, what a long way. It’s good to be writing again, even though it’s more about diapers and jet lag than political protests and immigration. lol. Well, I guess I’m the immigrant now.

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