Monday, August 5, 2013

i love sleep. why don't you?




Disclaimer: I am writing about my baby's sleep, and there is no reason to suggest that what worked for us will work for you. All of this is my own opinion. I am not a doctor and I cannot give advice on safe sleeping. Also I am about to go on and on about something that is probably very boring for most people, so feel free to skip this. 

Peanut started out as a good sleeper. Apart from growth spurts, Wonder Weeks and the occasional baffling 3am-is-party-time incident, we were really lucky. He didn't sleep 12 hours in a row and get up and make us pancakes, but he knew the difference between night and day and usually only woke two or three times a night for feeds.

When he was a newborn I nursed him to sleep. In fact, it's impossible not to nurse a newborn to sleep; the milk just knocks them out. It's brilliant. But I kept reading that putting a baby down already asleep was going to lead to problems, when they started waking and needed the same conditions (nursing, rocking etc) to get back to sleep. Luckily, we had The Swing. Have I mentioned The Swing? Oh my god the swing. If there was one appliance we needed during the first five months of his life, it was the electric swing. I would have given away the microwave, electric kettle and possibly also the fridge if it meant keeping the swing. I learned about baby swings from one of my favourite sleep sites, Troublesome Tots. Like most new babies, Peanut loved movement and quickly took to the swing. We could put him down in his Amby hammock if he was already asleep, but if he was awake he wasn't having it. But the swing was like a drug. It was hilarious to watch him try to fight it, like he'd been slipped a Mickey Finn, his eyes fluttering and his little fists slowly lowering. So once he was no longer a sleepy little newborn, we had a bedtime routine: shower with Dad, lotion, jammies, feed in the glider, then a little rock to wake him up, and down awake but drowsy in the swing and turn it on. Whoever was on duty would sing for a while and he would look at us and then turn his head and close his eyes. Amazing! Magic! The books were right!

Then came the day when I forgot to touch wood or throw salt over my shoulder or make a blood sacrifice to Cthulu or something and he just. stopped. sleeping.

His naps had never been brilliant but he'd always taken at least one big one (around 90 minutes) in the morning. Now the only way I could make him nap at all was to lie down in bed with him. He stopped falling asleep in the swing at night and needed to be fed to sleep and put down asleep. This was all happening at the same time as a big developmental leap (Wonder Week) which also meant that he was much more alert than he'd ever been... including alert to sneaky parents trying to put him down. Pretty soon I was feeding him to sleep in our bed so he'd be totally knocked out, then transferring him to the swing or hammock. Then I was doing this multiple times in a row until he was so exhausted he couldn't rouse himself. If he was really tired, I could sneak a dummy in and he would decide he couldn't be bothered holding out for the real thing and let me put him down.

Looking back, I can't say I regret it because I don't know how else I would have made him sleep. Before I had a baby I thought that they would get to a certain level of tiredness and just fall asleep. HA. What happens is that they get to a certain level of tiredness and will fall asleep under the right circumstances (ie you are putting them to bed right then, or they are in a moving car, etc.). If they go over that level you are FUCKED. 'Overtired' is not the same as 'very tired.' It means that the baby has passed the stage of going to sleep and has entered a hyper-awake state where he is exhausted and feels horrible but is too upset about it to calm down and go to sleep. We discovered the limits of Peanut's overtired energy when we missed his window and tried to put him to sleep from 6 to midnight. That's right, SIX HOURS. (Knowing better now, we would stop trying to put him to sleep, let him zone out with us in front of the TV, then try again. We were so young and foolish then [two months ago].)

And then the Wonder Week was over and he had learned to roll over (shit, better start babyproofing this death trap) and we breathed a sigh of relief. But... his sleep didn't improve. THE BOOKS WERE RIGHT AGAIN. He was waking every 15-25 minutes, noticing that instead of being held and rocked with a boob in his mouth, he was in a swing alone, and he was not impressed.


I read a lot of different advice during this period. (I had a lot of time in bed with my iPad, while Peanut slept fitfully beside me.) Nothing seemed particularly helpful. A lot of attachment parenting websites told me that I was the problem, not Peanut. I should continue to feed him to sleep, bring him into my bed to cosleep at night, and accept that this was his natural way to seek comfort and love. I found this unhelpful for many reasons. First of all, looking after a baby is rewarding and lovely but also bloody hard work and, frankly, often boring. He is not the kind of baby who lies happily playing with a rattle for an hour while mummy does the dishes and has lunch; he needs to be constantly interacted with and entertained. Even in the carrier strapped to my chest, I have to dance around or take him on a tour of the house like a little prince being shown around his domain. His naps and night sleep are important to me; they're the times when I can be alone, read an article, write an email or just have a coffee without singing nursery rhymes between swallows. I would also like to have some kind of relationship with my husband, which wasn't really going to be possible if I had to go to bed at 6pm. Bedsharing works well for many families, but it wasn't going to work for ours.

A lot of books and websites suggest or even state that these are not good enough reasons, and that mothers who feel this way are selfish, lazy and poor parents. Well, fuck that. I will always put my baby's health and safety first, and I do an enormous amount to make him happy, but I am a human being and I deserve to be sane and happy.

Anyway, Peanut wasn't happy and healthy. He was waking up even when I slept with him, because he would fall asleep and the breast would fall out and he would startle and cry. So he was sleeping in 20 minute bursts, and he was tired and unhappy. Babies need a lot of sleep. A huge amount of their development and growth depends on it. I knew that Peanut needed to learn to sleep on his own if he was going to be happy.

What a cliffhanger! Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment!
If he’s still crying, for goodness sake pick the poor little bugger up before he is overcome with stress hormones that will fry his tiny brain and screw him up for life! - See more at: http://www.pinkymckay.com/blog/pinky-mckays-most-frequently-asked-stupid-questions/#sthash.yi17jujp.dpuf
If he’s still crying, for goodness sake pick the poor little bugger up before he is overcome with stress hormones that will fry his tiny brain and screw him up for life! - See more at: http://www.pinkymckay.com/blog/pinky-mckays-most-frequently-asked-stupid-questions/#sthash.yi17jujp.dpuf
If he’s still crying, for goodness sake pick the poor little bugger up before he is overcome with stress hormones that will fry his tiny brain and screw him up for life! - See more at: http://www.pinkymckay.com/blog/pinky-mckays-most-frequently-asked-stupid-questions/#sthash.yi17jujp.dpuf
If he’s still crying, for goodness sake pick the poor little bugger up before he is overcome with stress hormones that will fry his tiny brain and screw him up for life! - See more at: http://www.pinkymckay.com/blog/pinky-mckays-most-frequently-asked-stupid-questions/#sthash.yi17jujp.dpuf
If he’s still crying, for goodness sake pick the poor little bugger up before he is overcome with stress hormones that will fry his tiny brain and screw him up for life! - See more at: http://www.pinkymckay.com/blog/pinky-mckays-most-frequently-asked-stupid-questions/#sthash.yi17jujp.dpuf
If he’s still crying, for goodness sake pick the poor little bugger up before he is overcome with stress hormones that will fry his tiny brain and screw him up for life! - See more at: http://www.pinkymckay.com/blog/pinky-mckays-most-frequently-asked-stupid-questions/#sthash.yi17jujp.dpuf

1 comment:

sky said...

I spent the whole time reading this alternating between laughing out loud (because you're a funny writer) and saying, "oh no! OH NO!" repeatedly.