Monday, April 1, 2013

Baby Sleep

If you want to annoy and unsettle new parents - or if you just want to underscore the fact that you have never had a baby - then you should go ahead and ask them that most inane of questions.... "Does your baby sleep through the night?"

Or if you want to annoy not-so-new parents of a 15 month-old, then go ahead and ask me and my husband, "Does he sleep through the night yet?"

Ha. Ha. Ha.

"No, thanks for asking! No, he absolutely does not."

At the moment, baby G goes into his crib around 7:30, and takes about a half hour to fall asleep. (Parental units must be present cribside, preferably touching his back and playing relaxing music, for this to happen.) Depending on whether or not he is teething (he seems these days to be constantly teething), he wakes up anywhere from an hour to three hours after falling asleep. Thereupon he wakes up every hour until he is taken into bed with parental units. Which is usually after the first waking, because, come on, who are we kidding? I like and NEED my sleep, and I get the most when baby G is in my bed.

The thing to understand about baby sleep is this. That sleep like a baby thing? Hm yah, most bedeviled saying ever invented, perhaps invented by the devil himself as a way to trick unsuspecting couples into thinking that babies are easy and no they shouldn't worry about condoms. Babies are not easy, and babies do not "sleep like a baby."

This is how baby sleep goes:

You get home from the hospital with an impossibly tiny, delicate, most-beautiful creature - your newborn baby. Baby sleeps!You think, oh this isn't so bad.

After baby has rested from the trauma of birth, he needs to eat! He eats constantly, throughout the night. It is UNSAFE for baby to go longer than 3 hours without eating because his tummy is the size of walnut. Therefore, even if he does manage to sleep a stretch, you are waking every hour to vouchsafe his continued existence. You are more sleep-deprived then the time you pulled two all-nighters in college.

After three months baby may have started to "sleep through the night." I mean that in the clinical sense of the phrase, which is sleeping for five hours straight. This seems like bliss.

Then baby hits the 3-month growth phrase, where - literally - they can grow an inch OVER NIGHT. (Not joking.) They wake up EVERY HOUR demanding to be feed. Your sanity is hanging perilously over the edge of a cliff.

At 6 months your baby is old enough to try more drastic (to me cruel) measures of "sleep training." Cry-it-out (in it's most extreme and mean form) is where you say good-night to your baby in its crib and don't go in the room again until morning, no matter what! I label this as cruel and unusual punishment. There are more moderate versions of this that may be better, but let's just leave it at that for now. I'll do a full critique on sleep training later. For us, at 6 months,  I started reading baby sleep books and continued napping when baby G did in the afternoon.

At 7 months baby G was sleeping with us but only waking once to feed.

At 9 months, baby G realized that he and his mommy were separate beings, and that I <shocking!> could LEAVE him. Otherwise known as separation anxiety, it is obviously an important and necessary mental milestone, but OMG, sleep regression is not even the word for it. He was waking EVERY hour to make sure I was still there. I felt like I was sleeping with a newborn again - and looked like it too. (By the way, at the time,  I didn't realize why he was waking. I thought it might be teething or a virus. It was only a few months later when I was reading about separation anxiety that I had that AHA! moment.)

At a year, baby G was waking about twice or thrice a night. Mommy's all-night open milk bar being the arousal cue. (Hey, if I had a warm container of hot chocolate sleeping next to me all night, I think I would wake a few times to take a sip too.)

At 13 months I tried to night-wean, and it was just too soon. And too much crying. And bah, I just couldn't be bothered.

Now, at 15 months, last night we had a break-through! I told him when putting him to bed that mommy's milk was going to be sleeping tonight and he would have to wait until the morning. I didn't nurse him once all night long. Was he super-pissed??? Oh hell yes. He screamed and screamed and was a right little tyrant. But he didn't get his way and he eventually went to sleep. (Although he did do lots of headbashing, as he would dive-bomb his little head towards my chest and end up hitting my head instead. Would have been amusing if it weren't at 1am, 2am, and 4am.) I think it will take a few nights and then he'll be accustomed.

I'm hoping to have him out of our bed by his second birthday -  mostly to make room for a possible sibling more than anything else. I love sleeping next to my little snuggle puppy. I think the most important things to remember when you think you're going crazy with lack of sleep is to:

1) follow your gut, not what some "sleep expert" says, it is your baby and only you can really know what is best for your family
2) remember that your baby will be sleeping through the night by age four at least - that may seem like an eternity of sleep-deprivation but instead of seeing the negative, treasure their little-baby-ness - it is so fleeting! When they are a teenager and sleeping till noon, you will remember baby sleep fondly.

That last point brings me to co-sleeping. Which I also will do a whole seperate post on, but just now to say, if you end up co-sleeping - embrace it! Even my husband who was SO against it at first, and even now is only a tolerant practicer - says that waking up to baby G's smile is the "best feeling in the world."