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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sleep

I think this is my 3rd blog post about sleep in the last 4 months. Obviously it's something I think about a lot, you can't help it when you are a parent, sleep is really really important.

Sometimes I want to go back and smack my college self who thought it was no big deal to stay up all night and live on just a few hours of sleep. Didn't I know I would die for that kind of time to be able to sleep once I had kids?
College Sara who thought sleep was for losers


Or the 6 year old me who cried when my babysitter told me to take a nap, I would trade spots in a second to be able to nap alone* everyday (*I've napped a lot in the last 4 years, but I would give ANYTHING to nap without someone inside of me or next to me, you know a REAL nap)
6 year old Sara who thought naps were the worst and that matching sets were awesome.


Teaching a baby (or even toddler, or preschooler) to sleep has got to be one of the most exhausting things a parent will ever do. There is no *right* way to do it for every baby. Why do you think there are hundreds of books telling you exactly how to get your baby to sleep, and none of them are the same? Every baby is different, and to make things even more confusing for parents, not only do babies need different things to learn to sleep, some take longer to learn, or need less sleep, or need WAY more sleep. it's enough to drive you crazy trying to figure it all out.
Nathan sleeping in his cradle. Don't be fooled by this picture, he slept in it for exactly 90 seconds that one time and it never happened again.


Then, *just* when you think you've got it down they do something crazy like get teeth, start crawling, roll over in the middle of the night and forget how to roll back (this was Nathan's favorite. He woke up 10 times a night crying because he suddenly forgot how to roll from front to back when the sun went down. He'd lay there pushing up and screaming wondering why this was happening to him)
My kids slept in carseats more often than I would care to admit. But when a baby is sleeping, you don't mess with it.

When your kids aren't sleeping, they're crabby, you're crabby. It's easy to feel like this is just not the way things are supposed to be. It doesn't help when that stranger in the grocery store asks if they are sleeping through the night, and you just have to look at her with your giant bags under your eyes for her to realize that was a stupid question. Then (as if it wasn't bad enough already) she tells you about how her daughter was sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old because she gave her a bottle with cereal, or let her cry it out, or got a special bear that played music, or never started with that "sleeping in bed with her stuff" so that she wouldn't develop any "bad habits". Likely she is lying to you, or she drank so much during that time in her life that she just doesn't remember what actually happened.
See the bags? Noah was about 4 months old at this time, sleep was at an all time low. Don't have your kids 13 months apart unless you hate sleep. I'm serious.


I've found that babies who sleep through the night at an early age are the exception, not the norm. The more moms I've met the more and more I am convinced of this.

And you know what, the more I think about it, the more I start to realize that not only is it "the norm", but it's completely and totally normal, meaning it's not a sleep problem, but a totally normal sleep pattern.

Let me ask you this, when was the last time you slept through the night? (right now you are answering me that you sleep through the night every night, unless you are a mom in which case the answer probably was about the day you found out you were pregnant with your first child)


Let me ask it a different way, when was the last time you fell asleep, and woke up in the *exact* same position the next morning having never moved an inch? That's what I thought. It doesn't happen, because you go through sleep cycles at night and wake (even just for a few seconds) to readjust your position and fall back asleep again because you feel safe and warm.

Babies do the exact same thing, the only difference is when babies wake up, they don't always know how to go back to sleep on their own, or they don't feel safe and warm so they cry out to you to help them with that. Think about it, if when you fell asleep you were being held and rocked, maybe even drinking some warm milk how would you feel if you suddenly woke up in a dark room alone and without that extra body heat next to you? probably a little freaked out and uncomfortable.

Keep in mind too that babies have not developed object permanence, meaning they don't understand that things exist when they can't see them. They get know comfort *knowing* that you are just in the other room because they don't know that. They wake up and you are gone, and that is all they know. Object permanence develops completely around 2 years of age, meaning at this point they know how to search for a missing item, so a child could come of their room and know how to look for you. Close to a year old babies understand that even though they cannot see something, it still exists hidden.
Sometimes you just need a little company to get to sleep. I know I can't sleep when Anthony isn't home.



My intention with this post is not to offend anyone, if you are one of the lucky few with a baby who slept through the night from birth and never had any sleep issues, then good for you! I'm jealous. But I also know it helped me a lot as a parent to understand that when my kids were not sleeping, it wasn't because there was something wrong with them, and it wasn't because I was doing something wrong. It was normal, and it meant that my kids were learning and growing and their sleep habits changed along with them.

I am happy to say that right now I am the mother of a 2 year old and a 3 year old who stay in their beds 10-12 hours at night, and take great naps. It was not always this way, but they didn't need me to rock them to sleep forever.
nonsleeper #1

nonsleeper #2


I've also got a little girl who sleeps so much more than her brothers ever did, but enjoys snuggling to keep warm at night. She won't snuggle with me forever, so I'm enjoying it while I can.
snuggly sleeper, notice how the bags are significantly smaller?


I get less sleep as a parent than I ever have in my entire life (including when I was a baby who I am sure kept my  mom up all of the time), but as much as I joke, I wouldn't trade these sleep deprived years of watching my kids grow for anything.

1 comment:

  1. Those pictures of the boys asleep in the chairs are priceless. I had to show my husband how cute they were. It really is crazy how quickly little children's sleep cycles change. And how quickly time does go by. We can sleep when we're dead, right? ;)

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