29 August 2010
Chris and I were discussing what to do during our time in San Francisco and I pointed out that sleeping 14 hours a day would be a great way to spend a vacation. Not only am I exhausted from our recent activities and my to-do list that seems to be growing instead of shrinking, but Lil'Bitz has become a miserable sleeper. The lack of sleeping, and the subsequent need to "sleep train" gets me in such a bad head-space. Not only do you eventually become too tired to cope, but the whole thing with kids and sleeping a parenting mine-field.
The sleep thing is problematic for oh so many reasons. First we have to acknowledge that there is an inherent judgment applied when the topic of sleep comes up. While it is unfair, whether your kid is a good sleeper or a tired wreck reflects upon you as a parent. We all know that logically this is not true, but it is believed that "good parents" with "good babies" enjoy blissful sleep and relaxing naptimes while all of us who are failing at parenting lay awake at night with our underachieving kids screaming and torturing the household. If you are hitting a rough patch with sleeping the exhaustion quickly has you believing that you are a terrible mother with a dud of a child. Holy stress batman!
The dirty little secret is that, with the exception of a few kids who are just genuinely great sleepers for some unknown reason, people with kids who are good sleepers got there through some kind of "training". Basically kids who sleep do so because they have found a routine that suits them and, as if my magic, their sleep habits stick. This routine can happen many ways but at the end of the day someone gets trained. Whether it is the kids to just get on with it, or the parents to recognize and respect the sleep cues or some combination, somewhere someone is forced to put on their big-kid panties and deal with it. However, "sleep training" is now a four-letter-world in this new age of affluent middle-class parenting. There is a stigma against the idea that enforcing sleep is okay and the mere idea that you would need to rely on a system makes you a bad mom (see the above paragraph.) I know every time I pull out the old Weissbluth and read a chapter I half-expect the "hipster parent thought police" to roll their Honda Pilots into my driveway and revoke my parenting privileges. Kah-Ray-Zee!
Lastly, and somehow not in sharp contradiction of the first point, in every herd there is a sanctimommy who revels in the not sleeping as if her sleep deprivation is a badge of pride representing her ability to self-sacrifice more than anyone else. Maybe it is a coping mechanism to cover-up the bad-mommy stigma of babies who don't sleep while also avoiding the dreaded sleep training, or maybe these women are just nutters who get off on martyrdom, either way, you people are not helping the general progression of all parents back to sanity and stretches of sleep that last longer than 45 minutes. You are killing me here!
So where does this leave me? Lil'Bitz is off the pacifier and being strongly encouraged to go to sleep on her own. She seems to only want one nap in the morning then an early bed-time. This seems like not enough rest for a baby, but then again she is the size of an 18 month old so maybe that will all be okay. I can deal with that. The real bitch will be kicking the night waking/early morning wake-up call. I can deal with one night waking, but that soon morphs into multiple wakings. Couple that with a desire to be up at 5am and I am in crazy-town before you know it. My plan is slow and steady extinction of the bad habits. Get her down when she tells me she is tired, get her to drop that night feeding (offering water to see if she loses interest though cold-turkey may have to happen) and to start treating the 5am call as a night waking aiming for a 7am wake-up time. Ideally we will move from offering water/comfort to letting her just fuss it out to her just giving it up and sleeping through the night as she will need to if we skip directly to the one-nap method. Keep your fingers crossed for me, the goal is a set nap schedule and good night sleeping by October. Wish me luck!
**Disclaimer: While Cha Cha was a horrible nap-taker, she was a good night sleeper who settled into a decent system of 7pm to 7am with one wake-up at an early age. This whole crazy up all night thing is new territory for me…even as a second-timer. Ah parenting: hard learned lessons with zero repeatable results.**