Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Stella asleep in her crib with Ribbit and her Soothie

Sleep. It's the subject of many books, experts, parents' conversations, parenting blogs, what have you. Everyone tells you to get sleep while you're pregnant (despite the fact that turning over after 8 months involves serious effort and no position is really comfortable). And even though you know that babies need to eat every few hours and that you'll be sleep deprived, you don't really understand the meaning of tired until a few weeks in.

For some, that seems to be all it takes. Some babies start sleeping for good stretches at convenient times (i.e., when their parents want to sleep) early on. Stella's not one of those babies. It's easy when hearing about someone else's baby's blissful sleep patterns to feel that it reflects badly on either you or your baby. But some of it may be expectations. When talking to my aunt who was watching her young grandson how he was sleeing, she said pretty well, for a six or seven hour stretch. I'm still holding out for double digits.

Stella can apparently sleep in horribly uncomfortable looking positions, but not for many hours in a row

I think part of the challenge is that Tyler and I have felt ambivalent about the whole sleep training thing. There are times we get really tired and end of doing a vague job of it, but we quickly realize that's not working for anyone. In late July, we made a decision to deal with the sleep issue in September. We had too many schedule-disrupting things going on (weddings, camping, trips to Illinois) to try and create any kind of strict routine.

Here we are, nearing the end of August, our schedule looking relatively home-based for the foreseeable future. And we've been tired. Now that Stella's teething, she's started waking up more, usually unhappy, and sometimes for longer since her mouth is bothering her. And now that she can pull up, she seems to feel compelled to sit up and stand as soon as she's even moderately awake. In this sleepy state, she's also increasingly likely to wack her head on the crib rail or otherwise hurt herself. And wihle I'm perfectly OK with letting her fuss when she's frustrated, it doesn't feel right to ignore her when she's hurt.

The bottom line is that Tyler and I have mixed feelings about where Stella should sleep. For now, she goes to bed in her crib but inevitably wakes up wanting to eat more. And I think she often likes being in bed with us. can understand that. It's probably colder and lonelier in her crib than being with her two favorite people. It's a very American culture thing to have children sleep independently quite young--and there are some risks to bed sharing if you don't do it right. But there are other cultures and ways of thinking that say a family bed is the way to go. And, anecdotally from my doctor and my own circle of parent friends, it seems that breastfed babies are more likely to want to keep eating a little more frequently than their bottlefed counterparts. It's harder to know how much they've eaten or to try and get them to eat more to help them sleep longer when you don't have a set number of ounces to count down.

Probably Stella's preferred way to sleep

Then again, Stella's nine-months old and I'm still more sleep-deprived than I'd like. It effects my ability to function well at home, at work, with friends, with Tyler and with Stella. Which is not really OK. Now that I'm back at work, I can't nap with her and it's harder to catch up with everything else we need to do on the weekends. I'd be OK with a one time a night wake up to have her come to bed, eat and then sleep. But I think having me close sometimes may remind her that she could eat since I'm right there.

So we may try and do some Ferberizing, or we may not. Last night, Stella woke up twice, which felt downright reasonable compared to the previous night when she woke up multiple times and stayed up for nearly an hour at one stretch. I think we keep hoping that it's something she'll grow into, like sleeping alone in her bassinet or eating solid foods. But it remains to be seen if we can sanely wait it out.

1 comment:

Allykat said...

In case they haven't been suggested by other friends and family, I highly recommend "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Marc Weissbluth and my favorite, "Good Night, Sleep Tight" by Kim West. "No-Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley is also a good read and well-liked. We sleep-trained Kaitlyn at 9 mo and 2 yrs...I figure sleep will always be an issue at some point or another until they move out. :) Good luck.