Posted by: emjb | May 20, 2006

Sleep evolution

When Nathan was born, I was convinced he would never let me sleep more than 20 minutes at a time. He wasn’t even a screamy, colicky baby, just one that had no concept of regular sleep times, and no way of calming himself. He flailed around like he was having a seizure and grunted and whined that peculiar newborn cry that sounds a little bit like a cat. And every peep made me and his daddy jump and sweat like the panicked newbies we were.

It was a while before the trauma of that wore off and we realized he was in fact sleeping more. Trouble was, it was mostly in our arms, in the daytime, or at night while sucking on a bottle. And he woke every 2-3 hours. Not much sleep on his own. And he was a terrible co-sleeper, sweaty and kicking and complaining every time you breathed too hard.

We went on that way for a while. One day we looked at each other with red, dark ringed eyes and said, OK, we’re going to try letting him cry at bedtime and not going to him at night. Because otherwise, we’ll just be dead. So one night we arranged to sleep in the living room and leave him in his crib in bed. And it worked. He grumped about 5 minutes, went to sleep at 9, and woke up once, at 4ish, then back to sleep till 7. And that’s been his pattern ever since.

He has trouble sometimes, when he’s teething or sick. He does seem to have nightmares now and then, crying in a frightened way without ever opening his eyes..he had one an hour ago, actually, and I just held him and gave him a little milk and back he went.

His worst problem now is 4am to 7am…he can be cranky and wakeful, and of course we hit our deepest sleep then and have the hardest time getting up for him. I’m hoping that the move will help…his window right now faces east, and since it’s my mom’s I can’t really put up new curtains. In the new place, maybe it will be darker and more restful. Or maybe since he’ll actually be in another room (so AWESOME) we just won’t hear his grumping and can sleep until he’s ready to make some serious noise.

Tonight, he even fell asleep by himself an hour earlier than usual. I dare not hope that that’s going to be a pattern too, but I’ll take what I can get.

Anyway, I post all this by way of encouragement to any new moms thinking it Will Never Get Better, or that they have to try some sort of exotic sleep juju to transition their baby from no sleep to regular sleep. Not all babies require a week of screaming at night before they’ll settle in, not all babies like or need cosleeping, and you will eventually be able to tell when to let them grump and when it’s serious enough to get out of bed. It may be as simple as just giving them some space and making sure they’re comfortable. And it certainly is ok if sometimes, you just put them down when YOU need to, whether they’re ready for sleep or not. Being angry and crying for a few minutes while Mommy brushes her teeth or hey, drinks some coffee will not damage them. I put Nathan down a couple of times a day in his crib whether he’s napping or not…lots of times, he will sleep, sometimes he’ll just play with his feet for 10 minutes. But that’s ten minutes I can use to check email or stretch my back out.

I take great comfort right now that whatever I do, I know Nathan won’t remember any of it. When he hits 3 or so, I guess I can have that guilt, but no one remembers being 6 months old and pissed because their formula bottle was 5 minutes late.


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