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Of Sleep and Guilt

Wed Apr 4, 2007 Miss Vicky 

As I type this, Gordie is in his playpen/bassinet, napping fitfully.
He has been tired since about 9, but refused to nap. We have been engaged in a battle of wills since then. We tried the crib first, and he seemed happy enough in there for a while - mesmerized by the shooting star mobile hanging above. It didn't last long, though, and no amount of singing, shushing and face-stroking would get him down to sleep. We moved downstairs (where he does most of his napping anyway), snuggled for a while, and then I put him in the playpen, covered him with his fuzzy polar bear blanket and hoped for the best. It didn't take long for the crying to start. This was one pissed-off baby. I waited for a little bit to see if he would drop off, but nope. So I bent over the crib, gave him some reassuring caresses, sang a few rounds of the Smallman family nonsense lullaby, waited for him to calm down, and quietly withdrew.

Again with the crying. I can tell it's a pissed off cry. And that he's pretty darned tired. His eyes are closed, and no tears accompany the wailing. Kind of a "screw you, Mom. Sure I'm tired - I may even be asleep already - but I'm damned if I'm going down without a fight". I decide to give it a little longer this time before I move in.

Winston, I have discovered, absolutely hates the "cry it out" strategy. Well, none of us are really thrilled with it, or any variation of it, but Winston gets very confused. This time, he went over to the bassinet, sniffed, whined, looked at me, sniffed again. As the cries increased in volume, he got more agitated, came over and nosed me, went back to the bassinet, sniffed, looked at me as if to say "What's your problem? This small thing's not happy. Aren't you going to do anything about it?" and lay down beside it, facing outwards in his protective stance. He was right. Gordie was not happy. And after a few minutes I caved, tried to comfort him in the bassinet and eventually picked him up and held him until he settled down and finally went to sleep. I had to do this one more time before he finally succumbed and began napping in earnest.

So. An hour and a half of frustration for everyone so Gordon could get what will likely be about an hour of much-needed sleep. Sigh.

The first question most people ask new parents is "how are you sleeping"? I don't know about others, but I usually answer something like "not too badly" or "it could be worse" or something inocuous like that. Anything more specific and you are treated to long stories about someone else's kid sleeping though the night from 3 weeks or getting up every hour and so on and so on. And there are so many different approaches to sleep and accompanying styles of parenting. I know that what works for one kid may not work for this one. We're just trying to find our own sleep groove.

It could be worse, really. Gordie gets up a couple times in the night to feed but gets back to sleep quickly afterwards. We have experimented with weaning him off the night feeds but I'm not quite sure he's ready for it. Or maybe I'm not ready for it.... hard to say. I do know we have to do something about this nap situation. As much as I absolutely adore the sensation of a warm, cuddly bundle in my arms slowly dropping into slumber, I just don't want to be rocking, bouncing or cuddling to sleep all the time.

The hardest thing about the sleep struggles - even harder than dealing with a crabby, overtired baby - is the guilt. Am I a bad mother that my child does not sleep blissfully for 9 hours in a row each night? Or that we're not co-sleeping? Or that the Webgeek and I can't handle crying it out? That our dog pesters us to respond when we do let Gordie cry? That I have not memorized every sleep how-to publication by heart and applied the strategies faithfully? That I want to be free from the 3am nursing session (more more accurately, from at least one of the 1, 3 and 5am sessions)? That I want Gordon to learn how to sleep without the aid of the "baby dance" or the movement of the stroller?

Some people were moved to reply

liss76 Apr 4, 2007 01:53 PM said:


Am I a bad mother that my child does not sleep blissfully for 9 hours in a row each night? Or that we're not co-sleeping?

We're co-sleepers, for various reasons--but anyone who tells you that co-sleeping means a baby will sleep through the night has rocks for brains. Our oldest was waking every hour through the night until he was about 12mos--then it was about every two hours. He finally started sleeping though the night around 18mos, just a couple months before #2 showed up on the scene. He didn't start sleeping "all night every night" in his own bed in his own room until the very beginning of last month when he turned 5. We're a bit hippy that way, I guess, but I think you need a high tolerance for disturbed sleep and a really big bed. ;o)

I don't regret co-sleeping--it's what works for us--but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Gordie's still pretty young. It's frustrating but totally normal for him to still be waking at night. He will outgrow it, these days *will* pass (all too quickly, as trite as that sounds), and you're doing a great job no matter what manner of sleep groove you find because you're treating him with compassion and love.

People who write baby books also have rocks for brains. ;o)

ETA: I just remembered that #1 actually needed to cry to fall asleep. I couldn't let him cry alone, so I would lie down next to him on our family bed and hold a firm but gentle hand on his back so that he couldn't crawl away. Once he figured out it was naptime, he'd cry a bit, but not for long--I had to keep my hand on his back, but once his crying slowed I'd switch to rubbing or patting his back instead of holding him down. After the first few nights trying this, it worked like a charm and never really took longer than 10 minutes for him to be completely asleep.

I edited my post to add this primarily because I wanted to point out that our oldest quite literally wouldn't go to sleep 'alone' for most of his first year--family bedtime was never a problem, but naptimes required crying every single time! ;o)

[Edited By liss76 Apr 04, 2007 05:32 PM]

donna Apr 4, 2007 04:57 PM said:

I don't have much more experience than you on this (and we discussed this last night at the vernissage) . . crying it out is hard but I think it might be the only thing that works (if you can put up with it. I swear Michel had to hold me down for the first week while I sat in the living room and cried). I would talk to your doctor or a public health nurse about the feeding at the night - my gut tells me that if your gut thinks Gordie is not ready, he's probably not. In time, he will be ready to not feed as much at night. As for the napping . . .I am of the "whatever works" school of thought. Margo has her days where nothing does work and I take to the streets. Sometimes I don't feel like wandering around but sometimes it's all that will get the ZZZZs happening. Has this napping situation gotten worse lately? Teeth a coming?

And let's all pledge to not feel like we're bad parents . . .a wise woman friend once kindly admonished me on this front, 'cause there's lots of time to feel guilty . .let's kick that to the curb for now!

Hugs! Good sleeping vibes!!

Richgold Apr 4, 2007 09:51 PM said:

Miss Vickie, I must say I've enjoyed your posts and glad I've stumbled upon them during your election.

Gushing aside, I'm at home with Child Unit 4 (and haven't joined the baby dance classes yet - I can't dance, no matter who's the partner), and would like to add my limited experiences to the fray. Limited because my memories have blurred with sleep deprivation over the years, and, well, with a couple of babies I gave into the bottle and my DH took over the night feeding duties so I could sleep. (I was the primary wage earner and he joined the ranks of the pop-and-tot groups).

Like donna and liss say, do what you have to do to, especially to keep your sanity in this situation. I've taken to co-bedding with CU-4 and it's working really well. I don't have to worry about the baby rolling down my chest onto the floor while I fall into slumber. I've also taken to trying to sock him full of cereal before bed time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

I'm currently waiting for Spring evenings to come and stick so I can take him for block walks when he's fussy. (I used to do that for CU-3 and went through a two pairs of shoes very quickly.)

One of the wise women in my life told me that the staying up at night now is only practice for when they're teens!

I'll be thinking of you when I'm up for night feeds too!

amckay Apr 5, 2007 08:04 AM said:

The other shoe has finally dropped ... welcome to the wonderful world of parenthood Miss Vicky!!!


Miss Vicky Apr 5, 2007 08:31 AM said:

ha. that one dropped a while ago.

adavidso Apr 6, 2007 09:18 AM said:

Hey, good luck with the continued sleep time struggle. I would just like to agree with some of the previous posts - you'll figure out what works for you. Don't read too many books on sleep because it's something that everyone has an opinion on, but no one knows your specific situation, child, etc.

We are currently co-sleeping with the twins (child 2&3, age 3 mos.) using an arms-reach(tm) co-sleeper attached to the bed. It's working well for us, especially the feeding since there's no need to leave the bed, and in some cases even to wake up. Of course we're smart about co-sleeping i.e. flat sheet only, no alcohol, etc.

I could count the times that we left any of our children cry to sleep on one hand. My wife has never been comfortable leaving a crying baby so we have always held/nursed them (ok, she did the nursing), or they have fallen asleep in the car/stroller/baby swing*. Our three year old sleeps in his own room and in his own bed, and made the transition without too much trouble at something like 18 mos., which was around the time he started sleeping through. We have had friends that have had equal success with leaving their babies to cry to sleep.

Our experience is that subsequent children are easier, but maybe this is just lower expectations on our part ;)

Good Luck to all three of you!

*these are worth every penny.

Flanders Apr 13, 2007 09:13 PM said:

For what it's worth: and it's really worth nothing, Vicky, 'cause Gordon is not yet as old as our youngest was when adopted (did that make sense?), but the strategy we used was wait 5 minutes (very long minutes), go in quickly, settle kid, and leave (not sneak out, just leave). If crying re-started, wait 10 minutes (again, agony) go in quickly, settle kid, and leave. If crying re-started, wait 15 minutes...etc etc. It was really, really hard, but for all three, successful probably within a week.

Again, our three were all older than Gordie now, and basically, whatever works is whatever works. But that's what worked for us...

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