Naptime Victory

It's no secret that we've been having some Serious Sleep Issues here. Daniel has yet to sleep through the night, he almost never naps more than 30 or 40 minutes at a time, and the cumulative effect of all this makes for one frazzled Suze. I thought my only options were 1) nurse him back to sleep every time he woke up, or 2) plunk him in the crib and leave him to cry it out all night long. Option 1 was clearly running me down and I wasn't about to do Option 2.

A little over a week ago, I had had it. I was tired, frustrated, and most of all discouraged that things weren't improving. I was in a horrible mood and I was being absolutely beastly to Stuart and Daniel. Understand that I am blessed with an even temperament and am rarely in a truly bad mood. But when it happens, hoo boy. Stay out of my way. So anyway, after some stomping around and slamming doors and generally immature behavior, I left the house to run some errands and clear my head.

In my hour or so out of the house and away from my problems, I also broke down and bought a baby book: The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. Despite the obnoxious title, it had two things going for it, namely 1) I've heard that it works, and 2) Dr. Sears didn't write it.

According to the author, we've fallen prey to Accidental Parenting (I hate her terminology, by the way), wherein parents do all the wrong things without realizing it's hindering their child's ability to sleep on his own. Things like rocking and nursing him all the way to sleep before putting him in his crib. Things like letting him nurse every time he wakes up during the night. Ooooops. Of course, if you've got a child who's 10 months old already with these problems, it will take a while to fix them because - tsk tsk!! - you should have nipped it in the bud when he was four months old.

This is why I hate reading baby books. They make me feel guilty and kind of stupid.

In any case, the sleep method is absurdly simple. For a child Daniel's age, you have a routine for naps and bedtime to help him wind our case, we already had the routine. It was (is) the actual sleeping that was the problem...and when he's ready to sleep, you put him in the crib. Of course, unless he's totally konked out, he'll cry and get up. So you put him down. He'll get up again. You put him down. Lather, rinse, repeat until he's too tired to get up again and falls asleep. Same at night time. When he wakes up, don't pick him up, but put him down, whisper soothingly, put him down, put him down, put him down, yada yada yada...until he falls back asleep.

Last week I wasn't totally convinced it was working. Three days in a row it took an hour of putting him down before he took a nap, which only lasted 30 minutes. Yes, an hour of standing by the crib making my child lie down. I was going nuts; I felt like I was held hostage (didn't I use that phrase in a previous post?) at the cribside. Fortunately, things are going much better at night. For one thing, Stuart and I could take turns, giving me a bit more rest. For another, almost every time Daniel wakes up, it takes just a couple minutes to get him back to sleep.

I confess that several, though not all, of Daniel's naps in the past few days have taken place in the car. This can be a case of "Accidental Parenting": relying on a prop like driving around to get your kid to sleep. But I didn't care, as I really needed to get out of the house.

The state of things now? Yesterday it took only 20 minutes to get him to sleep in the afternoon and this morning it took -- drum roll, please -- about 5 minutes. We still have a ways to go. He's not close to sleeping through the night, and he still doesn't sleep for more than 30 or 40 minutes at a time during the day. (That may never change; some kids are cat-nappers and there's nothing you can do about it.) But we have a Method, things are finally improving, and everyone's a little happier for it.


katie said…
Glad it's going in a positive direction for you. I've never really known what the Baby Whisperer's approach involves (actually I've been warned against it), so this was interesting to me. I do have to comment on your Sears remark, though. One thing I've learned from parenting is that everyone has to find their own way and what works best for their family. There is no book that fits everyone. But, for us Sears has been the most helpful and neutral and natural approach and has saved us many a time throughout parenthood. So, I know some people like to bash Sears, but I just have to say, he's been a life saver for us, and I trust him. We have been fortunate enough not to have to deal with such severe sleep issues, so maybe that makes it easier to accept Sears. I guess I just want to point out that everyone's got what works for them, and how boring it would be if we were all the same! I for one happen to be a Sears fan.
Jenn Hacker said…
Glad to hear sanity is slowly returning... Now if mine would only come back.....
Suze said…
Katie, I'm not totally anti-Sears. It's just that his (their) philosophy is SO centered around attachment parenting, including co-sleeping, which we don't do, that I tend not to trust his methods. The approach we're using does involve crying, which is hard. But babies cry when they're tired, so it's hard to avoid anyway. But you never leave the room, never let him feel abandoned, so I can deal with it.

Why were you warned against it? Just wondering...
Anonymous said…
just wanted to bring it up, because I think it's fine when someone says "cosleeping doesn't work for our family", but it bothers me when that gets broadened to a statement about everything Sears. Attachment parenting is so much MORE than cosleeping. It's about doing what feels right and natural, and about tuning in to our babies. We're cosleepers, and I consider it successful for our family, since both our girls love to go to sleep, the older in her own bed in her own room. She's even told me her favorite part of bed time is going to sleep. Many kids are afraid of sleep. Anyway, I recognize it's not for everyone, and respect that. In fact, I think it's one of the most personal decisions we make as parents, and a book shouldn't tell us how. As far as the Baby Whisperer, I just think there's a fine line between training a baby and teaching a baby. I was warned that the Baby Whisperer can be too far on the training side, less listening to the baby's needs. I've never tried it (obviously), but it sounds like you've found a way to make it work. I'm so glad it's been successful for you. I certainly commend you for the work you've put into finding a solution! I hope you don't feel judged by my comments. By the way, Sears does say that babies need to "let off steam" at the end of the day and that crying to some degree is healthy.

Best wishes.
Anonymous said…
Hi there Suze,

It's been awhile since I've read your blog, but I can relate to your dilemma. Oliver still doesn't sleep through the night at a year and two months. I was with my sister and law and nephew recently, and my sister-in-law asked if I still sang to him. And so I thought I'd just ask, do you sing to him during your putting him to sleep routine? I had stopped singing to Oliver at night and was relying solely on the breast when he woke up during the nightuntil my sister-in-law suggested singing. Now either Jaime or I sing to him at night when he wakes up instead of always giving him the breast, and it works amazingly well. I'm sure as a musician you know well the calming effect of music on young souls.

Well, good luck to you!
Suze said…
hi mamacita! yes, i've tried singing softly or humming to him. that's what i do right before putting him down for the night (or naptime), and it seems to help in the middle of the night when he's having trouble going back to sleep. it doesn't work by itself, but i think it makes a difference.
it's good to hear my kid's not the only one who doesn't sleep through the night. there are books that make you feel like a failure if your kid is still waking up when he's over 3 months old...which seems a little extreme!

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