I question myself all the time. And I can usually reason out both sides of a decision, leaving me hopelessly hesitant. I feel like I am constantly re-learning to trust my gut. Baby sleep is one of the areas that I keep re-learning the same freaking lesson….let it go when things don’t go as planned….
My second baby is a sleep fighter and a sleep crier. **I’m sorry Faye, you are such a happy, firey girl but when it comes to sleeping you have given me a run for my money.** It’s hard for me to leave her cry (especially with a first baby who is a super cuddle bug, who only needs a quick cuddle to send her back to her coma land). Sleep is absolutely impossible for Faye if there is anything remotely interesting happening within earshot. She literally cries while sleeping. “Sleep crying”, a seemingly ridiculous term, has become commonplace in our home. It has taken us a year to accept this phenomenon. It’s ridiculous. Fortunately she has improved tremendously.
Now she only cries out about twice a night, sometimes for a second and sometimes for 5 min. My husband (Ben) and I have had endless discussions on when to go in, how to go in, how to be consistent, how to comfort her, whether or not to nurse… and on and on. And I’ve read and re-read all of my go-to sleep resources. Ugh. She’s in the downsizing phase right now and it feels like it it is taking 10 years. Yet again, I question myself. What am I doing wrong to cause such short naps?
In feeding therapy we often refer to the “Division of Responsibility.” We us this term, coined by a dietician, Ellyn Satter, to help parents understand their responsibility in the feeding relationship. Parents are to provide their babe/child with the what, when and where to eat. It is then the babe’s responsibility to decide how much to eat. When parents set their child up with ideal opportunities to eat, we hope giving that child responsibility to listen to her body will lead to a healthy eating relationship. We can’t force them to eat….. shoving a bottle into a baby’s mouth as she cries and turns away definitely does not create a positive eating environment.
In the same vein, I need to be more realistic about sleep … I can’t make my child sleep. I need to set up her environment for sleeping. Then I need to provide her with regular opportunities to learn how to fall asleep on her own. I know this division of responsibility is simplified. The simple version takes reading the “I’m sleepy” cues out of the equation. My reflections are based on an older baby who has declared their cues and is in more of a two a day nap routine. The specific strategies and struggles of providing opportunities to learn to fall asleep alone at 3-ish months old is whole other post.
I am trying to say that sleep is anything else, as parents our responsibility is 1) create the most ideal environment for our kids to thrive, and 2) try to equip them with the skills they need. I forget this too easily.
If I find a time Faye is likely to be more sleepy, perform a calming bedtime routine, and get her all nice and cozy in the dark plus/minus white noise, I’ve done my job. I can provide regular opportunities to sleep in an environment that lends itself to sleep but she needs to actually do the job. I have to hand over the responsibility. Every time she doesn’t sleep as long as I think she should, I have to understand that it is not a personal failure.
Ben says I should just take the “sleep stick” out of my arse … and he means it in the most loving way possible. I can get all bent out of shape when the kids don’t get as much sleep as I think they should. In my defence, I come by this fear honestly. I usually have to deal with the monstrous little people that sometimes result from prematurely terminated slumbers.
Bottom line, I’m working on re-learning a balance of responsibility when it comes to sleep. I’ll get there.
**Disclaimer: I am by no means a sleep expert. If you are struggling with sleep and need some help, let me know and I can provide some resources (books/handouts and even info on companies to hire to come into your home and do a sleep consultation). Heck, I can give you resources even if you just plain need reassurance that you are doing all you can to set up the ideal routine and environment for your child. **
A couple of photos to make you smile….