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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Who needs sleep?

Well, moms do, for starters. Babies do, I am sure.

So, why is it so darn tough for some moms and babies to get into a comfortable and mutually beneficial sleep rhythm?

Books state authoritatively that by 6-8 months babies should sleep through the night. I am not sure babies manage to read that before arriving in our midst. Not my two at least.

And, of course, sleeping through the night simply means undisturbed stretch of restful sleep for about 6 hours. Which I will take any day, in a heartbeat, for Oggie now.

I know I used to wake up a few times a night even before I became a mom - and, over the years we have trained ourselves as adults to simply go back to sleep somehow. And, that seems to be the tough part for Oggie - viz., to go back to sleep at night, - and, it is also tough for me to impart that knowledge...

The collective wisdom of moms through the ages says either let them cry through the night and carry on enjoying your sleep, or stay up with them and quit complaining about losing sleep. Really?! I mean, I don't get it...

I understand each baby is different, so, I perfectly understand there is no one-solution-fits-all when it comes to raising babies.

I believe it is OK not to sweat over milestones reached a few weeks later than stated in books but certainly to worry about skipping many milestones altogether.

I also believe that learning to get back to sleep in the middle of the night is a required life skill, after all body needs the rest, and it needs it in larger chunks for babies than adults, so, babies better learn to get their sleep.

I do not want to be a crutch my kids lean on, I want to be a ladder my kids confidently climb up to soar to their highest potential, and, I believe letting Oggie grow dependent on me for his sleep needs would make me the dreaded crutch. Hence, I am convinced that helping Oggie learn to sleep on his own is an essential duty and responsibility for me as his mom.

And, therein lies the problem!

When I don't get enough sleep, I am not at my best as a mom, and as a person in general, and that can't be good for my kids. I am sure there are people who can manage with say 4 hrs sleep at night caught in snatches, but I am not one of them. To function in any sane and professional manner, I need my eight hours of the dreamless. Preferably in one long stretch, uninterrupted.

But, when a particularly challenging sleep situation arises, as with Oggie, where let him cry himself to sleep method simply doesn't seem to work within reasonable time frame - viz., up to 3 hours - I am forced to accept defeat and hope that there is some other solution out there... Unfortunately, I am not built to let Oggie cry for more than a couple of hours each night for a several nights thinking let him cry himself to sleep solution is going to kick in any second now... that simply seems cruel to me.

Reward a bad habit and watch it grow is a fair warning. Everybody has studied Psychology 101 to know that. The definition of bad habit is probably not universally accepted when it comes to babies wanting to be cuddled and held by their mommies, and babies needing a crutch to get themselves back to sleep - former is not a bad habit in my book, while the latter is. I know my mom disagrees with me on the latter.

The Brazelton way, Cuthbertson's Helping Your Child Sleep Through the Night, Dr. Sears, American Academy of Pediatrics Sleep Guide, and even Kim West's Good Night Sleep Tight seems to make sense when I read them, but, Oggie thinks otherwise, apparently.

It doesn't make things easy when Oggie (and babies his age) are developing their immune system and fall sick almost every other week. Even if let him cry himself to sleep were to work for a while, when my baby is sick and needs cuddles and comfort which I give in plenty, I cannot let him cry himself to sleep at those times. So, clearly, he unlearns the cry myself to sleep habit and then the vicious cycle starts again.

I bawl on the phone sometimes and even get upset with my mom for not having ready answers/solutions to issues I face with raising Oggie now - Sleep, being topmost among them. But, when she has none to offer except stay awake with him, he is not going to be a baby forever and he will grow out of it, I get a little ballistic. And then in an instant realize that I have no profound words of wisdom about developing good sleep habits for kids when Ana wants to know someday...

Today's moms have to manage a professional life, as well as their domestic life, and manage it without much help (am just going by my personal experience here), and somehow be the best moms and employees, well, good ones, if not the best.

Something is missing here...

Do what works for you
, Do what you can live with are all a bit vague and empty because, nothing I know to try has worked so far, and, what I can live with is more sleep for me and Oggie and that isn't happening either... so, we are back at square one.

It seems easier for me to blame it on Nature/Biology or something intangible for this little conundrum. Moms bear the primary responsibility of carrying, birthing and nurturing the next generation. And, to do it all well and be a calm and centered kind of nurturer I am sure moms need enough rest - whatever enough happens to be for each mom. And somehow, it is so arranged that some babies do not like to sleep well, and their moms are desperately typing away at 4 in the morning while tearing their hearts out and wiping the tears before it hits the keyboard...

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4 Comments:

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Kay said...

That must be really tough, Sheela! For me, it was putting her to sleep the first time that was really difficult.

If she'd wake up in the middle, she's nurse herself back to sleep. We still co-sleep and this worked well for us for a loooong time, till I came close to pulling my hair out and started thinking about weaning.

Hopefully Oggie figures outs a way to go back to sleep soon.

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger Lavs said...

I have no advice for you...just wanted to tell you that 'this too shall pass'. Hugs!

 
At 3:11 PM, Blogger Shuba Swaminathan said...

Sheela,

I am a long time reader of your blog who enjoys your recipes and posts on crafts and cooking. I usually don't comment but this post moved me to write having been in your shoes before.

Follow Kim West's "Good night, Sleep tight" techniques. Yes, it's really hard when the baby falls sick and has to be retrained, but it works. It takes time with some babies, hang in there.

The other thing that really helped was to establish a routine and sticking with it religiously, with an error margin of +/- 5 minutes.

Good luck with Oggie, keep us posted!

 
At 1:56 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Thanks Kay, Lavs, Shuba! I appreciate it.

 

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