6.11.2012

ON SLEEPING (ON NOT SLEEPING)

This post is sponsored by Disney Baby. I'll be joining the Disney Baby blogging team next month, and look forward to sharing these kinds of stories (projects/ideas/etc) with you over there! Stay tuned for more details!



i was told during my first week of motherhood that huck's first six weeks would be our hardest. he'd have no idea that night was for sleeping, he'd be taking two-hour naps on a constant rotation, and he'd likely suffer from, for lack of a better term, "infant ennui," when baby is upset because, well, who knows why? because the world is noisy and air is not nearly as comfortable as amniotic fluid and digesting all that food is really really hard, probably. but i was ready for it. and when he wailed a few nights between midnight and two a.m., i sort of felt like i understood where he was coming from. so i patiently shushed and rocked and swaddled him and, okay, i panicked too, but only just a little bit. 

right around four weeks he started to come around to his circadian rhythm and everything settled. i figured we had it made. i was still losing buckets of water weight and having to pee every 20 minutes, so when he'd wake at night to eat i'd unwrap him like a little present, change his diaper (always diaper first, before he had the chance to get drowsy from milk), nurse till he pulled off, swaddle him up tight, give him a little kiss on his forehead and lay him back in his crib, and then i'd book it like mad to the bathroom, because shoot. sooo much water weight. by the time i'd come back from the bathroom he'd have finished fussing and managed to find sleep again. success and hurrah and all that. my good little sleeper! 


after about six weeks, i stopped having to use the restroom all night long. and his little cries so close to my ears made my heart ache. i started wondering why he wasn't sleeping anymore? what happened? (in retrospect, if i had just realized that i was in the bathroom before when he fussed and thus hadn't heard it, and that he was fully capable of figuring it out and going back to sleep, i probably could have been patient and let him fuss a bit. or maybe not? who knows? (btw that "french pause" they talk about in bringing up bebe is real. it's really real. next time, i'm remembering this.))

so i bought a sleep book. and that book. oh that book gave me hives. i wanted to unread it the second i read it. but i gave it my best shot. i was careful not to let huck fall asleep in my arms, lest he never learn to fall asleep on his own. i was careful not to let him sleep too long, or at the wrong times, just like i was told. i put him down early, when he was supposed to be just barely tired, even though i felt like it wasn't what he really needed. it was just a mess. it went against every instinct i had. so, finally, i tossed it out.

and so it came to pass that at five months we discovered stroller sleep. oh, stroller sleep! huck slept like a champion in that stroller, for hours and hours and hours. at nine months it became carseat sleep. just as effective, and takes up less space! then, on his cue, we started co-sleeping. i have never slept so well in my life! i was like, yes! but also: vague sense of mom guilt. because, shouldn't he be sleeping in his crib? shouldn't i be teaching him to sleep? what was i doing wrong? does this count? was i screwing him up? this can't count! i'm a horrible mother!!!!!! 

right. that thought pattern right there? is STUPID. i look back at myself and i go, you idiot. what a waste. oh what i wouldn't give to have more time with a sleeping huck heavy on my chest.

even while huck and i were getting the best sleep of our lives, i kept sabotaging it by trying to trick him into sleeping in his crib. all he really wanted was mom's arms, mom's milk, a gently rocking stroller, or a cozy carseat, but i was adamant that i had to do it "right." i mean, the benefit of stroller sleep is... they sleep in their stroller! whenever they need to! and it was such a blessing that huck could nap on the go or while on vacation (easily keeping some sense of routine), and while we're at it, strollers are pretty pricey, so it was nice to get our money's worth, but try telling that to me last year and i would have looked at you like you were crazy. or just being nice but secretly judging me.

the week after huck's first birthday we moved to a new apartment, where had his own walk in closet bedroom. we decided to let him cry it out. it felt like it was time, and he was ready. it took two weeks of huck shouting at us stubbornly before he would fall asleep willingly in his crib, but he figured it out. it was a huge battle of the wills. (he was mad, not scared or sad, and so it was easier for me to hear him cry than when he was 4 months old and the doctor told me it was time to sleep train. the few nights we tried it then made me feel so sick). he slept in his crib like a champion until we went to portland on an extended vacation, and then we started co-sleeping again, which worked great until it didn't, so we held a mini sleep training session (two nights was all it took), and now he's back in his crib. i'm sure we'll go through many other variations on sleeping before he's got it all straightened out for good. and i've decided to believe there is nothing wrong with that at all.

the next time i do this, i'm following my instincts from day one. maybe our next baby will be like huck, or maybe our next baby will need the structure that huck so ardently resisted. either way: more listening to babies, less listening to shoulds. more flexibility, and a whole lot less panic.  

but mostly, a whole lot more of this:


because a sleeping baby on your chest is the best kind of drug.
way better than a sleeping baby in a crib.   
......  sometimes. ;)


next time on disney baby:
on letting dads be dads.

33 comments :

  1. This is the one thing I wish I'd have done more of. Letting my son sleep on me. What's so wrong with a baby taking naps on his mommy? Nothing I tell you! I'd do anything to go back in time.

    My son has slept through the night 7pm-7am since 6 months. I read every single sleep book I could get my hands on. I went crazy trying different methods. Then I threw the books out the window and started looking at my son. BAM! Worked like a charm. Once I "saw" what he needed we totally rocked it. He is a champion sleeper. Next time I'll do more watching. And more sleeping with baby in my arms. Screw the books! I don't want to miss a second of the newborn stage.

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  2. I relate to this post! We co-slept because that was what worked for us. We swaddled him up and then one day, he just decided he didn't want to be swaddled anymore and went right into his crib without a hitch. No forcing, no "training", nothing.

    I love these posts so much, so glad you are doing them.

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  3. I love your Disney baby posts! I don't have any kids yet, but it is so fun to hear your perspective on what you wish you had done and hadn't and what you are happy you did. I definitely agree that there is nothing in this world like a mothers instinct!! Thank you for sharing:)

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  4. do whatever allows you and your baby to get the best sleep, is what i say!

    for us, that has always been sticking to a schedule, letting her fall asleep on her own and letting her sleep in her crib. that seemed to be what she wanted from day one and it is still what works best a year and a half later. i can't complain, because she has slept through the night from week 8, as a result. she wants structure, and it worked for us, but that doesn't mean i don't feel jealous of the mamas who can get their babies to fall asleep in their arms whenever and wherever, because we ALWAYS have to go home for naps. i think co-sleeping and co-napping never worked for us, because i CANNOT, for the life of me, get any decent sleep with a baby on my chest or in my arms or even in bed next to me. i wish i could. :)

    no matter how you do it, there are pros and cons. i would have loved to watch her sweet face wake up beside me in the morning, even just once. but then again, 12+ hours of uninterrupted sleep every night for the past year hasn't sucked. ;)

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  5. great post--i too wish i had trusted my instincts the first time instead of feeling like me and kid were "bad" for not having a perfect sleeping schedule/routine. second time around i was much more relaxed and happy just letting the sleep happen when/how it happened.

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  6. Oh, love this post and hated those sleep books. I stressed about the "right way" with No. 1, with No. 2 I'm high on plenty of sleep since we've been co-sleeping and working together from day 1. No need for "training" here! (However, she is a naturally better sleeper than her older brother- just goes to show each baby is vastly different!)

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  7. I'm pinning this for future reference when I feel like a failure with future children. THANKS!

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  8. yes, i love this! i know all the baby books & "rules" & everything help some ppl. and that's great for them! but at what point did we (society) start thinking that SOMEONE ELSE had the right to tell us the right way to raise our children? it takes a village & all that, but the village should be made up of ppl who actually know the kids... LOL sorry, thought process not quite catching up w/ typing fingers. bottom line - YOU GO, NATALIE! : )

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  9. This is exactly what I needed to hear tonight. Thank you :)

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  10. yes!! i spent way too many days thinking about how all the other babies are sleeping or what all of the other moms were doing. what was right. i totally just want to follow my mothering instincts with the next one too :)

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  11. i need to file these away for when i (hopefully) have a wee one. great stuff (disney baby is lucky they hired you!)

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  12. Our baby slept in her crib because I thought she was supposed to...but only a few nights. She co sleeps and has not been in her crib for months. I spent so much time when she was 4 months old worrying about her sleep patterns, doing research, wondering what the hell was wrong. I had to let it all to go which is so difficult. At 16 months she still has not slept more that 5 hours stratight. I guess when she is ready....

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  13. AnonymousJune 12, 2012

    I wish I'd let my boy sleep on me more as well - and I wish I'd thrown out the books before I read them. But in those first few weeks,it's all so confusing and so overwhelming. I'm confident I would do it better a second time - I'm confident you will too!!

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  14. We slept with our twins for a few weeks, and I loved it. Their baby sister would never sleep in the bed with me. But I did nap with her as much as possible and I did baby her more, because, well, she's my last baby. Who still wakes up a few times a night at almost 2.5 just for the sake of b eing covered back up. BUt I don't mind.

    OK I mind a little.

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  15. Not only is my daughter a naturally AWFUL sleeper, but I had no idea what the heck I was doing for the first three months. Apparently babies don't just go to sleep when they are tired?! They need help falling asleep?! Goh, it was horrible. Still, she is 10 months now and wakes 1-3 times a night. I wonder if I will ever sleep again... Interestingly enough though, we tried the crib and cosleeping, which were both fails, before stumbling on a floor bed,which has been a huge lifesaver. I agree that we need to trust our instincts more and follow our baby's lead. Though I'm still jealous sometimes that my girl didn't like cosleeping...

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  16. AMEN!! I'm so sick of books/doctors/bragadocious mothers telling me to let my baby cry it out and only go into her if she has been crying for an hour. Five years from now, I am going to ache for the feel of holding her in my arms at 2am (and 5 am and sometimes 10pm too) and I'm fairly certain she will be sleeping through the night by then. {Her older sister does...} Thanks for sharing!

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  17. So glad I read this. I am due any day now with our 2nd and although our little girl is only 21mos (I know, we are crazy!) I am completely terrified of doing this all over again. I hardly remember sleep deprivation and i am sure that's probably because it was so bad. And you're right, at the end of each day, what matters is how I feel my baby was best taken care of and not what some judge-y book says.

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  18. OH! The carseat. This brings back so many memories! I learned the carseat trick early and would scoop up my baby take him downstairs feed him and then proceed to tuck him neatly in his carseat whence, I would proceed to snooze on the couch. It was so much easier on both of us than the "crying out." Unfortunately I did the co-habitat bed thing for far too long because I enjoyed the best sleep ever so much, that that my friend was WAY harder a habitat to break than I ever imagined. (we are talking 8 month pregnant lady up til all crazy hours of the night just so "older brother" felt secure in his own bed in his own room. Either way, letting him sleep in his carseat or with me for the first couple years of his life hasn't ruined him. Totally go for what your hear feels!

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  19. Massive fan of cosleeping, it was exactly what my snuggly little girl wanted. I still get reminded by some people how lucky I am I didn't roll on her which absolutely terrifies me. She's 18 months now and in a big bed and still likes a snuggle to go to sleep. This may come back to bite us but for now it's a really nice bad habit.

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  20. What a timely post. As I sit here, 5 months pregnant and reading an inordinate amount of books about baby sleep and baby poop and baby everything, I keep thinking, that somewhere deep down, when the time comes, I'll just know what to do. Instincts!! I'll try to follow them.

    That said, that French pause...I'm all about it. I actually ENJOYED that book. Mostly:)

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  21. Oh, there is nothing better than a sleeping baby on your chest or in your arms - I have a 6 week old and I adore these moments. We're probably not doing what any sleep book suggests, but at this stage in the game, I don't care. He's in daycare now and the evenings and weekends are the only time I get with him, so I'm going to keep him as close as he'll let me for now. :)

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  22. This post was so reassuring--as I am pregnant all anyone keeps telling me is to sleep now as i won't be able to soon and tips on how to get babies to sleep, let them cry it out etc. But I think I will just do what feels right for me I mean it worked for you and Huck :)

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  23. I just lovelovelove your posts about early motherhood. I have so much to look forward to. I hope I'll be as good a mother as you.

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  24. My kid sleeps on me nearly all the time and I am finally just letting it be because he is SO FREAKING DARLING! Also, these are days clearly pre false eyelashes :).

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  25. After two kids, I can only say you do what you gotta do! Camryn slept okay but had to be ignored for one night--and one night only!--at seven months before she truly slept through the night. Tamsin, on the other hand, WOULD NOT SLEEP unless she was in her swing or in her carseat rocked by Daddy Of The Strong Forearms while he quietly watched 11:00 TV. This went on for MONTHS. In the end it all worked out. But no book or mommy advice can prepare you for that first child, and no experience from a previous child can entirely prepare you or see you through the next child. Everyone's different, and everyone has their own weaknesses and issues and ways of seeing life. I myself am a terribly light sleeper and could not share a room with a whiffling, twitchy baby, but if that's what gets everyone to dreamland, THEN DO IT! I don't know anyone who doesn't go crazy from lack of sleep, and a crazy mommy equals bad news for everyone. You do what you gotta do.

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  26. I CAN'T WAIT to go through all the firsts of motherhood! I like your take on just going with your instincts...My brain has been filled with the importance of schedules, but it really is true that every baby is different, and if you get a cuddler, take advantage! Hope you get to experience it again soon!
    Monica
    www.freakoutanddropdead.com

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  27. Aaah, thank you so much for this post. My son is almost 1 and you have pretty much described our sleep story to a t- we have been pretty relaxed about sleep (we're all getting plenty, so who cares where it happens) but I totally felt like we were somehow cheating by not making it into a huge production. I'm hoping to tackle the big crib move this summer sometime; we're still co-sleeping for now but it's getting cramped.

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  28. I love this! Our baby boy is due next week and im sort of flipping out (its our first) but this some how calmed my worries! Gracias!

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  29. That second to last picture (and all your pictures) is gorgeous. You look so cozy!

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  30. I'm a horrible commenter at my best, and this is a bad time in my life I be reading a blog, but I have a six day old baby (a week tomorrow?! Ugh I need a pause button on her) and thank you. Thank you so much for posting this. Between trying to figure out breast feeding and diapers and if I will ever stop crying over everything, I needed this so badly. Mommy guilt is madness and I just am so grateful for your thoughts. They are good and true. You're wonderful Nat.

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  31. I think I spent the first year with my son sleeping on top of me. I actually went out and bought a super comfy leather recliner so we could sleep peacefully.

    www.accidentallybeautiful.com

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  32. I remember how desperately I tried to do the "right" thing with my first babe, and how it felt so natural, good, and blissful when I embraced (not just experimented) with co-sleeping. With our subsequent children, it has been insanely rad to know this works for us from day 1 -- guilt didn't need dismissed since it didn't even turn up for the party. Oh, the party we had without it. Mmmm...baby sleeping across my arms as a type. I mean, I'll lose all feeling in my arms in about 10 minutes, but hey, it's awesome.

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