There is so much debate about sleep and babies. There is one school of thought that all babies must be placed on a strict eat, play, sleep schedule. They should not be rocked or held to sleep and never ever allowed to nurse to sleep. They should always sleep in their own beds and they need to just learn to self-soothe and are often left to cry it out. Then on the other side there is the belief that all babies should be held for all sleep and nursed whenever and definitely nursed to sleep etc. They should never cry it out. They will learn to self-soothe in time and snuggling them and rocking them will not ruin them and create bad sleep habits.
So, here I go tackling this one! After 5 kids who had different needs, I find myself a bit more in the middle, but still closer to the parent the baby to sleep camp than I once was. Little One has not been sleeping very well lately. He got sick a month ago and was up every half hour for several days and indeed did get into a bad sleep habit. Also, he has learned to walk. With all of my kids, I noticed that around the time of walking sleep got very disrupted at night and took some work to reteach them to sleep at night. I also noticed that many of them transitioned from snuggling and nursing to sleep to nursing and still being ready to go at about walking time. I adapted with all of them, but adapting with such a little one has been harder for me- he isn’t even a year yet!
First, a bit of background. When Tiger was a baby, a mom I respected said, “Spoiled is left on a a shelf to rot!” I must say, I agree with her there. Babies cannot be spoiled through holding and cuddling and care. I simply don’t believe that doing the very thing that seems to come natural to baby care is wrong. Babies naturally fall asleep nursing. There are chemicals in the milk that make them drowsy. Furthermore, for ages and ages, babies have slept near mama. This phobia of babies being dependent is bizarre to me. Anyway, I digress. Over the years, I have nursed and rocked all of my babies to varying degrees to sleep. I don’t regret one moment of that time. Nor do I believe that any of them developed bad sleep habits from it. The one thing that I did a bit differently though, was I watched my babies and changed things as necessary without believing that I needed to train my child to sleep and without allowing them to cry it out as babies (toddlers might fuss a bit, but not babies). Miss Butterfly wouldn’t settle down nursing. For many months, she needed to be put in her bed with a binkie and allowed to fall asleep. Once I recognized that, she was fine and happy. I rocked her other times, but not to sleep. All of my older children know how to put themselves to sleep. They all know how to go to bed without rocking or without nursing or some other “prop” as so many like call it. They all have a little bit different needs, but they all have good sleep habits.
So, here I am with my fifth. This little guy is just not sleeping. I have looked at allergies and I don’t believe it is an allergy. I do believe it is stemming from all the great and fast physical development he has undergone coupled with not sleeping when sick. A dear friend suggested I read the Baby Whisperer book as she said I needed to sleep train Little One. (BTW I hate that phrase). I told her I was not about to have him cry it out, I don’t believe that is the best way. Besides, in desperation one day, I did allow him to cry and boy did that make my problems even worse! She assured me that this method includes being with the child and mentoring the child to sleep rather than just leaving him to figure it out himself. Ok. I could give that a try. I did something similar when I night-weaned all the others using Dr. Gordon’s methods.
So off to the library I went to pick up the book. I read through the section on teaching a 10 month old to sleep and jumped in with two feet. Our sleep issues had gotten rather silly- put baby in carrier. Cover head and rock standing up to get to sleep for naps! Upon putting down, hope and pray that baby will not wake and make you start over again. Nope- that isn’t going to work. I have to say that in some ways the book really angered me. I can’t stand the idea that a “prop” of nursing or rocking is a blanket bad thing. Furthermore, I can’t quite reconcile the part about introducing a lovey to baby to snuggle to sleep but a mama is not ok to have for comfort? How is that logical? (BTW, none of my kids have ever established a blankie or favorite comfort object- I was always it). I believe for Little One it has been great for him to snuggle and have me, but that at this time as he is growing his needs are changing. I need to teach him to unwind and not be so distracted by the incredible world and go to sleep!
So, in an effort to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, I tried to ignore the parts I think are ridiculous and started in with the pick up put down, comfort, and quietly talk to sleep. Little One did it. He fell asleep after battling for 4 hours without too much fussing. Mostly whining, standing up with a grin, and then playing with his toes. Bedtime took an hour and a half but in the middle of night, he went right back to sleep several times. Hurray. Naps are still taking up to an hour to settle, but he is doing better and better without crying it out! I am so happy that he is settling down and sleeping better at night too.
I just wish someone would publish a book that said, “Love your babies and snuggle them all they want and need, but when their needs change, here are some ways to parent them to sleep.” Why must books make moms feel guilty or bad for doing what their instincts tell them to do? I really find that the Baby Whisperer saying that nursing to sleep or cuddling to sleep or rocking to sleep is “accidental parenting”".” Um, nope. I did it on purpose. I didn’t do it just to be lazy. Babies are only little once. Eventually they grow up. Take what works and leave the rest was also taught to me by the same mama who told me that spoiled was left on a shelf. Thank you to the Baby Whisperer for helping me get Little One to sleep, but I will leave the rest. I think it is junk. And if I happen to nurse him and he falls asleep- so be it. I will snuggle my sleeping baby and enjoy it. He is active enough as it is and rarely lets me snuggle him anymore since he is too busy exploring the world.