Friday, December 28, 2012

Sleep Like a Baby

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At Ivy's four-month check-up, her doctor suggested we think about where and how we want Ivy to sleep in the long-run. Four months, it seems, is the ideal time to shape a baby's nighttime and nap routine. So while she still looks like a bitty thing, four-month-old-Ivy's habits lay the foundation for toddler-Ivy's sleep.

With that in mind, my first thought was, Oh, shit.

Despite having been through the whole baby-growing-up thing already, I find it impossible to believe that Ivy will ever be, say, 16 months old. But the idea of Ivy's sleep "schedule" looking like it does now this time next year scares me.

Currently, Ivy sleeps with Rob and me. Her crib is at the foot of our bed (leaving us with about 18 inches of floor space all together. It's like we're on a boat). She starts the night in her crib, after nursing to sleep. Then the first time she wakes up, she comes to bed with me, and (most nights) she stays there, scooching around and kicking me in the stomach until morning.

And don't get me started on naps! Naps are an unpredictable mess. If we we're lucky and don't have anywhere to rush off to, Ivy will nap in her crib for a solid 45 minutes, provided she's swaddled and I nurse her to sleep. Most of the time, she ends up napping in little bursts: in the baby carrier, in the car (after some major squalling), in my lap while nursing, on my shoulder after nursing...

When she was brand new, I knew that always nursing her to sleep (and then holding her for hours while she slept) wasn't ideal, sleep-habit-wise. But it felt unnatural to do anything else. Now, as much as I want to put Ivy down to sleep, I'm used to the idea of her sleeping in my arms. (Also, she's really soft and cuddly and nice to hold. So there's that.) And then the idea of toddler-Ivy, unable to nap anywhere but on me enters my mind and I freak out.

I'm trying to get better about helping Ivy sleep somewhere other than mashed up against me, especially for her naps. I even picked up a couple of books on babies and sleep. Both books could've just said, "Everything you've been doing so far is wrong." Awesome. A few nights ago, I tried one expert's "gentle" techniques for putting Ivy to bed, and ended up crying silently while holding her in the dark, feeling like an idiot for having "done it wrong" since the beginning.

I catch myself feeling nostalgic for those new-new baby nights, when Ivy's age was still measured in days. Yes, there were some rough evenings, but things were fairly straightforward: when she woke up, it was probably because her tummy was empty. I never wondered whether to offer her some milk or just pat her back. I didn't once think about the possibility of toddler-Ivy sleeping in my arms. I barely even looked at the clock. I was exhausted, but I also felt more relaxed, coasting along in a no-routine sleep-routine.

I can't decide if this pressure I suddenly feel to "fix" Ivy's sleep is productive, or if it's just that bullshit pressure where everything is All Your Fault. Maybe it's a little of both. I'd definitely like things to be more predictable, but I don't know how much control I really have over that. And as much as I understand the idea behind thinking in terms of future toddler-sleep, right now Ivy is still very much a baby.

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12 comments:

Cindy said...

I wouldn't sweat it. We did everything "wrong" with Luna sleep-wise. We co-slept. She never napped out of arms. We held her constantly. We rocked her for hours at night until she went to sleep. And then I got tired of it. So I put her in her crib, in her own room, and expected the worst. But, she slept perfectly and still does. I lay with her for 10 mins each night and then she falls asleep on her own and sleeps for 12 hours. Don't worry so much. She'll be fine and, if she isn't, you'll survive it. Doesn't it seem like that's the theme to parenting?

Anonymous said...

Same here. I am doing it wromg. too, but it feels right, at least for now. I know that nursing to sleep won`t be an option forever, but it works. And when she falls asleep on daddy, it gives mommy 2 hours of sleep on her own (or reading blogs, or doing the laundry), At night she sleeps beside me in my bed, and daytime naps are only happening on my body. 9 out of 10 times, she wakes up when we try to put her down. Our girl is a body-sleeper. But I thnk it is normal, it is the way babys are supposed to sleep. I will deal with the toddler when it`s time.

Kerstin

Jessica said...

Baby sleep is the most frustrating thing ever. I never felt like I got it right, and I beat myself up constantly for "failing" at it. If it makes you feel any better, at 9 months, Colin sleeps like a baby (haha)in his crib in the room with his sister for two solid naps and all night long, and it's definitely not because I followed the sleep rules. I think the purpose of those ridiculous sleep books is to make parents feel like they have some manner of control over the situation, but I don't think we do--the babies will eventually work it out. Good luck! I hope Ivy get her sleep schedule figured out soon!

Tara said...

Baby sleep is such a tricky thing. I very much remember always feeling like I was "failing" at it, reading every book I could get my hands on, and then going back to what originally worked. I know for us setting boundaries and creating a schedule really worked, but only once Ezra was ready. We laid the groundwork and then tried to best meet everyone's needs. At four months we were no where close to a "sleep routine". He still slept in our room and would only nap in our arms. It's what worked at the time and anything else we tried felt like torture. A little after 6 months we moved him into his room for overnight sleep and slowly transitioned the naps. According to many people I am sure we did it "wrong". He didn't sleep through the night until he was almost a year old, but now after a long and organic process of balance and routine he sleeps like a dream (and has for many months). With a strong routine and listening to his lead we know that he is a confident sleeper because he feels safe and comfortable and that's all we wanted. I know it is so difficult when you are sleep deprived (SO INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT), but Ivy is still very young and you guys will find the right dynamic that works for your family. You are clearly a loving and thoughtful mother and you will find your way in this crazy thing called baby sleep. You can do it, mama!

Sara said...

I say do what feels right and natural for you and your baby girl. And, these comments and your post make me feel a lot better and confident in that decision as well. I think letting the little ones know you are there for them and letting them be with you as much as needed can only be a good thing and from what I've read that dependence now leads to more independence later since they know they are safe and secure. Who knows really, but I know that the past few days have found me lying in the dark bedroom with a sleeping/nursing baby attached for 3-4 hours at a time because that's the only way she would stay asleep. Definitely not ideal, but it will pass before we know it and I think we'll miss these days of closeness when they're gone.

The Beckster said...

I didn't do sleep schedules with my four year old and I don't do them with my 7 month old. I do the same thing as you, she goes to sleep in her crib at night - and then when she wakes up, she comes into bed with us for the rest of the night.

My baby does sleep in her crib for naps (and she's in daycare so she's used to that) but my mom had a good trick for me -- (for when she wakes up as soon as I put her down) -- which is to let her fall asleep on me BUT to have a light blanket or a swaddle cloth against me so that when I transfer her, I am putting her down (she sleeps on her tummy) her face doesn't hit the cold mattress sheet but rather stays with the warm blanket or cloth. It's not full proof, but it helps a bit.

I'm sure you've tried everything but thought I would offer that up. Good luck!

Mama Smith said...

I I am joining in the chorus of there really is no right and wrong. We never had a single nap without being held or in the car until way past 8 months, now he naps on his own in his crib each day for a couple hours and sleeps 12 hours through the night. I do think establishing the ritual at night time around four months helped, but I still nursed to sleep until he weaned at about 18 months despite being told he would never put himself back to sleep if I did that... but he did! You'll be fine, she's a tiny baby and she won't keep this routine into toddlerhood :)

MOMSICLE VIBE said...

DUDE! You are SO not doing it wrong!! You are nurturing the crap out of her and that is sooo sooo soo healthy for her!! And for you. There is no wrong! You are a loving and perceptive mama - that is really all it takes. You will follow her cues. You will tire of something and long for a change and then nudge her along and notice when she's ready. And every now and then you might just give her a shove in the direction you need her to go - and guess what? She'll be great. My first was a HORRENDOUS sleeper - woke every 1-2 hours for 17 months straight. Out of desperation (so tired it always felt like my eyes were bleeding) I ended up cold turkey-ing her from nursing to nap-sleep. She screamed. It sucked. Then it was AMAZING. I could just put her down and walk away and 90% of the time she didn't even cry. I gave her a shove, and whether she knew it or not she was ready for it. Didn't stop her from waking again though! I finally night weened at 17 months - again, desperation, and she was TOTALLY fine.
But, my personal story doesn't matter though, because yours will look different because you will do what is right for all of you. Because that is what you do, even when it doesn't feel like it at the time.
Also, I call BS on your doctor's prediction about her sleep habits. My baby turned into an amazingly solid and predictable sleeper! I doubt she'll be 3 years old and need to be nursed to sleep and only sleep mashed on your body...

Jess @ Wrangling Chaos said...

At four months she's barely out of the womb. Maddie, my youngest, was swaddled until almost 8 months. She was rocked to sleep until the same. I never let her cry it out, or gently fall asleep, until very recently. At 18 months.

She sleeps through the night, every night.

I have four children. And all of them slept very differently, at different times. NOTHING was the same for any of them. By the 4th kid I was all "WHATEVER" and ignored everything the docs told me, and everything I read, and just did what felt best.

And she's my best sleeper.

Give yourself a break, momma. She's healthy, loved, and well-fed. YOU'RE ROCKIN IT.

sarah said...

The back to sleep initiative saves lives people! Putting babies to sleep ALONE, on their backs, without pillows. blankets or stuffed animals has saved thousands of babies' lives. Nursing your baby in your bed seems natural but it is dangerous and in some states it is considered child endangerment. I know that nobody thinks that it will happen to their babies and that co-sleeping seems natural but please be safe. Accidents are called accidents for a reason. Would you not put your baby in a car seat because you don't plan on getting into a car accident?

http://www.healthychildcare.org/sids.html

~Sarah

Cait said...

Don't be too hard on yourself, girl! Ivy will not be a gangly, long-legged 3-year-old mashed up between you and Rob all night long, every single night. Promise promise.

Candace said...

Docs like to through around the sleep-all-night card at the early months but honestly you have to do what feels right to you. You have already been through this with W and I'm sure you have a good idea what Ivy needs. You are not doing anything wrong because there isn't just one way to do it, sleep is complicated and you need to figure out your own rhythm. Shit, my girls are 4 and 2, and they need their mama at night still. I guess I'm a sucker for punishment or something! You are a great mama, pat yourself on the back!