Sleep

cris_notti_sleepmask.jpgThis weekend was sleep training weekend. If you don’t know what that is, chances are you haven’t had a child in last ten years. I don’t know what people did before that. I guess kids just slept. Weren’t those the days.

Or maybe not: I still don’t sleep very well. Maybe if I’d had some sleep training when I was little, I wouldn’t have to take Unisom every night. Or maybe I was just the designated baby on watch. You know, to protect against tiger attacks. And Huns.

Sleep’s a skill and I don’t have it so I’m eager that A. develop it early and practice often. That’s a parent thing: your child is going to get first what you didn’t have. You’ve been promising that to yourself since you were an angry teen. Don’t deny it.

Also on A.’s list, courtesy of my childhood of privation: an EZBake Oven, a rock polisher, and backwards somersaults. (How do you not break your neck when you roll over yourself backwards? I don’t get that.) Oh – and as little anxiety as possible and the skills to manage it. That too.

Of course, I don’t want to deprive her of the opportunity to make her own list of dos and don’ts for her own theoretical children, so I’ll make a point to fail in some areas. For instance, I’ll try to listen to a lot of 80’s bands to give her a fighting chance at developing hip musical taste. And maybe I should get some Birkenstocks so she doesn’t turn out to be a hippie. I’m not sure I can grit my teeth that hard though. Please God, protect her from hippies and jazz. That’s all I ask. And the anxiety thing. And let’s cover her basic safety while we’re at it. Well, really, not just basic safety. All safety. I don’t want her having to saw off her arm with a pen knife. That’s an edge case but still pretty unwelcome, so let’s make sure weird hippie accidents are covered too.

I digress.

Sleep training comes in all brands – brutal (let them cry as long as it takes) on down to the excrutiatingly drawn out, how-is-this-really-training-at-all?, “never let them cry” method. We chose the “let them cry a little” middle route, also known as the interval method. The only thing I knew about intervals going in was that it might be some misguided method of birth control or the super-painful intervals my coach made me run in high school track practice. This is different and not just because A. can’t stand up on her own, so she’d never make it to the 100 meter mark, let alone back ten times. Although if she tried, she might fall asleep immediately from exhaustion, so there’s a thought.

Here’s how it works. On Thursday night, we put A. in her crib around 7PM. An hour later, she started to cry. The plan kicks in. R. goes to her for a minute and then leaves. She’s still crying. In another minute, he goes back for a minute. Still crying. In three minutes, he goes back for a minute. If she hadn’t stopped – which she didn’t in the 9PM window – he’d up the interval to five minutes. Then ten minutes, then every fifteen minutes up to the point where she’s been upset for an hour.

That hour was our pre-set limit, the point at which all our nerves have shattered on the floor and I’ll do about anything to comfort her, including going out to buy her a pony at 9PM on a weeknight. In a city. In our Prius. Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad errand: it would take me forever and I’d rather spend those hours tracking down a pony, which, let’s face it, I’d be riding myself for the forseeable future, rather than being in the apartment listening to our excellent baby weep, which is awful no matter which way you slice it. Way more awful than finding a pony.

Since A. doesn’t cry that much in general (lucky us), we have almost no practice tolerating her weeping. Also, letting her cry seems especially mean when you have a good-natured baby. If she cried all the time for no reason, it would still suck, of course, but presumably we’d have a tolerance for that particular suckage. We decided to go ahead with the sleep training despite her excellent temperament because, after a month of traveling, she’d gotten into the habit of getting up every couple of hours instead of sleeping five or six in a row the way she did before we left. Yes, you’re right, we broke our baby by flying her all over the place, and now it’s time to clean up the mess so all of us can get some rest.

The training went well, if by “well” you mean, “The baby now sleeps longer at night and can fall asleep on her own in the crib.” If you mean, “The baby’s mother is still functional and does not break down in tears for no reason,” then you would be misusing the word. It was a difficult process and we’re still recovering our own sleep and fractured nerves, but, after nearly a week, I’m willing to say that it worked and we’re back on track.

If you need me, I’ll be out hunting down that pony. What? You don’t know – she might start crying again any minute. I’m just covering our bases.

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3 Comments on “Sleep”

  1. em
    September 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Ah, I do so remember those nights. We, too, were (and still are, though the children have mastered the sleep issue now) world travelers while our children were babes. My mum used to blather on about how detrimental all this traveling was to the wee ones – unless, of course, we were making the overseas flight to see her. It sounds like little A. is doing quite fine.

    • September 10, 2010 at 9:33 am #

      Well that’s good to hear! We have the chance to go to Copenhagen next month and I’ve been worried, if we go, that we’ll have another month of disrupted sleep when we get back. From everything I hear, they get better at adjusting, so fingers crossed.

  2. em
    September 11, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    I’m not sure how you handle your own jet lag, but we found that if we dealt with the babies as we ourselves handled it, they adjusted beautifully. We always try to travel overseas (generally Europe and China) so as to arrive sometime in the morning, local time. We then immediately begin a “normal schedule”. Eating at appropriate local times, resting the children at their regular sleep times, etc. Of course, we are quite exhausted upon departing the plane, but we soldier on and don’t head to bed until bed time. This does require a bit of cajoling of the children and perhaps a bit of attitude on everyone’s part, but the next morning, we are right as rain and ready to start our adventures. I do hope you don’t let having a baby curtail your jet setting…my three are 18, 12 and 10 and have traveled practically since birth. They are well adjusted socially and academically – my 18 yo just started at university and she is incredibly grateful for the diversely cultured life she has led, however sleep deprived it may have been.

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