Sunday, January 31, 2010
In a recent post at Privilege of Parenting, Bruce offered some advice to a reader concerned about the sleep issues of her six-year-old son. In his response, he shared the advice of two of my personal parenting heroines, Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack, the dynamic duo behind Sleepy Planet and the authors of the Motherese household's childhood sleep bible, The Sleepeasy Solution.
To me, nothing defines your parenting style quite so precisely as your approach to your baby's sleep. There are many different camps - from the Attachment Parenting school, which advocates co-sleeping; to the Ferber folks, who suggest letting your baby "cry it out" in order to encourage independent sleeping; and everything in between.
As you may have gleaned, I am a control freak. I am a rule follower. Give me a plan and I will execute it. A desire for order informs my approach to mothering and my life in general. And, for me, one of the biggest challenges of parenthood is the lack of predictability. The lack of control. So, when Big Boy was an infant, I read everything I could get my hands on to try to figure out what sleep method would fit in best with my desire to regain some control over our lives. I knew I needed a system, step-by-step guidance, clear directions, a plan.
The Sleepeasy Solution was what I chose and it worked like, well, a dream for Big Boy. And it is a plan. The authors provide a blueprint for getting your child to fall and stay asleep, even suggesting sleep schedules for each age range from infancy through five years. This book and its recipes for step-by-step sleep were music to my controlling ears.
Fast forward 20 months to September of last year.
At that point, we were about a week into sleep training with Tiny Baby and I was once again worshiping the goddesses behind the Sleepeasy Solution. Tiny Baby went into our training already a pretty good sleeper, but quickly became a nighttime sleeping champion. Within a few days of starting the Sleepeasy method, he went from needing to be rocked or nursed to sleep to falling asleep on his own, in his crib, with hardly a fuss, and within a few minutes of being put down. (Do I sound like a testimonial yet?)
Naps, meanwhile, remained a work in progress - just as the Sleepeasy ladies cautioned would likely be the case. Tiny Baby fell asleep for naps quite easily, but he often woke up after only 30 or 40 minutes and wasn't always able to fall back to sleep. And it was pretty clear that a nap that short wasn't really long enough for him anymore. And the book said it wasn't. And that he needed time to work on it. Time that didn't involve rocking, or bouncing, or being rescued by Mommy.
All of that brings us to one revelatory Friday afternoon.
It had not been a great day. The morning went well enough. Tiny Baby had fallen back to sleep after babbling to himself in his crib for a few minutes. Big Boy seemed in a pleasant enough mood. But then we went to playgroup, where Big Boy proceeded to have a meltdown. A real meltdown with crying and foot stomping. The kind of meltdown that screenwriters might conjure if penning a script called "Stereotypical Toddler Behavior." Then after lunch I got some worrisome news from a friend. And Tiny Baby took another bad nap.
But then. After my efforts to soothe him before his next nap failed, I put Tiny Baby on his stomach for some tummy time. Now Tiny Baby, like his brother before him, was not a fan of tummy time. But that day he became calm, entranced by a stuffed lamb that I had put in his field of vision. I rubbed his back. He closed his eyes. He fell asleep. Right there on his mat. On his tummy!
Breaking all of the rules of the Sleepeasy Solution (not to mention those of the Back to Sleep campaign).
Reminding me that sometimes he knows what he needs better than I do.
And that I can't control everything - least of all where and when a baby chooses to shut his eyes.
Are you a good sleeper? Are your kids?