Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Whispering Hush

I spent the morning doing a favor for an old friend.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching her baby while she (exhaustedly*) worked.  Admittedly, I had a big learning curve with my 2 kids and can't really say that I enjoyed the baby years.  I had no clue what I was doing but eventually learned-- the hard way.  With so many mistakes out of the way, I would totally rock at being a new Mom now!  That said, my heart broke for this new Mom.  I will never judge how another Mother raises her children, and I make it a goal to rarely give unsolicited parenting advice (except to my sister whom I am sure is THRILLED with the wealth of knowledge that I continually impart on her), but if asked, this is what I would say:

Sweet Dear New Mother-- I am not at all judging your choices, especially as I did the EXACT same thing, only waited way too long.  I wish someone would have sat me down, Mom to Mom and lovingly walked me through this--

It Is Officially Time to Teach Him to Sleep

Believe it or not, sleep is a learned habit (some just learn it easier than others) and it is essential to a child's growth that he gets adequate rest.  It is your job as a parent to teach him how to sleep, just as later you will teach him how to be kind or how to eat healthy or how to be polite or how to be a good sport -- some life skills are just harder to learn/teach than others.  He is at a prime age and you are ALL in desperate need of REM.  The older he gets, the harder it will be.  At this point, I highly doubt it will happen on its own.  It is one of the first hard things that you will need to do as a Mother -- things that break your heart, that you don't want to do but you know, in the long run, it is best for your Sweet Child... and for your family.  You will be amazed at how much better everyone feels when they are sleeping the night and taking regular naps.  It should only be a rough week or two -- if you wait as long as I did, it could be a rough month+ (especially b/c he was old enough to jump out of the crib).

The books, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child or Solve Your Childs Sleep Problems or No Cry Sleep Solution or Sleepeasy Solution for Exhausted Parents are all good.  I'm sure there are others as well.  I know you are tired, but grab all 4 from the library, read through the appropriate sections, and glean what you like from them.  The important thing is that all of you get sleep, not which method you choose (or if you combine the best from a couple); every child/parent is different and what worked for one, may have no hope for the next.  Here is what we found effective for both our kids:

1)  The baby shouldn't be in your room.  As a Mom, you hear too much. If your room is close enough, you shouldn't even need a baby monitor (unless you are outside or really far and physically can't hear the screaming).

2) Start a routine that means sleep time.  Something simple like:  hold off on feeding, change his diaper, read a quick book, nurse/feed him, lay him in his crib, turn on music (my kids liked classical), turn on a fan, turn off the light, kiss him, tell him "I love you Sweet Baby James; it is time to go to sleep," and shut the door (your routine can vary from this-- just have a routine, at consistent times, and try to stick with it).

3) At this point, he will **SCREAM**.  He will cough, he will yell, he will gag, he will throw everything out of his crib, he will curse you up and down in the only way that a baby can... I recommend you STAY BUSY -- Clean the kitchen, do the dishes, straighten the house--  Something active, not checking emails.  It's okay if he can hear you.

4) When he has SCREAMED for 5 (or 10) minutes, go in, lay him back down, tell him in a firm adult voice, "I love you Sweet Baby James; It is time to go to sleep", shut the door and he will SCREAM again.  I recommend another project, sort mail, clean a bathroom, make beds, sweep the floor-- JUST KEEP BUSY.  You should not be sitting outside his door watching the minutes go by as he SCREAMS.  It will literally tear-apart your already fragile heart***.

5) Repeat Step 4 as many times as necessary.  Do not go in unless he has been SCREAMING for at least 5 minutes.  If he is whimpering and awake but not screaming, you are not to go in.

6)  Children need A LOT of sleep.  My kids both (ages 8 & 10) still sleep 10-12 hours a night.  He also needs 2 good naps of around an hour each (the books give great guidelines).  If he wakes up before it is time, let him SCREAM for 5 minutes, if he doesn't fall back asleep on his own, go in, lay him back down, and firmly say, "I love you Sweet Baby James; It is time to sleep". 

--Lots of Love & Wisdom Dear Young Mother--
I'm sending you all the extra strength I can muster.
As a side note:  I think it is only fair that the person who is doing the sleep training should also get to be the person who does the sweet little before sleep ritual and happily getting him in the morning/after a nap.  It helps the bonding experience.

Dear New Mother, you are WAY over-tired.  I've been there.  I know this seems over-whelming, but I know you can handle it.  You are a good mom and strong, just exhausted.  Life will feel manageable and you will feel a huge sense of accomplishment if you do this yourself. Try to read up on it now and then as soon as you get home, start the new routine.  It will go well in the long run.  Honestly, I know this is a little dis-heartening, but it really will be just one of the many things that are not so fun about being a Mom... Thankfully, there are loads of great things too...  And with a well rested family, those great things will be even greater.

*I used to drive one of my college professors nuts when I ignored spell check and made up my own words, which I did an average of 4 times a paper. I still got an A.
**To anyone appalled by me and Sears-ist to the core (nothing against Sears, it works for some, just not us)-- 10 years later, my kids still love me. I didn't break their trust, they don't wince at my touch because I let them cry when they were babies.  In my mind, it is the same as allowing a toddler to throw a temper-tantrum rather than giving in to his 10th marshmallow demand or his "need" of a new Thomas Train.  The same as making my grade-schooler do homework rather than play his DS.  This is active parenting: helping them learn from the beginning that what they want is not always what is best for them or what they need or what is right.
***I did warn/apologize to the neighbors before starting.  They would always chuckle and (*empathetically*) sigh, "No worries Deary, we've all been through it."

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