Guest Post: Get That Baby To Sleep

Today’s guest post comes from Althea Egon: I am a crafty geek, toddler wrangler and artist who is prone to wild fits of kitchen singing. I have been a bicycle mechanic, a teacher and a cubicle slave. Identity crisis is my middle name… My friends say I’m restless. Huzzah!

Although my husband and I didn’t choose to bed share with S…we ended up doing so because of her needs/temperament. I must admit that I didn’t even know what bed sharing or cosleeping was prior to having my own child! I thought that, “Duh! Babies sleep in cribs!” But try as we might a crib was not in the cards for our first born.

There are some benefits of bed sharing and this article does a good job explaining that it is not unsafe or detrimental. Western culture made the shift away from bed sharing, a practice the rest of the world uses in the majority. There seems to be lot of hostility and misinformation directed towards parents who do bed share or cosleep in the USA.

Obviously my daughter will not sleep with me forever and yes it can be exhausting. However because I choose to breastfeed (still going strong at almost 20 months) bed sharing makes night parenting much easier on me. Studies have shown that breastfeeding bedsharing parents/child are awake no more than children who sleep in their own rooms.

It has been hard because when I mention that I am exhausted… And well meaning people tend to judge our decision to bed share (a decision that developed organically) as detrimental to me and my daughter. I don’t agree with this theory. I am tired because I am a parent.

Yes, there are babies who drift of to dreamland with little effort but my child, like many others, is not one of those babies. Or maybe your baby responded to some variation of the popular “sleep training” method and now sleeps independently! I am always happy to hear that a parent found what works for them. However, we must remember that all children are different.

I have been driven to research this topic in depth because each time someone guffawed at our sleep arrangement a seed of doubt was planted in me. This caused me to continuously reevaluate and try ALL the available methods to get S into her own sleep space. Books, studies, documentaries, scholarly articles, doctors and even a hired sleep coach… None of the outlined methods worked to force S to be any child other than herself. And I found a lot of compelling research stating that not all babies respond to forced sleep training.

I am regretful only that I didn’t just follow my gut and harden my skin to the comments. S is my husband’s and my baby after all… She is and will likely remain a stubborn and fiery force. Hah!

It is hard to think clearly at all when tired. Especially during those first six months. But to also feel pressure to get S into a crib as well made my new mommy confidence plummet.

My daughter is happy, healthy, safe and engaged. Where she sleeps is no one’s business. Yes she is clingy at night. A barnacle! But that is who she is at the moment and we will make it through. No it’s not convenient but parenting rarely is.

I think most folks are trying to be helpful when they offer up a method that worked for them… But nine times out of ten it’s a method I have tried. Certainly, I am alway open to advice but often when I try to explain that I tried xyz method a few times already over the course of S’s short life and it caused more problems than not, I get the profound impression that folks think that I am either not educated, a wuss or simply not doing it right because I am a goon first time mom.

Folks don’t seem to take into account S’s individual needs/temperament… And they put the responsibility on my shoulders to force her to do something she obviously isn’t ready for.

We ARE watching her cues and she has made some tentative strides toward sleep independence but she is going at her pace. Yes, I nudge but I nudge while actively or passively supporting her. I often resist actively supporting her at night to see if she will make the leap… And here is where she makes those small strides to become independent.

On the flip side… A few nights ago for example I resisted more strongly and left the room to see if she could sort it out on her own and fall asleep. She played with her blanket for a bit and all was looking good… When BAM she hit the I can’t fall asleep but I am tired wall AND BOOM. All hell broke loose. Long story short it took three hours to get her asleep even while reverting back to our tried and true method of nursing her down. She was hysterical. AND… She woke every 30 minutes to scream out for the rest of the night and into the morning. ANDDDD… The next night when she awoke much earlier than usual to find herself alone in bed she screamed bloody murder and refused to go back to sleep until 3am. Presumably she was still pissed about me trying to force her to sleep.

On a good night… I nurse her down to sleep around 7pm and get up to leave. She will sleep until midnight and then I talk/sing her back sleep (10minutes) Then she wakes a couple times between then and 7:30am to feed. I don’t wake up for more than a minute or two during this time. Most of our nights are like this unless she is sick or teething. And toddlers are sick or teething all the time … Thus I am exhausted!

I never judge another mother or father’s parenting choices (unless there is blatant abuse obviously). I always respect that what worked for one baby and their family may not work for another.

Whatever works. Do it! Seriously… Parenting is hard enough without all the judgments.

If a new mother asks me for advice… I say, “Follow your gut and don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t know what’s best for your kid! Also, be nice to other moms with small children. They are probably more exhausted than they let on.”

When I am exclaiming that I am sooooooo tired that my eyeballs feel like they are burning holes into my skull. I don’t need a lecture on what I am doing wrong! I need coffee.

Preach!

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