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How I started getting more sleep

Things change so freaking quickly when you have a baby. The baby changes weekly or daily, and you have no time to look back and think about everything you’ve learned and adjusted to and integrated because you’re scrambling to figure out what the hell you’re doing with the baby you have today. The Lillian of this week has little in common with the Lillian of last week. What upsets her, how she sleeps, how much she eats, and a bunch of other stuff  changes all the time.

We had no idea we were doing with sleep when we got home from the hospital. I read a bunch of things (babycenter.com, books, the stupid pamphlet that came with our stupid baby care class) that said newborns naturally fall asleep for the night around 10 or 11pm. So I didn’t put her down for final sleep until then, at which point I was losing my mind, she was screaming her head off, and David would have to step in and rescue us. Sometimes that meant he was up all night with a screaming baby, while I felt like I was drowning in guilt and remorse for burdening him. This went on for about six weeks. It was not fun.

My friend Tiffany said in her blog (which is awesome, by the way) that the biggest piece of advice she would give pregnant women is burn all your baby books. And while we’ve gotten some good info from a few books, I agree with her. If I had paid closer attention to my own observations, I would have noticed that Lillian seemed a wee bit overstimulated if she was up past 9pm. Agitated, hiccuping, kind of crazed. We observed this, but we kept trying other things because those goddamned books and internet and whatever said that we shouldn’t put our kid down early. Even worse, some people, including the triage nurse at our pediatrician’s office said to keep the baby awake all day. (He also said to give her Pedialite before bed instead of nursing. WTF?!)

But David had read case studies in a book on sleep a friend got us and one couple had succeeded by putting their newborn down at 6pm. We tried it. It worked. It turns out the more sleep Lillian gets, the more she sleeps. This may not be true for all kids. Maybe a laid back baby needs a little more awake time during the day to sleep well at night, but I can tell you without reservation that my kid is not laid back. She is all up in everything and that means that after a while she gets frazzled and overstimulated and without our help she gets very, very unhappy.

So now we have a bedtime routine that starts around 7pm, and almost always ends with her happily asleep by 8 or 9. She sleeps a minimum of 5 hours, usually 6-8. This is because we stopped listening to other people and started listening to ourselves. Since we started our self-designed routine, we all get a reasonable amount of sleep most nights. Yay!

Of course we’re still struggling with all the directives from our pediatrician (who told us to stop swaddling her at 8 weeks – again WTF!), people who say use a pacifier, don’t use a pacifier, don’t nurse her to sleep, don’t rock her to sleep, let her cry it out, let her sleep in your bed, put her in her own room, AAAAAAGGGGHHH!

Basically, any time you screw with what’s working before it stops working, you’re asking for trouble. Sometimes my kid needs to nurse to go to sleep. Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she needs the swaddle to calm down and sleep, sometimes she doesn’t. She likes sucking her thumb and hand, she doesn’t like the pacifier. Why on earth would I ignore all these things she’s communicated to me very clearly because someone who doesn’t spend 24 hours a day with her 7 days a week told me to?

Good. Freaking. Question.

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