Friday, December 21, 2012

Baby Sleep Part I: Preconceived Notions

Me:“I’m tired of having a tired baby”
Husband: “I’m tired of having a tired wife due to a tired baby”
~One of many sleep related text messages to my Husband

I had a pretty good idea how I would handle my babies sleep before he got here.  I knew it would be challenging.  I knew I would be sleep deprived for some time no matter how good of a sleeper he was or what I did.  But I had a general plan and went into this with the mindset that I needed to be flexible and just do whatever it took to get everyone in our household the most sleep possible.  That’s the most important thing. 

Sleep deprivation for Moms can cause or escalate postpartum depression.  It can cause the mother to have trouble bonding with their baby.   It extends the recovery time. It can cause tension in the marriage.  It weakens the immune system.  It is a big problem. 

Sleep deprivation for babies is no better.  It impacts their attention span, focus, memory, emotional development.  A sleep deprived baby is unable grow and learn the way they should.  Did you know that human growth hormone is mostly released during sleep?  Babies need to do a lot of growing! 

Sleep is so, so, so important to overall health and wellbeing and it’s something that I knew I needed to take very seriously.

I really believed my baby would sleep best close to me or in my arms.  Touch is a basic human need just as important as food and water.  We literally cannot survive without it.  It is super important for a young babies developing brain. I had every intention of holding my son as much as possible.

So we set up a pack n’ play in our living room and we got a co-sleeper for our bedroom and I just planned to always either hold him while he slept, or put him down wherever I was.  I figured that the most important thing for him to sleep well was to be close to me.

I thought I could go about my business when I was ready and just let him fall asleep in the car if he needed or in our baby sling/wrap while I was out and about.  If he seemed tired I would nurse him or walk with him or whatever he needed to help him fall asleep and then just keep him close to me.  He would surly get the naps and rest he needed through the day in this way. 

I planned to make no special effort to keep the noise level down while he slept.  That way he would be used to it and not be a light sleeper.  I was not going to be one of those mommas who tiptoed around the house and hushed everyone because ‘the baby is seeping’.  So I would watch TV while he slept, talk on the phone, run the vacuum, and just do whatever I was doing. 

At night he would sleep in his co-sleeper right next to me and if he needed some extra snuggles or for feedings I would just pull him into bed with me (after taking care of some safety concerns of course).

Basically I just figured the sleep thing would all work out as long as I was flexible and paid attention to my babies ques. I guess I figured if I could just do whatever it took to get through the inevitably difficult first few months then he would eventually just become an easy good sleeper all on his own.

Looking back this almost seems silly.  This all works fine for a newborn, but around 3 months or so (12 weeks pretty much on the dot at least for my son, looking back I can spot it) babies change a lot.   Their sleep takes on a pattern and becomes much more like an adults.  It becomes a lot harder to just fall asleep wherever and whenever.  They need a bit more structure.  Some more than others.  I realize now that being close to Mom only goes so far.

I recently read a baby sleep article about nap schedules.  Basically the point of the article is that there are advantages and disadvantages to having a firm schedule and to being more flexible.  Your personality will probably be the deciding factor in what approach you take or attempt to take.  Your babies personality will be the deciding factor in rather it is a success or failure.

I guess you can tell what my personality is and what approach I chose to take.  Turns out my baby is not as easy going as I am, at least not when it comes to sleep. 

So the result of my attempts: Epic Failure!

It has been a real struggle for sure. It has taken me some time to figure out that my preconceived notions about how best to handle sleep were not working, why, and what to do about it to help my little man get the sleep he deserves.  

Stay tuned for Part II: Baby Sleep in Real Life

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