Monday, January 5, 2015

Parenting: Sleep

Sleeping baby
I couldn't resist this old photo of Elise.

Recently my friend Anne, a new mother, posted an article on whether or not to let children cry it out with regard to the issue of sleep. I read through the article which was very much against letting young children cry it out. The author went through a short phase where she tried the cry it out method and she felt as though she had done irreparable damage to her son. She felt there was something quite wrong with letting a child cry it out.

The article led me to think about the book I read while waiting for Elise to be born, Bringing Up Bebe. The book was based on an American woman's experiences raising children in France: specifically the differences in parenting styles. She felt that the French were onto something, with very young babies learning to sleep through the night. They would let them cry it out. *She also talked about how French parents get their children to eat like adults among other things.

The reason this is on my mind right now is because Eric and I are at the end of a rather long chapter in our parenting adventure. Unlike the authors of the two articles I believe that each family should assess and employ the methods that work best for their situation and I don't think that there is a one size fits all approach. I have had only two children and my experience does not cover the scope required to make a broad proclamation on the subject. I can however, share with you what we have done and how it has impacted us as we parent.

The first night we brought Cordelia home from the hospital we were utterly exhausted. I had slept very little in over forty eight hours. I had just given birth AND I had lost enough blood that I was pretty darn anemic. Needless to say I was past the point of being tired. I was at a point of exhaustion where I could barely even think a thought, any thought. Eric was also very tired as he had been awake through much of that process. So we were thrilled when we swaddled our little baby and laid her sleeping peacefully in her crib, which we had in our room. We crawled into bed, ready to pass out...when she started crying. We tried everything, but that little girl wanted to be held and no wonder as she had been held in a warm and comfy environment until birth.  Eventually I ended up propped in the most uncomfortable position, one that I felt couldn't allow her to flop, slip, suffocate, drop, etc. and I closed my eyes and drifted off. Never-mind the killer kink in my neck or the painful dead arms. I just needed sleep. We tried several different techniques with that child, but was most effective was when she was a bit older and I felt we could safely co-sleep with her. It was only then that sleep came to me. Over the course of time we established routines that were pretty nutty and looking back I smile at those poor desperate parents.

With Elise we were a bit more prepared. When she was first born we used a little rocker that I kept next to my side of the bed. She co-slept when she was a bit bigger and then we started a long transition to her own bed. First it was just about getting her to fall asleep in her toddler bed. When that was under control we started to lengthen the amount of time she would spend in there, but eventually she would end up in our bed sometime before morning and that was fine for a while. Recently though it was time to finish the process.

Personally I just cannot let my children cry it out, it just goes against every instinct that I possess. I want my children to know that their parents will always come when they need them, that is just how it is for Eric and I. With that said, we also want to foster independence---and we want a little space too. So the gradual transition for us was about telling Elise that she too would be spending the night in her own bed. She was not happy at first. She woke up a lot, crying, for a few days. I would give it just a moment to see if she would be able to calm herself, but not so long that she felt panic, or woke her sister. I would wander in and give her a little comfort, sitting with her until she drifted off. Then, she started waking up less and feeling less panic when she did wake. Now, we are in a good space. She sleeps the night in her room and if she does wake she calls quietly to me and asks to go to the bathroom, get a drink, or just have a quick snuggle. Then she goes back to sleep and I go back to my bed and sleep too.  Now, most mornings start with the girls climbing to snuggle in bed and that is a great way to start the day, after a night with everyone in their own bed.

I guess the reason I am putting this out there is to offer a little middle ground. We did do some co-sleeping, near sleeping, etc....and we didn't let our kids cry it out. We also didn't let our kids take over and create a family bed. We don't have kids who are unable to put themselves to sleep or comfort themselves, but we also have kids who know that their parents will always be there. I have no idea what worked for you and I am not offering a judgment. I am simply sharing the process that we stumbled upon. So , if you are looking for ideas, here is another. And that's my two cents.

1 comment:

Anne Jezek said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm pretty unprepared for all of this, I just know I can't do the cry it out method. I'm going with the "this is working and we're all happy" method to parenting/sleeping/eating. ;)
P.S. every time I check the "I'm not a robot" button to post a comment I hear "I'm not a robot" in a robot voice in my head.

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