I started teaching Em how to sleep (or nap, rather) a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t follow a specific method but not because I didn’t want to. It’s because I’m too stubborn (or busy?) to read a 400 page book about how to get my baby to sleep. Publishers of the world: do you really think new parents have time to read incredibly wordy books? And if they do have time, do you really think they want to spend the free time they do have reading about sleep? Doing it maybe, but reading about it?
Maybe it’s just me. But the last thing I want to do whenever I discover a few minutes of spare time is read about how to get my child to sleep in 400 short pages. And believe me I see the irony in this. Because most of the time I have free time is whenever Em is asleep and usually the hours leading up to said chunk of free time are filled with frustration because I couldn’t get my child to sleep.
But the moment he falls asleep, I run for the refrigerator, the shower, or the cleaning supplies. I most certainly do not sit down and pick up a book about how to get my baby to sleep more. Because that would make sense and I don’t make sense. And I certainly don’t read directions. I’ve never read directions and I don’t always make sense.
But this post will hopefully make some sense.
Instead of reading a long book about how to get my son to sleep (like I should have done) I spent 6 months reading paragraphs here and there (sometimes accidentally); listening to friends (and sometimes eavesdropping on conversations of strangers); observing the specie firsthand (like Dian Fossey only my subject is my son and not a gorilla baby. Although, I bet they are similar); and of course reading stuff on the Internet (not something I recommend).
What did I end up with? So much information went into my head, I thought I had too many pieces of gibberish equalling information overload—like whenever you mix every color together with good intentions and end up with something resembling the inside of a baby diaper.
At first I thought I was going to end up with a fountain of misinformation. But I surprised myself. I took all the information, added a little something called “intuition” and I ended up with something that looked OK.
My potpourri of information came out tasting pretty OK.
What good is information if you can’t pass it along to help and/or welcome critique? And so for what it’s wroth, here’s my recipe for getting my son to sleep better (or at all).
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
(Consider these items necessary, as one might need a spoon for stirring or a bowl for mixing.)
1). ROUTINE ROUTINE ROUTINE!—It’s true. Postpone trips to the store, vacations, and life. Postpone it all. If you want to teach your child how to sleep better, you simply have to make sure you’re around at the times you want him or her to nap. Make a schedule. Stick to it.
2). FAMILIARITY—This could technically go under routine, I guess. But I think it’s different. Routine is more about time and how you react the moment you realize your baby needs to nap or go to sleep for the night. Familiarity on the other hand has a lot to do with where you do this and what they are given when you do it. If you sing “Believe It Or Not” from The Greatest American Hero, then continue to do so. If you offer a bottle every time they go down, continue to give them something to drink.
3). PATIENCE—Said Woman, take it slow. It’ll work itself out fine.
I ain’t no doctor. I ain’t no nurse. Hell, I ain’t barely even a mother, but I bet that if you use all three of the items listed above—no matter what ingredients you use—I reckon it will work.
The moment I see Em rub his eyes or grow increasingly more frustrated for no apparent reason, it’s time. I grab a bottle of milk, my book (or computer), his orange pillow, the monkey, and a pacifier. I put him in his crib on his back and give him the bottle, placing the pacifier next to him (or in his hand). I feed him some milk and place the pillow next to his head.
Then I wait with him.
That’s all I do. Wait. My presence is there only to reassure him that everything is gonna be OK. I sit in a rocking chair near his bed. I am there if he needs me.
The only rule I have is no matter how fussy he gets, no matter how much he cries, I do not pick him up until he has napped. I find other ways to get him to relax. I follow the “no pick-up” rule strictly.
The first few days were difficult. He fussed a lot and I had to console him several times. The whole ordeal lasted well over an hour and half. It could have been two hours. I don’t know.
Day three came around and that time got shorter. He was getting used to the fact that crib equals sleep and sleep equals play with mommy, books and happiness. I think by day four or five I had him asleep within an hour.
And then that time got even shorter. It was taking him about 45 minutes to fall asleep. I was still sitting back there with him, but I was quietly reading or writing the whole time.
On Saturday, Em fell asleep the moment his head hit his pillow. I was shocked as was Tobyjoe. Em slept for one and a half hours that day without making a peep. And that was nap two! Nap one was an hour long.
It became abundantly clear to me on Saturday, that our homemade, half-assed method was working!
I am writing this from a silent apartment. The soft hum of the air conditioner in the bedroom can be heard over the baby monitor. My son is taking his second nap for the day, sleeping soundly after 25 minutes in his crib.
He didn’t even fuss.
I realize that this feeling of elation can (and probably will) fall away as quickly as it grew, but I’m going to enjoy it for now. It feels pretty good to learn that my son knows how to sleep for longer than 30 minutes at a time. It feels pretty good knowing that this week (and this week alone) I feel as though my hard work has finally paid off; I succeeded at something extraordinarily positive.
Dare I say this?
I feel oddly powerful right now. I know that will probably come crashing down tomorrow, crumble in place around me, but right now I feel the strength of a thousand mothers and I want to give you some because I can and I owe you and you’re awesome.