The Truth About Sleep

From day one I decided that I wanted to be an on demand parent. Which was one large part of the heart break surrounding Oliver's one night stay in NICU, for that one long sleepless night, I was unable to promptly and lovingly care for my son's needs as they came up.

On demand parenting is a phrase I coined myself, some call it attachment parenting, some call it baby lead parenting, others who don't know any better call it spoiling. The idea is that when my baby is hungry I will feed him, when he is tired he can sleep, and when he is fussing I will comfort him without ever letting him cry longer than it takes me to pick him up and put him to the breast to suckle. . . Cause that's basically my cure for all of the above mentioned.

But as it turns out, just letting him sleep when he falls asleep and be awake when he wants to be awake is really not a good rhythm to get into after the first few months of your baby's life. Why? Because after the first few months babies simply loose the ability to just fall asleep when their body is tired because; OMG! Look at all these shiny new shiny things in this shiny new world and wow do these toes ever taste good, and hey mom, did you know that if I put my lips together like this and blow my mouth can make the same sound my butt does when I poop?

What I have learned in the last week is that after the first couple of months babies hand the responsibility of sleep over to us, and it is our job to make sure they get it. As it turns out, a 4 month old baby needs about 4-6 hours of naps a day, preferably spaced out between 3 or 4 naps, because in order for a nap to be a restful and restorative nap it must be at least one hour long.

So why was my 4 month old baby playing and fussing and kicking and nursing and playing until almost 3 am most nights?

Not because he was napping too much like I was inclined to think, what with his 8 cat naps a day, but because he wasn't getting enough of the right kind of naps and was therefore incredibly over tired by the time I tried to settle him to bed around 10 or so.

The solution: get up earlier, nap regularly when baby shows signs of tiredness like yawning, zoning, or whining, and get to bed at an earlier hour to avoid over stimulation. Because over stimulation is kind of like this:

Hey mom and dad, check this out! When I kick this toy it lights up and plays me a song! Isn't that great! And look, over here is this shiny glass thing with that cute little baby in it, look at how much hair that baby has! This is great I think I will smile and laugh! But wait a second, now that I am smiling and laughing I am starting to think that those lights and songs and that other baby are all kind of scary, and I think I've changed my mind, I think I might cry instead! just let my kick it again to make sure. . . Yeah that's kind of fun but I think I am gonna cry anyways, ya know for good measure.

I was able to turn our sleeping troubles right around in a single day by realizing this one fact.

Babies need sleep. They need us to create a dark quiet environment where they can sleep, and it's our job to help them find a rhythm and learn to sleep well by cuddling, singing, nursing and otherwise relaxing our babies into sleep at regular intervals until they get the hang of it again. It doesn't just happen on its own.

So we have the tools we need to work towards sleeping through the night. . . Next stop, sleeping in his own bed.

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