Heid: The quest for sleep

johns mom works by Jess Heid

johns mom works
by Jess Heid

Both of my boys have been relatively easy babies – no real issues with reflux or colic or any of the “tough baby” problems, they slept well early on, they’ve been cheerful and lowkey and easy to take with us everywhere we go. They’re babies, of course, so they do cry and poop and wake up at inconvenient times. But as far as babies go, mine have been a dream. (Three and four seem to be not so easy, but then, it couldn’t stay that way forever, right?)

But Charlie seems to be following in big brother’s footsteps in one particular challenge: the ten month sleep regression.

From what I understand, this is a pretty normal developmental stage. I don’t pretend to be an expert on baby development, but I think it has something to do with how fast they’re growing and how many things they’re learning all at one time. Suddenly, once-awesome sleepers wake like newborns every couple of hours throughout the night.

Needless to say, this is a challenge to the parents.

With John, we chose a modified cry it out method, allowing him to cry for brief spells before I would go in and comfort him briefly, then repeat in ever-lengthening intervals for several nights until he slept through the night again. It was relatively painless, and took only three nights before we were peaceful sleepers again.

So why wouldn’t I reuse a formula that worked? Because it seems our parenting philosophy (in as much as we’re sophisticated enough to have one!) has shifted in the intervening years.

I’m no longer so sure that letting such a young human cry it out is the way to go. I believe now that when a baby cries, it is because he needs something – and just because that need is just to snuggle or be held rather than to eat or be changed doesn’t negate the importance of assuring him that those needs will be met.

But at the same time, I am struggling to balance the fact that sometimes babies just fuss in their sleep. So how do I know when to respond, versus when to let him settle himself? Several times recently I’ve gone to his bedside to discover that he was asleep until I walked in, and then we were awake for 35 minutes getting settled back to bed

So each noise is a judgment call. Is that a cry, or just a fuss? Is he awake or merely wiggling back to sleep? How long do I wait to see if the fusses turn into full-fledged cries?

And I have no idea. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I am TOTALLY making this up as I go along.

But if you see me in the coming weeks with bags under my eyes, don’t mention them please. Remind me that this too shall pass and we’ll have a period of uninterrupted sleep … and we won’t discuss that after a year or two, age three will come along with its middle-of-the-night glasses of water and requests for “one more story.”

Filed in: Opinion

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