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Monday, November 03, 2008

Need a Crash Course on Sleep

For a long time, I used to just think that some people were *lucky*. You know, they had kids that napped well. Napped for long periods. Napped whenever and wherever. Napped twice a day. Napped until they were four. And it's really not that out-of-the-ordinary, I don't think, because I personally know a number of mothers with children such as this.

But my university education is proving worthwhile and I'm now learning/figuring out that the inability of my children to nap well is likely my own fault. I mean, there is no statistical possibility that a woman would have THREE children who all give up their second nap by nine months old, right? That's right. All three Things stopped napping twice a day - once in the morning and once in the afternoon - at least three months before their first birthday.

Then, to make matters worse, Thing 1 gave up his afternoon nap shortly after he turned two. That saddened me to no end, because I had a baby at home at the time, and desperately needed the break that used to be Thing 1's nap time. As any sane mother would, I strictly enforced "quiet time" in lieu of a nap, but as the months wore on quiet time's length shrank. And shrank further. Until I was lucky to get 15 minutes of him staying in his room . . . not even being quiet.

Thing 2 gave up his afternoon nap right around the time he started climbing out his crib. Around his second birthday - and before this time he teased us with a couple months of napping only two or three times a week. Before I knew it, I had a three year old and a two year old - both not napping in the afternoon. By this time, as life would have it, I was pregnant with Thing 3 and reading all about Witchcraft so I could cast a spell on the little fetus to ensure she would nap every single day until she got her driver's license.

And here we are with Thing 3 just past nine months and only napping once a day. I try vigorously to ensure she naps between 12:30 and 3:00 p.m. - from when we return from the dreaded bus stop up until the time we need to return to said bus stop.

Any parent will be bobbing their head up and down in agreement when I state that it's all about the sleep when you have kids. How much, when, how, where, etc. I think my sister thought I was nuts when Thing 2 was a newborn and I was strictly religious about Thing 1's naps . . . until she herself became a mother of - you got it, CHILDREN who need to nap. Your life revolves around the naps, for a couple of valid reasons. Firstly, you need the break. Whether you clean and tidy, cook, read a magazine, have a shower or DO NOTHING - as a mother you with no uncertainly need the break. But secondly, and sometimes more crucial than the break, is the crazy/nasty little person your child can become if he/she has not had enough sleep. Don't tell me you haven't looked at the clock, heard a peep from the crib, and panicked, realizing the baby needs two hours sleep, and not thirty minutes - and this just won't do because you know you are in for an afternoon of HELL if they wake up early??

So, I mostly joke about it because I have to. Otherwise, what would I do? Feel anger and resentment towards my mommy friends chillin' out in the afternoons while their little one(s) sleep? Not really an option . . .

I'm also finding myself in a real bind lately because I just don't know how to get my kids to sleep. I need a rule book. I want someone to tell me what to do - and I want it to be easy. Because, I sort of feel like I've earned it.

Right now - and this wasn't always the case, but it is as of late - Thing 3 needs to be nursed to fall asleep. So many of the experts recommend this . . . and what a farce. A joke. Did it really take me three children to figure out that if you nurse a baby to sleep for long enough, that is the only way she will be able to fall asleep? We went through this with Thing 2 already. I nursed him to sleep most nights until he was one. We then had to endure a brief stint of "let him cry it out" because I simply couldn't handle it anymore. I'm only human. I needed the ability to be free in the evenings if I wanted to be, and felt I had a right to a little time on my own at bedtime. Time I felt of which I had been robbed each afternoon because I no longer had a napping older son. I don't remember it lasting all that long, or being all that traumatic, but I do remember the pain and heartache it caused me listening to my little one cry out for his mommy before he fell asleep.

And here we go again. Thing 3's naps are not always at a consistent time because she often falls asleep when I nurse her - and then I place her in her crib (if we are home). I nurse her to sleep every single night (because she still will not take a bottle, or a sippy cup) and then lay her in her crib. The next added bonus of parenting fun is the fact that she is now waking up after I lay her in the crib - and some nights staying up for another hour or two.

I just can't take it. I can't do it. I need that time in the evening to write my blog, read, watch TV, make cards or do whatever I need to keep me sane. I absolutely love breastfeeding, I nursed Thing 1 and 2 for at least a year each and I assume I will do the same with Thing 3. But I can't stand the feeling of being shackled to my baby forever, especially at nap and bed time. I feel like I'm doing a million things wrong, and the fifty parenting books on my book shelf aren't giving me any of the answers I need.

How do you get your kids to sleep? Do you have consistent nap times and how do you enforce them?


Donna M said...

I feel your pain and empathize with you. However, I am now going to bed to sleep and perhaps doze in the morning until 9 o'clock! I am a grandmother and have earned the right to do that!

Larissa said...

I really feel you Shannon! At 9 months I tried to let Jayla cry it out cause she had the same habit T3 has. It was really hard, and I didn't stick to it. I wasn't consistent. I was weak.
If you're going to do it, to do it quickly, and do it right. Let her cry it out the first time and you have to keep it up the next time, and the time after. If you sway at al in the first few days, all your hard work is lost instantly!
Good luck. I have no magic sleep dust.

Lara said...

We fought with Kiernan to sleep until he was about 14 months old. I nursed him to sleep every night and it was taking longer and longer. We had to wait until he was DEAD asleep (not just lightly asleep) to put him down or else it would start all over. So we started sleep training and it took a couple of weeks as we worked through pick up put down to finally just cry it out. And now... he has one solid 2 hour nap every afternoon, he sleeps through the night pretty consistently, and he only wants to fall asleep in his crib by himself. Hurray! It worked really well for us and I don't think I'll be waiting as long with the next baby to try this if I start to feel at my wits end. Good luck - I know it sucks!

tiarastantrums said...

I am NOT asleep Nazi - I wish I was - but I am so unsuccessful with sleep and kids!!!!!!! We have specific bed times - but I have to lay with each of my kids to get them to fall asleep - REALLY bad habit to get into!

Unknown said...

Oh, honey, I feel your pain.

The only way Isabella would sleep up until almost a year? In my arms. At first it was no big deal, right? Until it turned into that's the only way she would sleep. I had tried the cry it out method and I couldn't do it. Until a couple of months ago. I did it. I stuck with it. And in a few short days? She could fall asleep. On her own.

I hope you find a method that works for you, hon. It's so hard to not get that much deserved break :( (((hugs)))

Andrea@Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

I wish I had magic answers for you. The sleep thing is something I struggled with specifically with Eve. I was clueless. At 10 months she wasn't going to sleep on her own, I was rocking, holding, nursing, anything to get her to sleep. And then she'd wake up shortly after I laid her down. I was heavy on the crazy at that dark point in my life!

I went home to visit my parents around that time; the first night I ended up sobbing on the couch because I just COULDN'T TAKE IT. My mom took Eve, told me to go to my room, shut the door, cover my head with a pillow, and go to sleep.

Mom let Eve cry for about half an hour, going in every ten minutes to pat her back. After the half an hour cry Eve fell asleep and that was pretty much it. The next night she cried for ten minutes and after that it was smooth sailing.

With the other two I started teaching them to sleep on their own at about two months. I needed to keep some semblance of sanity.

This sleep issue is REALLY tough. And sometimes it seriously sucks.
I will be thinking of you and sending you LOTS of good sleeping thoughts tonight.


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain on this one. A good nap time makes a huge difference in my day.

As I write this my almost five year old is napping and my two year old is by my side eating candy.

Why? I wish I knew.

I nursed both of them to sleep (one for 15 months and one for 20); I do most of the recommended stuff like a bedtime routine and an early bedtime. I generally go to them when they cry, but have on occasion let them cry when it seemed best for all involved. Yet one is a big napper and one just isn’t.

I did find the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child book helpful for practical tips, but I think some kids do just need more sleep than others. Wish I had a better answer, but like I said, I feel your pain!

Heather @ Cancer Mommy said...

Sleep? What the hell is that? At ouur house I get one to sleep and the other is up! Kyler doesn't do naps anymore either. He does have a rest time (kind of)!

As for the breastfeeding, please don't stop. Take it from a mommy that had to quit way to early, nurse her until she is 5:) I will live through you:)

4funboys said...

My first was SO easy... (still is)... # 2 pretty good too. They were good nappers... which was and is- very important because I HAVE to have my sleep!

Then #3 came along and I thought I was going to DIE trying to do everything "by the book"! He never slept more than 20 minutes... EVER... and that was only when was still small enough to sit in his carseat on the dryer. (he was born in July...) We bought 3 dryers before he turned 18 months... we took him to more doctors and specialist than I can count.

He would wake up my 1 and 2 year old... and then #4 came along and ... I finally got smart and threw out the ^(*&^(&% books! For every "expert opinion" on sleeping, eating, discipline can find an opposing "expert opinion"

All that babbling to say... you are the only "expert" on your kid--so do what you need to do, guilt free!

If the kid would sleep on a dryer... or standing on his head _SO BE IT!!! We needed peace... mommy needed sleep.

At 8... he is still the last to bed, the first to wake up (by at least 2 or 3 hours on both ends) ... and he has more energy than 10 boys! It's the same energy that makes him an all star, and over achiever at school.

The good news... from a mommy who loves her sleep... my boys are the "experts" now. They know life with a well rested mommy... is a good one! It took me 5 years to teach them that, but I figure it was a 20 investment!

Your turn is coming... and it last a much longer time than the sleepless turn you're taking now!

best wishes...

amanda said...

honestly the only thing that ever helps me with this whole sleep thing is knowing i am not alone.

i know that doesn't help in the advice department. but it sometimes is the only way i deal with it!

every kid is sooo different - i only wish there was a true sleep guide!!

thinking of you...

dougnlarry said...

I must be doing something wrong then too b/c both of my kids stopped napping around their second birthdays.

Leah sleeps great for you at night, right? So it's a trade off. You get great night sleep and less day sleep.

dougnlarry said...

I must be doing something wrong then too b/c both of my kids stopped napping around their second birthdays.

Leah sleeps great for you at night, right? So it's a trade off. You get great night sleep and less day sleep.

Landerson said...

Hey I can lend you my Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child book when you're here. I swear, it's my bible!

Sus said...

Oh, I'm sorry Shannon. Nothing looks good from from that groggy place where you have to fight hand tooth and nail for every second you have for yourself. We've gone through bouts of this - all stages that were great or horrible, alternately. The only advice I have is this, the very best parenting advice I ever got (or up there, anyway): If your kids are being horrible, don't worry, it will change in a few weeks. If your kids are being wonderful, don't get cocky, it will change in a few weeks. Good luck!

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