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Adventures in Independent Sleep

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When exactly was it that adult humans realized that the ultimate utopian dream is to sleep twelve or more hours a day without any interruptions, have your every want and need catered to, and have it all happen willingly and with a smile to boot.

Now that we adults are all on the same page, can someone please explain it to these yelling, screaming infants how lucky they are? I would kill to have someone bath, clothe and soothe me into delicious sleep frenzy. Instead all you see is incredible amounts of energy put into sobbing, screaming, blubbering and generally having an all-out meltdown when any sort of bed time is mentioned. 

I try to manage this by suggesting to my two year old that she is a big girl and big girls, like her, sleep in their own rooms on their own beds. On any given day there is a fifty percent chance that this works. The only sure fire way I know to calm her down is to suggest co-sleeping. This means saying goodbye to all other evening plans and lying down with her till she is asleep and then trying to (mostly unsuccessfully) shift her to her own bed. The whole exercise is then repeated for days till she is ready again to sleep by herself. This also sets me back a few weeks with my sleep training regimen

Before I was to be a first time mother, I spent a lot of time reading the opinions of leading industry sleep training experts. I read literature advocating attachment parenting styles of co-sleeping and also theories on independent sleep. They all made it sound so easy. If you do steps one, two, three then step four will naturally follow and all will be hunky dory. But in reality, well let’s just say my daughter must not have received her copy to read.

When my daughter was born, for the first three months of her life, I was a confused mess. And I have come to accept that there is no other way for a new mom to be with the copious amounts of well-meaning but sometimes conflicting information coming our way.

After a lot of deliberation, I decided I was going to move my daughter, when she was a baby, into a crib in her own room. This was so that there would be no real transition from our bed to hers, which can be challenging for a lot of parents.

I received a lot of flak for this from friends and family who subscribed to the attachment parenting coda of co-sleeping. For me it wasn’t that I didn’t want to co-sleep but the idea that I may suffocate her unintentionally, or not sleeping on an enclosed, flat surface would expose her to a higher probability of SIDS made it a no-op. But no one can really teach a new parent to relax and stop worrying that something horrible might happen any second and just relax.

The first night we decided to move the crib into our room so that it would ease her transition. I made sure the crib was free of all toys, had a fitted sheet on a firm mattress, no pillow, no padding and a woolen blanket with holes which even if pulled over the head was breathe-through.

For the first month, that I got her to sleep in the crib, I kept waking up every few hours paranoid that she had stopped breathing and checking on her just to be sure. At the end of the night I would so thoroughly exhaust myself doing this that I would just pick her up and put her in the bed next to me. However this would mean relegating dear dad to the floor, which didn’t suit him nearly as well. So we decided to just move the crib into the nursery, put in a video monitor and go cold turkey.

Needless to say I was waking up every few hours to look and listen to the monitor, and was being held back by dad from going to her room and getting her. Some mornings I’d find myself curled up on the nursery floor with a sheet for a blanket, freezing. Not a good place to sleep, especially post c-section.

So the first year went by with me fretting that she would wake up at night alone in her room scared and that would scar her for life. I worried that this world was still too new to her and she would get confused by the different stimuli at night. I worried my milk supply would lag if I slept away from my child. But most of all I lived in mortal fear of SIDS and thought I needed to be awake and right there to jolt her to awakeness if she ever stopped breathing.

What amazes me now is how much information is out there to just scare the living daylights out of new parents and feed our innate fear of the unknown. Thankfully dear dad was there to balance out my neurosis and it’s largely due to his insistence (driven in large part by having to sleep on the floor) that we were able to move my daughter into her own room when she was three months old.

What this has meant for us, the parents, is an incredible dose of sanity from having a few baby free hours to ourselves. It has also made my daughter a much better sleeper as without our noises and getting up for water or bathroom at night she has less disturbed sleep. And something about not being in close proximity to her parents also had her less anxious and has her actually sleeping six, sometimes seven hours at a stretch through those early months.

After that it was easy sailing. Well except when she gets sick of course. Then all rules are out the window as the team unites to put the big bad owies to rest instead.

Ciao Bella!

Twinkle Of My Eye


 Photograph credit: Lovelornpoets; Flickr.com





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Contributed by Farah

Farah is the author of the children's book 'The Lonely Apple', and the proud mother of a beautiful two and half year old daughter. Along with managing her career as a software engineer, she tries her best to be a hands on mother with varying degrees of success - keeping up with a curious toddler is never without its challenges! She is in the process of writing her next children's book which will be a sequel to 'The Lonely Apple', which is available on www.Amazon.com.

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