Sunday, April 06, 2008

Thought I'd Dropped Off the Planet's Face?

Still here. Still breathing.

I really have missed this.

I'm in the middle of one of the toughest parts of parenting yet (and, of course, a controversial part, wouldn't you know it?): sleep training. Are you up for my saga? I promise to give you the Reader's Digest version.

The easiest thing to do with a newborn, in my not-vast experience, is nurse him to sleep. It was a no-brainer. Mom is totally exhausted; nursing lulls baby to sleep like a charm; baby sleeps for infinitesimal amount of time; Mom is thankful for this snippet of slumber. Plus, baby needs to eat and all that, so the waking up and feeding stuff is necessary for a nursing mother who is unable to pump.

Then the baby starts getting older. Like, say, 14 months old.

In short, over the past several months I have found myself with a growing sleep dilemma that matches my burgeoning sleep debt. Noah wakes up in the middle of the night, like a newborn (read: a bunch of times), and I dutifully rush to his side and nurse him back to sleep. At first, and for a long time, I blamed the wakings on teething. Noah got eight teeth before turning 1, and they were hard on him. Some people suggested letting him cry, but I didn't feel like I could handle it emotionally.

Then a couple of things happened.

I read Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child about the same time that I hit an emotional and physical wall. I was completely, utterly exhausted from 14 months of fragmented sleep. Ryan and I had a friend over for lunch, and in the middle of preparing it, I started crying. I could not control myself because I was so dern tired.

It dawned on me that
A) it's not supposed to be like this. How would anyone get anything done, have more kids, or even have a surviving marriage?

B) I am not doing Noah any favors by encouraging and aiding his fragmented sleep. I've helped create a situation where he is unable to fall asleep without my assistance.


I looked at my options (Weissbluth presents several alternatives, and I read about a few others, too) and considered Noah's personality. He's bright, fun, social, playful...and extremely (EXTREMELY) tenacious. The boy knows what he wants and will fight hard for it.

We'll see how he does with the method I chose: hard-core extinction. Extinction means that we let him cry some. Yeah, it stinks. But according to theory and anecdote, it stinks short-term. At this point, I want the most effective and rapid solution, and this is supposed to be it. Noah has to start to understand that Mommy can't come every five seconds overnight. He has to learn to soothe himself back to sleep, just like every human does several times a night.

I realized we'd have to bite a bullet now or leave a much older Noah to address a sleep disorder. No thanks. I kept waiting for the problem to disappear, but instead, it was getting worse. I have to help Noah, and myself, right now.

I can't wait for this short, intense period to be over, though.

But let's look at a positive aspect: I've recovered some time to blog. And do dishes, and laundry, and pay bills, and post trillions of pictures on Snapfish.