I started my parenting journey very fond of Attachment Parenting theory. In my starry-eyed optimism I hoped wearing my baby in a sling and letting her sleep next to me in bed would produce a well adjusted child. Having been a nervous, timid child I vowed I would make sure my daughter had no reason to be shy. Getting over shyness has been struggle for me, as it is for most shy adults. I need not have worried. My kids seem to have heaped personality from my husband’s side of the gene buffet. Or perhaps it is more nurture than nature. Either way, I am an introvert raising extroverts.
Rainbow Baby is a little young to call, but since she reaches out her hands for every stranger that smiles at her, I am putting my money on another outgoing, social butterfly.
My oldest seemed to do so well with the arrangement, transitioning out of our bed neatly after weaning, that why wouldn’t we do the same with our pipsqueak of a second born? Though full term, she started life little and I was scared not to feed her every time she stirred. She turned out to be one of those high need babies that cried unless she was being cuddled. Physical touch is her love language. She adorably snuggled me from the first week of life and was glued to my side. Until maybe last year. Night weaning was a nightmare. And getting her out of my bed was a war she was determined to win. Even when we forced her to transition to her bed she snuck back in almost every night. And when she did not sneak into our bed we found her crammed into the top bunk with her older sister. She finally began spending whole nights in her own bed when she found out she was going to be a big sister. At 10. 10 years old. A decade of me being smacked, kicked and crowded. She always slept on my side, not her dad’s.
So when we discovered we were going to have a third, we vowed to do things differently. Now, if you know me, you know I gotta have my sleep. And I have trouble falling asleep if I am awoken in the night. If breastfeeding did not provide a little oxytocin, I would never fall back asleep. Sometimes I try to rock Rainbow Baby back to sleep instead to feed her when I know she startled herself awake and is not really hungry in order to avoid training her to that she needs to be breastfed to fall asleep. I then have to endure wakefulness for a while until exhaustion takes over. People believe if you are tired enough you will simply fall asleep. Those people have normal cortisol levels. I am not one of them. That only happened to me in one period of my life. That was exhaustion like no other: Third year of law school, wedding planning, up nearly every night with my dying mom, trying to wade through the maze of cancer treatments, without any real hope of her recovery, taking care of my seven younger siblings, etc. That was the time I gave border patrol, who woke me from a few minutes of blessed sleep, the wrong answer. But that is a story for another day.
So in regular mind melting, up with a baby exhaustion, following a lot of life stress, my health began to fall apart after Sunshine Doll. I knew a family bed was not an option for me the third time around. I had read On Becoming Baby Wise with my oldest and knew that program was not for me. I do know friends that have used it successfully. However, I do not like the idea of such rigorous schedules and hard line parenting. It smacks of graceless legalism to me. I was loaned an excellent book by a friend who had walked a very similar journey and around baby six made some changes that brought some relief for her and sounder sleep for her baby. The book was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD.
|Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, 4th Edition: A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night’s Sleep – eBook|
By Marc Weissbluth / Ballantine Books
It was full of solid research and offered suggestions for several family styles, including family bed and attachment parenting style. For a shower gift my friends bought me a co-sleeper. If you have never seen one, it is a bassinet that comes to the level of the adult bed, with that side very low. It makes a safe and personal space for the baby that is an easy arm’s reach for the nursing mama. In fact this one is called the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. It was a wonderful gift that has provided me peace of mind and extra sleep. It was probably in the best interest of my co-op buddies to make sure I was rested enough to teach!
Rainbow baby will be five months old in a few days. She is cheery and well rested. She gets up fewer times than my other children in the night. She is even friendlier and happier than my first two. She does not have a hint of shyness. She is not a cuddle bug like Sunshine doll and seems to prefer her own sleeping space. We are both quite happy with the arrangement. I sleep better without feeling every wiggle next to me. She seems to feel the same. We are co-sleeping with the same access to nursing and looking forward to an earlier and easier transition to a big kid bed. I will keep you posted on that. I cannot honestly say whether this would have worked for my second born, but for my health’s sake I wish I had tried. As I am writing, I am listening to my sweet one year old nephew crying it out in his little bed in his parents’ room because he would rather be sleeping on top of their heads than go to bed on his own, in his bed. I well know their pain of having to set boundaries and having a high need baby that pushes back with all her little might. No one wants to give up a good gig. But a sleepy family is less patient, less productive and less healthy. I am proud of them for sticking it out and hope they have learned from our underestimation of our kid’s ability to keep the sleep status quo.
I am an old mom and I learned a new trick. And the sleep reward is so sweet.
By the way, the little guy is sound asleep now.