Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I think it's safe to tell you now

We all know that parents of babies are preoccupied with sleep. “Should I be nursing her to sleep?” “I can’t get him to nap.” “I have to sing 47 versus of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star while holding her with her face smooshed into my neck, but then she’s good for at least two hours." Sleep sleep sleep. It’s all we think about. Or talk about. We’d dream about it, but we can’t because we don’t ever get any sleep.

Except… Have you ever heard of those babies? The ones that go to sleep easily and then stay asleep for a long time? And sleep through the night at two months? I always thought those babies were mythical, but then I got one. It is safe for me to tell you this without invoking the wrath of the sleep gods because she stopped doing it, but Ann Marie started sleeping through the night at something like two months old. Note: She will be five months old next week, but I can’t even remember exactly when it started it was so long ago. That’s right, my five-month-old baby has reliably slept through the night for the past three months.

Of course, everyone knows that “through the night” means different things to parents of babies, so you’re probably thinking that I mean Ann Marie would wake for her last feeding at 10:00 or 11:00pm and then not again for five or six or – if I’m super lucky – seven hours.

Yeah. Twelve. She would sleep for twelve straight hours. I would nurse her around 6:30pm and put her in her bed around 7:00 or 7:30. And she would wake up at 7:00 or 7:30 the next morning.

I KNOW.

It started slowly; at first, I would nurse her in the living room and hold her while we watched TV and then put her down when we were ready to go to bed. And then she started staying asleep. And then I started to put her down sooner so I could get some stuff done. And the next thing you know, I was sitting at the kitchen table in the morning waiting for her to wake up while eyeing the breast pump. Things were so good that one night she woke up once, and Andrew actually complained. And then I made fun of him and he recalled himself, but that’s where we were. We were in a place where our two-year-old was far more likely to wake us up in the night than our three-month-old.

I had to go to a meeting when she was just three months old, and it didn’t go well for Andrew – she wouldn’t take a bottle – but I had another meeting about two weeks later and he put her down in her bed, swaddled with a pacifier, looking at her mobile, while he read Nora a bedtime story. Ann Marie fell asleep like that and then slept for twelve hours. Nora and Jack have slept for twelve hours straight pretty much never. They're both more 11-hour kids.

Naturally, I credit all of this to our superior baby-rearing skills. Ann Marie slept through the night so young because we have worked so hard on recognizing her sleep cues and instituting a bedtime routine and firmly putting her down drowsy-but-awake and – HAHAHAHAHAHA! No. Clearly all credit goes to her being a magic baby. There is no other explanation. I don’t even have a routine! I read her a book for the first time just tonight! Well, I guess the routine is “swaddled and nursing” but I wasn’t even necessarily nursing her in the same place every night. Sometimes I sat on the couch, sometimes on the bed, and sometimes in the rocking chair. A sort-of routine has since developed, but it’s been happening gradually. No, my sleep-training techniques can be summarized thusly: Let the baby sleep wherever, whenever she wants to. Hold her if need be. Nurse her if she wants. Swaddle. Mostly don’t worry about it.

I have of course been terrified to talk about all this lest it immediately end, but she’s been back to waking up one or two times a night like a normal baby, so I think it’s safe. Actually, I think I can hear her right now, so I’ll end things here . Perhaps I have incurred the wrath of the sleep gods after all, and tonight I will be up all night. But even if that happens, man, these first few months have been glorious. If someone could guarantee me a magic baby every time, I would have twenty.

Parenting on a full nights’ sleep: I recommend it.

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