On sleeping

There never was a
Child so lovely but his
Mother was glad to see him asleep.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Since the birth of my first child, sleep is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about. Sleep for my babies. Sleep for my toddler. Sleep for the child who thinks she is a big girl. And sleep for the tired mama.

Looking back, I sure wish I knew in those early days what I know now. The knowledge that you can put a baby in bed while she is still awake somehow escaped me in my first months of being a mother. I thought babies had to be held and rocked to sleep. Consequently, my baby and myself were set up for a rough sleeping situation, and many months of brief 30 minute naps.

I have read quite a few parenting books on the subject of sleep, and found some helpful tidbits of information in all of them (like The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, or Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg). But the most helpful book by far has been Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth.

Dr. Weissbluth’s book is very thorough. Beginning with a discussion of healthy sleep and its importance, he covers sleep problems and solutions from birth all the way through to adolescence. While I haven’t followed his instructions religiously, I keep it handy on my bookshelf and find myself referring to it every few months.

A year ago, the Ant Bug was protesting the arrival of her baby sister by refusing to stay in her room at bedtime. Dr. Weissbluth’s solution was to establish a set of sleep rules. The Ant Bug and I decorated a poster (we made a big deal out of it with color and stickers) and wrote down the sleep rules:

At bedtime we…
1. Stay in bed.
2. Close our eyes.
3. Stay very quiet.
4. Go to sleep.

With the right amount of motivation (yes, we did provide candy), she learned to stay in her bed and go to sleep. The poster is still on the wall for those occasions when she wants to test the limits, but now we have a plan that works.

The book has been a great coach for flowing with the changing sleep needs of the B. Everytime sleep has become an issue with her, I’ve found the exact problem and solution described in the book. I guess she must be a textbook baby. Recently we’ve been struggling a bit as she is making the transition from two naps a day down to one. On Sunday I opened the book and found a plan to get us through the transition time when one nap is not enough and two are nearly impossible. This week has been much better.

I also have to give a little link love to The Lazy Organizer. She posted her sleep plan in great detail, and it looks like a good one to me. Next time around, I’ll be incorporating some of her ideas into my sleep plan.

Will there ever be a full night of sleep without interruptions? Probably only in my dreams. But in the meantime, why don’t we all just take a nap at the computer?

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