Follow-Up to waking in the middle of the night

In the comments of the previous post, Dee said she was having problems with her 5 1/2-month-old, because she was waking like a fool whenever she wasn’t swaddled. And won’t even fall back asleep in the middle of the night when swaddled. She says:

But she will go right back to sleep in the swing at that pointwithout crying so most nights that’s where she goes once she wakes.
Once there, she’ll stay asleep until we…wake…her…up…the next
morning (payback and all–sister loves to get her some sleep, just like
her daddy). She didn’t used to do this, and slept through the night–in
her crib–like a champ.

At this point, I have to wonder, will she be sleeping in that damn
swing until she’s two? ‘Cause it’s the only place that she’ll go back
to sleep in once she wakes up in the crib. And am I doing her harm by
putting her back to sleep in the swing almost every night (probably 5
or 6 nights a week)?

Eventually she’ll grow out of the swing, so the answer to whether she’ll be there when she’s two is an unqualified "no." The motor of the swing will probably burn out before then.:)

And what do you mean by "harm"? Do you mean that you might be creating bad sleep habits? I don’t really believe in that. I mean, if you had to switch shifts at work and needed to start sleeping at completely different times of the day, you’d be able to do it, even if it sucked for the first week or so, and you’re a full-grown adult. So I just don’t believe that a baby can’t learn to sleep different ways, as long as no one expects it to be easy and happen in only one night. I think the "don’t create bad sleep habits" thing is just another scare tactic.

Now, I guess it’s possible that you could be doing some harm to the spinal cord by having her sleep in the swing, but I kind of doubt that, too. Humans are pretty flexible and adaptable. If she’s getting plenty of tummy time during the day, I say do what you need to to get her to sleep at night. In another 4 weeks she’ll be doing something completely different anyway.

Also, read the comments from Kate and wix, and see if anything triggers for you. If she changed her sleep habits all of a sudden, it could be from something that changed in her environment, or it could just be because she’s a baby.

Sherry: Most baby books will have general info about physical spurts, but great info about developmental leaps is in the book The Wonder Weeks by Hetty Vanderijt and Frans Plooij. (They have freaky names because they’re Dutch.) The book talks about when the big developmental leaps happen in the first year so you can figure out why a good sleeper suddenly won’t sleep, or a good eater won’t eat for a few days, etc. It also tells you what they’re learning, and how you can help them. I love this book and can’t recommend it enough.

Q&A: 6-month-old waking up in the middle of the night

Kate asks:

"Hey Moxie

OK, so when they’re 6 months, and they start rolling
around the cot all night, waking every couple of hours asking to be put back
where they started….

Do you think it’s best just
to let them cry and figure out how to fall asleep wherever they are (on their
tummies, out of the blankets and whatever)? Or go in every so often, sort them
out, and hope it’s a phase that ends soon enough?

Because there’s some serious sleep deprivation in this
house!

Cheers

Kate"

Well, Kate, first of all, I think you must be a better person than I am to be able to end your email about sleep deprivation with "Cheers." I think I would have ended mine with "Stick a fork in my eye" or "Barely functioning."

Now, on to the issue. I’m going to have to go with "it depends" on this one. It seems like there are three things you have to examine before you make your plan:

1. What’s up with all the wiggling? Is he just a wiggly kid? Or is there some kind of developmental spurt going on? Is he about to crawl? Is he getting a tooth or two and trying to wriggle away from the pain?

If it’s something transient, like teething or crawling or something else developmental, I’d say to see if you can hold on for another week to see if it resolves itself. I think most kids will go back to what they were doing before sleep-wise once the spurt or crisis is over. But if he’s a wiggly kid, then you’re really looking at making a decision about what to do.

2. How will he deal with being left alone to work it out on his own? Some kids will fuss a little and then conk right back out. Other kids wake up in the middle of the night and just won’t go back to sleep without help. My older son was like that–if he woke up he was up! and crying! until someone came to save him from the indignities of being alone! in the dark! oh, cruel cruel world! I never considered letting him cry, because it would have gone on for hours and hours. My younger one will wake up, fuss for 10 seconds, and then go right back to sleep. A friend’s child will wake up, scream his head off for about a minute, and then abruptly fall asleep again (she discovered that he’d fall asleep again on his own in almost exactly the time it took her to realize what that noise was, wake up, struggle out of bed, and stumble down the hall to his room.).

If you’ve got a kid who’s going to be up and crying if you don’t go in, then you’re going to have to go in, do a slow wean off going in, or minimize the ways he can wake himself up. If he freaks out from being on his tummy, do more tummy time during the day so he’s not as freaked out by it when it happens in the night. If he’s cold, maybe put him in warmer pajamas so the blanket isn’t such a factor. If it’s something else, try to figure out what exactly is waking him up and see if you can eliminate that cause.

You can always let him fuss for a minute or two to see what happens and whether he’s an escalator or a yelper who falls back asleep. It might surprise you.

3. Can you let him cry? Some parents have no problems with letting their kids cry at night. Others can’t do it. I think you should be the same kind of parent at night as you are during the day, so stay true to yourself and your vision of yourself as a parent. Or delegate this one to your partner.

Whatever happens, just know that he will sleep through the night without you. Even my older one, who would yell like a car alarm when he was up at night, now falls asleep easily and stays asleep with no problems. And someday they’ll move out of the house and you won’t know how or even if they sleep.

Courage.

I’m Here To Help

A few days ago I was reading a friend’s blog. She’s a new mom, and she posted that she’d read something in a book that helped her figure out an aspect of her child’s routine. A few commenters posted that they were glad she’d had this insight, etc. But others started falling all over themselves to declare their total devotion to the author of the book. One mom said the author was her "hero." Another said she had "undying love for" the author and saw him as almost a benevolent relative to her children.

I don’t think they realize that he’s not the only person who knows this particular bit of information about babies.

When my mom was here after El Chico was born, she was reading my copy of a popular parenting book by a different author. About five pages into it she screwed up her face and said, "Does this guy think he invented this? We were doing this back in the 70s, only we just thought it was normal."

That’s got to be the thing I hate third-most about parenting: No matter what path you take, there’s someone who’s written a book telling you that there’s only One True Way, and if you deviate from it you’re going to raise children who have no control/are too tightly controlled/are too dependent on you/aren’t attached to you/won’t ever sleep through the night/won’t be good Christians/will turn into fundamentalists of one sort or another/will wet their beds until they’re teenagers/won’t come visit you when you’re 90/won’t be able to learn Latin/will only speak in Pig Latin. And they act like this dogma is a huge revelation that only they’ve had. So not only do you have to do what they say, you have to think they’re the only ones who could have come up with their position.

All this is a really roundabout way of saying that none of us has unique information. Sears doesn’t, Weissbluth doesn’t, Ferber doesn’t, Leach doesn’t, Spock didn’t, Hogg didn’t, Pantley doesn’t, Supernanny doesn’t, even Ina May doesn’t. Dobson doesn’t, Cohen doesn’t, Karp doesn’t, Faber and Mazlisch don’t, and Gary Ezzo certainly doesn’t. Your MIL doesn’t. My mom doesn’t. Your pediatrician doesn’t. And I don’t. All these people (including me) have done is gathered the wisdom of the universe, digested it, and spit it out with their own personal biases.

So before you read what anyone else says about raising kids, stop and think about the fact that you know your child best. Not me or any of those other people. We can give you ideas, or help you see things in a new way, or make you feel better or worse about what you’re doing. But you’re the one who knows. So trust your instincts. And keep on rocking the mama thing.