I may have discovered a secret to the universe of sleeping babies. No it’s not a technique, or a magic pill, or a training schedule. It’s much simpler. Have no expectations and be in the present moment. Surrender to them. Thats right, let them decide when, how and if they want to nap and go to sleep, live your life and have them fit into it and get them out of the house! Babies need to feel a sense of community!
For a few weeks Maya my 8.5 month old daughter has been having quite a hard time sleeping. I’ve been calling her my sleep nemesis. She keeps me up at all hours and won’t sleep when I want her to, turning me into a very grumpy mama. I feel like we struggle together for sleep. I’ll be in the middle of eating dinner and she’ll get grumpy, I take her to bed, to then discover that she just needs a little booby snack. Seriously, 5 minutes later, she is high energy, crawling around all over the place. How can this be? I feel defeated and annoyed. I spent all of this time, gave up my dinner, took time away from an adult conversation, created a peaceful environment and my baby still doesn’t want to go to sleep. There must be apocalyptic doom on the horizon. WTF is the matter with her??? Go to sleep! The sleep books say that babies 8-12 months need 15 hours of sleep a day, including naps right? And that scheduling when they sleep will make my life easier? Hell No! I could create a time on my calendar and no matter how much booby I gave her, there is nothing that is going to tame that wild child.
Most advice is not in the least bit helpful, and it’s really starting to piss me off, reading articles written by sleep experts. The articles I read say things like Your baby just wants to be cuddled all day long. Really…..?? if she did then she wouldn’t be screaming while she’s in a cozy wrap snuggled up to my warm body.
She really just wants to crawl around the house and put very dangerous objects in her mouth. I know this not because I read it somewhere, but because I’ve witness it everyday. When did the articles with parenting advice take on more of an important role than our own experience and intuition?
Some nights she’ll want to nurse every single hour. While I’m ok with that and can easily sleep through nighttime nursing, what I can’t take is when she kicks my belly and rolls around distracted. And when she’s done, if I dare move the boob away from her or decide I need to roll over, guess who’s up screaming for me to come back. Then boob back in her mouth to get her to sleep all over again.
Yesterday morning I got up, exhausted, confused and upset that I have no idea when she’ll take a nap today, if she’ll take one or what time and how well she will sleep at night. I wake up and the first thing I do is stress about about the fear of another day without sleep.
I’ve been thinking about this issue non stop, how do I get her to sleep better and more peacefully? What am I doing wrong? Some days she sleeps great so there must be something to it.
Yesterday was a big day, we went to the farmers market, went shopping for the groceries at the brighter day, saw a lot of friends and then came home to do some cleaning and food preparing for a friends birthday party. Then around 5:30 pm we all went out to a wine party at our friend Jessica’s and an hour and a half later at 7pm we headed over to another friends place for oysters! We stayed out until 11pm before heading home. Bringing Maya along felt so natural. We had a great time and felt comfortable relaxing, having a few glasses of wine, and spending time with our friends that we haven’t seen in a while.
What happened over the next 24 hours was so f’ing incredible, it almost brought me to tears talking about it tonight. When we got home, I put Maya in bed and she went straight to sleep. She slept until 3 am and nursed, calmly for about half an hour. I even slept through it! Then she went back to sleep and didn’t get up again to nurse until 5! I got up early this morning to put some food together for Ash’s trip to Virginia. Came back to bed after he left and nursed. Then it all got even more amazing. Maya slept in until 8:30. That means that I got to sleep until 8:30!
I got up nursed her again, we got dressed, went to the kitchen where Maya played while I cooked breakfast! I was able to make breakfast without having to hold her, she was so chill. Then I this morning I let her play on her own time and nurse and be held when she wanted to and then fall asleep on her own. She took a nap at 11:30 for an hour! Playful this afternoon and took another hour long nap this eve when I went to yoga, my friend who watched her said she slept most of the time I was gone. As I write this she is in bed in the next room……sleeping. No joke, she is asleep. I’m sipping wine reflecting back on how this can all be happening? How??
Then I started to think about all of the other days that she sleeps well and what they had in common with yesterday. It dawns on me, the days that she sleeps well (regardless of teething, growth spurts, noise) these common things occur:
- We spend a considerable amount of time outside of the house. Grocery shopping, visiting friends, walking in the park, going to the post, thrift shopping, working ion the garden etc. She needs to get out of the house and be exposed to new environments and to explore new places. I can tell that she gets easily bored of the being in the same environment.
- We spend time around other people, around new energy. Just like us grown ups, we need silly interactions, kid interactions, adult conversations, conversations with men and women. She seems to connect easily with others, and has since she was born. I think it is very important for her to see many different people in their own elements. Different looks, hair styles, personalities.
- When we are with those other people they are holding her and interacting with her, not just watching me with her. Kids need community more than they need the nuclear family. I think that Maya gets tired of the dynamic of it just being Ash and I around her all the time. She needs new dynamics with new people, babies, adults, men, women, boys and girls! We all do. We spend so much time in our small cozy nuclear family and shut the rest of the world out. We just can’t thrive without other connections. I am sure it feels really special to her when she has people other than mama and papa who make her laugh, hold her, talk to her, play games with her, etc.
- I don’t stop what I’m doing to get her a nap. She takes naps around my schedule , whether it’s in the carseat, in the wrap on my back, walking through the market, holding her while chatting with friends. Her naps don’t happen at the same time everyday and I’ve been fighting her about that, why doesn’t she want to nap every morning at 10 am?? I’ve had these expectations that aren’t being met because they are silly and unrealistic. They are what is causing me the suffering, not that Maya doesn’t nap everyday. It’s because everyday is different, so why should my parenting be so regimented?
- I don’t stop what I am doing to put her to bed. If I’m having wine with friends and she wants to sleep, she’ll nurse and fall asleep in my arms while I am conversing and hanging out. Why do I need to take her to bed to “put” her to sleep? Why not just wait for her to fall asleep and either put her in bed if I’m home or hold her when I’m out? This realization will save me so much trouble. It’s the times that I try to force to to sleep under my terms that I get upset when she doesn’t. Babies need consistency but they also need to know that we know them and know what they need as their needs change.
When she was first born her sleeping habits were much better than they are now. And the more I think about it the more I realize that my expectations then were a lot different than they are now. She was born during the summer so we were out much more, at the beach, visiting friends, traveling. I really think that the hard ship has come from being indoors so much and staying home. It wasn’t alway like this, and it doesn’t have to be. We just need to be much more proactive about changing her scenery more often.
There is no formula for sleep, every baby has different needs that each family has to discover on their own. Babies are more recently born into nuclear situations and not into big communities. We all need many connections to thrive and feel heard and loved. We need a large experience of our world, not just to be isolated in the captivity of a “modern family.” I bet that the times when her sleep is erratic and not peaceful are the days when she feels stir crazy and under stimulated.
Once I stop expecting her to sleep or be a certain way then I can fully see her and appreciate her and her needs in the moment.
“The mind spends most of the time lost in fantasies and illusions, reliving pleasant or unpleasant experiences and anticipating the future with eagerness or fear. While lost in such cravings or aversions, we are unaware of what is happening now, what we are doing now.” S.N Goenka
Anicca – Impermanent
P.S. Another trick that I learned recently. Maya will play by herself for 45 minutes inside of the fridge. I bring her in the kitchen, open the fridge and let her play. This gave me time to cook, clean, sweep! Amazing!