mamamonday: the biggest scam of allMonday, May 28, 2012
When you have a new baby, everyone wants to know how he's sleeping. "Is he sleeping through the night yet?" they start asking somewhere around month two. When you tell them, no, he still wakes up twice a night, watch as they visibly recoil from you and make a soft hissing sound and the kind of face you made when you saw the pictures of Britney coming out of the gas station bathroom barefoot. Then, witness the brilliant save. "Well, I'm sure he'll get there soon!" they say brightly, launching into a diatribe about how little Sally started sleeping all night long when she was just six weeks old. Feel your insides start to boil. Resist the urge to flatten both little Sally and her mother or grandmother or whatever old bag is doing the bragging.
The impending lack of sleep is one of the biggest fears you have when you're expecting parents. So, you decide to be proactive. You order a book from Amazon about helping your baby sleep through the night. For anonymity's sake, let's call the book WiseBaby. You read WiseBaby from cover to cover, folding down corners and highlighting helpful tips. You learn about how getting your six-week-old started on a routine of nap, eat, play will guarantee they'll be snoozing solid nights within just a few days. You read about how babies who don't follow this pattern are essentially degenerate infants. You KNOW you're not going to have a degenerate infant. You think, two months. Two months and we'll be back to our solid eight-hour-plus nights.
Baby arrives. Baby wakes up every few hours during the night - two or three times a night. You know you're lucky. Some babies want to party all night. You implement the WiseBaby routine. Nap, eat, play. Bath and book before bedtime. You sit back and wait for the WiseBaby magic to kick in.
Nothing happens. Baby still wakes up twice a night.
You panic. You re-read the book. You tear out the degenerate baby sections. You order more books from Amazon. You become friends with the UPS guy.
Baby still wakes up twice a night. He's three months old. Now he's four months old. You concede to the fact that you have a degenerate baby with societal and behavioural problems. You change the name of the "Baby University" bank account to "Baby Bail Fund" because how can you expect a newborn who wakes up twice a night to be headed anywhere but the clink? You resign yourself to never sleeping a full night again so long as the UnwiseBaby is in the house. You cry.
Here is what I've learned about babies sleeping through the night (because clearly spending a whopping six months around one baby makes me an expert in the field): You can't make them do it. Read all the books and follow the expert advice all you want and it won't make a lick of difference. You can have them on a routine, darken their room, put them down when they're sleepy BUT NOT ASLEEP!!, give them a chance to put themselves back to sleep...you can do it all until you're blue in the face but until that baby feels like sleeping through the night he's not going to do it. And you're not doing anything wrong, and neither is the baby.
I feel like baby sleep strategies are scams akin to fad diets. The same way North Americans spend 700 gazillion dollars on magical weight loss solutions every year, new moms are frantically spending their cash on books that promise a good night's sleep. I don't feel like there's any magical formula for getting your baby to sleep - if there was we'd all know about it, we'd all be doing it, and nobody would be tired. The only person WiseBaby helped put to sleep was me.
Eli started sleeping through the night around five months old, but when I say "sleeping through the night", I mean most of the time we don't have to check on him in his crib. About half the time, we'll hear a little cry on the baby monitor sometime in the wee hours. After a minute or two he stops and goes back to sleep. Occasionally he has a 4:00 a.m. meltdown and needs to be rescued after getting his legs stuck between the crib rails or getting trapped in a baby yoga pose in the corner of the crib, but for the most part, with the exception of a little restlessness, he's sleeping through. According to WiseBaby, we're waaaay behind schedule and Eli is a punk ass baby. I feel like we're pretty lucky.