Stories and thoughts from day to day life in the Bullard Family

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning May 8, 2011

Filed under: Parenting — parentsong @ 8:32 am
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More Like the Really Long and Drawn Out Hours of the Morning…

It is natural for parents to go through a period of getting little to no sleep at all during the infant’s first few weeks. Some lucky parents get to experience this for the first few months.  A select few, I’m sure who are very honored, get to do this for a few years. But I’m talking about the hard-core sleep deprivation, when sleep lasts for only an hour or two at a time, twice per night and maybe snagging a few minutes here and there during the day (not always by choice…). It’s rough. Add to that a baby who is super hungry all the time and crying most of his or her waking time. Fortunately, the crying has lessened a bit as he moved into his tenth week.

I felt very desperate to solve the lack of sleep problem early on. Mostly because our first was sleepless (or so we thought) and we didn’t really do anything about it until she was eight or nine months old. I’ve read and re-read several books in the past few weeks. I am trying to make sense of infant sleeping and feeding problems so that I can solve the “problem” and get on with my life. And that, my friends, is exactly the problem.

Despite what all the “experts” say, there is no single way to approach how one cares for an infant. What I am finding out is that what we did for our first does not really apply to the second (so far). This also applies to what others have done for their children, will not necessarily work for mine. Others have some great ideas and I have tried many of them. Some work for us, some do not.

Child rearing is a process, not something that you just do and get it over with.  Even in the infancy stage. Sure, you want to do what is best for your child. But we parents really can’t control everything. This is a lesson I am still trying to accept. It can be very difficult to just be in the moment, especially when the moment seems to drag on, and on, and on. For months.

The most helpful intervention I have used with my infant has been talking about it to others. My husband, my mother, my mother-in-law, my neighbor, other mothers in play groups, and even here in this post. We haven’t solved any of the “problems” by doing this, but I have gained much insight and valuable emotional strength to carry on. Infancy does not last long. And, if we did solve the crying/sleeping/feeding problem today, everything changes in the next week or month and what we do today will be completely irrelevant. Lovely.

The beautiful thing is that it doesn’t last forever and it makes you very tolerant of other things in the world, such as, well, I can’t even think of anything that bothers me right now because few things are as difficult to deal with as a screaming baby for six or eight hours. See? Instantly tolerant!

One of my favorite books for coping with a baby such as ours is Dr. Harvey Karp’s “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”  I’ll post a book review soon. I think this has been a help to us, as well as to our son (and daughter). Another book I wanted to write a review on, but fear I would unleash more anger than I care to deal with right now, is “Baby Wise.” What a nightmare! I read it simply out of interest, knowing that it would probably go against my beliefs, values, personality, and general approach to parenting. I had no idea it was so bad. So now I know and I can move on. (In all fairness, for those of you with babies inclined to take to an early schedule and sleep alot, here is a blog by a parent who implements this technique, though I tend to agree with this blog more, as my children are not “easy.”)

When it comes to actually solving a sleep problem (which I believe cannot be done in the first three or four months, contrary to some beliefs), Dr. Richard Ferber’s “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” has been an invaluable source. It’s not evil or verging on abusive (like “Baby Wise.” Oh, did I say that?) like it is made out to be by some people. I’ll post a review on that one, too.

What about you?

If you, dear reader, have had to deal with sleepless nights on account of a baby, what did you have to do to get through it? How did it change you? How do you look back on that time? Was there any advice others gave you that helped? Or advice that made things worse?