Friday 23 August 2013

#5: Make sure your child gets sufficient sleep.

I whole-heartedly agree with this one. Well, I do in theory, anyway.
I’d like to know, though, if there’s a list somewhere called “101 Things Children Can Do to Help Their Parents?” If there is, somewhere on it is “Make sure that you let Mommy get enough sleep; she’ll be in a much better mood for when you do things that you categorize as fun but that she categorizes as ‘Really?’ or ‘Oh for Crying out Loud’ (often followed by actual crying).” 
Because let me tell you, I could use “sufficient” sleep. What would Sufficient Sleep be? Ideally, eight hours. Pipe Dream, I know. Okay, okay, sufficient would be getting to bed at a reasonable hour, followed by four to five straight hours of uninterrupted sleep with a short break for a diaper change/potty break, quick drink and a quick cuddle before quickly falling back to sleep, followed by another two to four hours of sound sleep before having to get up for the day. Oh heck, I’d be happy with just “more” sleep!
I don’t think that getting your child to sleep through the night is quite what they mean, however, although that would probably help.
I think what Eva probably means is that we should put our children to bed early enough so that when they awaken from a steady slumber in time to get on with their day they’ve slept for as many hours as recommended by people like these guys. And if not, we should provide our children with opportunities for naps (which, I’ve been told (by my mom) should be on a regular schedule and shouldn’t be prevented or interrupted by “errands” etc.
Okay, that gives me: 1. sleeping through the night, 2. going to bed early enough, and 3. naps.

1. Let me start with sleeping through the night. My first child did as a baby, and he’s really good at it now. It took a year and a half, though, to move his chosen bedtime of two a.m. (want to know how many TV shows I watched on DVD while we did four+ hour breastfeeding marathons? A few. And Yay for the DVR) to nine p.m. He’s now three and we are just getting him in bed and to sleep (not always the same thing!) by eight p.m., sometimes earlier. No matter when he falls asleep, he sleeps until seven on average, which has been awesome.
Enter child number two. He’s now almost a year. He goes to sleep for the night much earlier that his big brother, but it’s an anomaly for him to sleep for more than three hours at a time (it used to be one to two hours, so there has been some improvement). Until very recently, a night typically went like this: nurse for an hour to fall asleep; if it’s before eight, pee my diaper within an hour of being put in the crib; nurse some more to fall asleep again; sleep for two to three hours before peeing my diaper at about eleven or twelve; so that I don’t wake up my older brother by screaming through the diaper change, bring me to bed with you so that I can nurse for two hours while you “sleep” and then change my diaper and put me back in my crib; sleep for two to three hours before peeing my diaper at about three; so that I don’t wake up my older brother by screaming through the diaper change, bring me to bed with you so that I can nurse for two hours while you “sleep” and then change my diaper and put me back in my crib; if it’s before four, sleep until four and bring me to bed to nurse while you “sleep” until it’s time to get up (I might go back to my crib for an hour, but good luck with that); if it’s after four, I might go back to my crib for an hour, but it’s not recommended to try.
Recently, I’ve been putting up with a lot of biting in the hopes that it’s just a once-in-awhile thing like it was with child number one, but he finally drew blood the other day and I just can’t nurse anymore. So now I’m expressing, and he can bite all he wants (poor bottle nipple). Now a typical night goes like this: a bottle? Really? Sigh. Suck back the meagre amount that you managed to squeeze out earlier, and let you sing and cuddle me to sleep (and after the first night, I won’t scream that much); you can express some more at this point; sleep for a couple hours until I pee my diaper; this time I guess it’s okay for you to change my diaper first; suck back a bit of milk from the bottle, but let me tell you, I’m pissed off about the change in delivery modes; cuddle me back to sleep and I’ll sleep for a couple of hours until I pee my pants etc. etc. etc.; oh wait—it’s four and you just couldn’t stay awake after I fell asleep last time, so instead of expressed breast milk you’re giving me formula? Wtf, lady. Sigh. I guess I’ll drink some, but I’m going to be talking to my union rep about this when he wakes up (Mom in: I’m assuming he means his big brother. Or, maybe his father); I’ll go back to sleep, but only until six, whereupon you will give me the rest of the formula while I pretend to drink it while snuggling in bed with you in your hopes of my falling asleep again. Ha ha, joke’s on you! Get up lady!
I know that there’s a book out there on how the French mommies get their kids to eat veggies and sleep through the night (one woman was embarrassed that it took her baby until three-months-old to sleep through the night), and during one brutal night I did an internet search for books on getting babies to sleep. I found this so I thought, “Never mind,” and I’ve been making enough progress to make me think that one day I’ll look back on all of this and laugh. Someday.
2. Going to bed early enough: sleep training does work—you just have to be consistent and stronger willed than the child. Lol.
To get child number one to sleep before two, and then before eleven, and then at around nine, without having to nurse/rock/swing and sing, I followed the advice given to me by a daycare operator (I was preparing to go back to work and therefore was shopping around for childcare).
She suggested putting the child to bed at bedtime. Let him cry. After five minutes, go in and check his diaper; change it if necessary. Do not engage with the child—IE don’t talk to the child other than maybe a quick hug, I love you and/or good night. Let him cry. Go back in after ten minutes and repeat the diaper check etc. Go back in after fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty minutes and so on. The first night took three hours or more before he fell to sleep. But I got a LOT of housework done in between checks. The second night took an hour and a half. The third night was less than thirty minutes. After that it only took ten (until toddlerhood).
As a toddler, we’ve managed to get his bedtime to an even earlier hour by following several steps: I set an alarm for starting supper so that we eat by six or so instead of “Oh! It’s seven? When did that happen? What does everyone want for dinner?” I also have two alarms half an hour apart that say “Snack or Bath-time” (depending on when supper ended determines the order of snack and bath-time). Snack Time is important because it prevents the “Mommy, I’m Hungries” five minutes after going to bed. Actually, they’ll still try it, but now you can legitimately say “I don’t believe you. Go to bed.” Then I have the “Bedtime” alarm which means brush your teeth, get a story, and get to bed. I’m not super rigid with the alarms (life does happen), but it does help me keep on track a little better, and later on I’ll be able to teach my kids a useful tool for taking over bedtime as their own responsibility. There are still nights where he cries (self-soothes) or plays, and we did have a few months of having to tie his door shut so that he couldn’t escape (we tried a baby gate but he just camped out by his door which was not conducive to sleep), but it usually only takes a few minutes for things to get quiet.
We are working on all of this with baby number two. He naturally goes to bed earlier on his own than his brother did, but he does not like to sleep through the night. (See (1) above.)
3. Providing naps. I’ve met people who are housebound at specific times of the day so that their children can nap. Kudos!
Child One’s naps have always been random, and now if they happen, they happen so late in the afternoon that I’m up until eleven with him, so I just deal with a couple hours of evening crankiness and make him wait until bedtime.
Child Two regularly gets sleepy at eleven-ish, one-ish, and five-ish. I like to take the boys to Strong Start which happens from nine to noon. Sometimes I have to be out in the afternoon or evening. Therefore, naptime sometimes gets pushed back a bit. My nephew must nap at ten, so he doesn’t get to go to Strong Start. I’ve found that eventually Child Two gets tired enough to fall asleep at Strong Start (even during noisy Gym Time), while out shopping, in the car, or while visiting. And if he doesn’t, he’ll fall asleep on the way home. I do make sure that if we have a couple of busy days in a row and that if he seems extra tired, we’ll stay home and have a quiet day (Child One appreciates this, too).

So, in the grand scheme of things, I try my best to make sure that my children get sufficient sleep, but life is life, and my kids are who they are, so I’m not going to lose any sleep over any lack of sleep because eventually it all balances out in the end. At least, I think it does. I’m pretty tired, so math is a bit difficult.

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