Monday, June 2, 2008

Parenting Again: Sleep

If there is one thing I thoroughly understood before Peter was born, it was infant sleep. After all, I'd read Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.* "Lay them down drowsy but awake." "Do not allow them to become overtired." "Understand their sleep cues." I had it down.

But, as they say, reality bites.

The first book I read after Peter was born was Ferber's Solve Your Child's Sleep Problem. My child had to sleep, whatever it took.... as long as it wasn't in my bed where, if it didn't smother him, it would surely destroy my marriage.

Well, here's the long story short: we're failed Ferberizers. We worked for months, with increasingly less success. (Unless you count three hours of crying to get one hour of sleep successful, but I sort of don't.) In desperation I read Sears' Nighttime Parenting. And for the first time in my life, I learned that bringing a baby into my bed can be safely done.

Two years later, I have a new perspective. Much to my surprise, my husband and I both liked co-sleeping. Whaddya know? It didn't kill our marriage, nor did it prevent Peter's ability to sleep independently in his own time (he now sleeps through the night in his own bed). I was able to feed my child and help him to sleep as much as he needed it without losing any sleep myself. What a miracle!

So as I look at parenting another infant, I've gone from what Weissbluth calls a "reactive co-sleeper" to one who will do it by choice. If this next child is, unlike Peter, a baby who sleeps deeply and easily, I'm glad to know that having me breathing beside him can help him to regulate his own breathing patterns and help prevent SIDS. And if this next kid is like Peter-- well, I'm far too lazy to be back and forth between my bed and the nursery all night long.

It's freeing, really.

* Incidentally, I still think HSHHC is an excellent book. While Weissbluth and I don't necessarily agree on how a child "must" go to sleep, his understanding of a child's sleep needs at various ages has been an invaluable resource for me.

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