Tag Archives: bed-sharing

Top 3 Baby Myths, Busted.

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FrontCoverThis content was adapted from the vast archive of environmental, family and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz. 

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Mama Musings: Operation No More Night Boob, Part One (Or, Why We Night Weaned)

Some time around the beginning of my second trimester, once the disbelief about this second pregnancy had begun to settle, I came to the conclusion that it might be time to seriously reconsider the possibility night weaning my then 19 month old. I am open to and hopeful about tandem nursing, but the thought of tandem nursing at night? It made me want to weep big, hot tears.

You see, at 19 months, my kiddo had never slept through the night. He was still waking every two to four hours to nurse. There were times when this night-nursing frequency felt unbearable, but also times when it was decently manageable. We bedshare, and while I solidly credit this practice with strengthening our nursing relationship, I also quietly worried that our family bed set-up could be a giant stick in the spoke on our journey to ever sleeping through the night.

Sleep, oh, infinitely precious sleep! Like any new bleary-eyed parent, I’d done a fair share of reading about infant sleep, some of it instructive and insightful, and some of it…? Well, not so much. I remember one time taking a sleep book with me to a salon to read during some much-needed mama pampering , and it wasn’t until my stylist asked me, “Can you, um, relax your shoulders a bit?” that I realized how tensely I reacting to the dispiriting book I was reading. (Who does that? Reads about infant sleep while they’re supposed to be relaxing? A desperate and exhausted parent, that’s who.)

I don’t mean for this post to be about sleep, per se; you and I could probably sit down together over a pot of tea and talk all night about all of the sleep literature that’s out there and how it jives (or doesn’t) with our respective families’ needs.  After reading the good stuff and the garbage, these three tenets undergirded my personal philosophy about sleep: 1)Nighttime parenting is just as important as daytime parenting; 2)We share sleep  safely; and 3)Sleep is a developmental milestone like any other for my son, and he’ll get there at his own pace.

I’d tried to night wean my son in the past, and it was a pretty gnarly experience. I’d long held on to Dr. Jay Gordon’s approach for night weaning for bedsharing families, like a hopeful how-to manual  for balancing what felt like, to me, the competing goals of sleep and gentle nighttime parenting. This approach relies heavily on the non-nursing partner’s involvement, and the non-nursing partner in this house is much slower to rouse than me. By the time he awoke to parent our son back to sleep, our son was wider awake and more difficult to soothe than he would have been had I just simply popped a boob in his eager mouth. After a few nights of these shenanigans, I figured it was easier on everyone if I just kept on keepin’ on with the boob-poppin’. The kiddo relaxed back into sleep faster, the husband hardly stirred and was better rested for his work day, and I was better able to relax next to a toddler who wasn’t steadily ramping up to a full awakening.

I had hope for the No-Cry Sleep Solution, but it, too, was a stunning exercise in defeat for us. The Pantley Pull Off (the gentle removal method) was simply too confusing for my son: Wait, I get the boob, but then you take it away? And then I get it again, and you take it away again? WAAAHHHH!  And, similar to my experience with Dr. Gordon’s plan, I found that it was decidedly easier to just nurse him back down all the way. I came to slowly understand that it wasn’t that these approaches were unhelpful (I know peeps who’ve had good experiences), but rather it was that my son simply was not ready to be night weaned. I decided to table our night weaning efforts indefinitely.

Enter the unexpected, yet someday-hoped-for second pregnancy. Suddenly, sleep seemed like it would never recover from its endangered status anytime in the foreseeable future. More than six months after our last attempt at night weaning, I heaved a big, weary sigh and decided it was time to test the waters again. Thus commenced Operation No More Night Boob.

In the next week I’ll be sharing more detail about how we night weaned, but here’s a sneak preview: my approach wasn’t anything I’d read in book or on a website. My approach had everything to do with listening to my mothering gut and to my child. Stay tuned!

Rhianna composed the bulk of this post from her family bed in St. Louis, snuggled next to the cutest and snoring-est two dudes she knows. She is currently scratching her head over the best way to introduce a future night-nursing sibling to their shared sleep set-up.

Photo credit.

Zzzzzzz

Join me, Mama!

I love naps! Who doesn’t, right? That’s a cheap applause line if I’ve ever written one.  It’s practically “It’s great to be here in Toledo, the best city in the world.”

But I do love ‘em. I used to doze in the passenger seat on the long drive from NY to Boston; doze on planes, doze on a lounge chair at the pool, doze at my desk.  Just kidding about that last one, former bosses.  Oh that reminds me – yesterday I was watching my 3 year old jump off the side of the pool about 40 times in a row and over his shoulder I could see this middle aged dude just snoozing the afternoon away, mouth agape. I was so jealous that I wished a wasp would fly into his mouth.  Somebody’s tired, eh?

Anywho, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, so I happen to be extremely committed to awesome, consistent, gentle nighttime parenting.  My motto has always been “be the same parent 24 hours/day”.  And that, my friends, is a tall, tall order.  I’ve failed, but I keep trying because I think it’s a worthy goal and I like a good challenge.

For the first 2 years of motherhood a key component to being awesome was napping with my son.  Luckily my guy excelled at naps.  I was often the envy of playgroup with tales of his 3 hour zonk-out sessions which gave me ample opportunity to refill my tank with some shut eye by baby’s side if only for 30 minutes. Sometimes I’d be the best wife in the world and and get some household chores done to boot.
When I got pregnant with my 2nd son I was in denial that those days were over.  I fantasized about all three of us napping simultaneously.  Psych!

I’d also forgotten about the topsy-turvy day-is-night-is-day schedule of the first 60 days or so.  With #1 I remember complaining to a childless friend “I’m stuck nursing all day.”  Man, I didn’t know how great I had it “stuck” in a comfy club chair, living on Baby Time, snoozing when he did.  Just one tiny being relying on me.

My point is this and sorry for burying the lede here: Nap with your child if you are EVER offered the chance.  Just do it, okay?  Don’t think about the reasons not to, because when it comes down to it, you probably have the time or energy to cross, like, one lame thing off the To-Dos if you don’t nap.  And if you’re honest with yourself, when you don’t nap you’ll check Facebook and Perez Hilton and eat a sleeve of Thin Mints because you’re starving from breastfeeding.  So push out of your mind the dirty dishes and the last time you shaved your legs and climb in the nest. Of all the parenting choices you have in a day, that’s one decision you won’t regret.

Rebecca is Mom to one napper and one non-napper.  To quote Bill Cosby, she enjoys sleep like a good steak and is starting to “get” her grandparents 2 twin beds which she used to find hilarious.  

The Sleep Games

My husband and I have guided our daughter to sleep for about 430 nights now (and yes, thank a calendar for that number, not my fuzzy mommy brain). Some of those 430 nights we dreaded bedtime and fought over who would initiate sleep mode. Some of those nights she fell asleep in a peaceful slumber without much effort on our part. And there were many nights that fell somewhere in the middle. Regardless of your parenting style, bedtime can sometimes equal stressful time for newbie and seasoned parents alike.

In my pre-baby months, I really didn’t give baby sleep much thought except that I didn’t want to do a nursery. We purchased an Arms Reach mini co-sleeper (best purchase ever, by the way!), bought some king-size pillow cases to use as sheets, and got an organic mattress for it as well. That’s all we needed, right? I had heard the phrase “sleep like a baby” and assumed that means babies sleep soundly. Yep, total fool.

In reality, I didn’t actually understand the logistics of infant sleep. I guess I erroneously assumed that babies enter sleep and stay asleep in a similar pattern as adults. But in fact it is so much different! Their sleep cycles are shorter (50-60 minutes), and they just don’t sleep as deeply as adults. When we try to shoehorn babies into adult sleep before they are ready, we are ignoring their biological wiring and even basic needs.

And believe me, there were many nights that my husband and I, after listening to multiple people tell us that our baby should be sleeping longer or in her own room, tried to (briefly) make it happen. We wished so ardently for that elusive “good sleeper.” But time after time we realized that we did not feel comfortable forcing her into a sleep pattern that her little brain and body couldn’t handle. It just wasn’t our parenting style.

And as I’ve talked to more and more parents, I’ve realized that what we’ve experienced is more the norm. That it is incredibly rare for babies to sleep through the night, and most likely it’s either because they’ve either been pushed to do so or the parents have been blessed with a heavy sleeper. And if you’re pregnant now, throw out any books that promise you a baby that sleeps through the night by 8 weeks because it’s not a realistic or healthy expectation.

Ultimately, parenting a baby to sleep can be stressful or it can be a beautiful, shared moment. We have two choices as parents: to focus on the negative (my baby won’t sleep through the night!) or focus on the positive (my baby and I have a special nighttime bond). I choose the latter, and I cherish the moments my daughter is sleeping peacefully in my arms or next to me. And EVENTUALLY she’ll sleep through the night, right?

What have well-meaning friends, family, and physicians told you about infant sleep? Did you follow their advice? 

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
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Kate has perfected the twin arts of sleeping upright and taking extreme cat naps in random places. Her favorite guilty (sleep) pleasure is taking an afternoon nap with her daughter whenever she can. Read more about her and her family at Boomerang Mama.