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Catching Flak for Catching Zzzz's

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By Jo Aaron · July 20, 2010

My son is 2.  When he was 4 months, he gave up his 3AM bottle, went to sleep at 7PM and woke up around 7AM.  By 12 months, he was sleeping even later in the morning.  He'd wake up around 8AM and go back down for his morning nap at 9AM for two hours.  After a playdate and lunch, he was ready for his afternoon nap which lasted for about 2-3 hours.  He's still on this schedule minus the morning nap.

Want to hate me more?  As soon as I put him in his crib, kiss his little face, start the U2 lullaby CD that my husband is hoping will subconsciously encourage him to be his generation's Bono, within minutes, he's sound asleep.  Come on, at 28 months, he still can't say mommy so put your middle finger down, OK?

I get that my kid is not the norm; I get that most kids require a little more finessing into Dreamland; I get that most kids like to make sure mommy and daddy see the sunrise or tempt their folks into a deep depression by crying their eyes out before they finally give into the sandman.  It's just not his way.  Oh yeah, and my daughter is a sleeper too.

So what role did I play in sleep training my kids?  Well, it was simple-I read the books, threw out the books, and then bought the right supplies.  I also gave myself permission to sleep after the first four months of both of my children's lives.

I learned very early on that I was not going to be able to mommy anyone in a constant state of exhaustion (flashback to me curled up in the fetal position, completely over-tired and crying my eyes out after just 3 weeks with my newborn son-ahhh, the memories!)

What were the "right supplies"?  Well for me, that meant extra monitors.  I'll admit, we own 4 monitors and only have two kids.  Here's our breakdown:  each child has a video monitor that points directly into his or her crib as well as a motion monitor resting under each mattress.  Pricey?  Definitely!  Worth every cent and my sanity?  DEFINITELY!

The reason why I can cap the last answer?  Let me answer my own question with another question.  How many times has your child called out in the middle of the night?  You go running in to check on him seconds later only to find he's sleeping again, and now your stuck watching the 2AM reruns of the same episode of The Real Housewives that you saw at 9PM?

Come on, I've been there.  I've gone in expecting to rock my tearful sweetie back to sleep only to find that he wasn't even up when he let out his cry-but now I'm up, and I mean, completely, 100%, ready-to-hit-the-gym-up.  And because the gym is not open at 2AM (and I wouldn't go anyway), now I get to hang out in my head:  What if he cries again?  What if I fall asleep and he wakes up again and we repeat the cycle and I'm exhausted in the morning?  What if I'm so tired that I get up too late to take a shower before the kids are up and I have to figure out what to do with my hair that's going on 3 days without a shampoo?  Why did I cut bangs that require daily shampooing?  Are my favorite leggings in the laundry because I'm NOT ready for pants with a zipper and button.  Now I'm stuck thinking that only the Real Housewives get to have fashionable clothes and clean hair...thanks for the complex Andy Cohen!

So how did I finally put the kibosh on these crazy lady conversations?  I turned the volume down on the video monitor and the volume up on the motion monitor.  That way, every night I can see what's going on in each kid's room when I wake up for my inevitable bathroom breaks (thank you post-pregnancy, you've been too kind) and I'd definitely hear the motion monitor if G-d forbid...you know what, I'm not saying it out loud.  Let's just say, my kids are covered and I'm comfortable with my choice.

After all, isn't that what it's all about?  You've developed your parenting style based on what you are comfortable with doing.  Don't want to change your kids in a Target bathroom because it's too dirty for you?  That's OK, it's your choice.  Personally, I've changed my kids in the trunk of my SUV, so clearly, I don't have issues with 'where' when it comes to dirty diapers.  But that's me; that's my comfort level.

That being said, I've caught a ton of flak from moms who apparently think I'm suggesting you put your kids to sleep and forget they're in the house until you're up again.  I'm not.  I am saying that after a certain age and weight, if a kid wakes up at 4:30AM and you leave him alone, you might get another few hours out of him-and typically, he won't be worse for the wear.  For what it's worth, it's worked for me.

HOWEVER, let's keep our responsibility hats on-if your child is screaming or crying for more than a few minutes in the middle of the night, please, DO NOT ignore your baby for a little shut eye.  But if you're at the end of your rope, before you reach for the Botox injections or the triple-shot-Red-Eye at Starbucks to refresh, you might want to try my approach.  With a good night sleep, you might just wake up with Kelly's body, Bethenny's wit, Jill's sweet Bobby, Ramona's ego, Alex's new-found chutzpah, and the Countess's phony inflection.  Ok, I'll leave the inflection to LuAnn but the rest sounds kinda cool.

posted by
7/20/10

This confirms the worst advice my pediatrician ever gave me: Let my baby cry herself to sleep. After 30 minutes of intense screaming, I just had to go in to Jamie's room and sure enough, she had vomitted all over the crib and was clearly in need of my attention. The lesson to be learned? ALWAYS trust your mommy instincts, and take the experts' advice with a grain of salt (or a few grains). Thanks for sharing, Jo!


posted by
7/22/10

I am at 16 months with an excellent sleeper and everyone keeps telling me..... just wait. So thank you for confirming that good sleep habits do carry on.

I was like the Sleep Nazi when i started training my son. I like you read all the books and theories and then promptly trashed it in my brain and did what i thought he would respond well to. I just knew that there was no way i could be up all night with him and still be a human being in the morning for work. At first my partner had a difficult time enforcing the rules, but now he sees the fruit of that early training and appreciates it when our baby sleeps until 10 am on some weekends. I hope the transition to the toddler bed won't break his routine.


posted by
7/22/10

My son is 27 months and also a great sleeper. I don't remember trying to train him, I just felt routine was very important. I did get good advice from my pediatrician at 4 months she recommended putting him to bed before he was sound to sleep so he would learn to sooth himself to sleep. Luckily we did not have really any crying spells but I do agree with Jo that you don't need to get up at every little peep or cry. You know your babies cry and will know when it is one you need to get up.

My little sleeper goes to bed at 8 pm and wakes at 9 am. He then naps at 1pm for 3 hours. I think routine is important and he is not surprised when it is nap or bedtime. I only have to say it is nap or bedtime and he will find Patches (his stuff dog) and walk to his bedroom on his own and wait by the crib at nap time to put him in. At night he knows we get dressed in our pj's then read 2 books followed by Mom and Dad singing to him. He hugs and kisses us and happily lays down.

I now have a 2 month old and everyone tells me I can not possibly have 2 good sleepers. Thanks Jo for proof you can have 2 good sleepers. I also take every chance to nap when they do and don't feel guilty at all. It is very true that if Mom is not rested and happy the house is not happy and everyone is crabby.

Thanks Jo for a great blog post.


posted by
7/22/10

I have 3 girls. Number 2 was the best sleeper, eater. Super easy baby. She's 11 now. S
gets all "A's", great athlete, polite, kind, giving. She makes mommy look good :). Then there are her sisters! There's going to be 1 (or 2) that keep you humble.

I've often said, if my middle daughter was my only child: I would just think other parents didn't know how to effectively parent.


posted by
7/23/10

lickety, you made me laugh. I only have one daughter (11 months) and it's really hard to be humble when you have the coolest kid around. She's a great sleeper and basically always in a good mood....And it's because I'm just so great at parenting, right? ;) It's hard not to think others must be doing something wrong with their crying babes...But I actually know I just got lucky.


posted by
7/23/10

My 4 month old son is a great sleeper. My 2 1/2 yo is still a completely crappy sleeper who wakes up at every sound.. JUST like I do. I'm big on routines too, it really helps.



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