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Learning to Fall Asleep

"Sleeping like a baby." Whoever came up with that aphorism clearly never had a baby. When you have a kid, you come to realize that babies are terrible sleepers. They have no sleeping skillz. Specifically, they're horrible at falling asleep. They need rocking, singing, humming, perfect quiet, a loud fan--all types of aids just to relax and fall asleep. And then they're up 2 hours later.

I'm very perplexed about this behavior. When our ancestors were hunting and gathering while living in the forest, how did enough of us survive to reach civilization with babies screaming their heads off every 2 hours? A primitive mother doing laps around the ol' tree for an hour with a screaming infant doesn't work so well for passing on genes, at least it seems to me. Holy sabre-tooth lion attacks! Were babies better sleepers 100,000 years ago? Did they have the ability to fall asleep peacefully back then and lose the skill as humans got more sophisticated and softer? Is an infant screaming for an hour a side efect of civilization?

Among others, these are the thoughts that occupy me as we begin Marcus' sleep training. The other thoughts are usually along the lines of, "Oh please oh please let this pause in the screaming be the end!"

"Sleep training" is just a sophisticated term for "letting' 'em work it out." Erin and I read a book about it called Health Sleep Habits, Healthy Child during Owen's infancy and we used the method to great effect. It's a simple technique that really could have been summed up in one chapter:

Chapter 1: Let 'em cry it out.

Come to think about it, the title is the entire chapter! The subsequent chapters of the book explain why this method works, how it's okay, and no, really, it's actually okay.

Chapter 2: It works.
Chapter 3: No, I'm serious, it will eventually work.
Chapter 4: No, your baby is not dying.
Chapter 5: Hang in there, it'll soon stop.
Chapter 6: We're proud of you, you're doing it, keep it up champ!

(Just kidding, there's all kinds of good stuff in there about naps, what ages are appropriate for developing certain sleep habits, etc.)

So here we are again, sleep training our second baby. And oh man, it's painful. I'm taking solace in remembering Chapters 2-6, and that Owen only took about a week and at the end he was, and is to this day, an excellent sleeper as a result.

Wish us well and pass the ear plugs...

UPDATE: Marcus just went silent after only 30 minutes on his first night! He's a natural! (yes, he's okay, we just checked his breathing :)


blissful_e said…
"Holy sabre-tooth lion attacks!" That just KILLED me. I have tears running down my cheeks. Great way to start the new year, thanks!

Not sure if you're just being rhetorical, but I'm pretty sure moms always just shared a bed with their new little ones. We do this until ours indicate they need more space, and we have silent, peaceful nights.

Then we switch to Ferber around 9 months and after a little adjustment our kiddos just sleep through the night. Hurrah!

Sleep sharing stopped around the time someone working for Queen Victoria was seen pushing a pram around London, and ever since we've been under the impression that kids should be able to settle at arms length.

If you care to read more about these wacky ideas, I recommend "Continuum Concept", "Three to a Bed" and "Why Love Matters". "Continuum Concept" specifically addresses the evolutionary aspects - I think the learnings from more primitive societies are relevant even though I don't believe in evolution. "Three to a Bed" focusses on sleep-sharing. "Why Love Matters" is a psychology text that places a high value on stay-at-home moms.
mamahoward said…
Sold. I just ordered the book. We'll let you know how it goes for us!
mama mia said…
So Ivy was right, and I was wrong...I hate to admit it, but Owen is proof ...I just didn't have the stamina to hold out for a week! I applaud the efforts of you two as parents....
yours truly, the rockin' nonna
Cindy said…
I don't want to be discouraging, but sometimes kids' nervous systems are so different that anything you do doesn't work. Lindsay used to sleep at least 12 hours a night (and still would like to) with little effort on our part. Andrew, on the other hand, would wake up at 4 a.m. (if we were lucky), and nothing we would do would stop it: letting him cry, Cheerios beside the bed, giving a bottle and putting him back to bed, etc. Finally we put him in a regular bed when he was 2, taught him how to turn on the TV, and left a bowl of cereal for him - finally, peace!
erinjohn said…
cindy - thanks for the thoughts.... i totally trust what you're saying about kids nervous systems being different. we certainly see so many differneces between owen and marcus at only 5 months :) we'll let you know how it works - although, john's out of town and i don't have the will to let him cry it out. i will say that so far, the nights that he's soothed himself to sleep, he sleeps for at least a 5-6 hour stretch - a really deep sleep. when i rock him to sleep, or he falls alseep on me (in the ergo carrier usually), he's up in 3-4. who knows... :)

elsia - thanks for the book recommendations - i'm certainly gonna check out "why love matters".

happy new year! ej
Cindy said…
We thought we were perfect parents when Lindsay slept so well - Andrew taught us a lesson! He still doesn't sleep like Lindsay does. But he was also happy watching Sesame Street four times a day (I know, terrible parents) and she wanted to be entertained all the time. In the end, it all evens out!

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