Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nap Wars

If a mother ever tells you that her child has napped perfectly since birth, and that all she has to do is lie the baby in the crib and walk away, there are two possibilities. 1) This woman was sent from the depths of Hell with the sole mission of making you feel like a crappy mother, or 2) She is a liar. From all of the conversations I've had with other moms, I have gathered that napping is the trending topic. Breastfeeding has become too sensitive a topic to bring up in casual circles and cloth diapering doesn't generate the same kind of controversy (just shock that people seriously pull it off), so it's no fun. All newborns do is eat, sleep, and pee/poop, so napping is what we have left to talk about.

In my last post I mentioned that Jack was an iffy napper. Iffy is a generous word. So these conversations don't seem to shine the best light on my parenting skills. I use my sharp wit to deflect feelings of inadequacy when other moms “tsk-tsk” at me when I joke (not a joke) that the only place he would sleep at 4 months old was stretched across my chest while I watched trashy television.

A quick recap of napping non-skills:

0 months: At three weeks old he would go for 9 to 10 hours at a time without any true sleep. If I remember correctly from the myriad of reading that I did, a three-week-old is supposed to have about an hour of alert time before needing a nap. That means Jack was squeezing in 9 periods of alertness back to back to back to...yeah. People always said, “Oh he is just curious, there's too much to see!” So I tried telling him that the ceiling fan would still be there if he wanted to doze and check later to make sure I wasn't lying. No luck. 

 The swing was a lifesaver for the first few months.

2 months: Jack would take naps, but only on me. Reflecting back, this was obviously the time I got the least done around the house and felt most like a lazy bum. Between 2 and 4 months, the times of naps were totally random. This was about the age when most other moms were talking about their plans of attack. Either they were scheduling fanatics or vehemently against parent-led schedules. Around this time I decided to peek into a book given to him by a colleague to see if there were any ideas about how to approach scheduling that we hadn't tried yet. I won't say which one in case anyone out there swears by this book, but it was ridiculous. It basically said that if you didn't breastfeed and have a parent-led schedule that your baby would get gangrene and die. There were sample schedules, which might have come in handy if they seemed at all realistic. Something like, “place your baby in a seat by the window for this hour and a half of active wakefulness. And make sure to breastfeed or your baby will get gangrene and DIE.” 

Sleeping on the go or on a person was pretty much how we did it.

4 months: 4-6 months was emotionally taxing in terms of naps. I was determined to get Jack into some kind of routine, as it seemed to be a top priority in all of the baby literature. We tried everything to get Jack to sleep in his crib during the day, where he was regularly sleeping up to 11 hours a night with 1-2 quick wakings. We even tried “Cry It Out,” which did not work for Jack or Mommy. We both cried but never got to the “out” part. The best we could do was to swaddle him so tightly I thought his head would pop off, rock him and shush shush shush right into his face, and eventually we could lie him down. EXACTLY 40 minutes later, he would be awake. Every. Single. Time. WTF?! It was so precise I could have sworn there was a timer in his brain. The problem wasn't necessarily the short naps but the perpetually exhausted infant it resulted in. We would go through 5 nap cycles on some days, and that still added up to less than the recommended minimum of nap time in a day for a baby his age. I read and read and read about baby naps. I found message boards filled with posts from women (and men) with the same type of problematic nappers. It seemed Jack was not alone in his 40 minute cycles. Unfortunately, the best and most frequent advice was, “They grow out of it eventually.” Everyone's eventually was different, so I just crossed my fingers and hoped that he would just change overnight.

 You want me to sleep in here?  By myself?  While it's light outside?  Are you crazy?

6 months: We were able to get down to 3 naps a day, when most kids are getting to 2, but they were still short and times were variable. He was so tired by the evening that he was going to bed for the night around 6:30pm. Every evening this seemed great- Mike and I could eat dinner in peace, catch up on housework, watch TV, still go to bed at a decent hour. Every morning this was terrible, because Jack was up for the day at 4:45am. It is almost hilarious now but wasn't then. Another problem was that Mike was working in the ICU during this time and would often get home as Jack was going to bed. I know this happens to many families when one or both parents have to work late, so we were not unique in this problem and it was short-term, but it still sucked. Oh, and around 7 months we finally were able to ditch the swaddler, which was our best friend for a long time. For a while Mike was worried we would need to build our own swaddler for him to bring to kindergarten for rest time.

 Hey, at least someone was getting use out of it.  He got stuck though.

8 months to present (10.5 months): Jack has started to show signs of improvement. He often still wakes up after 35-40 minutes but will usually go back to sleep, although I usually need to rock him again. But usually once a day he sleeps about an hour and 15 minutes and we are down to two naps a day. I still feel pangs of jealousy when I hear moms talk about their 3-hour nap kids or brag that their son/daughter will take multiple 2-hour naps every day, but I talk myself off the ledge. I try to look at the bright side, thinking of all of the things Jack does do well that I hear other parents obsessing about.
  • Eat
  • Sleep overnight
  • Crawl/Pull up/Cruise
  • Eat
  • Give kisses/high fives/smacks in the face
  • Says “mama,” “dada,” “Jet,” “yeah,” “done” (we think)
  • Make the weird mouth noise from Silence of the Lambs (“I ate his liver a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti.” It's perfection.

If napping is the one major complaint I have, I guess we can deal with it. 

 Asleep in our bed after waking up obscenely early.  Now that he can roll away though it's pretty dangerous.  That's why I was taking a picture instead of sleeping.

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