Sleep poker

I’m not a gambling woman, but putting Lucy down to sleep sure does feel chancey to me most of the time. Each time I quickly dash out of the room, heart racing, listening anxiously for any whimpering, I think about how much this process feels like luck rather than skill. Here’s how:

Sound asleep

Putting Lucy to sleep is a gamble because…

  • You just never know what the outcome will be.
    Sometimes I work for 45 minutes to make sure Lucy is fast asleep, eyes shut, body relaxed, breathing deep. Then I put her down and her eyes pop right open again. Other times, she’ll fall right asleep after three minutes and stay that way. Sometimes she chooses to wake up after 20 minutes. Sometimes (thank you, Lord!) she stays asleep for four hours or more. Why? Nobody knows.
  • I don’t know when to stop.
    One of my big questions is, “How long should I spend trying to get Lucy to sleep in her crib?” It makes me nuts when I spend half an hour or more getting her to sleep, only to realize that I’ll need to wake her again to eat in twenty minutes. But it is a bit addictive. I start off saying, “I’m only going to spend fifteen minutes trying to get her to sleep,” and then after fifteen minutes she seems so close, so I give myself another fifteen, and another. I can stop any time, really, I can.
  • The results are fleeting.
    I work really hard sometimes to get Lucy to sleep, and then I just have to wake her up again. It feels like money going down the drain. (But of course, it’s not: even the short naps that Lucy gets help her to have the rest she needs.)
  • Lucy has a true poker-face.
    Just when you think you have her figured out, when she seems totally asleep, bam! she pulls a fast one on you. Or on the other hand, you can be totally convinced she is awake, but upon closer study, she is just rolling her eyes in active-sleep ecstasy. I think she finds it important to maintain an air of mystery, even with her parents.

I am just beginning to feel like I’m not constantly making blind guesses about how to help Lucy sleep. There seems to be some method in the madness. This gives me hope. Will I get to know Lucy well enough someday that we’ll be able to put her to sleep easily, simply, and without the anxiety and crossed fingers? Can we beat the house? Time (and hopefully lots of sleep in the meantime) will tell.

11 Replies to “Sleep poker”

  1. I so could have written this post 4-5 months ago (although Ben never seemed to get the 4 hour nap that you’re talking about here). It DOES get easier, you know your baby better and they’re more predictable as their sleep patterns organize in their heads. It’s hard to be patient sometimes when you feel like you’re working so hard and doing all of the “right” things, but it really will pay off. You might just not see it for a few more weeks.

    I remember telling Chris that it was hard feeling like a failure multiple times every single day because I could not get my son to nap for more than 30 minutes/clip no matter what I did or how hard I tried. But, with time comes perspective and I see now that he was just trying to adjust to all of the stimulation that life out here brings and napping was not as high on his priority list as it was on his mama’s :)

  2. I’ll tell you two of the things that I learned (because I too, could have written this same post!). First of all, if I was having a really hard time getting him to sleep, or getting him to stay asleep (so I would rock him / bounce him to sleep and then he would wake up as soon as I put him in the crib), I would go ahead and take a nap with him in my bed. That way he would sleep a little longer and I could get some extra sleep as well. The other thing I learned was that I just had to let it go and not stress out about it. I realized that I was making everything harder on myself by focusing so much on his sleep (or lack thereof) that I would feel like I failed if he didn’t get as much sleep as I thought he should. Once I relaxed about it a bit and decided just to kind of go with the flow – I would do my best to ensure he got enough sleep, but if he didn’t because he just refused to sleep, then oh well – then I found everything much more enjoyable and less stressful.

    On another note – have you ever tried for a day or maybe just half a day, not waking her up to eat just to see what happens? She might surprise you and still get enough feedings in during the 24 hour period without ever being deliberately woken by you!

  3. I haven’t tried to take a nap with Lucy in my bed. I feel like it wouldn’t work, since most of the time she doesn’t seem to be comforted by me patting her and being next to her crib, but maybe I should try it.

    I’m nervous about not waking her up to eat! I worry that a) she won’t eat enough, and b) that then she’ll start waking more frequently at night. Right now, she has been sleeping pretty well at night — for example, last night she slept from 12:00-3:30, got up to eat, then slept again from 4:45-7:15. If I had to choose, I’d rather have consolidated night sleep rather than day sleep, but I’d love both! maybe we’ll experiment with it sometime.

    Thanks for the stories. I suspect that it will get better, but I’m always so glad to hear real stories that confirm my suspicions! It is so true that trying to get Lucy to sleep can make me feel like a failure. I’m trying to remember that this is not about me and my Mommy Show, it is about helping Lucy to grow into a bigger, better person.

  4. Some moms find success with nursing the baby while lying in bed, then popping the baby off once she’s asleep and rolling away. But then you have that whole nurse-to-sleep thing. Just a thought. We went that route with Abi, but so far not with Josi. I hope all three of you are getting at least some sweet dreams.

  5. Hey Ann – Benjamin was the same way – when I said I would take a nap with him in our bed, what I meant was, I would first rock him to sleep and then, once he was out, lay down with him – he tended to be less likely to wake up from that than from me putting him down in the crib. Also, if he stirred during his sleep while I was laying with him, I could pat him or massage his back and he would sometimes sleep a bit longer.

    If you do decide to try the not waking her up to eat thing, I would do it on a day when Jon will be around. That way, if it totally throws off her sleep for the day or night, you have help and can still get some sleep so it doesn’t totally throw you off! Also keep in mind, that for one day, as an experiment, if she doesn’t get enough to eat it is only one day and in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal.

    I remember a huge revelation for me with Benjamin and sleep occured around 5/6 weeks of age. We were driving in the car and he was screaming his head off in his car seat. Since we were driving, there wasn’t really anything I could do (short of pulling over and taking him out), so we had no choice but to let him cry. He cried at the top of his lungs for about 10 minutes and then was suddenly quiet. I looked back at him and he was sound asleep! After that, I was much more willing to let him cry for a set time limit (usually 5 – 10 minutes) to see if he would go to sleep. It was pretty amazing – he would be so worked up and then would just go to sleep. My mom said she thought that sometimes babies just needed to be vocal for a bit before going to sleep. The key for me was to set a time limit – if you don’t look at the clock, 2 minutes of crying can feel like an eternity! Anyway – it didn’t take him very long to figure it all out after I started giving him 5 or 10 minutes in his crib crying and then he would go to sleep after just 1 minute or even no crying at all. I don’t know that I would have had the courage to try it if we hadn’t had that car experience – seeing him go from totally worked up to sound asleep just like that made a big difference in how I viewed crying from then on.

  6. Ok, since Nicole brought up crying, I’ll post what we do with Josi. When she’s been up for about an hour, she usually yawns or starts to get cranky. We swaddle her, which keeps her limbs from going all crazy and serves as a sleep cue. We walk her for about 2 minutes, then place her in her sleep spot (now it’s her carseat, soon to transition to cradle). She almost always cries. We shut the door and set the timer for 5 minutes. If she falls asleep within that time, great. If not, we go in and soothe her (pick her up, walk, bounce) for a few minutes till she’s calm and sleepy. Then we put her back down and set the timer again. This works most of the time. When it doesn’t, then we soothe more, cry less, until she’s down. Oh, and I thought my friend was lying when she told me that when babies sleep longer at night, they will do better for their naps as well. Josi just started sleeping well at night (at least 6 hours, sometimes 10 hours, and she’s 11 weeks old), and miraculously the naps are way better. I know I’ve said this about 10 times, but it really does get better. Sometimes you can be doing everything right, but it seems to not work because she is still so little. Age is always a variable that can work for you in the sleep area. Sorry this is so long…

  7. Hi. Since you mention liking to hear real life stories I will throw mine in the hopper. Caveat: every baby will find their own best sleep habit… all we can do as parents is encourage and hope. : ) We did 10 minutes with Gabriel from the time he was about a month or so old until… well, we still do a modified version. I, like Nicole mentions, would look at the clock. I would do a 10 minute sooth, sing, story routine with Gabe, then whether he was bright eyed or starting to doze I would put him down (he was a stomach sleeper – shhhh! Don’t tell the baby books.) and leave the room. Sometimes he would drift right off, sometimes he would “play” around, sometimes he would start wailing… but he had 10 minutes to show me what he was going to have the strength to accomplish. More often than not he couldn’t keep that bellering up for 10 minutes, he would start to quiet himself and then drift. If he didn’t I would return (10 minutes and .05 seconds!) and do the whole soothing thing again… then the whole leaving him alone thing again. It worked well for us… and he is still (at 18 months) a great night sleeper and napper (THANK GOD!). As an aside, most parents I personally know who nap with their kids have a tough time getting their kids to break the habit of a bed buddy later… something about sleeping together during the daytime seems to trigger something different than night time co-snoozing. I say, one way or the other, the piper will be paid and a child will have to learn about sleep – but there are 100 ways to skin a cat and 1000 ways to get a kid to sleep!*
    As always, it sounds like you are doing great!

    *Didn’t Cher write a song about how to sleep train one’s child… something about “Sooner or later, we all sleep alone”?

  8. Ann, I am so glad that you wrote about this today. My mom just left today and right after Abby and I got home from dropping her off at the airport we had a trial by fire. Abby is exactly like Lucy – it’s a blind draw as to whether her eyes will pop open or not when put anywhere to sleep. She’s a good asleep-faker too! This anxiety about sleep makes my heart beat like three time faster than it should. So, I don’t have any advice since Abby and I are going through this at the same time, but everyone else’s ideas sound like options to try!

  9. You girls are awesome. I think I read somewhere recently that new parents talking about sleep is generally an explosive topic, like religion or politics. But I’m so glad to hear the different spectrum of opinions! I love it.

    Jon and I had a similar experience of Lucy conking herself out after crying for a little while in the car. I’m not sure when to start letting her cry a little bit though. Some of you started around 4 weeks, and some books say to not let them cry until they are 3 months old. Of course, this is sort of funny to me lately because lots of times, Lucy cries whether I hold her or not these days — she isn’t like, “Yay! it is mommy!” She is still more like, “I’m crying because… I’m grumpy! I am mysterious grumpy baby!” So, I’m not really letting her “cry it out,” I just can’t get her to stop crying. Sort of funny, in a way.

  10. Yeah, Benjamin was that way too, which was one of the reasons I didn’t feel bad giving him 5 – 10 minutes to work it out on his own – he cried whether I did or not anyway!

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