Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Am I doing it right?

I've come to a conclusion about parenting- it's all trial and error.  Every ounce of it.  You can read the books, watch all the shows, listen to all the advice, but until you try it for yourself?  It all means nothing. 

Take this bed time thing.  All my work on getting a quiet, warm room with the white noise machine at an appropriate decibel, with the correct ratio of blanket to baby and the cats safely at bay.  As I'm trying to put him down at the stroke of 8, so he develops a routine, I'm finding that I'm sitting there rocking him for no less than 1.5 hours.  Meanwhile I'm texting my husband (who comes home from work at 8:30) "I'm so sorry.  I'll get you supper soon!" It's too much, really.

Liam is most comfy with routine, as are most children.  They like to know what's coming next.  When people ask me what I'm doing to facilitate an easy bed time, I start it off with, "Well, THIS week, THIS is working for me..."  Because every night you try something different, just until it works.

Some things I've come away with while trying to get my little guy to sleep:

1) Watch them while they settle in.  I found Liam was clutching my arm, chest, neck, whatever he could wrap his little arms around.  When I put him in his crib, and I would pull my arms away, he would scream.  I tried slipping a blanket in place of my arm and sure enough he put it over his face and held it tightly and settled in.  I started watching him as he slept to see what was triggering his awakenings.  At one point I realized when his hands were cold and he was touching his face, he'd wake up.  That's how I knew we needed to start dressing him warmer.

2) Peace and quiet isn't always the best.  We found that Liam was a really light sleeper.  The slightest noise and he was up.  When we started using the white noise machine, we found that he was concentrating on the sound of the ocean and not every other little thing.  Turns out the one night we forgot to put it on and Andy and I woke up so exhausted!  Guess it worked for us too!  One of the things I hear from parents is that you don't want a light sleeper.  Well, guess what.  Kids want to know what's going on.  Everything is new.  Everything is exciting.  They're going to wake up.  So do your best to minimize extra noises, but try the white noise machine.  It works.

3) Crying it out isn't for everyone.  Turns out that Liam can wail for 2 hours straight.  If you've been reading my posts for the past month, you will know my hate/hate relationship with this method.  That being said.  LISTEN to your baby's cry and get to know their various tones and timbres.  When they start to cry, don't rush right in, but maybe give them 90 seconds to figure it out themselves.  If the crying escalates, then make your move.  But make sure it's for real and not just a short lived bad dream.

4) Go ahead.  Pick 'em up.  Here's something that is working for me.  The more I survey Liam, the more I see what a tactile child he is.  When I carry him, he wants to be cheek to cheek with me.  He cuddles to my chest and he feels my face.  His language of love at this point is physical touch- after all, he DID spend 39 weeks in my belly, where my hands were constantly on him.  So when I was going into his room and soothing him verbally and then leaving, it wasn't working.  Why?  Because I didn't meet his need at that moment.  I started picking him up right away and he was actually falling back to sleep instantly.  I began holding him tightly in a blanket and then laying him down again all tucked in and it was working.

5) There's always tomorrow night.  I could fill this entire blog with tips that worked for me once and then were void the next night, or even the night time Liam cried at bed time.  Currently, we've been skipping the rocking all together.  And we moved bed time to 9:30.  This way I can get Andy's supper and spend my time with him AND get Liam to sleep.  The night I gave up and just brought him down and turned off all the lights and let him fall asleep on my lap, he went down immediately and slept the night through.  Two nights in a row.

Are any of these tips 100% proven?  No.  Do I have a PhD behind my name?  No.  I can barely remember to write my married name and I'll be married 4 years this year.  I'm basically writing this to inform people that their OKAY.  You're not messing your kid up just because your bedtime routine doesn't currently line up with Sally Shmoe's down the street.  For goodness sakes, the other night Liam was freezing cold and crying and I cuddled him with us and we all slept. 

We get so tied up in doing it "right" that we put added pressure on our kids and our husbands and OURSELVES.  We fear the peer pressure that comes from talking with other moms and admitting we still rock our kids to sleep.  Are you kidding me?  Just release that!  Those other moms are not there when you're trying to get your kid to sleep.  They are not married to your husband.  They are not YOU.  So just do what it takes to raise your child with love and compassion.  LISTEN to them, and give yourself space to make mistakes.  It's all going to be okay.  Promise.