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Sleeping Like a Baby

You know, the phrase “sleep like a baby” never really made a whole lot of sense to me. After all, people tend to complain about babies and sleep more often than not. And since having a baby? The phrase makes even less sense. Sleep like my baby? Briefly and with frequent snacks? Fitfully and with random bouts of crying? Only when being held?

When I was about 8 months pregnant, I listened to a woman go on a full-on tirade about co-sleeping and how dangerous it is, how it’s tantamount to child abuse and there’s all this propaganda in favor of it when really, parents who co-sleep should have their babies taken away for child endangerment. Which, you know, usually propaganda refers to the mainstream option being reinforced, rather than the subversive subculture trying to restore historical norms. But hey, whatever works for your family, right? I figured co-sleeping was just something that would get in the way of me and my adorable husband having our bed back, me getting my body back, and all that great stuff.

So when our little girl showed up, I was pretty surprised at how strongly my instincts screamed don’t put down the baby. All I wanted to do was hold her, and if she wanted to sleep while I was holding her, so much the better. The few times I tried to fall asleep while Ben was holding her, I couldn’t. So many months of sleeping while feeling these tiny little movements, and suddenly I couldn’t sleep without them (not to mention the near-paralyzing fear that at any moment, she might stop breathing for absolutely no reason. Thanks, SIDS-Awareness programs).

So I broke every rule about baby sleep. She slept in our bed, on her stomach against my chest, and with blankets and pillows still in the bed (albeit moved pretty far from her). And every time I tried to do anything different — put her on the bed itself, move her into the bassinet, anything other than holding her against my chest — she woke up instantly and started crying. So I just couldn’t.

Not to mention the fact that she still feeds 3-5 times during the night, and personally, I’m not real crazy about the idea of waking up to a crying baby, getting out of bed, walking down the hall, picking baby up out of a crib, sitting and feeding her in a chair in her room, getting her back to sleep, putting her back in the crib, walking back down the hall, and getting back into bed only to do the same damn thing two hours later. OR I could just roll over and fall asleep while feeding her and wake up when she stirs for the next meal.

I’ve also had well-meaning friends ask when we’re going to get our daughter onto a schedule. I totally get it when it comes to working mothers how a schedule could be the difference between sanity and losing it completely. But see, I don’t have a schedule. I don’t even know how I would put her on a schedule.  Not only that, there’s this whole thing about eat-play-sleep cycles which confused me a bit before she was born and now…

Look, this whole parenting thing is a lot more complicated than it looked from the other side (and it didn’t exactly look like a cakewalk). Ben and I have just been trusting our gut instincts and trying to make choices that really felt right for us. That means a lot of our baby decisions have been driven by my hormones. And there are a lot of hormones involved. I’ve really been surprised by just how strong these instinct-level responses are.

And sometimes, it’s hard to listen to your gut when the entire world around you says to do something else. Put the baby in the crib, don’t let her fall asleep while eating, get her into her own room.

I still maintain my pre-baby comments about Dr. Sears. I still disagree with a lot of his philosophies (not to mention his total misuse of the term “attachment”). But yes, we are doing several things he recommends. Not because he recommends them, mind you. Honestly, it’s because that’s how I was raised. Hold your baby, love her, and listen to your gut.