Sleeping Through the Night

April 1, 2010 9:58:26 AM PDT
At the risk of sounding like I'm gloating, my husband and I have been pretty lucky. Sienna is a wonderful baby. She goes to sleep easily, she doesn't have bouts of crying or fussiness (except when she's hungry or tired, but then again, I don't know many adults who don't get fussy when they're hungry or tired). Even when she was a couple of weeks old, she only got up once or twice during the night. This is all to the surprise (and perhaps a bit to the disappointment) of my parents who very patiently put up with colic for the first four months of my life. I'm sure they were hoping one day, there would be pay back.

Around 9 weeks something odd happened. Sienna would almost to the minute wake up at 3am then again at 5am... she wasn't hungry, she just wanted to be held. After a few tries, I could usually get her back to sleep after the 3am rise by comforting her while she remained in her crib. The 5am was a bit more difficult. The only way to get her to sleep for another couple of hours was to bring her in bed with us. I'd usually place her on my chest and she would fall back to sleep, and so would I albeit sitting up. (As a new parent you quickly find out you can get some decent shut eye sitting up and in some cases even standing up).

I started doing some research to find out why these middle of the night intruders were popping up at an age when she should start sleeping a consistent number of hours. One book told me if your baby was waking up at the same time every night and was not hungry or did not need a diaper change, chances are her "biological clock was stuck". OK fine, I can understand that. But how do I fix it? That's where things get a little tricky. This particular book told me in order to break the cycle, I had to let Sienna "cry it out". The author stated this "torture" would only last three days. But the crying may last anywhere from ten to 45 minutes a night. I shuttered at the thought. It seemed cruel, even more cruel then months of sleep deprivation.

But a few fellow parents told me it was pertinent to break this "habit". If I didn't I would regret it when she was getting up in the middle of the night when she was 9 months old. I felt a lot of pressure to do something about this brewing "problem".

One night we tried the "cry out" approach; Tried being the operative word. I lasted about ten minutes before I picked her up and brought her back in bed with me. Maybe I gave up to soon; maybe I'm just a wimp. I thought about it long and hard the next day. How could I let her scream? After all she is just a baby. Just because she's not hungry or wet doesn't mean she doesn't need me. I have a hard time believing infants have the intellectual capacity to be manipulative. Plus, before I know it, she may not even want to be in the same state as me, let alone the same bedroom. When that time comes, I'll miss having her need me. So I decided, this wasn't a "habit" I was willing to break just yet. And yes, I did find a book among my baby library that let me know this was OK. Not that I needed affirmation, but the point is there are a lot of theories of what you should and shouldn't do as a parent. That's why how-to-parent books is a billion dollar industry. There's one out there for everyone.

We decided we wouldn't let her cry it out but comfort her like we always had and see if she would grow out of the 3am wake up and learn to appreciate just how glorious a full night sleep really is. Wouldn't you know it the very next night she slept from 10:30 pm to 7:30am. I'm not joking. Obviously, this was a wonderful coincidence but my point is Sienna slept through the night when she was ready. Part of being a parent is giving up doing everything on your watch. Some parents may find the crying out method works well. But what I realize now is that babies are people and so are parents. For us hearing Sienna cry for an hour was much more difficult than losing a couple hours of sleep. We weren't comfortable using this method to rid our family of the overnight intruder... and that was ok. Learning and being open minded about different parenting styles is smart and necessary but we're learning the best parenting style is one you develop on your own.