Oh Bon Jovi…when will you ever cease to inspire me? Never, that’s when. Never, you big piece of man meat, you…
In case you haven’t figured it out, this post is about the confusing and frustrating world of infant sleep. As far as I can tell, there are two types of infants: those who sleep like teenagers, and those who sleep like babies. For those of you who have babies who sleep like teenagers, I say, ‘Good for you. Now go read something important like a book …you with your well rested eyes and brains.’ For the rest of us, let’s grovel together in our unified self-pity, shall we?
I don’t know anything scientific about infant sleep. That’s because I believe it is a spiritual issue. It’s simple: Those of us with babies who don’t sleep were evil in another life, and God is torturing us in this life. So next time you’re up in the middle of the night crying, ‘WHY?’ because your baby is awake AGAIN, you now have the answer. You were bad and this is your payback. Mystery solved. You’re welcome. Now go burn some sage before your brand of evil seeps through the computer and infects us all. We can’t afford another lifetime of this.
No one ever told me that babies don’t sleep like regular people. I remember a time when I used to get into bed, close my eyes, and open them approximately eight hours later. Well, those days are OVER. Infant sleep is not a straight forward line dance where you Boot Scootin’ Boogie from point A to point B then sit down with a can of Coke and a bowl of chips and call it a night. It’s more like an intricate, never ending square dance and the caller is your infant’s internal clock. Just when you think you’ve got the steps figured out, he changes the call and you and your partner are screwed. Then he teethes and you’re doubly screwed.
There is another complicated element involved in infant sleep though, and that is the parent. You see, parents exaggerate, embellish, and down-right lie about their babies all the time. Sleep is no exception. So the next time you think your baby is sucking at this sleep thing because your friend’s newborn is ‘sleeping through the night’, you can just take a deep breath and assure yourself that she is a big, fat liar. Either that or she has a different definition of sleeping through the night. To me, sleeping through the night means my baby puts his head down at a time I feel fit and he doesn’t lift it up again until 8-12 hours later. I’ve learned recently 6-8 hours counts as ‘through the night’ though…so maybe my sweet friend isn’t such a big, fat liar after all. Nevertheless, if she wants to set low expectations for her adorable child right from the get-go, then, she can be my guest. The Beast and I will be over here reaching for the stars. (I kind of feel like Monica on Friends when I say stuff like that.)
Before my babe was even born, I knew the scope of his beastliness was sizeable. While still ‘on the inside’, at a regularly scheduled gyno appointment, The Beast kicked the Doppler right off my stomach. The doctor just put the machine away and said, ‘He’s alive.’ When he was born though, just for a second, I thought we’d gotten a Zen baby. He just stared at us with puckered lips and little almond eyes. Then he closed those little eyes and had a snooze. I thought, ‘Who’s baby is this!?’ But little did I know, he was just plotting our reprogramming. I guess Husband and I BOTH must have been evil in a past life.
We tried every well-meaning piece of advice from family and friends to get him to sleep: try him on his side, try him on his stomach, give him a blanket, no put the blanket by his ears…it only works if you put the blanket by his ears, give him a soother, take away his soother, swaddle him, don’t swaddle him, feed him rice cereal, rock him, don’t rock him, put him in a swing, take him for a drive, bounce him, dance with him, sing to him, sleep with him, don’t sleep with him, cluster feed him, dream feed him, wear him, let him cry…
Let him cry…
Let him cry?
But this isn’t the 1970s. This is 2013. Everyone knows letting your baby cry for even a second will cause him to suffer irreversible psychological damage…right…right? Um, have you ever met a real, actual baby? They cry. A lot. Now go burn that stupid book you read that filled your head with that nonsense, because guess what, unsuspecting reader? You probably cried yourself to sleep, and you either a) didn’t suffer any psychological damage from it, or b) you DID but you’re really good at hiding it. Either way, I’m satisfied with the outcome. You’re doing alright.
Yes, folks. We let our baby cry himself to sleep. In the fancy world of ‘medicine’ or ‘academia’ or ‘whatever’, this is called The Ferber Method. It was invented by mothers everywhere before the ‘don’t leave your baby to cry alone for even a second’ era, but Dr. Ferber wrote a book about it, so he gets all the credit. It also means he has surpassed Larry David as top white haired, Jewish man I’d like to have an affair with because…it works! The Ferber Method works. And your beast will (probably) still love you in the morning unlike Larry David, or Bon Jovi.
Before you go getting all judgy, let me reassure you. When you Ferberize your baby, you don’t just fire him in his crib and shut the door. First you read the book and THEN you fire him in his crib and shut the door. No, I’m just joking. No seriously though, Ferberizing involves leaving your child for progressively longer intervals before responding to his cries. He eventually learns to self soothe, and soon you’ll hear his cute, little voice as he talks himself to sleep.
Except when he’s teething.
Or has his needles.
Or hates his jammies.
Or wants to cuddle.
Or has a bad day.
Then you’ll be up all night.
But then, you and your beast (with his little, ironclad fists) will wake up and French kiss the morning, because once you have kids, you’ll only sleep when you’re dead.