Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Science of Sleep

Though so much about parenting is unexpected, one thing we all know before going in is that we'll face sleepless nights. However, that sleeplessness takes a much greater toll than I ever imagined. Babies sleep to the strum of their own lullaby, and while some sleep through the night at a fairly young age (I've heard of this happening, but have no experience of my own to back it up), many take months before accomplishing this feat. And once they do, a parent finally getting caught up on precious sleep may experience setbacks in their child's night-waking due to teething, illness, travel, impending leaps in cognitive/motor development, night-terrors, thirst, hunger, gas (baby Megan is provides a great example of this one) - the list is infinite. I used to inwardly snicker when my pre-child self heard stories of parents enslaved by their baby's nap schedule. My baby was going to fit into my life, not the other way around. Right?

Enter Maryn. She was a colicky, fitfully-sleeping child who required marathon bouncing sessions on our exercise ball while being tightly cocooned in a sling to fall asleep. It was not until she was four months old when my grandma bought me the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child that we realized much of her fussing was due to being over-tired. We instituted a rigid nap schedule and slowly things began to change for the better. And there I was "enslaved" to my child's nap routine. But it was a small price to pay for a less-cranky baby and more rested mama.

Even with better naps, Maryn did not sleep through the night until she was about 9 months old. And there are still sleep challenges to be overcome. Right now her toddler bed is in our room as Lucy's cries in the night were keeping big sister awake. It is not the ideal situation, but it's working for the time being. For some reason she prefers to sleep on the floor and although we put her to sleep in her bed, she inevitably crawls out sometime during the night and we have to remember to step gingerly for fear of crushing her underfoot. She also likes to sleep surrounded by a menagerie of stuffed animals and a library of books:
Here she is on the floor surrounded by a dictionary, Suburban Nation, God Chasers, a Bernstein Bear's book, and The Theory of Poker (Chris wanted to make sure I got that one in the picture)

She normally cradles pup-pup or a blankie, but that night only a bright yellow frisbee would do.

Maryn also gave up her pacifiers recently which made for a few VERY rough nights of sleep. She's starting to adjust to sleeping without them but bedtime now requires more books and back-rubs in their absence. While time consuming, I mostly don't mind - my mom "tucked" us in 'till we were teenagers and it was always a sweet time of sharing and talking before we went to sleep. I hope to make it a special time for our girls as well and these nights are just the first of many if they are anything like my brother and me.

Lucy's sleep was long in coming, but mostly due to the heart stuff and recovering from such a traumatic event. Her sleep clock also kicked in around 9 months when she began sleeping through the night. Lucy is a much more laid back baby than her sister was and while she likes to take naps in her crib she does pretty well catching cat-naps in the car or the Ergo when we are out and about. That works out pretty well because it's a lot harder to stay home and work around naps when you're trying to entertain an almost three-year-old. Oh, and I should mention that both kiddos liked to be swaddled like little burritos until they were about 8 months old. This blanket was a life saver!

And here's one more tip about babies and sleep: always remember to put pajamas on over their diapers - yes, even when it's blisteringly hot. As you'll notice in the picture above, Lucy has removed her diaper at some point during the night and is tuckered out (adorably so) stark necked. What the picture fails to show is that she is serenely sleeping with her face plunked down in a big ole' pile of you-know-what, which I realized shortly after taking this picture when she woke up with it all over her cheeks, hands, and in the crevices of her ears. It was actually pretty well contained and with a bath and a load of laundry we were able to get on with our day. Gross, but manageable, like many things in parenthood.

And now I'll leave you with a video. It's actually more of a sound-bite as it was taken in complete darkness around 9:00 pm when Maryn was supposed to be sleeping. She's singing herself a lullaby, and a sweet one at that. Yes, Jesus does love you, honey, and I hope you never forget to sing this song. Just not so loudly that it wakes Lucy up next time.


Bonnie said...

The sleepless nights have been the BIG and MAJOR thing that has been having me putting off having babies, but I'm as ready as I'll ever be for that now. Thank you for the adorable tales in Maryn and Lucy Land...your little girls make all those sleepless nights sound worth it.

Carol said...

This blog should be sent to all young mom. It's precious inspite of the fact that we know how exhausting it is to be a parent. Don and I was laughing like crazy when we listened to the sound bite. Great blogging.

Katers said...

sooooo...does this mean that we won't be sleeping as soundly EVEN when meg is out of our room? you wrote an excellent article, my friend. i think you should send this to MOPS!!! your kids are adorable. and so are you:).

Drew & Erica said...

Ok, all I have to say is that Maryn is SOOO chris' child...cradling a frisbee and sleeping next to a poker book. That picture is a classic & needs to go into the scrapbook to be seen for generations to come!

AK said...

Oh, how I miss the sleepless nights...yeah, not so much! I'm sorry to hear about the Goose's recent discovery. Hopefully she won't find 'finger painting' to be a choice hobby! I just know Logie and Maryn are going to star together on Broadway someday! Such beautiful little voices!

Marie said...

going to have to try that blanket! i'm up for everything now with my turning COMPLETELY around in his crib four-month-old!!!

Dan,Melissa & Caleb Barnett said...

So cute!!! You two seem to be such wonderful parents.