Monday, September 18, 2006

Sleep baby...but where?

I was looking through the newspaper and an article "Sleep baby...but where?" about children and parents cosleeping caught my attention. Should the baby "cosleep" with the parents or sleep in the crib? A hot topic amongst parents. Being a parent myself especially in the US where children are trained to be independent as early as possible in all ways possible - sleep in the crib, sleep in a separate room, eat on your own, tie your own shoes, cosleeping is certainly not taken for granted as it was when I was a child. We had our baby sleep in the crib until our trip to India when he turned one. When he was an infant, we were terrified that we would suffocate this tender little being by rolling over him or throwing a big fat pillow over him - so we did not entertain the idea of this him sleeping in our bed. I would wake up 4 or 5 times a night if he needed to feed, but I would put him back in the crib. When he was a month old, our pediatrician (a jovial old man, 6 foot plus who wears Hawaiian shirts so babies will enjoy looking at the bright colors, his years of experience showing in the way he would casually swoop the little baby in a football hold with one arm!) casually asked me "So how is the night time?"' and I promptly relayed my woes like a child would complain to a parent about a troublesome friend, of how often he wakes up to nurse and how I wish he would at least just cut it down to just once a night. And he casually said "You know he doesn't need any night time feeding now. He is ready to sleep through the night"! "But doctor, he is only a month old and he cries so much if I don't nurse him when he wakes up". "Well, he has opinions. Why do you want him to be happy all the time?! Let him cry. It's ok. He will learn to sleep eventually". I didn't know what to say to that. The next appointment with the pediatrician was a couple of months later and things hadn't changed too much on the night front. This time he again asked me "So, how is the night time?”. Knowing things could turn on me I was careful in how much I poured out. "Well, it's okay, I mean, not too bad. He still wakes up...but it's okay". "You know unless you let him cry it out he is not going to learn to fall asleep on his own". Oh dear, there it goes. “It's my fault. I need to train him to sleep. But how can I let him cry! What if he is thirsty? I can't go to bed without a bottle of water beside me" I thought to myself. "But what if he doesn't stop crying, how long do I let him cry?" “Well he won't cry for as long as you think. You can keep patting him, but don't get him out of the crib. If he cries for four hours, then may be you have to do something about it".On the way back I ask my husband " You think we can do that?". He quite simply says "Not with grandparents around". That made it easier for me. Yes, blame the grandparents. They just won't let me train him to sleep! My mother would come rushing in and ask what the matter was if she heard him cry for longer than 5 minutes. No way I can train him to sleep now. Let me just keep status quo. Change of guards. My parents leave and my husband’s parents come to stay with us and spend time with their only son's son. Now this little one is the king of the house needless to say in their opinion. There is even less of a chance for me to train my son to sleep through the night by letting him cry it out. I mean I cannot do that in front of my in-laws! What about my reputation! "She let's the poor baby cry and won't let us hold him" I imagine the gossip spreading amongst the in-law circles! Move on. Month 6. Parents alone with baby. No doubt it was great having both sets of doting grand parents around. But now we have our baby to ourselves and do as we please - well to some extant - there's always the phone monitor with both grand mothers asking for regular updates. "Ippo thoongardha kozhandhe? Appdi dhan kozhandhai naa minna pinna dhan irukkum!" (Is the baby sleeping, well if not, that's how babies are - goes back and forth you know" implying I should just deal with it and not take extreme measures). My close friend, mother of two calls me up. "Well NOW what is your excuse? Don't chicken out. Just Ferberize him, I am telling you! It's totally worth it". I convey this to a older relative who had a child pre-internet days and she is horrified "Ferberize?! What is that? Sounds bad!" "My friend who suffered sleepless nights for two years with her first child tells me it worked like magic with her second child!", I tell my skeptical relative on the other end of the line. Guilt strikes again. I mean what kind of horrible parent would I be to let my baby cry for even 2-3 hours if that's what it takes to train him. On the other hand things are so out of control by now, baby waking up 4-5 times a night and all my feelings by the third or fourth waking are negative and I feel so much anger and frustration. "I mean I just nursed you, rocked you and put you in the crib. How can you do this to me?!" I would complain to my wailing baby when I picked him up from the crib. Finally I peruse the relevant chapters in Dr.Ferber's book on sleep training (my friend points me to those) and the case studies presented are exactly what I am going through with my child. I now brace myself to "Ferberize"! . Month 7. Start of sleep training. I keep myself busy in the kitchen that night preparing something for guests who are to arrive the next day. Husband, the cool "I am sure I can do it, I just don't know if YOU can handle it" father has been handed the job of "Ferberizing" the baby. I am so nervous that I clean the counter top frantically. We let him cry for 5 min, pat him and leave the room, then 10 min, pat him. then 15 min, pat him. Our son carries on now full-throated! This is the break point I need to cross. I am not going into the room yet. Next cycle. Now you can go into the room only after 15 more minutes, not 5 minutes! We look at the clock. Time seems to go very slowly. Has it only been five minutes? It feels like he has been crying forever! Suddenly there is silence. I am worried. Is he asleep or has he lost his breath? My hear beats faster. I ask my husband if he checked in on him. It's not yet 15 minutes but my husband is also a bit nervous I think with the sudden quiet. He goes in, checks on baby's breath and comes out triumphantly and declares "Baby is asleep"! I wait for him to wake up for the next two hours. Nothing. He is still asleep. Breath check ok! He wakes up only once that night. The next night he cries only for 5 minutes and falls asleep on his own. The third night, I am able to leave him in the crib half awake, without any crying, five minutes later he is asleep. And sleeps through the night until 5.00 am. This is miraculous! I still do not sleep through the night. I wake up all those times the baby would normally have woken up. I have been banished into the guest bedroom for those few days. Finally I can't take it anymore, I come back to our room and all is well. Baby now sleeps through the night. “That wasn't so bad”, I think to myself. "See!" my friend says as expected. I am thrilled at this marvelous change in my baby's sleep routine. Soon enough we take it for granted. Until the trip back home!One year old. Bangalore, India. No crib in the house. Of course baby has to sleep between us both. We can't deny it felt good to have him so close to us. The mornings were precious. He would wake up singing some baby sounds, fresh and happy with a burst of energy and sit up and look at us. He would smile and dash towards my face. Pretend to bite me like a little koala bear. He would do so many cute little things that cannot even be put into words. It was somehow more delightful to experience all this without getting out of bed first thing in the morning. Precious moments for doting parents. The first few nights are calm and peaceful. And then slowly and steadily he starts waking up two or three times a night, feed and then go back to sleep. One month of this while in India. Back in the USA. Jetlag strikes baby. He is up playing actively from 1.00 am to 5.00 am in the morning. I am up playing with him patiently, giving him his meal at 3.00 am! I decide not to deal with putting him back in the crib until he is out of jetlag. It is now a whole month since he came out of jetlag and we are not making any attempt to put him back in the crib. I wake up three or four times a night when he does and my body clock has adjusted to that. Every morning at 3.00am I get frustrated and tell my husband “This is it, I can’t do this anymore. We are going to put him back in the crib and make him sleep through the night”. And yet every morning when our child wakes up and mesmerizes us with all his cute antics I forget about my resolution. Every night we stay up for an hour or so watching TV or reading after our baby goes to bed. And when we go to our room and climb into bed and feel the warmth of our baby sleeping innocently next to us, we can only feel the joy of having him right next to us. No thoughts whatsoever of putting him back in the crib. I suppose I need to look for a book on how to Ferberize parents who co sleep with their children!