It’s burning me up inside, and I have to get it out.
I have never read a parenting book.
I have, in desperation, looked up precisely one chapter from each parenting book that I was given before my daughter was born. You know the one, it is entitled something like, “How to Get Your Child to Sleep.” Ha. Ha, ha ha.
When I was left sleepless after trying all the well-meaning advice of these books, I bemoaned the fact that I must be doing something wrong. What could I be doing wrong? Why wouldn’t my daughter sleep? Why did we have to carry her, night after night, just to get her to stop screaming? I truly was hard on myself. I figured that it must be some inadequacy in my parenting; my technique just wasn’t right. I stopped trying to look at the books, because they made me feel like I wasn’t a good mom (which I knew, looking at my happy-though-sleepless daughter, must not be true).
Then my son was born. When he was born, he cried like a good boy and then looked up at me with his squinty newborn eyes, snuggled into me and started nursing. They weighed him and he looked around the room. Then he nursed some more and went to sleep. Went to sleep. Just like that. No rocking, nothing. He fell asleep and slept, in his bassinet, for an hour or so and woke up to eat. After a few days, I started to fear something was wrong with him because he slept so much. Then I realized:
Some kids sleep. Some kids do not.
It was a “Eureka!” moment for me. I wasn’t an inept mom, unable to follow simple sleeping instructions. I was a mom like any other mom, trying to figure out what works for my own child. My unruly genetic material was the reason for the lack of sleep. The fact that I didn’t sleep until I was four years old was more likely the source of the lack of sleep than being unable to put my daughter down correctly, or not having the right sheets, or not putting her down at the right time. Some things just don’t work for everyone and I am going on a parenting book strike until I see one that says exactly that.
So, you want to know what worked for my child, the one who wouldn’t sleep? When I, (in the desperate realization that I was more dangerous to my daughter having not slept for 3 months than I would be by sleeping next to her), took all the pillows off of my bed and slept next to her, allowing her to nurse whenever she felt like it, all night long. It wasn’t great sleep, but it was sleep all the same. She wasn’t screaming, which was nice.
At three, my daughter still wakes at least twice most nights, needing to be hugged or to have a backrub to get back to sleep. What would the parenting books say about that? I don’t really care. She won’t be doing this when she goes to college. This time of being little is short, and we’re going to get through it however feels right for us.