Saturday, January 16, 2010

What the hell have we done?!?

Oh no. We've really done it. We didn't know better. No one told us. It wasn't in the books we read. Somehow, somewhere along the line we missed the memo. We had no idea that we had to TEACH our baby to self-soothe.

Until two weeks ago, I was fairly confident that I was one of the few lucky mothers with a truly mellow child. Carter is generally even-tempered and seldom cries. He is friendly, full of smiles and laughs, with no problem with strangers. We've really got it easy, folks!

Or so I thought.

When my child started daycare, I came to the shocking realization that he is the ONLY child out of the twelve infants and toddlers at the facility who will NOT sleep in his pack'n'play. If they put him down in it, he screams. Upon pondering this, I realized that he has never learned to fall asleep on his own - we rock him, bounce him, shush him, jiggle him - we do it all, until he is sleeping soundly in our arms, and then gently place him in his swing or bassinet.


I was reading (the rather scary) Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child, in which Dr. Weissbluth makes many ominous references to foolish parents who coddle their babies, never bothering to kick-start their self-soothing abilities, which in turn leads to fussy, sleepless children, which then leads to short attention spans, ADHD-like symptoms, and various other nefarious, serial-killer-like tendencies. So people of Southern California 2030, I apologize. His mother made him do it.

In all seriousness, how did this happen? When did I become THAT parent - the neurotic can't-let-him-cry-even-for-a-minute mom? Here I thought I was just being warm and responsive, when in reality I have somehow hindered him. Perhaps I will blame my endless mommy groups at the Pump Station, with their fanatical passion for babywearing, co-sleeping, and Harvey Karp-ing. Damn hippies.

As I write this, I feel truly downtrodden. Have I done my child a grave disservice? Carter naps in his swing and occasionally in his bassinet, and even sleeps decently at daycare. He goes down promptly at 8pm every night and sleep til 5:30 or 6 the next morning - not straight through, mind you, that's crazy talk - he feeds several times during that stretch, but without waking. He simply fusses (with eyes still shut tight), I pick him up, nurse him for five minutes, and he's back down again without a struggle. Not perfect, but I've certainly heard worse at four and a half months. Yet now I realize that although he sleeps well when he's down, getting him down is entirely contingent on our battery of soothing techniques, and has nothing whatsoever to do with any ability to self-soothe, which is sorely lacking.

But there is light at the end of the fussy baby tunnel. I am sure that he will ultimately be able to develop this skill, now that we've realized our error and can make changes. And there are small victories: today, for instance, he slept in his crib for the first time, for three naps. Success! Yes, it took a small army of mommy-soothing to get him down in his crib, but it happened.

Slowly but surely, we'll get there. And when we do, there will be yet another bridge to cross: ditching his beloved swaddle. At this point, I am quite certain that we will still be tucking him into a sack and binding his arms with velcro when he goes off to college. He'll be a big hit with the ladies, no doubt.

Wish us godspeed in our journey, friends.

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