I never expected my newborn baby to sleep on his own. People told me that I better let him learn as soon as possible or else I would still need to help him sleep when he was six. I felt very conflicted about this, especially after reading The Continuum Concept. I knew that my baby needed me. I also knew that I wanted him in my arms as much as possible. I do not regret it one, bit. In fact, if I could somehow have held him more, I would have. Babies grow so fast, and I have heard many a mother lament when their babies have grown and they miss holding their newborn. It makes me wonder why those same mothers continue to “put their babies down”, so they will not become “spoiled.”
My sweet 8-month-old is definitely not spoiled. When I think of spoiled, I think of something that has “gone bad.” That’s not to say that young children can actually be “bad” but you know what I mean. A happy baby is definitely not a baby “gone bad.” And my baby is happy. He is confident that his needs will be met. He doesn’t cry to get my attention…but he does let me know when he needs me.
But we were talking about sleep, weren’t we? I have always helped Michael fall asleep. Only two times has he ever fallen asleep without any help, and he was sick both of those times. The rest of the time he has been nursed, cuddled, rocked, walked, patted, or driven asleep. I do miss the first days of his life when he would fall asleep just laying on my chest or cuddled in my arms. It didn’t seem long before he needed to be swaddled and walked to sleep every night. When I finally got a sling he was 7 weeks old. That worked wonderfully for putting him to sleep, though he always awoke when I took him out. I think he was 2 months old before I was able to nurse him well enough that we could lie down together and he would fall asleep. At some point he stopped falling asleep in the car. Maybe around 6 months, and before that it took 20 minutes for him to fall asleep in the car. It seemed for a while that he was getting pickier about how he would fall asleep. Around 5 months he no longer wanted to be swaddled–we weren’t doing it much then, anyway. It had been months since we could rock him to sleep in the recliner. Basically, he either fell asleep at my breast–only if we lay down together–or he fell asleep in the mei tai carrier. Even more recently, he would only fall asleep in the mei tai if we walked him up and down the stairs–what a workout! I certainly did not like the idea of having to walk up and down the stairs to get him to sleep, as he got bigger and bigger.
My solution was to always give him opportunities to fall asleep in different ways. For example, if he nursed laying down with me, but did not fall asleep, I would have him lay next to me for a while, let him get his wiggles out, and then cuddle up. This worked a few times. I was always trying to get him to fall asleep nursing in the recliner, which never worked for months, but recently it has happened a few times. If he woke at night we would try walking him around (without the mei tai) or rocking him in the recliner. If the new approach doesn’t work, there is always the mei tai. I often like to start with whatever is easiest for me, though. Because if it works, I will be happy and have saved some energy.
Here is the cool thing. In the last few weeks I have noticed Michael “putting himself to sleep”. The conditions have to be right, of course: he needs to be relaxed and comfortable, and he also needs to be next to me. This is usually cuddling in bed with me after nursing or when he’s in the mei tai, and now he’s starting to do it in the recliner while nursing. Instead of sleep “overcoming” him, I can tell he is going to sleep more purposefully. He’ll lay his head down and snuggle into me, and his breathing, though relaxed, tells me that he is still awake. Eventually he falls asleep. I am excited about this new development because it reaffirms what I have read about and believed (or rather hoped) to be true…that babies who sleep with a caregiver develop good sleeping habits.
Someone on the continuum forum said recently: ”Do what your baby needs. Chances are you don’t have to do it for very long because they will change.” In other words, don’t worry if it is a hassel…the baby is going to change anyway, and you won’t have to do it anymore.
Michael is always changing! A month ago he needed me to hold him constantly when he slept. The last week, however, he has started wiggling until I take my arm out from under his head. Now he wants a little space. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, too, because his head was starting to get heavy on my arm! He often sleeps longer now, too. He might only nurse once during the night and not need to pee until he gets up in the morning. I know that many babies his age will still nurse every 2 hours, or even more. I don’t know why. Maybe they need it for some reason. But the way I see Michael developing on his own timetable, it gives me reassurance that I am not going to “spoil” him by helping him to sleep. He will become an independent sleeper when he is ready. And I am sure I will miss snuggling with him whenver that happens.