Saturday, February 6, 2010

Does your baby sleep all night?

The BIG question for parents is "when is the baby going to sleep all night?" If you are a blog-reader, there are lots of headlines in the blogosphere: "Baby sleeps all night" - until you read on a little bit to find that sleeping all night meant that the baby slept from 1 a.m til 5 a.m. I have heard that there are babies who go drift into blissful sleep at 7pm, and greet mom cooing and grinning at 7am. The MYTHICAL babies.

In another life of mine, I was even the EXPERT on when babies slept all night. The title of one article was "Putting the baby on snooze control," which makes it sound like "sleeping all night" is something that the PARENTS have control over, some magic button to push, an intricate plan, magic diet, specific blanket, baby sleeps IN a crib in her own room, baby sleeps in the room with parents, in the bed with parents, at grandmother's house, in a hammock in the jungle, lulled to sleep by a song and dance routine or voodoo chant. I am personally acquainted with all of those. They are the basis of fallacy number two - that parents can somehow make a child sleep all night.

Fallacy number ONE is that the child is going to sleep all night. EVER.

The question of course is not so much about when the BABY is going to sleep all night as when are the PARENTS going to sleep . . . at all? I am still asking that question.

Like most parents of very young children, I got all into the "sleeping all night" question. All of our children had their own issues. The Sophisticate had recurrent ear infections, which pretty much meant we never slept all night. Our Young Son, being last in a line of demanding children went to bed with ease with the rest of the gang about 7-7:30. He took a nap until 10, then got up to play with his devoted parents for an hour. He figured out that if he wanted ANY one-on-one time he'd have to snatch it - so he woke up from a night nap at 10 pm, had a solid hour of riotous fun from 10 until 11, while the rest of them were asleep. It worked well for us - he got his need for attention met, and I didn't have to try to go back to sleep. Don't even ASK if I adhered to a formula laid out by some published expert. They all slept in the bed with us, nursing at will, until they were too old to do that. Then they began just roaming in and out through the night. It was a rare morning that I didn't wake up to find a child in the bed, and sometimes another child on the floor beside us. That kept on until maybe last year.

When I was an authoritative mother of very young children , it never occurred to me that when my youngest child was 17 I would still be asking the question "When will the baby sleep all night?" aka "When will I ever sleep all night again?"

Notice there are no babies there. For reference: adjoining our room is another room with a bed. We use it for overflow, for sick people who need to be closeby, and for pets. The following exemplary incidents all happened in 2010 - thus the past 6 weeks - the nights all run together so these are in no particular order, but they all happened in 2010.

Sleeping all night - woodland creatures in the house edition:
Pretty Pretty Princess dashes into our room well after midnight, clutching her pillow "There is a chipmunk in my room and I am sleeping up here." We put the cat into her room, closed the door, and hoped for the best. No one else ever saw the chipmunk and the cat did not enjoy her night alone in PPP's room. She left us a 'note' to let us know.

A few weeks later, at about 5 am, BigB blasted in to our room "There's a full on rat's nest in my closet. I can hear them in there." Me: When was the last time you looked in your closet? Rats don't build huge closet nests in an hour or two." BigB: "I don't know, but what should I do?" Me: "Close the doors, put rubber band on the doorknobs, and we will deal with it in the morning." Someone mumbled "I think it IS morning." BigB: I can't sleep with rats in my closet. We have to deal with this NOW." Me: "Sleep in that bed right there - the sick bed. Put a towel under your door." He actually brought the cat in his room, put his earbuds in to mask the terrible noise of rat-scratching, and drifted off to sleep. He woke up to find the cat tossing a tiny mouse around. So much for the full on rats' nest. I did however spend at least an hour worrying about how bad our house was that there were rats nests in the closet. It's bad.

Something small and scratchy lives in the wall behind my head. Don't ask, I'm not asking and I try not to think about it. Let's just say that there was at least one night this week that a mother of teeny tiny woodland animals was having a bad night herself, because they were squeaking and scratching in my walls ALL NIGHT LONG.

Sick edition:
Our Young Son had a gastro-intestinal viral infection. He threw up, wretchedly for about 6 hours straight, quickly becoming faint and dehydrated. He slept in the sick room, and thrashed around all night in delirium and bad dreams, and made a lot of trips to the bathroom. We all slept well that night. Not.

Next night, when the sick bedroom door opened at 2:45 a.m., my question was "Who's throwing up?" It was PPP. An hour later, after I had drifted back to sleep, she crept in to ask for Zofran or something to make her STOP, because she had to go to class in 5 hours. Right. So, I got up and got the medicine. She did NOT sleep in the sick bedroom, but she did open the door every single time she threw up - which was a lot. So much for sleep.

Next night, Our Young Son - again. For him a 24 hour virus lasts for a lot of days.

We have been playing a lot of Scrabble, also Words with Friends.

Semi-grown children go 'out' at night.
I sleep easier when I know that all who are supposed to be here are under my roof. Call me crazy, but it's just the way it is. When people arrive home, they check in with me. Even if I am sound asleep in my bed. In the way middle of the night. Pretty much that takes care of Thursday, Friday and Saturday night every week. From 11:30 until the last stray reveler rolls in...."Mom, I'm home." Sweetest words to this mom's ears.

BigB is a night owl. The Sophisticate has recently landed here for a brief stay in between apartments. When she was getting up and getting ready for work one morning this week, BigB was rolling in from his big night out. Who slept THAT night?

PPP and the hiccups. That was funny. It was also at 2am. PPP standing and chatting, sort of giggly, then hiccups. More giggling, more hiccups. And she thought I was surprised.

Study-related issues:
For the last few years, PPP had a habit of studying until she simply could not study any more. Then she just gets up - leaving the books, notes, notebooks, computers in place on the bed, and coming to climb in bed with me when her daddy was traveling. So, study til 2 am, and then come climb in bed with mom. This year, BigD isn't traveling, so she just flies through to brush her teeth and tell me she's going to bed.

We do love to watch Sex and the City - preferably in my bed. It's a good thing that BigD likes to watch basketball. We study SATC, I guess. Oh - SJP - I couldn't help but wonder if your baby daughters are sleeping through the night yet.

It's not unusual for me to be reading/snoozing when someone comes in to ask a question like "How do you say 'Feel asleep in class... in Spanish'" or "how do you translate the subjunctive.....?" or "How do I say "stayed up all night translating the Aeneid in Latin?"


SOMEBODY has a habit of nudging the thermostat. Downstairs is a solid 15 degrees cooler than upstairs. Translation, if they are cool, I am sweating. I wake up sweating a LOT. Also with leg cramps. And I am not even pregnant. When are those going away?

Me and my cat - she likes to join me for a snuggle. BigD doesn't like it so much, so she hides until there is a moment of quiet, then creeps in. If she get's thirsty, she likes to help herself to a drink from my water glass. Sometimes - as in EVERY NIGHT - she knocks the whole glass of water over - on me. Whatever. I feel her pain. There's nothing like being thirsty in the middle of the night.

BigB came creeping quietly in about 4:30am to tell us "someone just opened our back gate?" When there was no response, he asked again - louder. Me: " Did you look out the window? That's a starting place. " We heard nothing more about that -but I stayed awake for a while to make sure that no one was going to break in the back door, since someone had opened the gate into the backyard. Wonder what that was about. Other than waking me up.

Bonus Boy - we never know when he's coming and we never know when he's leaving. He knows where the sheets are though - my closet - and if he gets here and needs some he just rolls right in and gets some sheets, pillows, blankets - whatever. He's not silent.

One night our Young Son brought me a milkshake -late - I spilled it all over the bed. BigD was already asleep. I did not wake him up to change the sheets. I slept with the cloying smell of chocolate. Sort of slept. I kept waking up all night wondering what was sticky and sweet- smelling.

BigD snores. LOUD. That is the end of the discussion about sleeping all night.