Learning to Fall Asleep

11.11.08 Baby's 27th Week

fitp2094004540.jpg Valerii Dekhtiarenko/Shutterstock

Here are some glimpses of the past week, as we worked on helping Leo figure out how to fall asleep (and I worked on figuring out how to stay awake enough to do it!):

Day 2: It has taken us the full weekend to get on the same page with this. Sleep-training, or maybe parenting in general, is pretty rough on a marriage. We hash it all out on Sunday night and Aaron writes down our plan to help me stay on track while I'm alone with the baby. It involves listening to a CD (Elizabeth Cotton) and doing a little baby massage, then bouncing briefly on the yoga ball in the dark nursery before putting the baby in his crib drowsy. We set a 30 minute cap on the crying, with the agreement that if Leo doesn't seem to be getting tired I should throw in the towel earlier than that. I decide that it's better to sit by his crib, shushing and occasionally patting his back, rather than leaving and coming back to check on him regularly, which might be disturbing him. I reason that if he can see I'm there he might understand that I am not abandoning him, even though I can't help him figure out how to fall sleep.

Day 3: He cries for 20 minutes before his first two naps, and he's in pretty good spirits at the end of the day despite having taken short naps.

Day 4: He cries for less than 10 minutes for the first nap, then seems to put his head down deliberately, almost as if he gets that he can simply relax and go to sleep when he feels tired. I'm encouraged until I put him down for his second nap and he screams for 30 minutes and doesn't fall asleep. "I think I'll call my next blog post Screw It!" I announce to my Mom friends, "I don't see the point of this".

Day 5: Leo cries for less than one minute for the first nap, and for the second nap he simply curls up in the crib and closes his eyes. Wow, I think, that was quick! The naps are still short, 25-40 minutes, and I'm in no way interested in letting him wake up and cry to see if he'll be able to fall back asleep. No thank you. I get ambitious, try for a third nap in the crib, and fail. Well, I tell myself, we'll get there.

The rest of the week proceeds along the same lines. He seems to have learned, pretty quickly, that he can fall asleep on his own when he's tired. We, in turn, have the responsibility of making sure he's tired and then helping him get very calm and sleepy before we lay him in the crib. As for extending the length of his naps, well, I don't know whether I feel like taking that on. I plan to mention it to the pediatrician at the 6-month appointment.

In the past week, Leo has learned a lot and changed a lot--I'm sure he would have regardless of whether we had chosen this week to work on naps. He simply seems older. For all that Leo has learned, I've learned even more about him, about myself, and about parenting. I've learned that if I create a consistent routine, Leo will adapt faster than I could imagine, and I've learned that my 6-month-old baby is now capable of anticipating what will happen. This week he began stretching his arms up to me as I unbuckle his stroller or car seat, knowing that I will lift him up. Most of all, I've learned that worrying about how other people parent isn't as important as finding a way you, and anyone parenting with you, can believe in and be consistent and united about.

Parenting Leo is not radically easier now that he goes down for naps more reliably. Something new seems to arise as soon as we get one thing figured out. A baby is a moving target. In fact, that's the next challenge: baby-proofing the apartment before Leo starts to crawl. Oh, and we'll be talking with the pediatrician about starting solid foods (which I'm so excited about I made squash soup this weekend just to warm up the blender!). Something tells me we're going to be playing catch-up from here on out.

Curried Squash and Apple Soup