Sleep – or lack thereof
Buzz Baby is a column about life with babies from the perspective of a first-time mother.
Follow an expectant mom around and you will hear strangers say, “Get some sleep now. You won’t sleep for 18 years!” As the one about to take the brunt of it all, it can feel like a jab, even if well intended.
Neda and Zach Axelrod never envisioned sleeping on the floor of their newborn daughter’s nursery every night, but they felt desperate at the time. Rana, now 3, started waking 2-3 times a night at 5 months old. “It was a first-baby type of thing,” said Neda. Eventually, the couple decided to seek professional help for her sleeping habits.
They had already gone down the specialist road once. When Rana was born, they had a night nanny who would pull the night shift, allowing them to get some rest. Rest is important for women who are breastfeeding, as Rana was at the time. “She came every other night for the first three months,” said Neda. The price tag for a night nanny can be high (often $20-35 an hour) so most night-nanny gigs have an expiration date, as did theirs.
After she left, Rana’s sleeping patterns slowly worsened, and less-than-ideal habits started forming. “My husband would go in there every 2 or 3 hours [to give her a bottle] when she woke up,” said Neda. “That’s the biggest no-no.”
Neda called the Motherhood Center to find a sleep specialist, but ended up hiring an independent sleep specialist based on referrals from friends. Neda says she saved the day.
The specialist told Neda that what happens with a newborn during the day can affect the night. “[She] told me, ‘If you don’t get your day fixed, you’ll never get your night,’” Neda said.
“She said no way” on the bottle feedings at night, said Neda. “From then on, she taught me how to basically get rid of the bottle and just give a little water. Literally after that, my child starting sleeping through the night.”
The couple decided to do things differently right from the start when their son Asher arrived. Asher, now 6 months, has been a different experience. “I just lay him down and turn the mobile on, and this kid sleeps on his own,” said Neda. “From 4-6 weeks, he was only waking up once” a night.
They let him sleep alone in his room, in his crib. “[Asher] started going in his crib from week 2,” said Neda. “My daughter didn’t go in the crib until month 5. You want your child to like their bed, and not be scared of their bed.”
Infant sleep habits and parent techniques can vary widely. Some parents read, prepare and have a plan, while others see what works best when the baby arrives. One Buzz couple let their daughter co-sleep with them until she was 3. The mom said it started when her daughter would breastfeed and fall asleep on her chest in their bed. “It got to the point where [my husband and I] needed to move her to her own bed so we could get some sleep,” she said. A lot of families choose this co-sleeping method, but it’s not for everyone.
Mary Margaret Brollier and her husband Clay prepped before their first, Ben (now 2), was born. Mary Margaret said she read the book On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep written by Dr. Robert Bucknam and Gary Ezzo. The technique of “Baby Wise” emphasizes parental control of the infant’s schedule rather than allowing the baby to determine when to eat, play and sleep.
Let’s admit it though; reading a book is not going to prevent the sleep deprivation. “With [my first] Ben, no one could have prepared me for how sleep deprived I would be in the beginning,” said Mary Margaret. “It hit me like a freight train. Let’s just say, thank goodness for Netflix and reruns of Modern Family to keep me entertained at all hours of the night.”
Mary Margaret and Clay welcomed their second baby, daughter Kate, this past July. “I am doing Baby Wise with Kate,” said Mary Margaret. “I just started it much sooner with Kate because I knew what I was doing this time around.”
Parenting is always presenting new challenges. “I think the challenging part for me the second time has been making sure it doesn’t wake Ben when I do let Kate fuss some in the night,” said Mary Margaret. “Some nights, I practically leap from bed when I hear her cry because I don’t want Ben to wake up. Welcome to two kiddos. Thank goodness for sound machines.”
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