Of all parts of parenting, sleep is the one I understand least. Eating, pooping, peeing, general holding and comforting, this all seems pretty straightforward. Food in, waste out. Mess with that, and she's unhappy. Then you fix the unhappiness with extra cuddles.
But: Sleep: what is it? Where does it come from? How does it happen?
My daughter is a good sleeper. A great sleeper. Last night she started eating to fall asleep at 10 pm. She woke up a little before 8 am. This is representative of most nights.
She is an amazing sleeper.
While it's tempting to attribute this sleeping largesse to my amazing parenting skills, I will be humble for once and admit I have no idea how she does it. Ten hours is a ridiculously long time for a three month old to go without eating or peeing (she was dry this morning when she woke up--this is also representative of most nights).
Because I don't understand it, I regard sleep as sort of a magic trick. I get a little stressed and unreasonable around bedtime. I want everything to be perfect, so as not to interfere with the sleep ritual.
Here is the sleep ritual.
1. One of us (hopefully Dyami, if I'm nice to him) takes her to the bathroom. I pray that she pees and poops so that she won't get Irritable Bowel Syndrom at 3 am. If I think she needs to poop, I want to give her belly rubs, enemas, and bribes until she produces some excrement.
I'm kidding about the enemas! Ha ha ha!
We use laxatives.
If Dyami takes her to the bathroom, I have a few minutes to stretch, take a shower, brush my teeth, and put on pj's. I usually appreciate this, but on nights where I am more tired than normal, I sort of hover as he's holding her. Maybe he's not doing it right, I think. Maybe she won't go for him. I resist the urge to yank her out of his arms and use the Mommy Technique.
Breathe, Heather. Breathe.
2. We put on her pocket diaper. For those of you not familiar with cloth diapering technology, the pocket diaper is like a little diaper -shaped pocket/pillowcase with an opening on one end. One side of the case is waterproof. The other is fleece. You stuff absorbant material (like a flat cloth diaper) inside. Then if she pees, the pee is wicked away from her skin and she doesn't feel (as) wet. It's almost like a disposable!
Of course, if she has to pee, she almost always wakes up anyway--so I'm not sure why we reserve the pocket dipe for nighttime, but it's part of the pattern, see. Part of the ritual.
3. I set up the bed for nursing. My assorted/necessary pillows, a water-resistant wool soaker pad in a pillow case for underneath Lucy (sometimes even the pocket diaper leaks--she has a really timy bum). My earplug (she's super noisy when she sleeps. Another thing they don't tell you when you sign up for the baby distribution). Only one earplug, because then I can hear her if I move my non-plugged ear off of the pillow. My sleep mask to block out all extra light.
If you can't tell yet, I'm a very light sleeper.
4. Speaking of light: we adjust the lighting. A lot. We close thick curtains to block out any moonlight/morning light. Turn off bedroom/bathroom lights. We bought a night-light in the first weeks of her birth because with the curtains drawn, we couldn't see well enough to attend to her in the middle of the night. But the night light is BRIGHT! I think it's used on Broadway as a spotlight for puppet shows!
So we found a really sensible solution: we use the crib that we're not using for her to sleep in to partially block the nightlight we got to provide the light that we're eliminating with curtains. And wear eyeshades to block out that blocked light.
My pro mommy friend Sarah laughed when I told her about our arrangement. It took me a few days to see why it was funny.
Even seeing the absurdity has not caused me to change one jot/tittle of the arrangement.
5. We swaddle Lucy. Well, I swaddle Lucy. At first swaddling was equal-opportunity. Then Dyami said, "Wifey! I ain't swaddling no more babies! That there's women's work!"
Okay, so that's not exactly what happened.
What did happen was that when D went back to work, I swaddled Lucy on my own a lot. I got pretty good at it.
Dyami was at work, getting even better than he was a Java programming.
Java programming, though extremely useful, does not help you swaddle babies.
A few times, I have thought, "Maybe I should let Dyami (read: make Dyami) swaddle her for a few weeks until he gets the hang of it."
Then I snicker. Because if she's not wrapped securely, she wakes herself up. There's a reason why we called her "Houdini" in the first month.
I am just as exacting with myself. Read on:
There are a few ways to wrap a baby. There's the baby burrito, where arms, and legs (whoops! almost wrote, "and head." Don't give me any ideas!) are all tucked in securely. We did that the first few weeks.
However, it seems impractical for EC when you need quick access to the diaper: you have to unwrap everything and re-wrap ger five minutes later. Keep in mind good swaddling is an art form, like origami--and just as exacting. So now we just wrap her arms, so it looks like we chopped them off. (how sweet!)
Then we discovered, through trial and error, that she generally won't poop while swaddled. And often won't pee.
But I got in the habit of the armless wrap. Until a few weeks ago, when I got tired of her kicking me while she's falling asleep. And it was getting colder and her legs get cold. I decided to do the full burrito. Brilliant, idea, right?
The first night I tried it, she woke up at 1:30 am. arms completely free. Houdini would have been proud.
So now I do the armless wrap, religiously.
6. I nurse her to sleep, lying down. At the beginning, when I was reaaaaally tired, I would fall asleep too. This was the plan--classic co-sleeping. Baby's happy. Mommy's happy.
Mommy's back not so happy.
Plus, she usually kicks for the first 10-15 minutes, minimum. By then, my bladder's full enough that I can't fall asleep easily (you drink a lot of water while breastfeeding). Lying still next to a (crazily beautiful) squirming baby for fifteen minutes generally makes me tense = no sleep.
So sometimes I try just nursing her to sleep, and deciding that I will get up and move her to her bed once she's out. (Her bed is a little Amby Bed Hammock. I'll have to write about that later.)
7. Here is where the magic happens. She falls asleep. And (usually) stays asleep. In the first few weeks, when she wasn't sleeping as well, I read books about "sleep solutions" and "nighttime parenting" and how to teach your child to sleep.
But how can you teach what you can't explain? Here's what you'd think would happen:
She'd nurse really hard at the beginning, sort of "gimmie, gimmie" style. Then her grip on me would get looser and looser until pop! she slipped off.
This would seem to make sense, but it is rarely how she falls asleep.
Last night, for example, she kicked for about 20 minutes, nursed quietly for about 20 minutes, then started getting agitated again. Let go, and made a grabbing motion with her face to start eating (I accidentally wrote "teating!" ha!) again. Ate furiously, gimmie gimmie style. Let go. Lather, rinse, repeat.
After about an hour, I couldn't hold my bladder it anymore and got up quick when she let go, before she could grab me again. I raced to the bathroom, half-fearing that she'd wake up. When I came back, she was:
Still. completely out.
This often happens. She gets more and more agitated and keeps nursing for an hour or more, until I just have to go the bathroom. Then when I finally pop her off or escape her clutches, she falls asleep, peacefully.
I don't get it.
See why I say it's magic?
But hey, whatever works! I'd be practically willing to sacrifice some small animals if it would help her get to sleep. Ha! Just kidding.
Really, Eleanor. I'm just kidding.