I just re-picked up Sleepless in America: Practical Strategies to Help Your Family Get the Sleep it Deserves by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I first read this book when Bean was about a month old. I actually didn’t read the whole thing. Just the first chapter and then the chapter on infants. I was a little disappointed at that time because it basically said everything that Happiest Baby on the Block said. I didn’t understand why so many AP (attachment parenting) parents were such a fan of this book when it was just reitterating the same exact information and offering no new tricks or advice. Way to blow $20.
Well, with all our sleep issues lately I decided to give the book a second chance. I’m through the first five chapters and already finding so much stuff that falls in line with my parenting style (which is somewhere between AP and not AP). I love that Kurcinka admits that not every strategy works for every child. I love that she has so much research in here to back it all up. I just am loving this book right now.
What I’m not loving? That my yuckiness is pointed out so blatantly before my eyes. A yuckiness that I believe is a result of not getting enough sleep.
Here’s a checklist of behavior that unfortunately fits me nearly perfectly:
-Be short-tempered, easily “set off” by the kids
-Feel irritable and cranky, nothing is much fun
-Burst into tears
-Become frustrated easily
-Find it difficult to alter plans or deal with surprises
-Become controlling and demanding
-Feel overwhelmed, anxious, or jittery
-Experience head- or stomachaches
-Have difficulty falling asleep even though you’re tired
-Wake up in the morning to an alarm going off or a child waking you, rather than on your own
-Become ill more frequently
-Crave carbohydrates, sugar, and/or caffeine
-Drop things, stub your toe, turn your ankle, or stumble
-Feel sluggish, heavy, unable to make a meal, pick things up, respond to a child
-Experience overwhelming sleepiness at certain points in the day
-Feel as though you are in a fog
-Mix up words
-Make a list and then lose it
-Perform poorly, especially on things that require quick thinking or action
-Miss “cues” from your children and others
-Miss your exit on the freeway
-Have difficulty making decisions or thinking things through
-Argue with your partner or your children
-Take your child’s behavior more personally
-Demand that things be done NOW!
-Be more easily hurt by the comments of others
-Be less flexible
-Allow the “tone” to creep into your voice
While some of it is kind of funny, most of it is just yucky. I hate that I act this way. Maybe not in the public eye, but I do act this way. Out of the whole list there were only a few things that did not describe me: hitting, throwing things, inability to be creative (can’t really see that one ever happening), feeling frenzied, frequently ill, and feeling guilty about lack of energy.
So yeah, we definitely have sleep issues around here. Yes, I knew that already. Hopefully this book will help.
Nuggets I like so far:
“Anything that upsets your child’s sense of well-being will raise her arousal and pull her system in the direction opposite of sleep. That’s why it is important to look at the advice you have been given. Scrutinize it carefully and determine whether the recommended strategies create a sense of security that calms your child’s body, thus gently nudging her toward sleep, or leave her feeling anxious and insecure, pushing her away.”
Ah yes. All the well intentioned advice us moms (and dads) get… “You just need to let her cry it out. She’ll sleep like an angel.” “Don’t spoil her.” “If you bring her to bed with you, you’ll never get her out.” A few paragraphs later Kurcinka shares some good tips for responding to the advice so that you don’t start debates or offend your friends and family or make anyone feel guilty for doing what works for their family.
“It’s very likely that your heart has fought the use of strategies that leave your child feeling tense and threatened, but you might not have known what else you could do. Or you may have felt trapped, reluctant to ignore the warnings of others, or pressured to use strategies that so many others have. And it is true. Children may cry as they go to sleep. The key is in knowing the differences in the cries. Lay one child down, and he may cry for a few minutes. A mad cry, as though to say, ‘This is hard work! I don’t like it. I don’t want to rest,” but in less than five minutes, he falls blissfully asleep. As his parent, you realize that a bit of fussing was just what he needed to release the tension from his body and that he will now sleep well. Lay another child down, and he screams as though he’s pleading, ‘Help me, please help me, I can’t stop!’ And, indeed, he can’t. His heart racing, eyes wild, hair mussed, he is unable to bring his body back into balance and calm himself. If left unattended, he will cry for hours, overwhelmed by the rush of stress hormones in his body. He cannot stop until someone helps him, not because he’s trying to be manipulative but because of the tension and level of arousal in his body. Or, if he does finally ‘crash,’ as a parent, you are left wondering, as Robert did in class, does he fall in exhaustion or in despair? When you practice sensitive care, you recognize the difference between the cries of these two children, and respond to each appropriately. If, however, you allow the advice of others, no matter how well intentioned, to stop you from listening to your child’s cues and to your own heart’s reaction, you lose your rudder, that deep sense of direction that tells you what your child needs and how to respond. Children can learn to fall asleep and to stay asleep with strategies that gently and respectfully get them there. You don’t have to leave them screaming in the night.”
Ah yes! This is totally us around here! I will now admit freely that I did try “crying it out” again about a month ago during nap time one day. Such a disaster. Let’s just say that Bean is very persistant and she would have gone on for hours and hours and hours if I let her. Crying it out does not work for her and I really don’t have the nerves for it honestly. However, sometimes after I’ve already rocked or nursed her to sleep and I put her into bed she will roll onto her tummy lift up her head and cry for a couple seconds before resettling herself and falling blissfully asleep as if nothing happened. I was exasperated over these two completely different situations. Was I being a bad, non-AP mom and letting her “cry it out” sometimes even though I knew that these situations were, in fact, completely different?
“Stop and reflect. How are you approaching sleep now? Does your nighttime routine match the kind of nurturing care you are providing your child during the day, or are you doing things at night that you would never consider trying during the day? If someone asked you to post your ‘nighttime policy’ at your door or on the Internet, would another family want to send their child to you for care? If you were a child, would you want to sleep in your home?”
This section was especially hard hitting because she took the advice that many parents have been given when it comes to dealing with their babies and applied it to a “nighttime policy” for elderly in assisted living situations. Would you want your sweet grandparents left crying it out, soiled in poo or puke, and thirsty in the night? I don’t think so.
“Perspective is a powerful force. It changes our attitude, our behavior, and the physiological reactions in our body. When we are willing to stop and consider the other person’s perspective, we begin to work together. When your child doesn’t sleep, it can feel as though her behavior is intentional. Why, you may wonder, is she doing this to me? Why is she goading me and disturbing everyone around her? This perspective leaves you feeling angry and helpless, ready to fight with your child or to shut the door and walk away from her. The reality is that when your child isn’t sleeping, it isn’t about you. Rather it is a reflection of what’s going on inside of her body. When she doesn’t sleep, it’s not because she won’t, but because she can’t. Think about your own restless nights, when sleep eludes you. Tossing and turning, you find yourself checking the clock every two hours, your dreams leaving you troubled and tired. You do not choose for this to happen to you. Rather, something is on your mind, your body is humming with energy. As a result, you do not sleep because, like your child, you can’t.”
Oh man. So often I take things with Bean so personally even though she’s only 7 months old. Even tonight as I was putting on a particularly complicated pair of PJs (seriously who designs sleepwear for babies with a million snaps and four ties!?!), I was getting really mad because she kept wanting to roll over and look in the mirror or play with the carpet and gosh darnit I needed to get these PJs on already! Why wasn’t she listening to me? I said, NO! So dumb to get upset over PJs, I know, but it had been a long day and I was exhausted and frustrated.
Anyway, like I said I love this book. I’m even thinking about ordering her other one about raising a spirited child because I already have a feeling from her personality that Bean will be spirited, to say the least.