Monday, December 05, 2005

All I Want for Christmas Is a Good Night's Sleep...

...A good night's sleep,
A good night's sleep.
Gee, if I could only have a good night's sleep,
Then I could wish you merry Christmas!
In my next life, I'm going to come back as a millionaire.

Well, actually, first I'm going to come back, then I'm going to write a know-it-all parenting book, and THEN I'm going to be a millionaire.

Seriously, this parenting-book racket is huge. Even I -- who am totally on to the fact that it's a racket -- have invested some serious currency in it. At one point a couple of months ago, I was going to pile all my books into a stack, then have Rusty stand young Master Sam next to it and take a picture to post here. You know, so you could see how big he is... expressed in parenting-book units. I don't know why I didn't do that. Probably too busy reading parenting books, I reckon.

For those of you who don't have kids, this is how the publishing industry sucker-punches you:

They know that, no matter what you're doing with your baby at any given moment, as a first-time parent you're secretly convinced you should be doing the opposite. Is your baby sleeping? Then you're concerned they're not getting enough stimulation. Or that they're developing flat head syndrome. If you're reading to them, you're fretting to yourself that maybe they should be getting more tummy time.* If they're happily playing by themselves, you worry that you're not giving them enough "quality time." If you're in the house all day, are they getting enough socialization? If you're out of the house, are they getting too much stimulation? Are they eating enough? Or too much?

And then there's sleep (though, when I write my bestselling book, I'm going to do what the pros do and use the terms "sleep issues" and "sleep solutions").

Which brings me to my point: here at Casa Doppelganger, we are experiencing "sleep issues." Fortunately, there's a wealth of literature purporting to offer us guaranteed "sleep solutions." Unfortunately, most of this literature directly contradicts itself.

Let me tell you something: these sleep experts are a bitchy, back-bitey crew. They rarely mention their opponents by name, but will snidely comment on the other camp's techniques using that camp's specialized jargon (in quotation marks, of course). This is meant to create a feeling of solidarity among their readers, and thus discourage bandwagon-hopping. (We first-timers are a fickle, edgy lot.)

Let me give you an oversimplified tour of the baby-sleep-theory arena.

Over here in this corner, you've got Dr. Sears, proponent of something called "attachment parenting," which recommends "the five Bs": "babywearing," "bedsharing," "breastfeeding," and two others that I forget. Um, boondoggling? Butterchurning? No... those don't sound right. Anyway, opponents of Dr. Sears consider attachment parenting nothing but hippie, pinko, overly permissive parenting that breeds spoiled monsters.

And over here in the opposite corner, you've got Dr. Ferber, for whom the term "Ferberizing" was coined. Ferberizing is not, as you might have guessed, a deviant sexual practice involving stuffed toys and a vacuum cleaner, though I can totally see how you got there. It involves letting your child cry in his crib until he learns to "self soothe" and fall asleep on his own. This doesn't sit well with the Dr. Sears folks, who consider this approach -- commonly known as "CIO" or "crying it out" -- tantamount to child abuse. They would advocate that you "parent" your child to sleep in the "family bed" where you all "co-sleep" together.

The problem with these approaches is that they're too polarized. One skews hippie, the other type A. But what about people like me, type A hippies? What the hell are we supposed to do?

Oh, and don't even get me started on the advice of the well-meaning know-it-all non-experts you run into in your day-to-day life, who conclude their theories with a confident, "Well, that's how I was raised, and I turned out okay." No offence, but no, you didn't. Don't take it personally, but you're not okay. Frankly, I don't know anyone who is. If I did, I'd just call their mom and ask what she did.

And I'm certainly not saying I turned out well, either. I'm a raging insomniac. Fortunately, now I know whom to blame. Though I have a feeling that if I go home and ask my mom if she attachment parented me or Ferberized me, she'd just look puzzled, smile kindly, and ask if she could fix me a fried bologna sandwich.

What REALLY gets my goat is that it's not enough for these so-called sleep experts to make you feel like an incompetent boob: they also love to tell you the horrific long-term psychological damage you're doing to your child if you don't follow their teachings. According to the Ferberites, if you don't "sleep-train" your child, you're setting her up for a life of poor workplace performance, depression, and reliance on pharmaceutical sleep aids. No one wants that, right? But if the Searsians are to be believed, Ferberizing your child will leave him with a virtually untreatable psychiatric treatment known as "reactive attachment disorder"... essentially a sociopath but minus the violent tendencies.

Fun, huh?

How I long to go back to my third trimester of pregnancy, when I'd read a few baby books but didn't yet have a baby. I knew everything then.

*For the uninitiated, "tummy time" is a concept that was invented by childcare experts for the sole and exclusive purpose of driving new mothers absolutely nuts.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was a CIO kid, and I'm perfectly fine, aside from the constant desire to kill everyone who annoys me. See, clearly CIO is the way to go! Redrum! Redrum!

For some more serious insight into the sleep thing, here's some advice from someone with two kids: http://moxie.blogs.com/askmoxie/2005/11/qa_6monthold_wa.html

Essy said...

Oh sure, the Ferberites and the Searsians talk the talk, but in the middle of the night, when nobody's there to see them, they all turn out to be Tetherites.

Tether Parenting (TM) is where you try to co-sleep comfortably or try to sleep alone while your kid wails in the next room. Then you reach the end of your tether and decide - to preserve your own sanity - to move the kid and just never tell anybody.

Tether Parenting (TM) is the only parenting style which truly follows the natural instincts of the mother. Take this true example of a tether-parented toddler...


* Child screams that she wants two Weetabixes for breakfast.

* Mother fixes child two Weetabixes.

* Child screams that NO! She actually only wants one. Take the other one out!

* Mother points out that she's already added milk and that the child could just, y'know... eat one of them and leave the other.

* Child says no, no, NO! TAKE IT OUT THE BOWL NOW!

* Mother comes closer than she had ever thought possible to hitting her beloved firstborn, takes a deep breath, then empties the bowl of cereal over child's head.

* Child stops yelling and wonders WTF just happened.


Benefit! - Physical abuse of small child prevented.

Benefit! - Child learns valuable lesson about not being a demanding little bitch.

Benefit! - Mother can deal more easily with all future tribulations of motherhood while picturing her flummoxed lil' brat wearing a Weetabix hat.


Tether Parenting (TM)! It's flexible! It's comprehensive! It's been used successfully by generation upon generation of parents! Tether Parenting (TM)! It's how everybody raises their kids behind closed doors!

(Man, I should write a book. I could make a fortune!)

Antipodean said...

Essy, that was hilarious.

And brilliant. Go forth and write that book.

Julia said...

I am having a baby in 11 days, and can I tell you that the "sleep issue" has me more terrified than anything? Because, just as the books aren't neutral, neither are most of the moms who have latched on to one style or another. And they are happy to tell you which one works.

I like the idea of Tether Parenting the most, however.

Jagosaurus said...

"Co-sleep?" That is an actual bit of parenting jargon? Wait, nevermind. It totally has all of the hallmarks of jargon.

I think I am a product of tether parenting. It wasn't called that back in the 70s when I was a wee one but I recognize the characteristics.

Jodeci said...

We are going through this right now too. DS is six months old and the night waking just might drive me crazy. We never planned to co-sleep - it just happened that it was the only way the baby would go to sleep. I find myself more on the side of Dr. Sears, but you're right about how both camps make you worry about raising a psychopath if you don't do it "their" way. You know what I say? All kids eventually sleep through the night and for the first year at least, some sleep deprivation is just part of being a parent. After a year, though, we may have to look into tether-parenting (essy, that was awesome!).

Joanne said...

Oh Lord, this is brilliant! Don't forget about Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, in which the good Dr. recommends that your baby nap every two hours during the day. Honest to GOD - by the time I feed my mercurial (thank you!) 6 month old, change him, have tummy time, dangle all the crap in the house above his head, I can barely fit everything in in time for the nap. Murder! My baby is breastfed, but not babyworn or bedshared. But sometimes I think he is going to be "beaten", and that's another b, anyway. Kidding!

Jenn said...

I believe we did the Tether Parenting method without realizing it had already been discovered! :)

With both of ours (3 and 1/2 respectively) we co-slept until the breastfeeding ended (with naps in their crib) and then moved them to their rooms (with a monitor).

Easy with one, hard with the other but if Mommy and Daddy don't get to sleep without a baby in the room then someone will get maimed.

It really is just going with what you can take. And the CIO thing-we would tell ourselves, We'll just let her cry for 20 minutes-every time she would fall asleep on her own at 17. The second child, we tried CIO(at about 6 months old)-she cried for 2 hours-we gave up and tried CIO three months later and she would go to sleep with some patting after about 10 minutes.

Trust yourself. You and Master Sam will be fine.

littlepinkflower said...

Yeah, it is all a crap shoot. I read one of the sleep books--The No Cry Sleep Solution. It was pretty good, but the funny thing was that I didn't get around to reading it until Miss Pink was about three months old, and that's when she decided to start sleeping through the night and taking two pretty standard naps every day. Yes, I am the parent of a wonder child. I try not to talk about it with other moms, because they always look like they want to hit me. Now it just scares me to have a second one, because then the shit will hit the fan.

Tracie said...

Different stuff works for different babies and different parents and I hate the way we are made to feel like we are doing irreparable damage to our kids unless we do it exactly this way... or exactly that way... or maybe this other way...

I read a book called _The Mommy Myth_ a few months ago, and it's about this very thing, how our society makes us feel like we're doing everything wrong, while also glorifying motherhood and giving us no support -- as a book lover, you might want to check it out :-)

Dave said...

As I'm not a parent and won't be some time, something entirely different jumped out at me: fried bologna sandwiches. Are you're parents from Newfoundland? A yes or a no are of equal interest to me. If yes, we have Newfie-offspring-solidatity going for us. If no, that's interesting because I had no idea that anyone other than Newfies thought that frying up bologna was a good idea.

Cataclysm said...

Excellent Doppelganger!!

A few more secrets of sleep books for Essy's book:

- have lots of pictures of sleeping babies

- a very catchy title full of hope(no-cry, blissful, healthy, well-rested, miracle, dreamland, slumber)

- scientifically proven data (I mean, this isn't a cult of faith, its about doing what everyone else does with the promise of success)

- a summary page (sleep deprived people can't take on board whole paragraphs)

- a good index with all the blag on a subject in one place, *not* "Teething - p 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42, 66..." If too many parents get frustrated, you won't get a good buzz going about your method

- a bonus CD of something (as I still need to return Doppelganager's "No-Cry Sleep Solution", you need to discourage people sharing your book. You need royalities until your 'guest lecturing' gig takes off)

- quotes on the front of the book from people whose first name is 'Dr.' and who claim to have children too.

- a signature technique so people remember your name (Ferberizing, the Pantley Pull-Off, etc). Not sure how to work in the word 'Weetabix' this is perhaps the most important part to becoming a true legend of sleep training!

Good luck!

Doppelganger said...

Ha! Essy, that made my morning. You should write a book. With your childcare knowledge combined with Cataclysm's marketing acumen, I think I see the Next Big Thing in childcare coming round the bend. And I can say it all started here!

I don't want to brag or nuthin (especially if my small victory ends up being premature), but I think I may have invented a sleep technique of my own last night. First, I did try putting Sam to bed way earlier... like shortly after 6, which seemed ungodly to me, but he crashed for almost three hours. Fine, he woke up at 9-ish, I fed him, then the mister took over while I got ready for bed.

Before I go any further, you have to know that we co-sleep. I hate the word "co-sleep" but that's what we do. It worked great for the first six months, but then Sam started thinking that he could only sleep in my arms or on top of me, interrupted by bouts of squirmy wakefulness every hour. Hence the aforementioned "sleep issues."

So last night, Sam and I went to bed. He nursed for a little bit and then decided it was time for his scheduled squirming-all-over-mom shift. At which point I rolled over on my side with my back to him and pretended to be asleep. And my lord, did he ever get angry. First he rolled around, crying angrily and grabbing at my back and hair. Then he changed his tack and tried to reach around to grab my face, all while cooing and babbling cutely in an effort to charm me in to paying attention to him. Then he kind of rolled around and babbled to himself for a while. Then he settled down and fell asleep. All told, it took about 40 minutes. He slept fantastically all night, too, waking up twice, briefly to eat, then falling back to sleep NOT on me or in my arms.

So I've dubbed this move "The Mama Cat" (er, TM?) because that's who I learned it from. When I was a kid growing up on our farm, I used to spend countless hours watching the barn cats with their kittens. I remember how indulgent and selfless the mothers were at first, but as their babies got older and ready to be weaned, the mama cats would just lie there with their eyes closed and ignore them sometimes if they wanted food or attention. Like Sam, the kittens would get angry and climb all over the mother, even biting and clawing her face and ears, but she'd be impervious till finally they got bored and moved on. While Sam was pitchibg his mini-fit behind me, it really made it much easier to envision myself as a mother cat and him as a kitten, odd as that sounds.

re: fried bologna sandwiches
Dave, I'm not from Newfoundland (though, weird coincidence, last night the mister was trying to convince me we should move to St. John's), but I am from the Ottawa Valley, where I'm descended from long lines of farming folk on both sides. Hence the fried bologna sandwiches. We also used to eat sugar sandwiches as a treat. These are exactly what they sound like: white bread spread with butter and sprinkled liberally with granulated sugar.

Man, I haven't had a sugar sandwich in years...

Madeleine Powers said...

Ooh, I love Tether Parenting. And the Mama Cat Method, too. Perfect use of visualization there.

BabyPowers is, at 9 weeks, sleeping in 5-7 hour blocks with only brief wakings to feed, so I am extraordinarily spoiled on that front. He's also been in his crib since 2 weeks on.

I didn't plan on that though; I thought we would have him in bed with us until at least three months old. Then, one night around the 2 week point, I had this weird dream. There was this piece of machinery that was making a funny sound and I had to fix it, so I was pressing my thumb into it to try and activate a button and guess what? Yeah, out in the real world that was my baby's head.

BabyPowers went in the crib, and I get to unconciously injure Mr.Powers instead of our fragile progeny. There is no Method. There are only individual babies and they need individual attention.

Melissa said...

A sugar sandwich! Now that sounds delicious.

We co-slept until about four months, when on a whim we put the baby in her crib at night (we were trying to get her to nap in her crib instead of on me in a sling). She slept for 5 or 6 hours in a row, the longest she had ever slept anywhere, and that was the end of co-sleeping.

I too have all the books, and while nuggets of them were helpful, in the end we just kind of went with the flow. A has started sleeping through the night maybe 3-4 times a week, but I really feel like that was her accomplishment, not mine.

The only book that was NOT AT ALL useful? Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I hate that jackass Weissbluth.

Katie said...

Funny, funny post. I remember the sleep battles with my daughter last year and it was very trying. I hated all of the books that had me terrified that I would permanently damage her if I did it wrong. When, at 9 months she had never slept through the night even once - and was still waking 3-4 times - I ended up doing a kind of modified Ferber thing. It worked pretty well and so far no obvious damage. Good luck!

Cataclysm said...

Oh my... I've always dreamed of doing a version of "Naked Came the Stranger"!! We could just do it in the form of a Parenting book!!

[Naked Came the Stranger was a novel that was designed to test just how low the standards of taste of the American public had sunk. 25 Newsday staff members each wrote a chapter of this novel. Their only requirements were that their chapters could contain no plot or character development, no social insight, and no verbal skill. Only one thing was required: a minimum of two sex scenes per chapter.

The resulting novel was attributed to a fictitious author (Penelope Ashe), who was played by the attractive sister-in-law of Mike McGrady, the columnist who conceived the idea for the hoax. McGrady's sister-in-law played her role to the fullest, appearing in interviews wearing low-cut dresses and bubbling about the joys of sexual liberation. The American public predictably ate it up and sales of the book soared. The Newsday writers eventually began to feel guilty about all the money they were receiving from the farce, and confessed. But the resulting publicity only made the book sell even better.]

How great would that be?!?! Essy, you take TP (TM) theory and toddler feeding, Doppelganger can do "Mama Cat" sleep methods, Joanne on scheduling, littlepinkflower on genetically creating perfection, tracie on "making guilt work for you"...

The only rule is that you have to give the 100% DEFINITIVE SOLUTION and can't use any wishy-washy phrases like "it might not work with all babies". No no no, our compilation TP book must be the bible of Parenting for our age!

It was on my list of things to do on maternity leave - get rich!

Anonymous said...

Dear Doppelganger, If there is one book about sleeping you should get, it is "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" By Mark Weissbluth. I cried the first time I read it because I didn't understand any of it (due to massive sleep deprivation). It is less prescriptive than it is descriptive. That is, what most children do at certain times of the day at their stage of life. It really helped me understand the sleep habits of babies and helped me relax about everything. Now Mr. Munchkin sleeps reliably from 7 to 7 and always puts himself to bed, no crying. Please read it.

Cap'n Ganch said...

My parents adhered to the Jagermeister method.

Essy said...

Melissa: The only book that was NOT AT ALL useful? Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I hate that jackass Weissbluth.

Anonymous: Dear Doppelganger, If there is one book about sleeping you should get, it is "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" By Mark Weissbluth.

Hee, I think I have whiplash now.

And Cataclysm, doing a parenting version of Naked Came a Stranger would be hysterical. There don't seem to be any publishers soliciting baby books that actually encourage common sense, but what the hell, we could always Lulu it.


"We asked the parents of 100 children with above average IQs how they raised their children. Over 80% admitted to using a form of Tether Parenting (TM)."

Libby said...

Unsurprisingly, given how fab you are, Dopp, this is one of the most articulate essays on sleep I've ever read. I feel like the sleep issue has become the parenting test -- I mean, how many times have y'all heard variations of "how's the baby sleeping?" or "are you TOTALLY exhausted?"

Weissbluth totally worked for our family (I actually refer to Dr. W. as my boyfriend), but that's because it is consistent with us and our kid and our parenting philosophy. I hope you get some rest, D. And if you ever need a baby-sitter for a few hours, let me know -- Jonah would love to show Sam his new toys!

Tamra Thetford said...

Ahh, sleep. We went through something similar at around 3.5 months. I wrote about it here. Healthy Sleep Habits really helped me too because i felt like i understood how sleep works and how it affects babies in particular. That said it's hard to get through-- especially the first time, and as all these comments attest, all babies are not created the same with the same "sleep solutions."

I'm reminded of an excellent book titled Raising America : Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children by Ann Hulbert. I read this before i was even pregnant and it helped me always keep in mind what a fickle genre parenting advice is. The book really underscores how *anyone* can write a parenting book and turn themselves into a parenting "expert." It's shocking how biased the "scientific research" was that much of the parenting advice of the last century was based on and i think it helps me keep a wary eye on anyone citing scientific studies to back up their current advice. Of course i loved the Weissbluth book too and who knows, much of it could be wracked with bias as well.

Anyhoo, clearly sleep is a hot-button issue because it consumes so much of the little ones days when they're small and seems to correlate to how well they fare when they're actually awake.

Keep us posted.

maurinsky said...

When I had my first child, my mother gave me a big bottle of Irish Whiskey. She told me that if the baby wouldn't sleep, I should rub a tiny amount on her gums, and if that didn't work, I should knock back shots until I fell asleep. Luckily for me, she ended up being one of those magical babies who slept all night right away.

I have no patience for people who adhere to a "Method" of raising their children, as if we are all computers who just need the right programs loaded into us to run properly.

My first child was a dream, and people always asked me what I did to raise her, and my answer is that I didn't interfere with her too much.

My second one, though. She's a Tether Method kind of kid, through and through.

Doppelganger said...

Ha! Essy, that's just the tip of the contradiction iceberg. In one book, the author stresses that the number one rule for sleep-training your child is CONSISTENCY. Want to guess the same author's number two rule? FLEXIBILITY.

Libby and Tamra, funny you should mention Healthy Sleep Habits. I'm just finishing it (and thanks somuch for the loaner, Libby! You rock!) and it surprised me by actually being helpful. (!!!) At first I thought I was going to go mental reading through all the sleep research and theory chapters at the beginning. I just wanted to get to a nice, simple (preferably one-page) checklist telling me what to do, you know? But in the end, the first half of the book was probably the most helpful.

I think things are looking up. Sam's been going to bed at 6:30 (per Dr. Weissbluth's instructions, which still seem insane to me) for the past couple of nights, and even though he's been waking up at around 9:00 and staying up for an hour or so before going back to sleep, he IS going back to sleep, and only half-waking up to nurse a couple of times during the night. No more bedtime hysterics (which I realize now were because he was overtired), and he seems much more jolly during the day. Hurray!

Keep your fingers crossed for us, okay?

Anonymous said...

I've been reading for awhile but as a lurker, but I had to come out for this one...

My daughter is now 15 months old, and my son is 16. Yeah, kind of a gap there, huh? Oh well, modern times and all... Anyway, I got so much advice from friends about schedules and setting alarms to feed by, and forcing her into this time line or that structured play time. I just smiled and said, good idea, thanks! And then I let my baby tell me what she wanted. When she was hungry, I fed her, when she was tired, I put her to sleep, when she was awake, we would play and you know what? She's been SO easy. She put herself into a feeding schedule and a nap schedule and at 1 month old (!!!) she was sleeping through the night. (nothing like my son, I swear he wouldnt sleep through the night til he was 2) She's never mixed up her time frames and except for a few nights, she's always slept through the night.

She did sleep with us, I admit, but that was really more because I liked it than she insisted on it. I liked being close to her. I cuddled her to fall asleep and usually it worked on both of us. Sometimes, we'd just move her into the bassinet when we wanted to stretch out a little more freely and you know what? that worked out well. After she stopped breastfeeding, we still did the cuddle thing to fall asleep, and then we'd move her into the crib. As long as she's warm enough, she stays there until about 5a.m. and then she wakes up and we bring her into bed with us. She goes right back to sleep, for about another hour. She has 2 naptimes a day and she goes down for the night around 8:30pm.

So stop reading books, and just... figure it out together. Actually, it seems like you've done that already. I like that Mama Cat thing, we do that too, on Saturday mornings. :-)

Jennifer said...

Are you familiar with the old Choose Your Own Adventure books? You would read a page, then were given a decision. Choice A meant you should skip to page 23, Choice B sent you to page 46. In this manner you would read the book. Some paths meant you were devoured by monsters or fell off a cliff, and others led you through a longer tale.

So I would propose the Choose Your Own Parenting Adventure model. Choice A would be if you are a hardcore hippie mom, Choice B would be a heart-of-steel controlling mom, and Choice C means you can tolerate MAYBE four minutes of crying before rushing in with soothing words and a sippy cup full of juice.

Our baby Camden took only a few nights of mild crying in her crib to decide that night was for sleeping, to our luck and surprise. On the other hand, she is daycare material, and the ladies have subtly let me know that they just don't put up with bratty behavior at the daycare, and therefore the kids for the most part play happily and nap without argument. I am always amazed at how well-adjusted the kids all seem at the daycare. Maybe there's something kids get when gathered in small numbers. Strength? A calming effect? A reality check?

Cap'n Ganch said...

I wouldn't worry too much about Reactive Attachment Disorder. (I know this is about 2 months after the fact, anyway, but ... y'know.) RAD, as it's commonly known, is kinda catching on as the new fad diagnosis, like ADHD in the mid-nineties, and ODD after that. It's probably not as common as everyone's trying to tell you, and it's going to take a whole lot more than not sleeping in bed with your kid to make him RAD. You'd essentially have to place him in front of a pack of wolves, run away, and leave him with a tape recording of you saying over and over again, "Mommy's busy, dear. Figure out how to deal with this yourself."

Basically, sleep with him if you want. Don't if you don't. It probably doesn't make a hills worth of beans difference anyway, as long as you consistently show him you'll love and discipline him all the time anyway.

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