"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Great Sleep Debate

Xander has kept us up nights for over a year. His first month he was still in the hospital, so that part doesn't count. But when we brought him home, he was feeding every two hours. My wife and I would alternate nights staying out in the living room and sleeping on the couch while Xander slept his short periods in his little chair.
Where he spent most of his time a year ago.

When we brought him into the bedroom, we bought a co-sleeper that attaches to Mom's side of the bed--I think it's required to be on Mom's side--but we continued the trading procedure, and every other night I slept next to the baby. (Talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed. I only sleep well on the right side of the bed.) After a few months, though, the day came when I woke up in the morning and realized I hadn't had to soothe the baby all night. Huzzah! What followed wasn't every night, but sometimes we would all get a full night's sleep.
Roll over, put pacifier in mouth, repeat indefinitely.

As a side note, and I'm not sure if this is important, I'd like to point out that neither of my two daughters slept through the night even once until they were over 18-months-old.

When the boy moved into the crib in his own room across the hall, the baby monitor was on all night, catching every rustle, every coo, every whine he made and sending it on over to Mom and Dad's room. We realized that if he were to wake up--and he did, every night again--it was better to catch it right away in order to get him back to sleep. If we let him cry for too long, he would possibly be awake for hours in the middle of the night.
He wasn't always this awake at 2:00 in the morning, but it would happen.

My wife and I continued to take turns waking with him at night. And Xander learned that when he woke up at night, we would be there for him like the loving parents we are. No way was any child of ours going to think his parents abandoned him.

Sometime after five to twelve months of this behavior, it got old. The baby was cranky. Mom was cranky. More importantly, Dad was cranky. Like, all the time. Sleep deprivation takes its toll, but it's like a pickpocket: you don't realize you've been gypped until after the fact.

So when Xander was about 11-months-old, back in October, during my fall break from school, I informed my wife that I would be in charge of Xander all week, and I was going to work on getting him to sleep all night. Mommy wasn't on board; she wasn't ready. But what could she do? I was the one who didn't have to go to work in the morning, so I was in charge. My plan was to use gradual extinction, the idea that you put the child down, kiss him goodnight, and briefly check on him at increasing longer periods until he's asleep. But what did I know? Remember my daughters.

Did I mention that my wife wasn't on board? When the baby cried, Mom cried. Dogs and cats were living together. It was mass hysteria.

We didn't even last the first fifteen minutes. That's all it took, and baby was in mother's arms. She didn't let go of him for a long time. The next night I tried again. It might have lasted thirty minutes, but I doubt it was even that long. I didn't try again the next night.

We debated this every night for weeks after that. Do we put him down, let him cry it out, only to return in the morning? Do we let him cry but check on him every ten minutes because otherwise he thinks we've moved to Australia? Or do we continue to do what we've been doing: Hold him until he falls asleep. Sometimes this would take hours, literally, but at least I could watch Frasier on Netflix while I sat there.
This is where we sit until he falls asleep in our arms.
If he wakes when we put him in the crib, we sit here some more.

All I knew was that he still woke up at least once in the night and I was beginning to feel resentful. What we were doing wasn't working.

Next time, on "The Great Sleep Debate":
The sleep chair comes full circle and is now his TV rocker.

We give up and answer the siren song of Yo Gabba Gabba. All night long.


  1. "More importantly, Dad was cranky."

    Nice ;)

  2. I can remember those days. Or more importantly, those nights. If I recall correctly, the last little one we had was on a sleep apnea monitor. Talk about a rude awakening! That thing set off an alarm every time he sighed or snorted in his sleep, which of course scared him awake which in turn scared us awake.... several times a night. I didn't think I would ever sleep again.

  3. That's seriously rough! I remember when our first kid was about 4 months old, the pediatrician explained to us the importance of letting the baby learn how to fall to asleep on his own. Luckily, he was a quick learner!

  4. The first time I slept for three hours straight, my parents woke me up because they thought I'd died.


  5. At least you admitted to being cranky as well. :~)

  6. I have no idea how you parents do it. I neeeeeed my beauty sleep.

  7. More reasons to not have children.

    You have my sympathy. (Obviously I can't empathize, and I hope I never can.) If it makes you feel better, I slept with my parents. Like in their bed between the two of them until I was two. Of course, sing me to sleep and I was a happy baby...perhaps Debussy would be helpful?

  8. What's funny is I read this while trying to get my nine month old to go to sleep. He will not sleep in his crib. It us killing my beauty sleep, which I need a lot of.
    Cats and dogs living together! I love that line.

  9. Oh, the joys of children not sleeping. I'm sorry, I can't imagine that going on for so long. We got the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child when my son had trouble sleeping. I love it because it explains the science and psychology BEHIND sleep at different ages for kids, and it really helped me be more committed to sleep training. It gives different options for how to sleep train, too.

    Good luck! I hope you all find a way to get to sleep.