As the baby rapidly approaches the first anniversary of her birth (she’s 10 months, three weeks—yikes!), we continue to strive for better sleeping habits. I’ve learned a lot about not only infant sleep, but also my own capacity to say really hateful things. I’m not proud of some of the utterances that have passed my lips at three, four, five in the morning as she kicks the covers off me for the hundredth time, pinches my neck until it hurts, and babbles happily as if it’s a reasonable hour to play.
If you think you’ve spotted the problem, you’re right: She gets in bed with us, and she thinks it’s a party. And by “us” I mean “me,” because my sleep-deprived husband now heads for the guest room as soon as I cross the threshold with baby in tow. That was the No. 1 thing I wanted to avoid. It’s his bed too, he should get priority for sleeping in it. But if I don’t bring the baby into bed with me, she stands up in her crib shrieking. She’s a terrorist, and I’m letting her win.
But OK, that’s actually the first lesson I’ve learned. She is not a terrorist. She’s a baby. We’re on the same team. I have to teach her how to sleep, the same way I had to teach her how to nurse and eat from a spoon and drink from a cup. Sleeping is just harder than those things, and it takes longer to learn. And it’s harder to teach.
I’ve been meditating a lot on something my mom always says when she talks about raising my brother and me. “You have to be different parents for different kids.” Generally you have to be fair, but some kids need more cuddling and security, and some kids are more independent from the start. It’s easy to see these things when you’ve raised multiple kids, but it’s hard when your sample size is one. My mother-in-law has raised four babies, so by the time the fourth came and screamed like a banshee all night she knew it wasn’t her fault. Similarly, when my brother wasn’t as independent as I was as a baby, my mom saw that as a personality difference and adjusted accordingly.
What I’m saying is I think I have a kid who needs her mommy a little more than another kid might. Last night she slept well in my bed, but all night she kept reaching out to touch me to make sure I was nearby. I think she’s teething and looking for lots of comfort. She wouldn’t have slept a wink alone in her crib, although other nights she does just fine.
Moreover, I think it’s OK to say, “Thank you, experts, for all of your advice, but that doesn’t work for my kid.” I absolutely recommend reading as much as you can to learn tactics and strategies, but you have to be the general and decide when to deploy them (if we’re going with a battle metaphor).
I hope I’m right. I hope someday I have a second kid with a different personality who proves my theory. What say you, moms? Did your kids have different nighttime needs? Did you have one who needed mommy more than the other(s)?