Sunday, June 29, 2014

12 things NOT to say to parents with poor sleepers

You know you've hit a new low in the sleep front when your partner is taking your 11 month old child for car rides at 4:30 am, after 2.5 hours of being awake, just because we're that desperate.

Yes, I'm serious.  And yes, thankfully, it's worked, for now.

What, did you expect a picture of a sleeping baby?
 
In this household, sleep is the beast that we try not to fixate on but often fail at. Sleep is a source of contention and bitterness. It is the subject of many WHY questions. Why can't he self soothe? Why can't we teach him sleep? Why won't you stay asleep? Why won't you sleep when you're so obviously tired.

And with all of our whys come the speculations and advice from well meaning family and friends, all of which feel like salt in an open wound at this point. So, without further ado, here is my list of things to stop saying to parents who have babies who don't sleep:
  1. That's crazy/weird, my baby slept through the night at 6 weeks. Saying this just makes sleep deprived parents want to smack you. Or scratch your eyes out. Or leave their child with you for a week because you either clearly know something they don't, or comeuppance is a bitch they'd like to deliver in the form of shut your mouth and listen to him scream for a week.
  2. Maybe you should try letting him cry it out (Ferber method). For the record, some people are advocates and some aren't of this school of thought. Offering it as advice, particularly after parents have passed the newborn, doe eyed stage, isn't helpful because guess what, they know about it already because it's been mentioned like a kazillion times already. And yes, for the record, we've even tried that (to a limited degree) out of sheer desperation even though I don't believe in it.
  3. You should top him up before he goes to bed/You should put him to bed on an emptier stomach. Clearly the messages are mixed here and no one really knows whether a full belly or a lighter belly leads to better sleep.
  4. Try formula. Because apparently breast milk, which nature intended, isn't doing the trick so instead we should feed our children artificial food to promote sleep. I'm not quite sure what is more disturbing, the fact that we think this is a good solution or the fact that fake foods drug us into sleep. Definitely food for thought! (By the way, if you are using formula that's your call and I'm not judging, just bitching about it being offered as a solution to sleep issues). Or worse, apparently not only am I failing at teaching my child to sleep, my body is clearly not producing the good, magical milk that induces sleep in normal babies. Yes, I realize that I'm being melodramatic and over-reacting but guess what, I'm tired and emotional enough to justify not being able to see things clearly or react appropriately. You try going a week on crap sleep and get back to me about how well you dealt with life during that time.
  5. I read this book [insert sleep title here] and it really helped us. Clearly infant sleep is an issue judging by the plethora of books on the subject. And yet, they're still being written on a regular basis and new ideas are being offered in each. This leads me to question how effective all these sleep aide intervention/solutions really are at the end of the day if the market needs that many options.
  6. It'll get better by [insert age]. No. Just no people. Because inevitably that age passes and it's still bad and the parents just feel like the false hope makes it worse. Because it just will get better when it gets better. Not when yours got better. Not by some magical age.
  7. Maybe you should try [insert suggestion]. Back, swaddle, belly. Sleep sacks. Lavender. Sleeping with an object then putting it in the crib. And the list goes on. Yeah, no. Or worse: stop drinking coffee. Shut your face. Coffee is the only thing that is getting me through this. No, that is not an option. And no, for the record, it didn't make a difference in any way other than meaning that my day suddenly got harder.
  8. You need to teach self soothing. Try [insert suggestion: lovey, laying in bed with him, rocking, singing, night lights, patting his back, music boxes, etc, etc]. I don't know about you, but after 11 months of poor sleeping, we've done it all. I repeat: WE'VE DONE AND TRIED IT ALL. And none of it works consistently. We might have success one or two days, but then we go back to where we before. 
  9. He's probably just teething or going through a developmental milestone. Maybe your baby sleeps less during these times, but for the poor sleeper, these times only means that the degree of sleeplessness increases, not that it'll pass once the milestone/tooth is passed. In other words,  teething may have caused your good sleeper to have a couple nights of bad sleep, but teething means that my poor sleeper just didn't sleep (nor did we).
  10. You should stop feeding the baby at night. Just tough it out for a few days and eventually the baby will learn and sleep through the night. Seriously? Seriously? That's what you've got for me? When the only thing that gets my child back to sleep is stuffing his face full of boob, you want me to take away the one thing that works and tough it out? You know, given that sleep is already crap and we've been toughing it out for about a year already. That's GREAT advice. You should win a Nobel prize for that one. Thanks. [In case you didn't get the sarcasm there, let me a bitch slap into the mix to make it clearer for you].
  11. How did your precious little one sleep last night? Or insert other cutesy lovey dovey name for a baby. Yeah, the answer is like every other night. Like crap. And don't get all cutesy on me cause clearly you don't know the level of ire I'm feeling at the moment. I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that loving endearments are the by-products of people who have either: never had children, have forgotten what sleep deprivation looks like, have children who sleep, or said because people worry that your cranky sleep face wants to devour your baby and they're trying to remind you that babies are cute and good and loveable. But for the love of all things sacred, please stop asking this question. Honestly. Let parents tell you about the good nights when they happen. Because sometimes they just want to talk about the good stuff instead of fixating on the poor norm. Or, let them bring it up if they need to talk, vent, rage, cry about it. But don't bring it up EVERY, SINGLE morning. 
  12. I get it, my little one woke up at 6am today. SHUT YOUR FACE. That is all. 
One of the best things that a fellow mom of a poor sleeper read was this: You can try all the solutions/suggestions that you want. If you have a poor sleeper, you just have a poor sleeper.

And here's the thing, inevitably the suggestions and advice are all speculative based on things read, heard, or experienced in other babies. What works for one won't necessarily work for another. And after months of being offered helpful advice, sometimes it starts to feel like judgement or insult. Or just completely useless words that people say because they feel like they need to make it better or placate you.  You can't make it better. Nothing you say will likely make it better. If they want advice, they'll ask. If they need to talk about it, they will.

They've done the work. Read all the theories, schools of thought, and suggestions. They've tried it all.

All they want to hear at this point is: That sucks. I'm sorry.

They know it's not your fault. They know that some people are lucky and blessed with sleeping babies. They don't hate you for it. They may wonder why their own little one won't sleep and why you lucked out and they didn't. But they don't begrudge you your sleeping baby. Not really. Not most days. Not even when when they're struggling with the green eyed jealousy monster.

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