Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I never get enough sleep. In the past year I can only think of 4 times that I have gotten 6 or more hours of sleep in a row, and one of those I was medicated. This is nothing new though, I've had issues with insomnia since I was in high school. In college it was normal for me to only plan on about 6 hours of sleep a night. When I was pregnant I was getting up 3 or 4 times a night, and was awake about every hour. So having Hana get up two or three times a night really isn't such a big deal.

I know some of you will be shocked that my 10.5 month old still wakes up at night. She doesn't get up to eat, and usually doesn't need a diaper change, she just wakes. About half the time she puts herself back to sleep, sometimes she needs her soother, and sometimes she needs help getting back to sleep and comes into our bed, or I don't feel like getting up at 7 and bring her in bed with me with the hope that she'll go back to sleep until 9 - but those ones don't really count because it's technically morning when she wakes up.

I'm not bothered by Hana waking up at night, because I know I wake up at night, and Ben wakes up at night, and pretty much everyone I know wakes up at some point during the night and then falls back asleep. I don't even mind going in to help soothe her and help her get back to sleep - motherhood is a 24 hour job and I want Hana to know that I'm there for her no matter what time it is.

That's not to say that I don't get frustrated or even angry at times over the whole situation. There have been times when Hana has been in her crib crying with me sitting on the floor, also crying, and holding her hand. There have been times when I've had to wake Ben to help soothe her because I just couldn't take it anymore. There have been times when Hana and I have had to sleep on the couch to keep from waking the rest of the household. Frequently I nap during the day to catch up on sleep I miss at night (although usually missing sleep at night has nothing to do with Hana). It's rough, it's annoying, it stresses me out, and there are nights when all three of us have ended up crying. But Hana is never left to cry alone.

Not that I think crying will necessarily cause any permanent damage (altho if high levels of stress hormones are bad for adults I can't see how they couldn't be bad for babies...). I just know that if someone I love heard me crying and didn't offer comfort I'd feel alone and abandoned, and crying myself to sleep gives me horrible headaches and bad dreams, and I don't want to treat Hana in a way that I would not want to be treated. I know this is temporary. And I know getting her to sleep through the night is no guarantee that I'll get any more sleep than I usually do anyway.

(as a side note, STTN is usually defined as sleeping from midnight to 5 am without waking. I don't understand why people get in such a row over infants of x age needing to be able to STTN - at the age of 24 I still rarely fit that definition, and I was sleep trained...)

With moving and teething and transitioning to one nap things have been a little rougher than usual with sleep. She went from waking once a night (around 5) to waking twice a night, and then on bad teething nights sometimes 3 times (when the advil wears off). She's been doing well lately, going down MUCH easier since we dropped the morning nap and settling herself the first time she wakes at night.

Anyway. I was thinking early this morning (3:23 to be exact...) as I tried to comfort my crying daughter by leaning over her crib and rubbing her head - why is baby's sleep such a hot topic?

If you look at humanity though the eyes of anthropology, babies waking in the night and needing comfort is completely normal and to be expected. No matter how you believe humanity came into existence, you can't deny the fact that for a good chunk of our history we were tribal, nomadic, and lived communally - babies had to be kept close for their own safety - the threat of animals, cold, and other dangers was a real one. Globally most babies sleep with their mothers, not in a crib down the hall. Sharing sleep regulates temperature, digestion, and breathing. Sleep cycles become synchronized. Most of all, the baby knows they are safe and secure. A baby can not survive on their own, and they know that. I think waking at night for comfort is just their way of making sure we remember that they are completely dependent on us, no matter how independent and self sufficient we trick ourselves into believing they are.

(and as that thought was running through my mind I picked Hana up and brought her in bed with me, she settled and we got to stay in bed until 9, with one short waking around 5:30)

Not that I'm against cribs - Hana is peacefully sleeping in hers right now. But I can't deny that she (and possibly Ben and I) would probably get more sleep if she was in bed with us. Maybe all these "sleep issues" we think babies have are actually ones we bring on ourselves.

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