Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Seeking a Third Way

The box says it all

If Barack Obama can do it in the White House, then why can't I in Louis' (alright, alright, my) bedroom? I'm talking about finding a Third Way, a path between left and right, or in Momspeak, a compromise between the ultra liberal, baby-led approach to parenting, and the rigid, cry-it-out-they're-only-a-baby option. Specifically, I'm seeking a Third Way between the frankly unsustainable 24-hour drinking culture that Louis regards as the norm and the frankly unpalatable alternative of a hysterical baby who refuses to fall asleep on his own, no matter how long I leave him alone in his crib. 

The problem I have, as regular BWB readers know all too well, is that Louis is not one of life's natural sleepers. And that's putting it mildly. Even as a newborn, he was barely sleeping 12 out of every 24 hours. Now, at nearly 11 months, he's down to about eight hours a night - and that's only when he treats himself (and us) to a mini lie in. He's barely sleeping two hours at a stretch, which is taking its toll on us all. When he wakes, as he's due to round about now, it isn't playing he's after, but me and as much liquid refreshment as he can slurp. 

Ask anyone (or any book) how to cure him of his nighttime Mum addiction and they'll all say the same thing: I have to leave him alone, to cry, until he realises I'm not coming back and learns to settle himself back to sleep. The common term for finding this baby epiphany is "breaking him", the idea, I guess, being "to break" him of his need for me and my milk supply. Or "to break" him of his habit of using me as his sleeping crutch. But what if I don't want a broken baby?

The problem I have is that I refuse to believe that the only way to teach him to be a man in such matters is to leave him to cry. He hates it, I hate it, end of story. I know all the theories: leave him for progressively longer stretches, popping in in between times to reassure him he hasn't been completely abandoned. You can do this from the doorway or next to his crib but one thing you're not supposed to do is to pick him up. Stick to this brutal regime and, all the books/blogs/websites/parental confidantes merrily assert, it will do the trick. 

But what if I don't want to? What if I simply can't? Can't endure his hysterical cries for more than five minutes at a push that is? What if I want to find another, more humane solution to our plight, a so-called Third Way of parenting that transcends the liberal/fascist Mummy party lines that so many of my co-Mummies seem to follow? 

Well, I'm six weeks into my concerted attempt to find that illusive Third Way. I can do all the back patting and head stroking I like, but as soon as he's anywhere near his crib, he's utterly miserable. He can even be fast asleep on my shoulder, only to wake up the second I lean over his bed. Which means that so far my mission is failing miserably. Where Obama is managing to cross the Democrat/Republican divide, I seem to be stuck in the lefty lactivist camp of feeding on demand and hang the consequences. 

Any suggestions welcome. As long as they aren't just to shut his bedroom door and buy some better earplugs. 


katy and sophie said...

barack sleeps 4-6 hours a night, W needed 8. on the basis of this extremely scientific evidence louis is on track to become a humane and effective world leader.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh, Susie!!!!! How my heart is going out to you! Phoebe didn't 'properly' sleep through until she was 3: you have my sympathy. And guess what? Martha is crap too! It's a sign of intelligence you know - I always said when people commented on Phoebe's advanced speech that she had been awake for the same number of hours as your average five year old, so had had a head start...

Have you got/read Elizabeth Pantley's "No cry Sleep Solution"? It's not fool-proof, sometimes feels a bit wishy-washy/slightly irritating, but did help me a little. I have a spare copy which you are welcome to - just let me know your address (via facebook probably best)and I'll pop it in the post.

I still can't leave the girls to cry (although am slightly harder on Martha, usually because I have no alternative). In the end, we did a combination of David comforting her for as long as I could bear it, then I'd rush in saying "I'll feed her now!" and eventually the gaps between feeds grew longer. Our days did usually start horribly early, though, and we watched a lot of the Hoobs...

Good luck, thinking of you, moan in this direction anytime. Philippa xxx

Josie @Sleep is for the Weak said...

Thanks to the link to this! My goodness it's like you got into my head and wrote my thoughts out - this is EXACTLY how I've always felt. I've found it a constant balance to tread the fine line of that 'Third Way'. I fear I have failed very badly but I have tried.

These days we seem to be inching more and more into crying territory. I would never, ever leave him to wail it out in misery but there has been a lot of comforting and head stroking and back patting as I sit by his cot-side as I try and persuade him that the all night milk bar is not an option. I'm finding it impossibly hard but I don't know what else I can do. Inevitably I reach a point in the night where I'm too tired or too worried about the noise and I give in and we're back to square one.

I wish I had the answer.

Will look forward to reading your article today.