If you ever want to stir up some controversy around mothers of small children, bring up the topic of naps and sleep. Sure, there’s strong opinions on pacifiers, breastfeeding, vaccinations, etc., but the real hot button is napping. I am sad to say that I recently had the urge to lovingly, and in great respect, slap one of my friends when she complained that her three and a half year old wasn’t napping anymore. Neither of my two older doodles napped past two and I suspect the snickerdoodle will emulate them in that. I applaud any woman who gets to take that middle of the day break from the on demand call of motherhood for as long as possible. I applaud you, but please don’t ask me to feel sorry for you when it ends.
At the same time my one friend was mourning her preschooler dropping his nap, another woman I know took me to task because my snickerdoodle was napping at 1:30 in the afternoon. Apparently it is not an approved napping time for an 8 month old. I didn’t get that memo. In fact I have often and repeatedly been questioned on my children’s naps or lack there of. The attitudes vary from incredulity to slight suspicion. I have been told in every way imaginable that my children should nap longer, more often and later in life than they do. The general consensus of all the unsolicited sleep advice in my four and a half year parenting journey has been that when it comes to sleep I am doing it wrong. All of it.
I only bring this up now because for several weeks my snickerdoodle (who is actually the best sleeper of the three, despite having an unauthorized nap schedule) has been just off. She hasn’t been eating and she hasn’t been sleeping and then she developed constipation and a fever. The rational part of my mind knew that she was probably going through a minor childhood sickness, but that part of my mind is surrounded by the mama part that kicks it in the sensitive bits until it shuts up. I called the nurse and was told to monitor the fever and give her acetaminophen (Tylenol) and call if there was vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy.
“But she’s been waking up at 2 in the morning and not going to sleep until 5! What do I do about that?” I begged.
“Don’t let her sleep so much during the day.”
Not exactly the answer I was expecting. While part of me wanted to reach through the telephone and pull her lip up over her forehead, there was also a part of me that wanted a recording of a medical professional advising that a child nap less in order to sleep more at night.
It turns out she was just under the weather. The constipation cleared up, then the fever, she started breastfeeding well shortly after that and today went back to eating solids. I also realized that when she wouldn’t settle in the wee hours of the morning a dose of teething tablets would do the trick.
Interestingly, though, when we limit her to an hour of sleep in the morning and an hour of sleep in the afternoon (breaking yet another cardinal mothering rule, and waking a sleeping baby, twice a day) she goes to sleep easier, and earlier, and stays asleep longer. Despite more than four years of people telling me my kids aren’t sleeping enough, it turns out that the one suggestion that has actually worked was the one to let them sleep less.