Let’s Talk About Sleep, Baby

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.

About Coralie

After 11 years of infertility, I am now a mother to three, a wife of a Presbyterian (ARP) preacher and a struggling homemaker. Welcome to my little corner of the net. Kick off your shoes, put your feet up and join the conversation. View all posts by Coralie

7 responses to “Let’s Talk About Sleep, Baby

  • Jodi

    I’m with you here and so feel your pain! So glad snickerdoodle is doing better now. Maybe we should write a book for mothers of children who defy all sleep logic! 🙂

  • Julie

    Me too. Maybe it’s the global coordinates.

  • Melissa

    Me, too. Totally different coordinates.

    I always had to wake my babies so they didn’t nap too long. The upside is that at some point, the nap does drop, but they have no problem settling into, and maintaining, an early bedtime. And, as much as I was sad to give up the afternoon nap, that long evening was the best perscription for a happy mama the next day.

    Glad things are settling in again.

  • Betsy

    hey coralie! so true that napping is a hot-button issue! sometimes i think mama discussions are only so helpful because each child and family are so different. your kids are wonderful so clearly they’re getting enough rest!!

  • kitty

    1. Thanks so very much for getting that song in my head. Thank you. Thank you.
    2. So I thought the hot button was discipline? Yes? No? Maybe your kidlets are so sweet (I know the oldest doodle is b/c I’ve had the joy of her in Sunday School) you don’t have to have those horrid conversations with people concerning THAT topic.
    3. Feel free to slap me next time if I’m one of those crazies who tell you your kids need to take more/less/longer naps.

  • Graham

    My only comment is that infant/toddler sleep books are so bossy!! They make you feel like if you don’t follow their method you will ruin your child. I think that is why it is a hot topic – b/c the “experts” are so sure that you must must do this correctly…I for one will not be bossed. I finally said to my sleep books – you are not the boss of me. I’ve been much happier ever since. I am currently letting my 5 week old sleep 3 1/2 hours….and still sleeping. I’m pretty sure the bossy sleep authors won’t be knocking on my door w/ a citation.

%d bloggers like this: