Thursday, August 11, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Almost 3 Months! or How Academics Rear Children Merely by Reading Books About It

Overnight, this girl has grown up. As I type this, she's *enjoying* tummy time. And this morning at 4:15am I found myself *waiting* for Miss Matty to wake up to nurse. The girl slept nearly 8 consecutive hours! She smiles all the time! She can eat her fists! How did we accomplish these milestones, you ask?

Lately, because I'm a first time parent, I've been reading baby care books. Because I'm an academic, I have to read many of them, and then I have to critique them. The critical exploration of multiple and conflicting perspectives on any particular subject is the hallmark of academic inquiry, right? Right. So here are some results of my current inquiry and some swift book reviews.

The Baby Book by the Dr. Searses: (attachment parenting) "Baby-carrying is a global norm. What? You don't wear your baby in a sling (that coordinates with your sarong) all day long? Bad mommy! Do you at least nurse on demand?" I found this book guilt-inducing and slightly dated ("Tips for Dad"!!). The ink illustrations of the babies, however, are adorable.

Becoming Babywise by some jerks: (a Biblically-based "baby management plan") "Mommy decides when baby sleeps, not baby; put her down and let her cry it out. Also, if you co-sleep with your baby, you are a murderer." I found this book offensive, and not only because it made me feel incompetent (Miss Matty was not sleeping 8 consecutive hours at 8 weeks old). The book begins with a chapter about marriage: apparently, if you don't have a stellar marriage, your children will never sleep through the night. On behalf of the single moms, unmarried het-partners, and same-sex partner parents out there, I call bullshit on this register my distaste for just think that's dumb and offensive. I also take umbrage with the sexist division of labor promoted in the book (not much worse, though more blatant, than the sexist division of labor promoted in the Sears book). Also worth noting: others have found the advice in this book to be downright dangerous.

The No-cry Sleep Solution by E. Pantley (whose name makes me giggle): by far the most reasonable book I've read. Pantley begins with a chapter on safety--general safety tips, and most relevant to us, safety for co-sleeping. Then she assures me that co-sleeping breastfed babies can learn to sleep through the night. Hurray! This book is full of good advice all motivated by Pantley's absolute rejection of the "cry-it-out" method. Also, she recommends keeping sleep logs for baby, and I admit that I've always loved logging things.

What to Expect the First Year
by an army of baby specialists: encyclopedically helpful. Readable in small doses, like during pumping sessions. I wish I owned a copy of this book and did not have to keep re-checking it out of the public library.

Here's the rub: each of these books had something in it that I needed to learn.

What have we been doing differently, then?
For one thing, Miss Matty now takes regular naps; we are working on getting her to do the eat--wake and play--nap routine. It's true what they say--the more regularly she naps during the day, the better she sleeps at night. It's pretty clear when she needs a nap, too. First, Jacques the Peacock ceases to amuse her. She starts looking as if she's about to wish her psychadelic bee mobile out to the cornfield. Then the genuine stink-eye begins, accompanied by low-grade fussing. If I haven't already, I swaddle her and, if needed, pop in the sucky. At last, the eyes go half-mast. That's my sign to put her in her crib. I rub her nose like you do a horse, and say in my finest Stepford Wives voice, "You might like to go to sleep now."

We are working on teaching her she can sleep by herself, by putting her in her crib for naps, and by putting her in our bed at her bedtime and keeping our bedtime separate. We are also working on giving her good, sustainable sleep associations. And we are working on recognizing when to feed her at night vs. when she's just in one of those light, active sleep cycles where she's restless but not fully awake and hungry. Learning to differentiate between sleeping sounds and awake/hungry sounds has been a challenge, but it makes a huge difference in how often I'm waking to feed her overnight.

Apart from her crib, she loves to nap in her stroller.

She also likes to nap in her sling.