Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Nap Time Myth Pt 1.



*This could also be called, "What not to say to Sarah". 

This post is coming hesitantly, because this is a hot button topic, but I think it's time I wrote about what our family does to defeat burnout--from each other. Over the years of my kids being babies, then toddlers, than preschoolers, and now school-age, one thing I have held sacred in our day-to-day life is nap time. It's changed a lot over the 5 years I've had kids, but it will always be a part of our days, until our children are teenagers. It's that important to us. 

Everyone has their mountains, and their mole hills. Sleep has always been an absolute 'necessity' (read: mountain) for us, and from the very beginning we've created time boundaries for our children, and ourselves, to rest properly in the afternoons everyday. While Stefan and I don't need this down-time as much as the kids, especially on weekends, we have come to love the structure and the peace it affords us--even on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Sleep is a dire necessity for everyone, and people who have been sleep deprived for any length of time can tell you it causes emotions to rise, foggy mental function, irritability, even physical illness. When people start growing their families or a large life-change occurs, sleep is one of the needs of the body that gets relegated to the back burner from stress, a fussy baby (or any baby, really... Their internal clock is backwards!), sickness, etc. One can really only go a couple of days with very disjointed sleep before it takes a serious tole on the mind and body. 

When we got back from the hospital and our children were growing like weeds in the first few weeks, we decided to begin 'sleep training' them, including long periods of quiet alone time for a nap in the afternoon. I want to emphasize that our children were healthy, non-colicky babies who took to nursing fairly well, and continued to grow, without even stagnating, really, every week. We may have pushed back their training a bit if they were unhealthy, but ultimately, our sleep and our sanity was going to make us the best parents. I'm not even going to tell you what age both of my kids started a) sleeping through the night and b) started sleeping 7PM-7AM. Like I said, it was our mountain and we trained for the marathon.

But, I digress. This post is about napping, specifically, and so...

My son naturally started 'waking up' and becoming more alert around 8-10 weeks of infancy, and with that came a large stretch of time in the afternoon where he would sleep soundly in his crib with the door shut. I did not do anything to create his nap time, though I will say that not drinking any amount of caffeine while pregnant or nursing did, in my opinion, help. If we're not to drink alcohol while nursing (unless it will be flushed out of the system by the next feeding), I don't know why that wouldn't also mean caffeine can affect babies, especially when most mothers will tell you: the worst type of fussy baby is an overly tired one who can't sleep! 

Lukka began to sleep for 4 hours straight in the afternoon, and to this day I find it baffling that I can't remember anything of what I did during that amazing time of motherhood freedom. I didn't know how to sew, I wasn't too in to cooking, I just must have watched a lot of TV and read.  Agonizing to this day, let me tell you (think of all the things I could have DONE!). We loved this schedule and milked it for all it was worth. Eventually around 12 months or so, Lukka knocked his nap down to 3 hours, and around the time he was 19 months old, our daughter was born. 

Again with the sleepiness, again with the fluctuation, we eventually found our rhythm. My daughter seemed to need more of a morning nap (something my son naturally never did), and so until she was about 4 or 5 months old she was consistently taking an hour per morning, then 2-3 hours in the afternoon (when Lukka was napping). This just certainly wouldn't do. Anyone with a very active toddler boy can tell you that you can't just stay at home all the time so the baby can sleep. I was not excited about this 'morning nap thing' since we were used to going outside all morning to the park, on a walk, whatever, and this cranky baby who couldn't sleep in my carrier was just putting a little cramp in our style (let alone my back, yeesh). 

That's when I decided to manipulate the morning nap (I mean, annihilate) and push her forward on a longer after-noon nap schedule. After a couple days of encouraging her to be awake for 20, then 35, then 1 hr longer than her nap time, she caught on and got a second wind through lunch, and was happy not to be missing anything. Her afternoons were full as Lukka's (though she never slept 4 hours, 3 max), and having both children nap at the same time was pure bliss. I find it very odd that most parents don't have their children do this, as frankly, who wants to have their kids around them all day? I stay at home, and I love my kids, and I don't think any other job I could have is as important as what I'm doing now, but being away from my children for a solid 2-3 hours per day is healthy for me, it's healthy for them, and we're all happy to see each other once it's over.

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This post is SO long that I decided to break it up into 3 parts, check back next week for part 2. 

1 comment:

Renee Welstead said...

Word sister. And we didn't even have babies.