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sleep 101

A little tidbit about me, for those of you who don’t know. I LOVE to sleep. It’s perhaps my favorite pastime next to the usual suspects….exercise, cooking, photography, camping, etc. Part of what I love about sleep, aside from the obvious, is that I am really good at it. By that I mean I can sleep anywhere at any time, regardless of light or noise, and I typically fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. I even earned a reputation in college for loving to sleep (at parties!), and I function best when I get a lot of it, preferably 9 hours.

So imagine the irony that my most difficult life experience is teaching my babies to sleep. That’s the oddest thing about sleep. Even though I’m the slumber champion, I could never begin to teach a course in it. “You just close your eyes! Duh!,” I can picture myself saying to a room full of eager insomniacs (a good name for a band, incidentally).

I’m still in the midst of “training” baby #2, so I am not sure I’m ready yet to provide any insight. What I have learned about sleep training is that my babies train me, not the other way around. This observation sounds simple enough but has not come easily to me. Anyone who knows me well knows I am nearly obsessively organized. I pride myself on knowing where every object is in my house (assuming I and not my husband, Mr. Magoo, put the object away), and I love to schedule my days down to the hour. Case in point, Vivi’s daily schedule, which I programmed down to the half-hour. While we don’t always follow it, I like to have a plan.

Without further pontification, here is what little I have to offer on sleep training for babies. First, read this book, written by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, a pediatrician and sleep training expert who runs a pediatric sleep clinic. I’ve liked other books too (Baby Whisperer, Baby Wise, and Dr. Sears are also good), but Dr. Weissbluth is specific while at the same time flexible, which you don’t often find in parenting books.

Next, and perhaps more importantly, LET GO. Don’t try to control your baby’s sleep. Someone once wisely pointed out to me that you cannot force a child to eat, sleep, or use the potty. I think I was potty training Vivi at the time, so I was in need of a statement like this that would take the control out of my hands.

Lastly, you cannot do any permanent damage to infants by letting them cry. God demonstrated this fact to me by sending me Genevieve, one of world’s premier colicky babies. There was no “letting” Vivi cry. I couldn’t have prevented it if I wanted to. If there was one fortunate thing that came from that experience, it’s that I now feel comfortable allowing Charlotte to cry occasionally when I am trying to let her sleep. Good luck!