sleep time for mr ben

Ben looks a lot like Paul. From the cowlick on the top of his head, to his little monkey toes, he has a half-dozen of his daddy’s features. He has a perfect copy of Paul’s mouth, Paul’s eyebrows, and Paul’s tall, wiry build. But on the inside, he’s more like his mother – right down to my dislike for sleep.

See, Mr Ben does not like to sleep. He likes to play! He especially refuses to sleep when both of us are here, and at home. He doesn’t want to go to sleep in case we do ANYTHING remotely interesting. He would sleep cuddled up next to me, or on Paul’s shoulder, but not in his crib. And when a baby gets overtired, he gets wired to overcompensate. Which means he sleeps less, and then when he finally crashes out, it’s the wrong time, so he wakes up sooner than he should.

This has not gone well for weeks. Ben has been steadily changing, from a grinny baby to a grumpy one He started freaking out for no reason, shrieking and wailing and turning away from food. My baby NEVER turns down a boob! He would lose interest in playing quickly with one of us, and then refuse to let us put him down. We rarely saw his dimple anymore. And it wasn’t until we read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child that we got a clue as to what was happpening. Mr. Ben was sleep deprived.

The problem was two-fold. One, Ben wasn’t going to sleep early enough. We’d rolled his bedtime back to almost 9pm, because he had cried when we put him down any earlier, and refused to sleep. And then he was slipping off his nap schedule, which only made him more exhausted, more tired, and more difficult to put down at night. So Paul announced that he was going to go to sleep at 7pm, and, per the book, we would let him cry until he fell asleep.

I was not a big fan of this. I know that the “cry it out method”, the Ferber method, that it works, and that the babies learn to sleep on a schedule. However, there were all sorts of forum posts on baby/parenting websites talking about the effects on the children, how it would undemine their trust, make them less emotionally secure, etc. That gave me doubts. As I sat there, listening to my little boy scream hysterically for me, I was totally willing to believe that he would never again trust me to come get him when he cried.

But we went through with it, and Ben fell asleep after twenty-five minutes. And stayed asleep for four hours before he woke up for food. And then he went back to sleep immediately, and only woke up again for a snack four hours after that. And then he woke up in a great mood, grinning and chortling and sticking his tongue out at us, with his big happy eyes and his arms lifted up. I was sold. He was a much happier Ben than I’d seen in days.

There are still problems along the way. Paul has been desperately trying to use the same method for naps, to no avail. Sometimes, Mr Ben just doesn’t want to sleep during the day, and screams so long, and so loudly, that Paul has to give up and let him skip the nap. And last night – or early this morning – Ben woke up at 2:30. I fed him, and then put him back down, and he woke up and screamed. And screamed. And screamed. For forty five minutes. I thought about running in to get him the whole time, about scooping him up in my arms, about how his shrieks would turn to sobs, and then to ragged breaths, and how he would burrow into me, and how he would calm down and ask to be fed. And not being able to go cuddle him broke my heart. I lay in bed sobbing myself, making Paul reassure me that we were doing the right thing. And Paul reminded me that by not giving in to his demands for us to play with him at four in the freaking morning, I was helping him have a better, well-rested daytime existence. Mr Ben may have been angry then, and may have worked himself into hysterics because he wanted attention, but the next morning, he would be even happier because he would have had enough sleep.

So we’re getting Ben to sleep. On a schedule. A clock based schedule. And Mr Ben is not happy about it. But he is happy about not being tired. And he is back to his old, chortly, smiley self. I get a big gummy grin all the time again. And we haven’t had a random freakout in a week. Given what a happy, secure little guy he is again, I’m going to have to take my chances that I am OMG TRAUMATIZING HIM FOR LIFE.

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